Have you noticed how many people ride around our town without a helmet? I asked a younger friend about this, who informed me, “Wearing a helmet isn’t cool.”
Any real cyclist knows that there are two types of riders: (1) those who have gone down, and (2) those who will go down.
I should know. I have gone down — more than once.
One of the only times I did not wear my helmet, I was slowly riding my bike behind my house when my foot slipped off the pedal. I was thrown down, my head hitting the pavement. I was able to get up and walk into my house, where I promptly passed out on my bed. When I finally woke up, I had no idea how long I had been knocked out. Needless to say, I had an ongoing headache for three days.
Fortunately, I did not suffer the long-term symptoms of a brain injury: difficulty thinking, attention deficit, memory problems, or mood swings. For others, severe injuries of this nature can lead to depression, employment problems, relationship issues, frustration, aggression, and increased mortality.
An increasing number of drivers are distracted by texting or talking on their cell phones. A bicyclist is easily missed, especially by a tourist who is busy taking in the scenery rather than focusing their attention on the road.
Cyclists, many of whom are students who use cycling as their main form of transportation, are vulnerable to the distracted driver.
Various studies (by, among others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Transportation, and American Journal of Surgery) highlight why it is so important to always wear a helmet:
• 818 bicyclists died on U.S. roads in 2015.
• 494,000 emergency room visits were due to bicycle-related injuries.
• Helmet use reduces the odds of a head injury by up to 50 percent and further reduces the odds of facial or neck injury by 33 percent.
• Only 17 percent of fatally injured bicyclists were wearing helmets.
• A majority of cycling crashes that resulted in injury involved motor vehicles.
• Helmets can provide up to an 87 percent reduction in the risk of severe brain injury.
Biking-related fatalities and injuries cost taxpayers approximately $10 billion per year. It is estimated that more than 2,000 children who sustain head injuries will suffer permanent disabilities that will require a lifetime of care.
As a chiropractor, I have treated patients with brain injuries. It is a long road to recovery, and the injured person may retain impairments that last their entire life.
If you are a cyclist, please wear a helmet. If your friend or child cycles, impress upon them the importance of using a helmet. If you are a bike rental facility, please require renters to wear helmets.
So you already wear a helmet when you ride? Hey, way to be cool! Now spread the word to friends, especially the kids in your life. Buy a helmet from the Coalition for Sustainable Transportation (coast-santabarbara.org), and give it to a friend. It will be the best $10 you ever spent.