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The Dutch Reach: Clever Workaround to Keep Cyclists from Getting “Doored” (99percentinvisible.org)
1149 points by misnamed on Oct 10, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 590 comments

It is true that getting doored is not part of the Dutch vocabulary as it is not something that happens often. But there are more reasons than grabbing the handle with the opposite hand.

A non extensive list: 1) Dutch car drivers all have been bicyclist before they get their driver license, everyday to school more than an hour being nothing being frowned on. 2) Major transit bike routes have separate bike lanes, the tiny narrow ones of the gif in the article barely exist. 3) Bike lanes in cities usually are placed between the footpath and the parked cars, with most of the times a 50cm wide band left of the bike path allowing for car doors being opened without going over the bike paths, usually this is used for planting trees too 4) All politicians drive bike, the Dutch Prime Minister comes to work on his bike 5) There are local associations part of the national http://fietersbond.nl in every town and they passionately lobby every time they see an opportunity. 6) these volunteers are highly respected and their input is valued by the municipalities 7) one of the prime goals of Dutch national ministerie of Traffic is lowering the number of injured and death in traffic, good recording of cause by police is step one, good statistics then determine the ways roads are laid out. 8) On smaller roads without a separate bicycle path, as a bicyclist you're always on the watch if someone might step out of a car and try to keep a distance by bicycling towards the middle of the road which isn't an issue as this is low traffic street, major bike transit always has separated bike paths with distance to the parked cars. 9) during driving lessons, watching bicyclist is a prime part of the lessons and a good driver keeps an eye on the mirrors for back-coming bicyclist and will warn passengers on the back seats before they get out.

And there are probably more reasons that Dutch have few accidents being doored.

When you make a long list like that, the human intuitive norm is to start by assigning a roughly equal responsibility for each of them. However, it is rare to encounter a situation where some effect is obtained by 10 distinct factors all providing an equal contribution. (Think about it from an entropic point of view; that is one very specific configuration of contributions, vs. all the others in which they are not balanced.)

So the relevant question is "Of all the differences, which are the relevant ones?" If the "Dutch reach" is, say, 75% of the contribution, it's worth bringing over. [1] If it's 3%, it not worth worrying about at a governmental scale, as the costs of getting everyone to do it are not zero, and the benefits need to outweigh the costs. (You are free to adopt it; the costs for a person are negligible and the possible benefit of "not dooring a biker" are substantial both to you and the biker in question. But what you should do is a different question than what the government should do.)

In this sort of situation, listing out all the possible reasons and then leaving people to intuitively apply equal responsibilities is a great way to ensure that nothing happens. (I mean, you can actually use that as a technique next time you're in a meeting proposing that something be done that you don't want done; just exhaustively enumerate all the things that would be necessary, watch the idea wither as people intuitively assign incorrectly-large values to every little task if you do it right. You didn't hear this from me though. (I haven't done it, but have been on the receiving end.)) Bringing over one practice at a time in order of effectiveness is something that can happen. Implicitly insisting that we adopt 10 cultural practices all at once, some of which are major changes, just causes fatigue and people to just give up and walk away, and nothing changes.

[1]: Albeit possibly with a different name. It probably would actually be good marketing in the end to leave the name sounding vaguely like a sexual thing as it would get people's attention and generate some good buzz, but I doubt our bureaucracy would go in for that approach.

I upvoted you for the useful perspective, but wanted to point out that smartbit was almost certainly just sharing information that most readers are unlikely to have, rather than implicitly insisting anything. I don't think your tone in the third paragraph is very reasonable or charitable in response to their comment.

I believe evaluating the tone of a comment surely is a highly subjective undertaking; although most people could probably agree when they encounter a very mean or rude comment.

I personally don't think he had any obligation to be charitable in his response, yet he actually has been charitable, in the sense that he provided a different viewpoint; charitable to the group that is.

I know most people try to be sensible in their dialogs with other people, but I think we should strike a balance between accommodating everyone's feelings and actually telling it like it is. Now finding that balance is as much art as it is science.

And because human communication is so contextual, subjective and imprecise, I'm sure multiple individuals will internalize my comment differently. Given these, sometimes I'm surprised we can all get together. (:

You have it backwards. There is not one practice that you can just extract and implant into a new culture. They avoid accidents because they have a culture that has grown and valued riding bikes. This culture has manifested in many practices that are taught and reinforced by the culture. The actual individual things are of little significance individually. It is about the awareness and culture pressure to make efforts to always make bikers safer. Just telling people to do this one neat trick will lead to most people ignoring it or forgetting to do it.

Or maybe both perspectives have some truth to them?

Such as:

1) Yes, the Dutch have a great, deeply embedded culture around biking which promotes high levels of safety.

2) But, it is also possible to learn from and integrate a few of the most impactful & compact aspects of that culture to increase safety in other nations.

Without a doubt both have a degree of truth, but we are back to the original problem I was responding to. When you list off those two things it makes it seem like they are both equally true. The thing that deserves the most credit is the culture. The things that are most impactful are partially impactful because of the culture. If you are picking the one change that does not depend on changing the culture for effectiveness, you could very well be getting less than 1/10 of the safety of dutch.

1) Dutch car drivers all have been bicyclist before they get their driver license

This is very important with regards to understanding and predicting how others behave. It's very hard for people to appreciate how different the POV can be in a different situation. I experienced this once when I herniated a disk in my lower back. Before I had to live with such a condition, I had been annoyed at how oddly and slowly some elderly people moved when boarding the bus. After having to deal with the pain, I understood the motivation behind waiting until the bus was fully stopped before moving, and why some people would methodically move from hand-hold to hand-hold: because to move more quickly would result in Pain!

In the US, I see lots of drivers who seem to struggle with even understanding other car drivers. It's no wonder that bicycle riders feel cars are a-holes to them. It's because cars don't understand what they are doing and what it's like to be on the receiving end of such behavior.

The amount of bicycles in The Netherlands is absolutely surreal. Both in major cities and out in the suburbs, bicycles are everywhere. I also find it interesting the Dutch rarely ever wear helmets.

Large cities in Germany or the UK or anywhere else I've seen cannot compare to the magnitude of people on bicycles in The Netherlands.

If you've tried driving in the Netherlands, you know why so many people prefer to ride a bike instead. Well maintained, but narrow and extremely busy roads, densely packed with tiny vehicles. Wearing a helmet while cycling in the Dutch bike lanes is a bit like wearing a helmet while walking on the side walk. I used to only wear it while racing.

Since I had a bad crash after being hit in the eye by an insect, I wear a helmet and cycling glasses on my commute as well. This has a remarkable effect on how you are treated in traffic. Gone is the usual friendly coexistence between cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and even scooters. Without the helmet, I'm just one of the thousands riding their bike to work, but wearing it, apparently now I'm an asshole bike racer who needs to be taught a lesson, much the way cyclists in general seem to be treated in cycling-hostile countries. A helmet doesn't really make you feel safer if it changes the way you're treated by the rest of traffic.

This comment is important in how it shows biking is totally different in The Netherlands. The first type of bike most non-Dutch think of when they hear 'bicycle', where the rider sits hunched forward poised to race is not even considered a regular bike here. If you go faster than 15mph you are basically considered to be comparable to a moped and doing it without a helmet is frowned upon even here.

When you are not in The Netherlands you should most definitely wear a helmet no matter what kind of bike. The fact that you can ride a bike without a helmet in The Netherlands is a sort of democratic miracle of the 70's where the public convinced the politicians to make bikes a first class mode of transport. The effect of this is that almost every road in The Netherlands has some sort of provision for bicycles, or has at least been considered to have some. And in most cases not just in the form of a line but actual infrastructures, curbs, asphalt, specifically constructed in a way to make bicycling safe.

And even when there would be no infrastructure for bicyclists, every motorist is trained to deal with cyclists. From the driving lessons (usually 40-50 hours are necessary to pass the exam these days) where a considerable amount of time is spent on being aware of cyclists, to the fact that when you're on a Dutch road and you want to turn right you are almost guaranteed to wait for cyclists you have to yield to, so not having a shoulder check habit wouldn't get you 100m out of your driveway without an accident.

> "When you are not in The Netherlands you should most definitely wear a helmet no matter what kind of bike."

Why? It's actually not statistically safer.

Anecdotal evidence - i never wore helmet when growing up, nobody did. once had an accident on small bmx bike when I fell head first on tarmac, but didn't land on head and apart from scratches and being shaken all good (if parents only knew...).

few years ago decided to buy new cross country (ie all-rounder) one, lightweight and blazing fast for what it is. Decided to go for a helmet for the first time. After 2 weeks, had a head-first fall because of my GF stopped on some narrow forest path uphill, behind the corner and I hit brakes full power when I saw her with no place to avoid.

I miss few seconds of memories, just waking up laying in the grass, picking my head from sharp pointy stone sticking out of the ground - helmet hit it in forehead area. Have I not worn it, it's more probable than not I would die there, I was still badly shaken from impact force on my head, and I was driving slowly when it happened (10-15 kmh).

Fiancee works on emergency, the stuff she sees daily makes her wear helmet too. Link all articles you want, we're keeping our helmets where they are, on our heads, thank you.

This focus on helmets is ridiculous, because you only have to types of bikes:

1. Death traps

2. Dutch bikes

You want less people to die in traffic while riding a bike? Don't make a helmet mandatory. Make the dutch bike mandatory. Your bike needs to be heavy. You need to sit up straight. And if you stretch your legs you have to stand.

Whenever i see the images of americans on rice bikes and mountain bikes in NYC, i too think it looks incredibly dangerous.

If i would hit a door with a dutch bike, i wouldn't fall, i would just stand still. And the door will likely be a bit broken.

It's not about the helmets. Its about the bike design.

“If i would hit a door with a dutch bike, i wouldn't fall, i would just stand still. And the door will likely be a bit broken.” I'm sorry but this is nonsense. Even if it weighed five hundred pounds, as long as the handlebars are on a lubricated pivot, forward motion and striking the handlebar will knock the bike over.

p.s. as a NYC cyclist, whenever I see a Dutch bike I think it looks incredibly inefficient. But that’s cool, whatever, all bikes are good as long as they're ridden safely.

Dutch bike are different, more sturdy, built for bad weather, built for being outside in rain and wind and cold all day and night. Most of the time they are parked outdoors because there is no room to park them inside the house, especially in the bigger cities. They are relatively heavy, but simple and can easily survive twenty years outside. They will look horrible, dirty, old, broken, and they are.

Many bikes here have wheels that are not straight anymore. But still they are used daily. Tires are soft, chain is worn out, and still it works. They not only carry the cyclist but also his or her friend on the bagage holder on the back, which is probably wobbly.

OK, what I'm describing here is the typical student bicycle. It may not be efficient, but it is cheap and it works and it gets you there. We don't use these bicycles for long distances, but for short onces, going from home to the supermarket or school.

