Helmets and bike sharing programs

There was an interesting article in the New York Times several weeks ago about helmets and bike sharing programs: That cities are giving up on encouraging people to wear helmets as that will just discourage people from biking. One point that’s made is that promotion of helmets suggests “a sense of danger that just isn’t justified.” And, of course, there’s discussion of the higher frequency of biking and lower frequency of helmet-wearing in Europe.

My wife and I each bought extra helmets to keep in our offices, so that we could always have a helmet when we use the local bike sharing system, Madison Bcycle. But I must admit that I sometimes use a Bcycle without a helmet. To me, it’s not about the sense of danger, but that lugging about a helmet can be inconvenient.

The article would have been better if there had been more precise information about the risks and about the protection helmets provide.

Several years ago I’d read an article about how helmet use might actually make biking less safe, as people might adopt less safe behaviors with a helmet. I’m not convinced, though I have observed that people bike much more slowly in Europe and especially China. If we were in less of a hurry, biking would be inherently safer.

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3 Responses to “Helmets and bike sharing programs”

  1. Alexandra Nones Says:

    In Philly I remember the default was no helmet. I thought it was interesting.

  2. Aimee Says:

    My takeaway was that in terms of public health, not wearing helmets was more beneficial than wearning them. I also sometimes “forget” my helmet in the office.

    • Karl Broman Says:

      I think biking without a helmet is better than not biking at all, but surely biking with a helmet is better than biking without a helmet, unless wearing the helmet is going to make you act all crazy, like maybe biking really fast on ice.

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