There are few ways faster and more efficient to get around campus than a bike. On the other hand, a bike can mean a sense of independence, a way to navigate the throngs of students with speed and ease, and an affordable way to get back and forth to class. And as long as the rider is properly kitted out, it can be safe and environmentally friendly.
This is where the ever important helmet comes in. Granted most students aren’t bent double over aerobars and clipped in all the way to chem lab, but even for casual rides a bike helmet can be a vital safety investment. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 726 people died in 2014 from not wearing a helmet. About 50,000 cyclists are injured each year either from getting by a car or falling. But what about the argument that most recreational riders aren’t going fast enough to need a helmet?
The typical cyclist is about 5 feet off the ground in a recreational riding position, and it’s estimated that direct head to ground impact from that height is enough to concuss an adult. That’s from a standing still position, not taking forward speed and motion into account. Bike helmets are designed to take the force from the impact and distribute it. The outer shell, typically made of a polycarbonate hard plastic, is designed to slide along surfaces (like the road or the trail) so that the wearer’s neck isn’t jerked. This is one reason why bare styrofoam and fabric covered helmets are no longer common – fabric tends to grip whatever textured surface it’s forced against. The inner material, a foam composite, is designed to absorb impact and crush, so that less force is transmitted to the skull.
Even on university campuses where most of the traffic is pedestrian, low speed falls and impacts can have severe consequences. Most students will have some sort of commute on trafficked roads, and a little protection goes a long way. Other important bike safety precautions include learning and using correct signaling, being predictable to motorists, and having bright enough lights for late night trips to the library.
Many people protest the use of helmets, citing that cars might pass them less carefully, they’re too hot, or that they just don’t look cool. Designs of helmets are becoming more ventilated and more streamlined, but all of that engineering and design doesn’t help anyone who makes the decision not to wear one. So help someone make the right decision today, and get them a Rudy Project helmet to make sure they go back to school in style. Maybe throw in a matching pair of shades. Sterling helmet and Momentum casual sunglasses, anyone?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/healthcommunication/toolstemplates/entertainmented/tips/headinjuries.html
- Rush University Medical Center: https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/helmet-safety-keep-lid-it