In Amsterdam and Utrecht at Central Station they have bicycle parking lots for about 20.000 bikes. And many times you have to search and search to find an empty spot. When you park your bike here, anyone can throw his or her bike against it, or pull another bike out of it with force, damaging your bike. Not everyone acts like this, but it happens now and then.

So bikes are efficient in a different way than the bikes I see on pictures in NYC.

>Even if it weighed five hundred pounds, as long as the handlebars are on a lubricated pivot, forward motion and striking the handlebar will knock the bike over.

The weight point is different. You really don't flip 'over'. That direction is as likely as flipping 'under'. Given enough momentum and a very heavy/strong object you ride into, your front wheel will collapse.

Again, on a dutch bike, all this has to happen at at most 15 km/h. You put your feet down and you are standing still.

>p.s. as a NYC cyclist, whenever I see a Dutch bike I think it looks incredibly inefficient. But that’s cool, whatever, all bikes are good as long as they're ridden safely.

They don't just look inefficient. They are. By design. They are faster than walking, and that's enough. Our trips on average are about 10 to 30 minutes at at most 15 km/h (<10 mph). They involve about 10-200 turns, about 3-50 stops.

Why? Because that's how they build the cities. If you ride at that speed, you wait for a green light just once (and then follow the wave though-out town). You can go faster, but then you have to wait at the next intersection. Also: you don't want to get to work/school/friends needing a shower. The amount of energy put into it, needs to be identical to walking for the same amount of time.

People move children, groceries, even furniture by bike. So they pick a bike based on durability, size, stability and how well you can stand still while remaining seated on your bike.

They turn a distance you can safely walk in an hour, into a safe 20 minute ride. And like most cities in the world, the cities are designed around the 30min travel time from any point A in the city to any point B in the city. This is by bike or public transport. By car it generally takes twice that time.

Why? Because cars are more likely to get stuck in traffic. They often have to take detours (many streets are just one direction). They have a problem finding parking space, etc. And then you pay about 1 to 5 euro per hour to park your car.

But if police sees a race bike going 30 km/h (20mph) they would stop it.

A little less "team Holland Bike Police" attitude please - I find those sit up and beg bikes unstable when riding at slow speed I felt much safer on a proper SWB MTB with proper rakes

Aren't you more in a begging position on a road bike?


The drivetrain matters too--I suspect many American bicyclists blow through red lights and generally don't respect road rules because with fixed/single speed bikes, it takes enormous effort to get started from a standstill, and with derailleurs it's impossible to downshift from a standstill (i.e. when you make a quick stop). If hub gears were standard, bicyclists wouldn't have as much reason to ignore signals.

No its not you can down shift with index shifters on the MTB very easily as you stop and you can always lift the back when and quickly shift that way

Agree that fixies should be banned outside of a race track.

How about until such a time that society can provide a safe means of cycling, we let cyclists decide how they are most capable of staying alive. Riding a slow bicycle and stopping at every intersection is incredibly unsafe in many American cities.

Yeah, a fixed gear can be an encumberence to a poser, but to someone qualified, it can also be a means of greater control.

> Riding a slow bicycle and stopping at every intersection is incredibly unsafe in many American cities.

I don't think blowing through red lights at or near full speed is any safer. Come on, at least do a California roll.

Certainty in London at any busy junction you can see fixies blasting trough red lights at +25/30 MPH with no regard for pedestrins

Don't you still have to pedal forward in order for the chainset to actuate the gear change?

You just push off with your foot from the ground, giving you enough forward motion to down shift.

It's easier if you downshift before stopping, but the only time it's a problem is if climbing a hill, in which case you probably downshifted anyway

Ah, I see what you're saying--the good old forward kick from standstill.

What about electronic shifting?

You're supposed to downshift before you stop. With indexed shifters on the brake lever, it's trivial to do as you're braking for the stop.

So, in summary, a helmet is a good idea if you drive full-speed around corners where you have no idea if it's clear?

based solely on my experience, apart from the part about full speed (i really wasn't going fast, maybe 20 kmh but terrain was bad), yes.

If I include what fiancee sees on emergencies, which most people don't even want to know about but it's real life anyway, then wear it everywhere on bike.

you can see people getting quite emotional feeling they know what's best for them. Usually never had an accident, so it cannot happen to them. Whatever, I wouldn't push it, use whatever you want. But 1) you will cover all medical cost caused by lack of helmet in case of accident and 2) I would be cautious what to push on kids, but once people get emotional on the topic any discussion is over, as seen in this thread

Here are two credible reviews / meta-analyses stating the contrary, that is, that bicycle helmet use or legislation does, statistically, reduce head injuries.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457500... http://www.cochrane.org/CD005401/INJ_bicycle-helmet-legislat...

That said, despite personally wearing a helmet on my daily commute, I don't support legislation. I unfortunately don't have sources on hand, but I firmly believe that spending public dollars on bike infrastructure and better legislation for bicycle/car interaction would yield better safety improvements for cyclists AND increase cycling uptake.

I always wore a helmet when I cycle commuted, so I think I mostly agree, but I will point out that my major objection to legislation is on the grounds that it would deter cycling, and therefore be a net negative for health overall, and that one of the most important factors for cycle safety is the number of cyclists, so anything that puts people off cycling creates a negative re-inforcement that makes everyone still cycling less safe, and every new cyclist makes everyone safer.

At least one of your studies notes that it doesn't cover that argument:

> None of the included studies measured actual bicycle use so it was not possible to evaluate the claim that fewer individuals were cycling due to the implementation of the helmet laws. Although the results of the review support bicycle helmet legislation for reducing head injuries, the evidence is currently insufficient to either support or negate the claims of bicycle helmet opponents that helmet laws may discourage cycling.

Use or legislation of helmets while driving a car and walking would also almost certainly reduce head injuries. It's far from a sufficient argument for legislation.

> Use or legislation of helmets while driving a car would almost certainly reduce head injuries

Hence the legal requirement to wear seatbelts.

Head injuries in car accidents are very uncommon, and the same with pedestrians. Pedestrians aren't likely to hit their heads on concrete at speeds well beyond that which the human body was designed for. Car accident victims don't have hard surfaces to hit their heads on in cars, and instead get other injuries. That's why seat belts are required by law in most jurisdictions, and also why airbags are mandated in all new vehicles.

Are you trying to argue against seat belts and airbags now? Are you going to claim that you're safer being thrown clear?

The fun angle on that is that legislating helmet use makes people bike less, which is what really lowers bike accidents.

The studies discuss the rate of accidents, not the sum difference, meaning that even if there were more or less bicyclists on the road, the probability of them being injured with a helmet on is still less.

That is very unclear. Some studies suggest it isn't, but a recent metastudy reached very different conclusions [1]:

> Bicycle helmet use was associated with reduced odds of head injury, serious head injury, facial injury and fatal head injury. The reduction was greater for serious or fatal head injury. Neck injury was rare and not associated with helmet use.

[1] http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/09/06/ije.d...

Sorry, I should have been more clear. That helmets protect the head in a crash pretty obvious, and that metastudy seems to confirm it.

What I had in mind was that helmet users tend to risk-compensate, taking more risks in traffic.

In the majority of cases, risk compensation leads to a decrease in expected benefit of legislation, but does not eliminate the benefit. (At least, that's the message I came away with from reading Foolproof.)

is there any real evidence to back this up - they used to say the same/similar things about seatbelts.

so that if you are in an accident, the reaction of everyone else isn't "he should have been wearing a helmet".

I think those statistics are very very very heavily skewed and should be ignored. If you have a car accident, 99% of the time, it gets recorded. If you have a bike accident, if the police is not involved, where are you going to report it? To whom? Therefore, the only cases that do get reported are collisions with vehicles, or cases severe enough that cyclist gets taken to hospital - and in those cases, the situation is already bad, even if they wore a helmet.

My point is - situations where a helmet has saved a life are rarely recorded, so they don't show up in any sort of statistic(even I had an accident where I flew across the handlebars, hit my head directly on the edge of a curb, helmet split in half, and I was fine - yet this wasn't recorded anywhere. It does not exist in any sort of statistic, despite - very clearly - saving my life).

Split, or crushed? Helmets absorb the energy of an impact by crushing - it’s a destructive process.

It might have protected you from cuts & abrasions, but if it didn’t crush then it didn’t absorb any of the impact.

The helmet splitting is a result of the crush on impact. This is why you should always replace the helmet after it has been "useful" i.e. suffered an impact. Even if it stays in one piece, it has been crushed and lost some of its protection.

I think that the parent comment's statement "situations where a helmet has saved a life are rarely recorded" is a bit of an exaggeration, because quite often, if the helmet saves your head, you still suffer some other injuries. But it is indeed possible that people fall so that they suffer no other injuries, they'd just have cracked their head without the helmet.

* Citation needed

That is true for the original statement (that helmets provide safety on a bike) as well.

I mean, you would expect some improvement, but (as a Dutch citizen), i expect it to prevent harm in the same way wearing helmet during sex would prevent harm.

In general: if you taking those kind of risks (as a car, as a bike, etc.) that people on a bike need a helmet, you don't belong in traffic here. The effect on mentality may be as important, if not more important.

Also, interesting to realize, if car and a bike have an accident, by law, it is automatically the fault of the car, no matter what. Even if the person on the bike is drunk, driving in the wrong direction, etc.

So, although bikers are betting their life going out, cars are betting their wealth, money and freedom.

It turns out, instead of focusing on 'who is at fault' and 'who is right', it is much safer to focus on 'lets make sure we don't hit each other' and turn accidents into a mutually-assured-destruction kind of deal. This way, every actor in traffic has a natural tendency to compensates for mistakes of the other actors. And this attitude is the one that prevents most accidents.

> if car and a bike have an accident, by law, it is automatically the fault of the car, no matter what. Even if the person on the bike is drunk, driving in the wrong direction, etc.

Both drivers and cyclists seem to believe this, but it is an exaggeration. The law says a court may decide to hold your (mandatory) liability insurance liable for some of the damage 'without having to prove your guilt'. It does not say you get the blame no matter what the pedestrian or cyclist does. At the same time, you can still sue the cyclist or pedestrian for damage to your car.


>Both drivers and cyclists seem to believe this, but it is an exaggeration.

I wonder how much safer this misbelief is making us though.

Well, it certainly makes for some people saying that bikes should be heavy so as to be better at ramming into cars. I have mixed feelings about your attitude to say the least.

> Also, interesting to realize, if car and a bike have an accident, by law, it is automatically the fault of the car, no matter what. Even if the person on the bike is drunk, driving in the wrong direction, etc.

Isn't this because the motorist has insurance while a bike rider does not? I've never seen cyclist insurance, although maybe the Dutch have it? There's no point trying to get blood from a stone by assigning blame to the uninsured party.

http://bicyclesafe.com/helmets.html https://www.cnet.com/news/brain-surgeon-theres-no-point-wear...

