E564 – Helmets & Hi Viz



Screenshot from video meeting. There are 4 boxes with 3 people, all in bright yellow jackets with headphones.
Joan, Armando, and Guthrie (aka Bob Vance) donned their brightest yellow jackets to record this episode, while Aaron’s camera went blank, preserving his all-black look.

Do helmets protect our heads in bike crashes or make it more likely we’ll get into a crash? Do high viz clothes and gear actually make us more visible to people driving cars? Why do we spend so much time talking about helmets when better infrastructure would make us safer than helmets ever could? We don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but that didn’t stop us from talking about them! Aaron, Armando, Guthrie, and Joan chat safety culture in the bike world.

The Stuff We Talked About
Via Twitter user @cathasach4bikes: 
“Regular reminder that no one makes helmets for Black girls’ everyday hair. This means that Black girls are disproportionately excluded from bike safety classes that require helmets. This should be the real helmet discussion.”

“Bike helmets – a dangerous fixation? On the bike helmet’s place in the cycling safety discourse in the United States”
Applied Mobilities, by Gregg Culver

“How US helmet laws are used against cyclists of colour and homeless people”
From the Guardian, April 20: “In Seattle, 43% of citations since 2017 have gone towards homeless people, while Black cyclists received citations at nearly four times the rate of white cyclists”

“Why It Makes Sense to Bike without a Helmet”
“…if we start looking into the research, there’s a strong argument to be made that wearing a bike helmet may actually increase your risk of injury, and increase the risk of injury of all the cyclists around you.”

FinePrint
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One thought on “E564 – Helmets & Hi Viz

  1. Here is my take on safety gear, based on my own personal experience, biking in my area.

    High Vis Clothing:
    – High vis works best for me during the dawn and dusk hours, as well as cloudy, monochromatic, gray days. It’s pretty useless during sunny days and during night riding.
    – High vis is about time. It isn’t about making everybody see you, but rather, giving a bit more reaction time to those who do.
    – I used to have close calls when I didn’t wear high vis. I have never had a close call when I do. Yet.

    Retro-Reflective:
    – IMO this is the only thing that keeps you safe at night around vehicles with headlights. Lights are the active safety supplement that you need when headlights aren’t pointing at you.

    Helmet:
    – To each their own. I don’t judge.
    – I started wearing a helmet because I’ve fallen off of my bike (mountain biking) and had some minor head trauma
    – I continue to wear a helmet because I still occasionally fall off of my bike. Once, I had a collision with a car and my head hit the pavement (the driver didn’t see me – I wasn’t wearing high vis, which probably wouldn’t have helped).
    – I also wear a helmet because I have lots of people who depend on me
    – We teach that safety equipment, like helmets and gloves are the 5th layer of safety, after 1) getting better skills to not fall off of a bike, 2) practicing predictable riding, following traffic laws, 3) positioning myself to discourage drivers from making mistakes, and 4) having better crash avoidance skills for when they do. Helmets are the last line of defense.

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