Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fahrradsport Wednesday - Helmets

As a neuroscientist, I know that the gunk (technical term) in your head is kinda important. Thus, when you're riding a bike, it's a damn good idea to wear a bike helmet.

Since I've been riding in Berlin, I've noticed a few things about bike helmets. First, just about every kid on a bike is wearing a helmet. This is true for little ones riding in a kindersitz or little bigger ones riding on their own bikes. I have only seen rare exceptions to this, including two very little kids (one couldn't have been much older than 8 months old!), but with so many people riding bikes, you're bound to find some knuckleheads.

The situation with adults, however, is a completely different story. The vast majority of adults do not wear a helmet. Younger and older alike, I would say only about 20% of the adults I see are wearing a helmet. This is nuts. Many of the bike lanes in Berlin are simply just dashed lines running along the side of the road. And with so many uncontrolled intersections and clueless pedestrians, serious accidents must abound. And a bike offers no protection what so ever, and you can really get going at a very fast pace. AND the most likely part of your body to hit the pavement during a head-on collision (the most likely kind) is your HEAD.

I'm glad that many of the kids here wear helmets. But it's depressing that many of the adults do not. I can't imagine anything worse than a serious brain injury. Really, I think I would rather lose a foot or a hand than lose a part of my cortex. But maybe this is a Berlin thing. Are people in other parts of Germany more likely to wear helmets?

13 comments:

C N Heidelberg said...

No one in Heidelberg wears helmets!! Well, I do, but I really feel like a dork when no one else is, and my hair always looks bad. But I'm a little risk-averse and have known a few people who were in bike accidents.

cliff1976 said...

I would say somewhere between 40% and 60% of the adults I see on bikes on my morning commute are helmeted. I am nearly always one of them. The exception for me being my bike trip to the train station — I don't like to take my helmet with me on business trips.

In the summer I keep my hair short enough that the helmet effect is reduced. In the winter, I wear my ski helmet rather than my bike helmet for more warmth. That always messes up my hair, but I really don't care much.

I have been involved in a couple accidents — none resulting in injuries, thank goodness (one time my bike became unridable though). Both times, it was the other party being dumb, but sooner or later, it will probably happen again and it will be my fault.

Damon said...

I am one of the 25% or so of my lab who wears a helmet every day, but the number recently climbed slightly. Another labmate started wearing a helmet every day after a teacher at an elementary school pointed him out as a bad example to the kids for not wearing a helmet (he has kids).

Mandi said...

I see helmets now and again in Hamburg, but it is definitely not the norm. I also feel like a dork when wearing one, but my risk averse self gets nervous without it. Now, if we can just convince my neuroscientist German boyfriend of the importance of that "gunk in his head," that would be a major victory!

Shermanim said...

In Aachen, most people don't wear helmets. I have noticed that those that ride in from outside of the city are more likely to wear a helmet, my husband being one of them. Those I have seen riding in the forest almost always are wearing a helmet. Somehow a tree must look more dangerous to them than an oncoming car.

Snooker said...

Berlin really has a low helmet usage rate, I completely agree. Unfortunately I am one of them. My Sweet No actually insisted we buy a helmet at the same time we bought my first Berlin bike, but its use has waned. At first it was because it is simply too hot in summer, then I realized that it was winter and I wasn't using it either.
Perhaps if I once again become a member of the "gunk" protectors, it will increase the chances that I won't end up a "watermelon head".

Rosa said...

I live in the Netherlands, and here normally only the little ones wear helmets. As soon as they reach the age of app. 10 years old, they stop wearing one.

We Dutch cycle a lot. I've been cycling in and around The Hague for about 37 years or so, I don't wear a helmet and I'm not going to either.

Adults with helmets are usually only the fast riders on fancy bikes, who shouldn't ride the normal cycle lanes at all, since they act like they own the place.

Blopper said...

I live in Erlangen and the 20% seems a little high to me! I wear mine because I know if I got in an accident the first question would be "Were you wearing a helmet?"

arturgreensward said...

Here in Belgium I'm sure the rate is less than 5% who wear helmets. I think they're all crazy. People say "helmets are for kids"... but everyone has brains to protect!

cliff1976 said...

I forgot to mention one aspect, but Rosa's comment reminded me.

There's a jerk at work who wanted to show off his expensive gear. He saw my helmet (purchased on sale at Aldi a few years ago) and started bragging about his €400 helmet and how light it is, and how the airflow is so critical to his mountain biking enjoyment and how safety is the #1 factor for such serious athletes as him.

And then I asked him why he never wears it in on the rare occasions that he bikes into work, and he was speechless. "Why, I don't know! I never thought about it, really. I guess because I'm never going as fast on the street as I am in the hills on the trails."

And then I asked him if the cars are correspondingly slower out on the streets, and he walked off to find someone else to watch him autofellate.

Tammy B said...

I think it is a generational thing too. I never had a helmet as a kid, but kids today grow up with them. It is kind of like car seats. My parents say that I would have never let them strap me in one, but that is because I was used to not even wearing a seat belt in one of our cars, much less being confined to a baby seat. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to be comforted being strapped into things. She actively seeks out things with buckles to put around her.

That being said, cars hurt, people. I've been hit twice. I don't remember the first time since I was four, and my memory has blocked out the traumatic parts of the accident, but I was on a bike without a helmet. I have brain damage and an impressive dent in my skull. In the end, I was REALLY lucky. The second time, I was 26 and a pedestrian, and that is when I learned that cars hurt and I mean REALLY hurt - trust me on that. Hail to the helmet hair dorks (like me).

Tammy B said...

Cliff, awesome story about your coworker...

Cap11C said...

I grew up not wearing a helmet, or a seatbelt. Now I wouldn't think of riding or driving without the appropriate safety items. As a firefighter, I've seen plenty of the aftermath of being more concerned with hair/looks than safety.