But more relevant to the Dutch situation: https://vvn.nl/dossier/fietshelm http://www.fietsersbond.nl/de-feiten/verkeer-en-veiligheid/f...

The main takeaway is that nobody in Netherland wants helmets to be mandatory. The positive effects of a helmet are insufficiently proven, and the negative effects of making helmets mandatory seem not worth the risk. Some organizations do recommend helmets for children between 10 and 14, which seems to be the group that's most likely to benefit from them.


So you're going with "a neurosurgeon said", "motorists between Bristol and Salisbury drive closer to people with helmets" and a TedX talk that cites "some research shows". Solid citation.

> When you are not in The Netherlands

There are other countries beside the NL and the USA.

> The fact that you can ride a bike without a helmet in The Netherlands is a sort of democratic miracle of the 70's where the public convinced the politicians to make bikes a first class mode of transport. The effect of this is that almost every road in The Netherlands has some sort of provision for bicycles, or has at least been considered to have some. And in most cases not just in the form of a line but actual infrastructures, curbs, asphalt

China must be a real paragon of democracy.

Indeed, Dutch view this two ways to use bicycle very differently. There are even completely different verbs to describe that:

- fietsen i.e. literally "bicycling" would refer to riding an opafiets [1] bicycle, at moderate speed, without helmet or any sort of cycling attire;

- wielrennen, i.e. literally "wheel running" instead describes sort of cycling that you would see in Tour de France race - racing bike, helmet, lycra gear on, considerably faster.

Second is far less common, and doing so on busy city streets during rush hour is frowned upon, of course.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadster_(bicycle)

While I get the difference, I can't quite imagine how it works in practice.

Here in Germany, it's all radeln, and when I commute along the ordinary bike lanes, I usually go as fast as I can, which is something like 20-30km/hour. That's nothing like racing, but it not moderate and so I am overtaking more casual cyclists all the time.

As far as I know, people who ride like me or faster are not frowned upon here. We are just expected to do our overtaking safely and politely.

The cycles I've seen in Germany are pretty similar to the same style as the rest of the western world: typically flat bars or drop bars with somewhere between 3 and 15 gears. So a huge variety, everything from commuter to cruisers to speed to hybrids.

In the Netherlands, it's rare to find speed or even higher end street bikes parked in any of the massive bike stands. They're all mostly old-school cruisers (what some people might call scooners). They don't go very fast and it's not uncommon to see a 2nd person just sitting on the back cargo mount.

Also, I find it interesting Germans have the same word for drive and ride. That's one of those common language mistakes you'll hear Germans make when they say, "I drove the bus."

I had no idea the NL cycling culture was like that. The only cycling dutchman I know is a speed deamon -- but he lived in England then.

Also, yes the word fahren is a bit strange to my English-trained years. But if it lumps "drive" and "ride" together, it also make a distinction that isn't available in English: it is to travel on a vehicle (be it just a pair of roller skates), but not on your own power or on the back of an animal.

That might sound like a weird distinction to make, until you realise that fahren is the absolute favourite activity of the German race. That's why they are so keen on trains and bikes and why they invented motor cars, jet engines, freeways and (I suspect) the parent-powered sleigh.

I'm telling you, it's not the speed, it's the outfit and the bike. I don't suddenly ride faster just because I'm wearing a helmet and goggles, but other people's attitude is sudden;y totally different.

Interesting, I never realized this. I know wielrennen (obviously) but haven't yet needed the word in English so I didn't notice the lack. I guess I'd call it bike racing.

It's not just how you're treated. Research has shown that cyclists wearing helmets tend to put more trust in their helmet, whereas cyclists without helmet tend to be more careful.

There is also a study that shows other traffic participants engage in riskier overtaking when a cyclist wears a helmet. Instead of leaving 1.5 m space when the cyclist is on the side of the car, drivers leave an average of 0.5 m space for cyclists wearing a helmet.

If I remember correctly, drivers see helmets as increased safety for the cyclist and feel they can engage in less safe behavior because it evens out.

Edit: For exact distances, see the paper (doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2006.08.010).

I heard that someone determined a long-haired blonde wig to perform best in that regard.

although it seems to make some sense, I am never treating any cyclist differently, be it granny or some racer or anything between, whatever the dress and equipment. It's a moving obstacle to be overtaken asap, with some extra room around them necessary.

the only 2 things that matter - speed of the cyclist and the stability of their ride (ie keeping straight path close to side of the road which I do on bike is ideal, aholes driving 2-3 next to each other taking full lane and sometimes more, chatting together and going left to right is on the other side of the spectrum)


It seems to have been “Drivers overtaking bicyclists: Objective data on the effects of riding position, helmet use, vehicle type and apparent gender”[1] (doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2006.08.010).

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457506...

This study is cited in every discussion of helmet use, yet it was barely scientific -- the author was his own test subject, and there has been no attempt at replication.

If that means that wearing a helmet allows you to ride faster while keeping the same level of safety, it's still a great benefit.

That's really strange. Wearing a helmet while cycling is just good sense: the human body was never designed to move at speeds over 10mph (and frequently over 20) on hard, asphalt roads or near concrete. One mistake can have you landing and hitting your head on these hard surfaces, which can give you a concussion or brain injury, or worse. You don't even have to be moving; you can lose your balance while waiting for a light, and fall over and hit your head. I was once told by someone who got a motorcycle and took a safety course about a video he watched: in the video, it showed numerous accidents with motorcycle riders wearing helmets and other protective gear, and walking away from pretty horrible accidents, or at least not suffering any permanent injuries. Then, at the end, they showed an accident where a guy not wearing a helmet was sitting on his motorcycle in his driveway, with the engine off, lost his balance, fell over, hit his head on the concrete, and died.

The idea that a helmet-wearer is somehow an "asshole bike ricer" because he wants to avoid a brain injury in case he falls off his bike onto a hard surface seems rather asinine to me.

And yes, glasses are a good idea too because of bugs and wind. You don't need anything fancy; just cheapo clear safety glasses will work great.

I find that difference in treatment to be curious. I have very little confidence in a helmet providing sufficient protection in an automobile collision. Other forms of accidents, sure. Then again, cycling culure is very different in my part of the world. Motorists are more likely to respect a cyclist if they behave like a motorist. That often means going fast on the part of the road that is in the worse condition.

> I had a bad crash after being hit in the eye by an insect

How did that happen, did you reflexively close both eyes and jerk on the handlebar or something?

Is that strange? Are you confident you'll stay completely composed and in control with a live bug in your eye? I lost control while trying to get the source of pain in my eye to stop.

I'm not sure... I mean, I've had bugs fly in before but nothing big and bad. Thinking about it now (in a logical state of mind) I would say I'd just press my eyes tightly closed instinctively and press both brakes as hard as I can. If it takes more than a second or two to stop, I think I'd realize I can open one eye to see traffic (if I'm in traffic). But in a panic, there is no way to tell whether I'd do that.

It just seems excessive to go through the hassle of both glasses and a helmet every time you use a bike. Then you might as well get the car out.

> I would say I'd just press my eyes tightly closed instinctively and press both brakes as hard as I can.

You probably don't have much experience if you write things like that :)

Experience with what, biking or flying stuff in eyes? In the latter case you might be right, which is one of the reasons nobody wears goggles while biking (it doesn't happen that often). In the former case you're wrong about me.

Pulling brakes hard is a sure way to fly over the bar at least on some bikes. Never actually happened to me but I've seen one guy land on concrete sidewalk this way.

I haven't had bugs in my eyes ever since I got glasses, but as a kid, I do remember the occasional bug in my eye. Never lead to a crash, though.

I think the most important thing is to come to a stop before trying to clear bugs from your eyes. Which remind me of my biggest bike crash: cleaning ice off my glasses on an icy bike path. I knew it was that slippery, but somehow I'd forgotten because everything was going so well. But obviously low speed, so no big deal.

> I also find it interesting the Dutch rarely ever wear helmets.

Good or bad; I am Dutch and I would confidently say that all people I know would never ride a bike again if they have to wear those silly helmets. More likely if it would be mandatory, they just would refuse and not do it, but if largely enforced they would just not use bikes anymore.

Odd that you say this about helmets. It only takes one mistake, one cyclist not paying attention, one mechanical fault, one swerving car or an obstacle in the road - and you'll be landing face first into the tarmac wishing you wore a helmet.

185 cyclists died last year in the Netherlands [1]. I wonder how many of those weren't wearing a helmet.

I also found this interesting article [2] going into a lot more detail on why the Dutch don't seem to want to wear them.

[1] http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2016/04/traffic-accide...

[2] http://tedx.amsterdam/2015/08/why-doesnt-the-dutch-bike-cult...

Note that many accidents happen with people going very fast on race bikes, and those people do wear helmets.

Normal Dutch bikes for everyday use go much slower (say 15-20 km/h), and you sit in an upright position. That gives you a much better overview of the road (you look over all the cars) and it also makes it easier to recover from a near fall.

Also 185 dead isn't much given that the 17 million Dutch use the bicycle on average 300 times per year for a total mean distance of 878 km per person per year (http://www.fietsersbond.nl/de-feiten/fietsen-cijfers#1)

185 bike deaths is a lot less than the roughly 500 car deaths every year. Keep in mind that people bike a lot here. I ride my bike every single day. I rarely use a car. Never had a meaningful accident.

In countries where helmets are mandatory, cyclists tend to run a much bigger risk of serious injury. Whatever Netherland is doing differently is clearly working. Claiming that Netherland should adapt to countries that are doing worse is ridiculous.

Netherland takes bike safety very seriously. Don't just assume that you know better than the country that has the highest bike density in the world. I have seen research about the effect of bike helmets, and while some research showed that helmets offered substantial benefit in very specific, artificial situations, other research showed that those benefit didn't translate to practical real life situations. And research that only tests how much a helmet protects your skill, tends to ignore the impact of the helmet in preventing the accident in the first place. Some research suggests that simply wearing a helmet can make people more reckless, putting more trust in their helmet than in their own carefulness.

Nitpick: it is not 185 vs roughly 500, but 185 versus 621 in total, of which 225 were in cars.

Like said; most accidents I have seen with near fatal results (mostly in Amsterdam where that happen(s)(ed) quite a bit), the helmet would've helped nothing at all. It's usually someone falling and then getting driven over/into. But yeah, I have no stats; not sure if anyone has, about if they do any good.

I also said for good or bad; like smoking or drinking or processed meat eating; you collect the info you can and believe, interpret it and make your choice; it's your life. I'm just saying that most people I know wouldn't be caught dead (...) with one of those things on even if it would mean they are less safe.

Wearing a helmet in your car would prevent a lot of injuries as well, and nobody does that. This is just a risk/reward trade off and I (as a Dutch cyclist) feel a few additional deaths on the total population is not worth the effort.

And the things are uncomfortable and impractical: what are you going to do with it when you arrive on your destination? Lug it around all day? Bring a bag everywhere?

Don't you carry a bag around already? If your commute is one hour cycling in guessing you might sweat and need a shower?

I cycle to work (in the UK, similar climate I guess) for about 15 minutes each way with no steep roads and I gotta be very careful with my pace if I don't want to sweat.

> If your commute is one hour cycling in guessing you might sweat and need a shower?

1. The weather is Holland is kind of optimal in maximizing not sweating.

2. We are not going that fast. The effort we put into it is identical to a normal walk. You just go three times as fast.

The difference between walking/running. Which is why you don't need a shower and why you don't need a helmet. So you go about 15 km/h at most. The bike is heavy (giving you much more stability). You sit up straight (giving you a much better view). You stretch your legs and you are standing still with a bike between your legs. You don't fall with a bike a holland, you loose balance and choose to stand.

For all intents and purposes, its just like walking and every non-dutch person keeps coming at it as if we are doing sprints or a marathon.

> If your commute is one hour cycling in guessing you might sweat and need a shower?

Not really. Our cycling is pretty relaxed, it's not like we're trying to race there as fast as possible. And we don't have steep hills to climb either. The only time I really sweat on a bike is when I'm wearing a rain suit. The lack of ventilation causes transpiration.

The country is compact enough that most people have < 30 minute bike commute, and it's flat, so people don't really break a sweat. Getting wet is indeed a bit of a problem. As children we're told "you're not made of sugar", i.e. you deal with it. (Some places provide showers for people who want to come to work jogging or race biking, but that's not standard)

Very few people shower after entering the office. That's only for the fanatical long-distance racing-bike commuters. Most people ride their bike in their work clothes. A helmet would be a tedious and useless bit of extra luggage.

It's much easier to control your pace and avoid sweating on a dutch commuter bike surrounded by your fellow dutch commuters whilst in the pancake flat NL.

Well, go slower then.

I hardly know anybody who commutes by cycle for an hour every day, that is too long. Personally I ride to the train station (8 minutes), take the train to the city I work in (~20 minutes), then ride the other bicycle to work from there (15 minutes).

> Well, go slower then.

I guess that works in countries where there are no steep hills ;-)

Or hang it on the bicycle?

That would certainly not get stolen.

I've been doing this in Austin for years. And not just a helmet: * $40 pump attached to the seat tube. * $20 helmet on the handlebars * $20 biking gloves in the helmet * $80 biking jersey on the handlebars * $20 bike light * $?? seat pouch, with bike tools.

I've had the bike light stolen twice (both in January this year), and the jersey vanished once, but I think it blew away. No one's ever taken my helmet, which has somewhat surprised me. I've also gotten too lazy to lock my tires these past few years, and they've been let alone.

Admittedly anecdotal and maybe a little lucky, but there don't seem to be people trolling around for bike helmets to steal. They're probably not easy to resell. I'd go for the pumps and lights first, personally.

My girlfriend in college had her bike stolen. This was in a college town (in the US), so bike theft was not uncommon there. She had her helmet attached to the bike, or sitting on it, not sure which. The bike thief took the helmet off and threw it aside before grabbing the bike.

Stolen bikes can be resold. But who wants to buy a stolen bike helmet??

Most people don't really want to buy used items which are personal in nature. While a bike helmet isn't underwear, it's still in contact with your head and your hair, while you're sweating a lot, and probably never gets cleaned. I imagine that for the same reasons, no one would want to steal your jersey or gloves. I'm more surprised that your pump and tools never got stolen, but there again it probably has to do with the black market realities: people will buy stolen bikes, but how many people are looking to save money by buying a stolen tire pump?

You're already locking your bike, you can loop the lock through one of your helmet straps (I do and have never had a helmet stolen, except when the whole bike was).

You can trivially undo helmet straps, because it needs to be adjusted it's not one solid piece of webbing.

It stops someone from just picking your helmet up and walking away with it, but it takes no more than half a minute to undo the strap, so it's not going to stop someone intent on stealing it.

Put the lock cable through one of the holes in the top of the helmet. Now you can't get it off without breaking it.

This whole thread including this comment feels like people who haven't ever been to The Netherlands making suggestions that make no sense for the cycling culture here.

So firstly as has been covered in other comments here, cyclists in The Netherlands don't want to wear helmets for their daily commuting, it doesn't solve any sort of safety problem for them when you factor in the inconvenience they cause.

Secondly even if they did most bicycle chains here are over an inch thick, not something you can thread through a bicycle helmet.

Sure you could carry some extra wire just to lock the helmet to the bike, but that gets you even further down the road of making a bunch of special accommodations to solve a problem that doesn't exist in the first place.

>cyclists in The Netherlands don't want to wear helmets for their daily commuting, it doesn't solve any sort of safety problem for them when you factor in the inconvenience they cause.

This sounds very much like "I don't wear my seatbelt for commuting. It doesn't solve any sort of safety problem when you factor in the inconvenience it causes."

Let's say there was a country where 0.5% of the drivers used seat belts[1], and out of those mostly just race car drivers. Yet that country had no notable increase in injuries or fatalities in car crashes as a result compared to countries where seat belts were mandatory.

Add into that that in this parallel universe driving a car daily had big long-term health benefits, and the introduction of seat belt laws in other countries had caused driving to drop by 1/3 [2], causing fewer people to cycle, overall health to decline, and a reduction in car safety due to less car safety in numbers. Since a major cause of accidents was that few people used cars daily, leading to accidents where people weren't expecting them.

Then yeah, I think it would be completely fair to question whether wearing a seat belt in your car was worthwhile. But of course none of this analogy makes sense, which makes your argument rather nonsensical.

1. http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1261.html

2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet_laws#Effects_on...

Why would anyone want to do this?

Answer me this: if you needed or wanted a bike helmet, would you buy a used one to save money? Especially if it's never been cleaned? (Those foam pads inside don't seem to be conducive to cleaning.) What kind of person would steal a helmet?

Don't know about Netherlands, but here in Finland I've left my helmet hanging from the bars of my bicycle for a few years now and it hasn't been stolen yet. Bikes themselves do get stolen especially in the city center, but helmets don't.

It suprises me that people, in this time of environmental problems, seriously want to deter even more people from riding bikes. Traffic accidents will always happen, and modern countries are only getting safer, but environmental problems are only getting worse.

How would you feel if you had to wear a helmet every time you walk outside? That's a bit like how the Dutch people would feel if they had to wear a helmet on their bikes. Arguably, it would help to avoid some injuries, but it is just not worth it. People in the Netherlands don't just bike to work or school; they bike when they go out (yes, even after drinking), when they visit friends, when they have a doctors appointment. Bringing a helmet every time would both be a major inconvenience and make you seem like a huge dork. People usually bike pretty slowly, and there are not many accidents. I live in one a city where the biker density is one of the highest in the Netherlands, and I have never been in an accident. I would never wear a helmet every time I would ride my bike. I would even argue it would reduce my quality of life.

Typical bicyle helmets don't help much with a face-first landing on the tarmac, your chin takes most of the pounding. I can confidently say that from repeated ... 'experiments'. In contrast, a motorcyle helmet that also wraps around the chin would be of great use in most bicycle accidents.

   185 cyclists died
A more interesting statistic would be: how many of those deaths would have been prevented by a bicycle helmet?

That depends entirely on how you fall off your bike, which depends on your speed and numerous other factors. The problem here is that it's pretty hard to tell after the fact whether a death would have been prevented by a helmet. We can guess, speculate but it's hard to measure the exact forces exerted - and also how someone's biological material will react to that (the brain).

In all my reading around this issue, those that don't want to wear helmets don't tend to wear them for fashion reasons, and interpret the stats they read to insinuate that helmets don't save lives. They don't like how it looks, feels, or that they will be teased for wearing one. I'd rather live to see the next day than care about what a helmet looks like.

And one other point to end on, it's not just deaths we're talking about here. Many people have suffered brain injuries from the impact of falling off their bike. Imagine there was something you could put on your head that would prevent that impact.

> I'd rather live to see the next day than care about what a helmet looks like.

Do you wear one while walking? Or hiking? There's also an increased risk of brain injury from these activities.

Most people I know don't wear one, because the combination of the discomfort, hassle, inconvenience and appearance aren't worth the perceived low increased risk of cycling compared to, for example, walking.

I wear one when rock climbing, kayaking, snowboarding, skiing, motorcycle, bicycle, skateboard, football, etc. Pretty much any time I go over 8mph. I even considered one in aussie rules football but they were hard to find in the states.

I found that helmets for winter sports are better than hats. They don't soak up sweat like a hat does so do better in cold and are better vented than a hat as well. They also really help with the trees.

It's also interesting that they used to be "nerdy" on ski slopes in the US, then several major states required everyone under 18 to wear them. Now 80% (feels like) of kids wear them all the time, so you actually look wierd if you don't wear a helmet.

I definitely wear them on bikes and have needed them (and bounced off of them) many times. I tend to tuck when I go off the bike so I bounce the back of my helmet. There's a heart warming sensation of relief when you hear that hollow thunk sound of the helmet taking the blow on the pavement, tree, hardpack, rock, etc, with no bad effects on you.

Also on my commute I tend to hit 45 mph multiple times in the first 2 miles (I drop 500 ft in 2 miles and I feel it's safer to do 35 like the cars on the nicely paved winding suburban road than to sit in the bike lane).

Finally... I made this guy (who hates helmets) put one on after the kite pulled him up into the goal posts on a previous run. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PGKG5ZFMQg He thanked me a year later.

That's a completely different situation than the average Dutch cyclist faces. First, there are no hills to be seen, so not that easy to pick up speed. Especially on a city bike which is 99% of the fleet. It's unusual to even reach 20km/h. People carry their shopping, kids, furniture and pets in them. They cycle in whatever they are wearing - suits, skirts, jeans, whatever; the fact you can just hop on a bike without having to gear up makes it much more attractive to everyday life.

There was also this study from a university in Utrecht showing that [in the Netherlands] cyclists wearing helmets are more careless and cause more accidents, nullifying any safety benefit...

> There was also this study from a university in Utrecht showing that [in the Netherlands] cyclists wearing helmets are more careless and cause more accidents, nullifying any safety benefit..

Are there any links in English to that study?

Someone said only people racing (or with racing bikes) trend to wear helmet in Netherlands. Knowing that it feels like that study confuses correlation with causation, but a university probably knows more than I do, hence why I'd like to read the study. Maybe it's just the press getting the wrong conclusion out of the study for agenda purposes.

I don't know. The helmets are not weird nor nerdy. They save lives even though you might not need it ever if you're lucky. I always wear helmet, high viz, reflective vest, lights everywhere... You know, I don't want to be that guy in the statistics.

There's an article here implying drivers cut closer when they wear helmets http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/10866273/Cycle-h...

Nice link, thanks. That seems to be another education issue: Drivers think cyclists with helmets are more experienced, so they don't feel the need to leave as much room as they do with "less experienced" cyclists.

It is an interesting point and I didn't know about it.

Almost unrelated, but I've found this part of the article funny - shows how we have to be careful with grand headlines and look at the article itself:

> Henry Marsh, who works at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, said that many of his patients who have been involved in bike accidents have been wearing helmets that were ‘too flimsy’ to be beneficial.

Well, no shit Sherlock. The cases where the helmet helped don't end up in your hands. Guy's a neurosurgeon.

But I am pretty sure you don't live in Netherlands. Safety gear depends on the people around you too. :)

Yeah, I guess you've got a good point there. Also, the infrastructures to cycle are not as good here as in The Netherlands.

I just think, based on people's comments, that there's some silly stigma associated to the helmets like "they're ugly" or "you look silly with it". I've only started cycling again a few years ago, after a childhood of cycling every day without any safety gear; it was hard at first to make myself comfortable with the idea of wearing a helmet. Some time later it just feels natural and I actually get worried when I see people without helmet.

It seems to be something similar to the seat belt. It took time for people to get used to it and nowadays I still see that problem in some countries (usually with old people in small towns).

Edit: Typos. Lack of coffee. Lack of sleep.

I'm not talking about Dutchland, I'm talking about where I ride. :)

The article is about the Netherlands, and I was referring to Denmark, though I forgot to write that.

Most people aren't "sport" cyclists here, and therefore most don't wear helmets.

I wouldn't wear a helmet to walk up the stairs, but if I go rock climbing I do. Same difference.

> have needed them (and bounced off of them) many times

Are you doing like offroad biking or something? Otherwise you should probably practice on your riding style...

I wear a helmet for bicycling, in-line skating, snowboarding and whitewater kayaking. In the case of the first three sports, the helmet has saved me from nasty head hits:

- Two over-the-handlebars crashes on my bike at relatively low speed (one when mountain biking).

- A low tree limb and several backwards falls when inline skating.

- Countless backwards falls when learning to snowboard.

For whitewater kayaking, a helmet is effectively mandatory because head strikes against underwater rocks may knock you unconscious in rapids (and because very few groups will paddle with somebody lacking standard safety gear). I once saw a guy paddling in a hockey mask with a cage, which is non-standard for whitewater kayaking. I later learned he had bounced that face cage off an underwater rock once.

As for cars, well, I once hit my head against the door frame in a car accident (no side air bags in that vehicle) and ended up needing to work half time for over 6 months. Even minor concussions can be no fun at all. Happily I made a full recovery.

I like my helmets. I earn my living using my brain, and I intend to strictly minimize the risk of future concussions.

Do you wear a helmet when going for a run? What about going for a walk?

Most Dutch riders are cycling slower than a running pace.

I noticed that you categorized bicycling as a sport. For most Dutch people, bicycling is not a sport but a form of transportation. Commuting by car is a form of transportation, just like Formula 1 is a sport form which uses cars. The safety requirements are quite different between those two, just like they are different between those who mountain bike as a sport and those who use a city bicycle to get groceries.

> Most Dutch riders are cycling slower than a running pace.

Just to confirm, this is absolutely true. When running, I overtake bicyclists all the time. Especially uphill :) (by which I mean traffic overpass, not actual hills of course :p)

Personally I go a bit faster on my bike, but not much. 15 km/h (9.3mph) usually, and if I go much faster than that, I find that it does indeed get a lot more dangerous! Amazing, right? So, I don't do that. Just another clever Dutch workaround, I guess :-P

So, according to your risk profile, it sounds like you should be wearing a helmet when driving a car.

(This is actually something that the safety researchers advocate for if you go read the literature.)

That's a "fun fact": it makes complete and total sense to wear helmets while driving.

Wearing a helmet is of course never a bad thing. But studies has also shown (on mobile, can't find now) that people see helmets as really cumbersome, and that many of the potential cyclists chose another mode of transporation if they have to use a helmet. Seems strange to me, I ride with a helmet every day. But each to his/her own.

You should take a look at this:


And this:

[…] In contrast, despite increases to at least 75% helmet wearing, the proportion of head injuries in cyclists admitted or treated at hospital declined by an average of only 13%. The percentage of cyclists with head injuries after collisions with motor vehicles in Victoria declined by more, but the proportion of head injured pedestrians also declined; the two followed a very similar trend. These trends may have been caused by major road safety initiatives introduced at the same time as the helmet law and directed at both speeding and drink-driving. The initiatives seem to have been remarkably effective in reducing road trauma for all road users, perhaps affecting the proportions of victims suffering head injuries as well as total injuries. The benefits of cycling, even without a helmet, have been estimated to outweigh the hazards by a factor of 20 to 1 (Hillman 1993; Cycle helmets—the case for and against. Policy Studies Institute, London). Consequently, a helmet law, whose most notable effect was to reduce cycling, may have generated a net loss of health benefits to the nation. Despite the risk of dying from head injury per hour being similar for unhelmeted cyclists and motor vehicle occupants, cyclists alone have been required to wear head protection. Helmets for motor vehicle occupants are now being marketed and a mandatory helmet law for these road users has the potential to save 17 times as many people from death by head injury as a helmet law for cyclists without the adverse effects of discouraging a healthy and pollution free mode of transport.[1]

[1] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/00014575960...

There are plenty of ways to have an accident that don't involve face-planting. The one time I flew over my handlebars, I landed on my left shoulder (breaking my collarbone), and my helmet probably prevented me from getting a concussion when the side of my head bounced off the road.

Bike helmets are designed to protect against skull fractures, they don't protect against concussion.

For concussion you'd probably want something which is able to decelerate the brain inside the skull gently like an airbag.

Sure they protect against concussion. They don't prevent all concussions, but a helmet clearly diminishes the impact which causes concussion.

>A more interesting statistic would be: how many of those deaths would have been prevented by a bicycle helmet?

If we assume that this Canadian study would apply as such to Netherlands:


the figure would be

(71/129)×185×(100-65)% = 35 of these people would have not have been killed.

Of course, the figures are probably not quite right for Netherlands. For instance, in Canada a majority of bicycle fatalities involve another vehicle, whereas where I live (Finland), this is not true because we have separate bike/pedestrian paths in many places. Like the Netherlands. This actually increases the effectiveness of helmets, because fewer of the accidents are about being crushed by a big vehicle, and more of them are falls.

And the physics of falling off your bike are not that different and the ground is about as hard in Canada as in Netherlands.

>And the physics of falling off your bike are not that different and the ground is about as hard in Canada as in Netherlands.

You would think that would be true, but no.

1. The ground in Holland is flat.

2. The bike is heavy.

3. The bike is the type where you are sitting up (not leaning forward like a race bike).

So, when a dutch person bikes they are going no faster than 15 km/h. When they stretch their legs they are standing still. When they fall to the side they generally fall into grass or sidewalks (which are thin stones on top of moisty earth), that can actually absorb quite a lot of energy/momentum.

A guy I saw a few days ago got one of those heavy chain-type locks in his frontwheel while riding his bike a few days ago. Of course, his bike stopped instantly. He was carrying a painting, so driving with one hand. Amazingly, he didn't even fall to the ground. It really takes a lot of effort to land on the top of your head; I imagine that being hit or run over by a car causes way, way more serious accidents.

It helps that our bikes are heavy and you sit up straight.

The rest of the world keeps talking about helmets, even though they ride complete death traps. Their mountain bikes and race bikes. Off course you are going to die riding one of those in NYC.

I would advise them to just outlaw those bikes, instead of making/keeping helmets mandatory.

A more interesting statistic is: How many more people would have died through pollution / heart disease if everyone drove cars instead of cycling?

But wearing helmet doesn't cause more pollution, so I guess that statistic is very good for a different discussion :-)

You are partly wrong. Encouraging (or even worse, enforcing) cycle helmets is known to reduce the number of people cycling. Since they presumably still need to get around, they're going to use other forms of transport, some of which add pollution. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet_laws#Effects_on...

Well, no. I'm not wrong: Using helmets does not increase pollution.

Forcing helmets onto people seems to increase pollution (by the reduced use of cycling), so the problem in fact should be: A lack of proper health and safety education leads (indirectly?) to more pollution.

That's why I think that statistic is very good for a different discussion - I don't think it should belong into "Should people wear helmets while cycling?", it belongs into "Should we force people to wear helmets while cycling?". The answer to those two questions could be YES and NO without being contradictory really.

At least in [0], the reduced use of cycling was only an issue for teenagers. Children and adults cycled more after mandatory helmet law; people who most fiercely oppose putting protective gear on their head seem to be 12-17 years old.

I'm not really saying that helmets should be mandatory, but the attitudes and arguments remind me a lot about the time when mandatory seatbelt laws were coming to force. People will be trapped in burning cars and sink in vehicles and can't get out, and it will mess up the cothes, etc.

[0] Effects of the compulsory bicycle helmet wearing law in victoria during its first three years, Cameron, Newstead, Vulcan, Finch /

I think the more interesting stats would be in the are of non-fatal injuries. If you die, the hit was probably pretty hard, but there are loads more people getting injured but not life-threatening. Breaking boths legs and a concussion would not be part of that stat.

That's frankly not a lot of cyclists, compared to the number of bicyclists and the number of trips made.

An even more interesting statistic is how many of those deaths would have been prevented by even better bicycle infrastructure.

That's one statistic dutch counties often scrutinize closely, IIRC.

In Denmark. The percentage of people here wearing helmets seems to be dropping again after having been on the rise for the past few years (based on my anecdotal evidence of biking around copenhagen), but it's still relatively rare. I know at least 3 people who had simple accidents while not wearing helmets and while they did not die they suffered severe concussions that take years to fully recover from (if ever). One guy was unable to work for close to a year, and still 3 years later suffer frequent intense headaches. You don't have to die in an accident in order for it to be something you really should try to avoid.

Do bike helmets protect against concussions?

Yes, I think that is one of their main purposes. It basically takes the impact energy and distributes it over a larger area and over longer time, reducing the risk of permanent brain damage. This website has some charts of a lab experiment showing the difference in the energy spike felt by the brain. http://www.bhsi.org/general.htm

I fell onto my bike helmet, on pavement, splitting it in half. I can tell you from personal experience that helmets definitely protect against concussion.

You can argue about the pros and cons of wearing helmets - plenty of people (like me) choose not to wear them.

One thing that's fairly apparent is that making people wear them decreases cyclist numbers dramatically.

People seem to ignore the elephant in the room with this one. By making helmet use pro-choice, what health benefits does a nation gain? How does this impact obesity? The cost of health to the nation? Productivity? Mental health? Pollution related problems?

The bicycle is a very simple solution to a lot of problems.

Well for better or worse, people don't like to wear helmets. Cyclists are actually pretty good with helmet use compared to pedestrians and car users.

>185 cyclists died last year in the Netherlands [1].

Of the almost 8+ million people biking almost every day. Just to put that in perspective.

And that's not even counting the tourists, which likely skew the results a bit (since they will have less experience and likely won't be sober at all)

Also, of those 185, 48 were 70-80 years old, and 51 were 80 years and older, so in total over half were over 70 (compared to only 17 who were under 20 years old)

It's a fairly safe bet most of those over 70's weren't going so fast that hitting a car or the ground hit much harder than a hit or a fall while walking would.

E-bikes may be changing that; that is being studied and may lead to changes in helmet laws. I think it is more likely it will lead to changes in road design and to recommendations to certain groups to wear a helmet.

I'm strongly against mandatory helmets for the reason that you suggest. But I'm one of the people (Im in the UK) who now wears helmets for both skiing and cycling. My cycle helmet almost certainly saved my life when a car gave me a knock and my head went onto the kerb.

This was a slow collision in London traffic - probably doing about 10-12 MPh.

Right. There's no doubt that wearing a helmet makes you safer. Helmet use should be encouraged. However, the outcomes for society are considerably worse if helmets are made mandatory.

This has been demonstrated by the experience of New Zealand where helmet use was made compulsory in the 1990s. Not only did cycling rates decline by more than 50%, the rates of serious cycling injuries and deaths actually increased. It turns out that when there are less cyclists on the road, remaining cyclists are more vulnerable - helmet or not.

The transition on attitude towards skiing helmets (at least in European resorts) has been really interesting to watch. It has gone from being something that only children and the seriously hardcore off piste snowboarders.

I never used to wear one, and neither did most of the people I ski with, but over the last 5 years its changed until we now seriously judge people for being reckless if they won't wear a helmet.

The death of Natasha Richardson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natasha_Richardson#Injury_and_...) was fairly well publicised in the UK and I think that had a bit of a catalytic effect for us, but it was pushing at an open door of a change that was already happening.

> The transition on attitude towards skiing helmets (at least in European resorts) has been really interesting to watch.

I agree.

Ten years ago, only racers wore helmets.

Five years ago, some people did.

Now, I suspect it's the majority who wear a helmet.

I bought one too, a few years ago.

Yup. The people who don't stand out - and they're almost universally the older generation of serious skiers (>= retirement age) who are too stuck in their ways.

To quote my Dad (who admittedly hasn't skied in years) "You wear a helmet? Why? I never needed one".

Yeah. For me, it's pretty much: I don't ski much these days. I don't ski particularly aggressively. I've never worn a helmet and I'm not about to start now.

It's not that I think they're stupid or anything. And I do wear helmets for various other sports. I just never have for skiing and don't feel compelled to change.

But that's what the Natasha Richardson accident proved - it's not about your skiing, it's about other people's skiing. In much the same way as you wear a seatbelt even if you're a perfect driver - someone else can still crash into you.

Also, the fact that I've never had a potentially fatal car accident doesn't mean that I don't see the need to wear a seatbelt. The safety numbers made a risk obvious and the behavioural pattern changed to manage the risk.

I'm certainly not going to argue that people shouldn't wear helmets or that you can control all the factors that could lead to being glad you had a helmet on.

But there's risk in everything and, for me, I'm not going to worry about the incremental risk of downhill skiing without a helmet a couple days a year.

It's true in (at least some areas of) the US as well. I went downhill skiing in California for the first time in a few years last winter and, for the first time, I was very aware that I was definitely in the minority not wearing a helmet. (I do wear a hat with some impact resistant padding.)

There's been a big shift. I suspect at least part of it has been that helmets have been the norm for kids for a while--especially after snowboarding became common. I assume many parents felt they had to start wearing helmets if they were telling their kids they had to.

In France it has taken time, and there are still some holdouts (most notably the national ski school, ESF).

I believe it's mandatory already in several Swiss resorts, I know it is in Zermatt.

I really hope the ESF will mandate helmets for all instructors, this would go a long way to normalising them.

I don't think wearing a helmet when skiing is comparable to commute cycling. I think motorcycling would be closer. In both cases you're going at relatively high speeds with quite long breaking distances.

You learn to appreciate a helmet if you share roadspace with a certain subset of vehicles and drivers. Which you, blessedly, don't.

Although there are separated roads for bikes and cars we do still share roadspace.

The major difference I think is that in the Netherlands there is a law which gives vulnerable road participants (pedestrians, bicycler) the benefit of the doubt whenever there is an accident. Even if the guilt is proven to be with the bicycler, the car driver should have paid more attention.

One way this is good for bicyclers because they are protected but on the other side they do tend to be more aggressive and reckless in their driving.

The major difference I think is that in the Netherlands there is a law which gives vulnerable road participants (pedestrians, bicycler) the benefit of the doubt whenever there is an accident. Even if the guilt is proven to be with the bicycler, the car driver should have paid more attention.

As far as I know, this is also true in Germany and many people wear helmets. I never wore a helmet in The Netherlands, but I do now that I live in Germany. Why?

- German car drivers are less used to cyclers. They are either extremely careful (like driving behind you for five minutes or passing you with a distance of 2 meters). Or they are extremely reckless (e.g. cutting you off on the very few bicycle lanes). So, in general I feel less safe than in The Netherlands.

- Altitude differences. The Netherlands are mostly flat. Here (southern Germany) it's quite hilly. That often makes it more difficult to brake abruptly.

Pretty much the same for me here in the US. I grew up in the Netherlands and always felt safe bicycling there. The first time I went bicycling around San Jose, I felt like I was going to die.

When I was in primary school and maybe high school I remember not wanting to wear a helmet because it looked silly. As a adult I think it would be a lot more silly to loose my life, health, ability to focus or to walk just because I didn't want to look silly. I'm not saying you are wrong, but that all people you know are. Besides the helmets these days really do look better, the producers have moved on from a purely utilitarian focus to actually having someone think about the visual aspect as well.

Have you been to the Netherlands before and seen how effective and safe the cycling infra is even without people wearing helmets?

Yes, I have and it's great. Similar to Denmark where I live, but it's even safer if you wear a helmet. There is a clear benefit to wearing one and not much of cost so it's an easy choice IMO.

I haven't been to Denmark (yet, will be in CPH in Nov!) but I understand ytour cycle infrastructure is comparable to that of the Netherlands. Do you find more people wear helmets there than in NL?

> I am Dutch and I would confidently say that all people I know would never ride a bike again if they have to wear those silly helmets. More likely if it would be mandatory, they just would refuse and not do it, but if largely enforced they would just not use bikes anymore.

Weeelll ... not use a bike any more?? How are you going to get around then? :) :)

Indeed most would refuse and not do it, and if largely enforced, many would still refuse and not do it. ... but give up our bikes? Never! :)

They'll never enforce it though. Too many bikes. Take mandatory working front and back lights. I don't know about all cities of course, but where I live, they only enforce that a few weeks per year, at only a few same spots every year. Any other time, anywhere else, you can drive past a police car with no lights and they won't stop you (because they are there with something better to do). And this is for a bike law that pretty much everyone agrees is useful and important for safety (it's just that those damn lights break so quickly).

Your use of the pejorative "silly" is indeed indicative of why Dutch people wouldn't use them. They might be silly for low speed commute cycling, but labeling the helmets silly in and of themselves is, uh, silly. Perhaps you should have said Dutch people would view wearing the helmets for bike commuting to be silly.

But, to make up for it, we also consider driving a racing bike in city traffic at speeds over 15 km/h silly (although the outfit doesn't help either). And we look before we open the car door, because there's bikes everywhere. I guess that evens it out a little :)

> people I know would never ride a bike again if they have to wear those silly helmets

Why not? You make it sound like Dutch aren't very committed to cycling.

Interestingly, in Germany there are some bicycle "hub" cities the prototypical example would be the city of Münster. My very unscientific feeling is that it's mostly mid sized cities with a university campus (especially if it's a multilocation campus spread across the entire city like in Münster).

Apart from the cities, there's also some pretty nice longer distance bike tracks. I belive Germany has one of the best bike route network/infrastructure. There's the so called D-Route (12 sections): http://www.radnetz-deutschland.de/en/d-routen.html

But the Dutch are #1 when it comes to bikes (imo).

Fun sidenote: The German term for what is typically known as a roadster bike is even "Hollandrad". In the Netherlands it's known as "Omafiets" which roughly translates to grandma-bike :)

its the same in karsruhe, Germany. Medium sized and a university campus (though not that many bicycles, it think 28% of all movement in the city is done by bicycle), but we are improving :D

In Münster it's 40% (number of trips). About two bicycles per citizen. 7% don't own a bicycle, 45% own two or more. Also highest rate of bicycle theft (10 per day). There's a longer abstract in German discussion the reasons why the ratio is so high https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radverkehr_in_M%C3%BCnster. Basically university town, no hills and historically lots of road infrastructure that favors cyclists.

As a dutch biker I would only wear a helmet when mountain-biking. The rest of the roads are very flat, we don't have much inclines. And our bikes are mostly in good condition, good brakes etc. In the cities people tend to have worse bikes because of theft but speed is lower there, so less danger. And last but not least, we have bike lanes, so you just wont come across cars regularly, a car has to ignore red lights to come in contact with bikes, so accidents are not that common.

People cycling as fast as they can wear helmets, this is usually seen at the weekends when a few people swap their city bike for a racing bike and ride round the countryside.

Motorists who enjoy racing also wear helmets when speeding round the race track, but don't wear them on the commute.

No doubt deaths around be prevented if car occupants wore helmets, but it's not considered risky, just like routing cycling.

One note I'd like to make is that in NL, motorcyclists and mopeds (capable of speeds >25 kph) are required by law to wear a helmet, which has to meet certain standards.

I have often wondered why we don't wear helmets while in a car. It seems like it would be a positive to safety.

Because in general we tend to be OK with wearing helmets for sports when doing so seems a reasonable tradeoff but not for day to day activities. Clearly helmets would be beneficial for certain types of injuries but it's hard to imagine many people willing to make the tradeoff. (I would also wonder if they'd actually be a net benefit given potential reductions in visibility, etc.)

Cycling (in the US) sort of falls between those two categories but, at least for adults, many who use bicycles as transportation also use them as a sport.

So would 5-point harnesses, but almost no one has those installed in their car.

Safety is usually about going after the lowest-hanging fruit: making improvements that have the biggest net benefit. In cycling, head injuries are common because of how the rider is exposed and how they frequently fall and what kind of surfaces they're likely to impact. In car driving, not so much; the biggest benefit in car driving is to keep the body anchored to the seat so that it doesn't fly into the dashboard or steering wheel or anything else, so that's why we wear seat belts. There's still problems with body parts hitting parts of the car, so then we added airbags. There's still problems with getting whiplash, so now we have seats and headrests designed to minimize whiplash injuries. It just isn't often that you hear about someone getting a head injury in a car wreck in a modern car; I can't think of ever hearing of such a thing in fact.

Also, the speeds people reach on city streets aren't as high as what race cars reach, and in most auto racing, helmets are indeed required. However, the helmets used in auto racing (full head-covering types) also negatively affect visibility, which is very important in city driving, and not that important in racing where the conditions are far more controlled and you don't have to worry about random pedestrians or bad drivers all around you.

It's not like we don't have safety devices in cars; we do, and in fact we have many of them and they tend to be rather expensive and highly-engineered. 3-point seat belts with pre-tensioners, multiple airbags (front, canopy, A-pillar, seat side), anti-whiplash head restraints and seat mountings, etc. They also tend to be passive in nature: only seat belts require you to do anything to make use of them, the others are just waiting there until they're needed. As a society we've put a lot of money and effort into reducing deaths and injuries in cars, and it's paid off well. We could go further with helmets and 5-point harnesses, but how much benefit would there be, and how many people would refuse to use them? (BTW, there's an argument against 5-point harnesses, that they shouldn't be used unless a car has a roll cage otherwise your head can get crushed in a rollover, whereas with a 3-point harness your torso just moves to the side towards the center if the roof caves in.) Oh yeah, don't forget what we do with kids these days: they have fairly elaborate child seats they're required to sit in, which they really are anchored into.

> The amount of bicycles in The Netherlands is absolutely surreal. [...] I also find it interesting the Dutch rarely ever wear helmets.

Perspective, perspective. The amount of bicycles in Germany (which is next-door) is surreal to me (so few) and I find it interesting that people wear helmets. They're such a bother and don't help your scraped arm or broken teeth if you land wrong. The odds of hitting your head on a curb seem about as slim to me as when you're walking.

In New York City, sometimes the only way to bike safely is to attempt to match the speed of the traffic, which despite road congestion will still be well over 10 MPH.

At that speed, if you hit a pothole or get doored, or get hit by a car, you are going to go down very hard. I've crashed exactly 3 times on my bike in New York City, and every time I would've cracked my head open if I didn't have a helmet.

> sometimes the only way to bike safely is to attempt to match the speed of the traffic

Can someone cite a study on this claim? I ride my bike every day and never ever see the need to match traffic, unless it happens to be going slower than me. If it's going faster ... I pick another route. I just don't think biking is safe in the city at say >17mph.

Going slow (and carefully selecting routes that allow you to do so -- the avenues in manhattan are a deathtrap btw) is the single most important factor in bike safety IMO.

That's 16km/h if I got the conversion rate right. That's a good run but I think most Dutch people bike even faster than that.

I'm pretty sure the difference is not the speed but the traffic. It sounds like the odds of crashing in the first place are a lot higher in NYC than in the Netherlands.

Yeah. I was lowballing though. It's actually scarier when cars are flying by at 25-30 MPH, and you're trying to dodge potholes in the road (if there's no bike lane) or various obstacles (if there's a bike lane) like construction equipment, work vans, and police cars.

One time I went wiped out in a bike lane because some trash bag had leaked some kind of garbage sludge all over the sidewalk (garbage day in NYC means 5-foot-tall piles of stinking trash bags on the sidewalk). The street was slightly banked, so when I hit the slick stuff my wheel just slid right out from under me and I had no time to even bail off the bike. My helmet probably saved my life that day.

Surreal? Hardly. There's room for plenty more. Most UK (hell, most countries') cities have extremely crappy bicycle infrastructure. Which is stupid, considering the many benefits of having a population of cyclists. Fewer road deaths, less obesity, less air pollution etc.

Dutch (and Danish) infrastructure is pretty decent.

Most people in China don't wear helmets either. Helmets prevent brain injury, but generally you'd have to be going pretty fast, or get hit by a car really fast to land on your head to require one (and then you probably have other injuries to contend with).

Also, we have bike light laws in California, but there are plenty of cyclists that don't use them. Personally, if I had to choose between riding without a helmet, or riding without lights; I'll take the lights. Lights prevent accidents whereas a helmet is only needed after an accident has occurred.

(It's getting dark sooner; if you don't have lights on your bikes, please buy some. Planet Bike has a nice two light set. Get some, and get some for your friends. Stay seen, stay safe.)

>Helmets prevent brain injury, but generally you'd have to be going pretty fast, or get hit by a car really fast to land on your head to require one (and then you probably have other injuries to contend with).

This is wrong. There's some research done on that over here (Finland).

First of all, about two thirds of severe bicycle injuries happen without any third parties involved, cars or not. Head injuries are the worst also in this group.

Second, a large part of the injuries happen at low speeds, and landing on your head doesn't require fast speeds at all. In fact many of the injuries to head happen at low speeds.

And then my personal anecdotes: I've hurt myself three times on bike so much that I needed hospital to check me up.

First time, I was 6 years old, fell on my own, broke a clavicle bone.

Second time, I was 27 years old on my way to work, a child sprang in front of me, I went OTB and broke a radix bone. My head just chipped the ground a little bit. I started to wear helmet after that.

Third time, I was 48 years old on my way from work to home, I fell on my own when I was surprised by some ice. Fairly low speed. No bones broken, but I definitely would have cracked my skull if I had not been wearing the helmet, the bang inside the helmet is something I remember. Just had to skip riding for 6 weeks due to bruises but I still have my skull.

I'll probably skip riding the year I'm 69.

And you need to believe that you may crack your head even in low speeds and you really should wear that helmet, it may save your life, or it may save your family from having to visit a vegetable.

I did live in China some years back, and the beliefs that people had e.g. about safety belts were astonishing. Particularly the reluctance to use them for your own safety. People would even buckle up when they see the police and then take it off right away. There's probably still some way to go there:


Finally, I totally agree with what you say about lights. In the dark, they are more important than helmet. But that's not a choice you have to make. Have both.

I've seen research in the past that suggested wearing helmets on average was neutral or negative (something to do with adding weight to the head?) but can never find it when this topic comes up. Do you have a reference for the Finnish research?

Around the time I read about this research I also read that Switzerland and UK had been reluctant to regulate it in part due to conflicting research. Are you sure it's as clear as you make out?

I suppose there are 2 things here, if you are actually in an accident does wearing a helmet improve outcomes, and how motorists treat cyclists wearing a helmet. For the latter I've heard studies mentioned in other comments that motorists drive closer to cyclists if they are wearing a helmet, and even that wearing a wig (and perceived gender of the cyclist) could affect driver behaviour.


Nothing in English that I could find now without spending more time.

One thing about bicycle helmets is that they really need to have that shiny surface. Without it, i.e. with just a polystyrene surface, the friction of helmet vs. road surface will be so high as to cause a risk of neck injury when the head stops faster than the rest of the body, even if the helmet protects the head per se.

Without the helmet, the head will just crack, of course.

Mostly the negative impacts of bike helmets involve human stupidity, i.e. that if helmet is required, people will ride less.

I'm not sure what a smooth helmet surface will do the coefficient of friction between helmet and road if the road itself is still very rough. The benefits will probably hit diminishing returns long before the helmet is actually shiny.

I didn't mean the surface actually has to shine. But there's a reason for that hard smooth-surfaced plastic outside the EPS or whatever softer material.

Lights (rear and front) are compulsory by law in the Netherlands too, though many still do not use them.

That is mostly due to a lack of understanding of the added safety benefits (students and such just not caring enough) and a lack of enforcement though. Most people do agree with the necessity of bicycle lights in the dark, but take their chances when they are caught outside after dusk with a broken light or empty battery for the clip-on types.

> Finally, I totally agree with what you say about lights. In the dark, they are more important than helmet. But that's not a choice you have to make. Have both.

Yup, didn't mean to make them mutually exclusive, but I wanted to emphasize the fact that helmets are like safety belts, as you and eridius alluded to. They're great, they can prevent further brain injury, but as riders, we should take further preventative steps such as being visible and assuming drivers can't see us.

It's not hard to be going fast inadvertently. The worst bike accident I was in involved me coming down a hill, stopping at the bottom on what turned out to be an invisible bump, and flying over my handlebars. I broke my collarbone upon landing, but if I hadn't been wearing a helmet it would have been a lot worse. It just seems foolhardy to me to ride a bike without a helmet, like driving a car without a seatbelt.

The Netherlands is famous for its hills ;)

The dikes?

> It just seems foolhardy to me to ride a bike without a helmet, like driving a car without a seatbelt.

Yes, this is the analogy I've always made. Thanks for emphasizing it.

"...but generally you'd have to be going pretty fast, or get hit by a car really fast to land on your head to require one."

An uncontrolled fall from a standing height is potentially fatal. The impact tests for motorcycle helmets are typically an ~2 meter drop.


Agreed, but when people fall, they usually try not to land head first. Also, I was assuming that many commuters in other parts of the world ride more upright bikes (e.g. "Dutch" bikes) that are easier to bail off of. If I get doored while riding at 12mph on an upright bicycle, I'd be more worried about my genitals smashing into the stem of the bike than falling on my head.

Again, I'm not saying helmets are useless, but we should view them as seat belts, or even lap belts as best.

Not only in The Netherlands, in most European cities actually.

And if you go down to the Mediterranean countries even on motorbikes, not everyone wears on at least on city traffic.

Regarding bike helmets, they usually only protect if you fall vertically on your head, making their protection capability highly questionable.

They offer zero protection over getting hit by a car or falling off the bike.

That is simply not true, the helmet will be the first part of you head that touch the ground in almost any fall. Especially if you are using one of the more covering "skate" helmets. If you get hit by a car head on the helmet will also most likely be the first part of you head to hit the car. I would reverse your statement and say the helmet will only not protect your head if you fall at a horisontal, actually upwards pointing, direction.

I had a few bicycle accidents, and was quite lucky to not have injured my head, but my legs and arms have the scars to tell the stories.

> That is simply not true, the helmet will be the first part of you head that touch the ground in almost any fall.

Citation needed.

From both personal experience and research I've seen about this, the head is rarely the first part to hit the ground. My brother did have a rare accident as a kid where his head hit the ground first and he had a concussion, but that's an exception.

And it's generally not hitting the ground that is the dangerous part in traffic accidents. Helmets don't do anything useful is the vast majority of accidents.

What I'm trying to say is that: If your head hits the ground (or anything hard) in an accident Then the helmet is likely to help. But I agree that most small accidents will not include your head hitting anything. Humans are pretty good at protecting their head per reflex. However I disagree that it is not dangerous when it happens. Just imagine even from standing completely still if you would jump into the air and then hit the ground head first. You would be pretty wrecked, doing it a 10 or 20 km/h wouldn't help.

>It's generally not hitting the ground that is the dangerous part in traffic accidents. Helmets don't do anything useful is the vast majority of accidents.

Citation needed. Just like in the original comment. It would be great if there was a comprehensive study, but it seems for now people will have to make their own estimates of the risks and benefits. I always wear a helmet, and encourage others to do the same. Others don't and that's their own choice.

Yes, but in normal bike use, it's pretty hard to hit the ground head first. When you fall, it's your legs and hands. When a car hits you, it hits your legs. The most dangerous thing for a cyclist is when a big truck turns right without noticing cyclists next to him, which can lead to cyclists being run over by the rear wheels of the truck. Helmets don't do anything for you in any of those cases.

Hitting the ground head first is something that happens when you hit a deep pothole at high speed (which happened to my brother as a kid, but is generally rare, and I've never heard of it killing anyone), or you drive downhill on a steep slope and lose control, or something like that (which is why mountain bikers do tend to wear helmets, but it's not something that happens in city traffic).

I tend to trust Dutch bike and traffic safety-related organizations, and they say that a helmet's effect is unproven in real life situations. Some recommend helmets for kids between 10 and 14. I know parents who give their younger kids helmets. I don't, because I want my son to pay attention and not trust the helmet to keep him safe.

Statistically that is unlikely to be true. I have seen many people with injuries from falling of a bike and none of them were on anyone's head where a helmet would make a difference.

So on most accidents a helmet is not going to make a difference.

If you ride a motorcycle even following the speed limit and you fall, even if you don't hit any vehicle you are risking: - hitting the ground (front or back) so having a concussion or smashing all your teeth - hitting sidewalks or guard rails Moreover the helmet lowers the noise given by air flowing, helps you see better at sunrise/sunset, protects you from insects. I think there's no good reason to avoid wearing an helmet while riding a motorcycle.

Fully agree with you regarding the motorcycle, but it won't change the habits on those countries.

That's a pretty good list.

Another major reason imo is that in an accident between a cyclist and a car the car is more or less automatically liable.

In France as well. Yet, if you go to the police station after a bike accident they will most likely refuse to take your claim unless you look seriously injured, and as long as the car did stop the police will just tell you to contact your insurance (which will do little more than reimbursing half the used value of your bike if you still have the invoice, after asking for a deductible amount several times that).

I'm sure it's better in the Netherlands, but just making cars liable isn't a solution itself.

Same in the Netherlands, but that is because you are liable for the (civil) damages, which are handled by the insurance companies of both parties. The police nowadays only get involved if one of the parties is criminally negligent, or drives off without decently handling the aftermath. Insurance claims do reimburse you for the damage though, and will claim them (successfully) with the other party's insurer.

Not really.

https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2013/02/21/strict-liabili... :

>It is a myth that is really only believed outside the Netherlands: “Because there is strict liability in the Netherlands, drivers are more cautious around cyclists, and that leads to more cycling”

>There are a number of (false) assumptions that lead to such an assertion. The first being that drivers are always at fault when they are in a collision with a cyclist, regardless of how the cyclist behaved.

Hmm...not always, but assumed to be at fault unless they can prove otherwise. From the article you linked to:

When art. 185 WVW is applicable, it means the motor vehicle user is liable for financial damage, unless that driver can prove the incident was caused by circumstances beyond his/her control.


Besides ‘circumstances beyond control’ the driver can also argue the non-motorised road user was at fault. This is only possible for road users from the age of 14. If that road user was indeed at fault, the driver is still liable for 50% of the damage. Dutch law makers considered this to be reasonable, because the non-motorised road user usually suffers more and more severe damage.

Yes, you can legally split hairs about it. But the practical upshot is that if you're involved in an accident with a cyclist as a motorist it is extremely likely that you will be held responsible.

That the actual law is more complex is obvious from the 'more or less' bit in the sentence above, it's not black and white but in the vast majority of accidents between cars and cyclists the driver of the car will be held responsible and this is one of the bigger items in keeping the number of such accidents down, Dutch motorists are quite aware of this reality.

And it makes good sense too: assuming a 'minor' accident between say a cyclist that forgot to indicate left and a motorist coming up from behind the motorist will likely do what he or she can do to avoid an accident even if technically the cyclist is at fault because the cyclist will likely suffer extensive damage to themselves and their property whereas the car will probably not suffer any damage at all and the occupant of the car is perfectly safe.

Let me translate the first bit of:


which gives a much less hard to interpret view of the legal situation in nl.

"Aanrijding met voetganger of fietser Wie is er aansprakelijk bij een aanrijding met een voetganger of fietser

Fietsers of voetgangers worden gezien als zwakkere verkeersdeelnemers. Omdat zij kwetsbaar zijn in het verkeer, kent de wet een speciale regeling bij een aanrijding met een motorvoertuig. De automobilist is aansprakelijk voor de schade van de fietser zonder dat zijn schuld bewezen hoeft te worden. Andersom kan de automobilist de schade die hij oploopt door een fout van een fietser of voetganger, claimen bij de fietser of voetganger (of diens AVP-verzekering). Dan gelden de normale wettelijke regels. Bescherming door de wet (artikel 185 Wegenverkeerswet)

Normaal gesproken moet je na een ongeluk bewijzen dat de tegenpartij aansprakelijk is. Dit geldt niet wanneer je als fietser of voetganger wordt aangereden door een motorvoertuig (auto, motor, bromfiets, snorfiets etc.). De wet bepaalt dat de bestuurder van het motorvoertuig aansprakelijk is, tenzij hij overmacht kan bewijzen. Dit is een vorm van 'risicoaansprakelijkheid'. Daarbij hoeft men geen schuld te hebben aan het ongeluk, maar is men wel aansprakelijk. Dit lijkt onrechtvaardig maar de fietser of voetganger loopt meer risico op zwaarder letsel vanwege de massa van het motorvoertuig."

"Accident with pedestrian or cyclist

Who is responsible for an accident with a pedestrian or cyclist?

Cyclists or pedestrians are seen as 'weaker' traffic participants. Because they are vulnerable in traffic, the law has a special arrangement when there is an accident with motorized traffic. The driver is responsible for the damage of the cyclist without having to prove they were in the wrong. If the cyclist or pedestrian is at fault the driver can claim his damage with them (or their insurance). In that case the normal rules and laws apply.

Protection in law (article 185 of the relevant law book)

Normally after an accident you have to prove that the other party is liable. This is not the case when as a cyclist or pedestrian you are hit by motorized traffic (car, motorbike, moped, etc). The law dictates that the driver of the motorized vehicle is liable unless he can prove 'overmacht' (a situation exceeding his/her control). This is a case of 'risk liability'. The driver does not have to be at fault for the accident but still is liable. This may seem unjust but a cyclist or pedestrian runs more risk of serious injury because of the mass of the motorvehicle"

That page has a whole pile of example situations and outcomes illustrating what the effect is on the liability of the driver for those cases.

The ANWB website (where I took these paragraphs from) is the Dutch official provider of traffic signs and many other traffic related services, they're a powerful lobby entity as well and deal with all kinds of road traffic related affairs. Originally started as a cyclist movement they included cars and are now the main go-to point for information about traffic and traffic related issues outside of the government.

Makes sense, no? You're driving around in a 1000kg death-machine with an engine powerful enough to be countend in the order of a hundred horses. Don't you think that being extremely cautious is the least any driver should be doing?

Yes, it makes sense, and yes, I agree that being extremely cautious is the least any driver should be doing. If I gave you the impression that that is not the case then I apologize.

I'm both an avid cyclist and I drive a lot so I'm pretty aware as a driver of what my responsibilities towards more vulnerable traffic are. The same goes for interactions between cars and motorcyclists.

>official provider of traffic signs

They used to be, but it's all tendered now; they lost the national contract, but still provide to most provinces and municipalities.

Ah, thanks for that update, totally missed that.


and more here:



Thanks for that second update about the NBd, looks like in the last few years it has been changed again.

There is another benefit to the "Dutch reach" not mentioned in the article: if a sudden gust of wind catches your door it will be easier to hold with your right arm. (They taught me this when I got my license)

The biggest reason is, I think, that it's the car driver's responsibility to pay attention when then open their door on the side of traffic. There's no excuse if you hit a bike, or anything, it's the car driver's fault and most onlookers would consider them huge assholes for creating such a dangerous traffic situation.

Bicyclists are considered at least equal participants in traffic. And culturally, depending on the particular spot and the "what are you doing trying to get around here by car in the first place"-factor, bikes nearly almost but not quite have a de facto right of way, because they're way more numerous and more agile, cars need to be on their toes anyway.

Oh and don't forget that most cars in the US are about 1.5x the size of cars here? I'm having a bit of a chuckle imagining if you'd scale up bikes by the same factor haha :-) But maybe it'd help with getting doored? :) Oh, oh! and don't forget to scale up yr bikehelmets too :) :)

There are other risks though - I always found it odd that motorised scooters are allowed on the bike paths. My Dutch neighbour had a very bad accident when one hit him on his bike and was off work for quite some time.

This is not the case anymore since ~5 years. The only motorized vehicels alllowed are those that cant travel fasher than 25km/h (bike speed)

If you live in Amsterdam you'd be hard pressed to find more than one scooter a month that's going under 25km/h.

Amsterdam is also pushing very hard to get an exception to be able to force them onto the street though.

Here in Rotterdam they've added signs to the entrances to _all_ the bike lanes in the centre mentioning that scooters/motorbikes should be in the street.

("Herinnering: <scooter icon> op rijbaan", example here: http://www.rotterdam.nl/Clusters/Stadsontwikkeling/Document%...)

Although I think that it's illegal for them to ride in the bike lanes (or over 25km/h? or both?), they still do it

Isn't that the "yellow plate/red plate" thing? I've heard that many get the governor installed, get the plate, remove the governor. I saw lots of scooters going too fast, passing folks in bike lanes in Amsterdam.

Nominally they can't go faster than that. But they do.

I mean, plenty of cyclists go faster than that too, 30 km/h is not uncommon.

True. Often though these are serious road cyclicsts who do tend to wear helmets, or they're those new fast electric bikes that like to sneak up beside you going really quick.

While these are certainly the ideal, there are still many places in Netherland, particularly in major cities where there just isn't enough space for a thorough redesign, where bike lanes run right next to parked cars.

Ultimately, it's a matter of awareness of other traffic, both for cyclists and for motorists. And pedestrians. You always need to watch what you're doing in traffic, and what others are doing.

I believe you meant to say, a non-exhaustive list.

Correct link is http://www.fietsersbond.nl/

> All politicians drive bike, the Dutch Prime Minister comes to work on his bike

That's very interesting!

I love your country's approach to bikes.

Another reason we don't have 'dooring' in The Netherlands is that we don't try to invent a funny new word for every tiny event or thing everywhere ever all the time ;-) Oh, and we don't open our doors unless we are parked.

Bullshit. I'm Dutch, never heard of or exercised this "Dutch Reach" behaviour and I was not tested for it when getting my driver's license. Instead, you just look around and in your mirrors to see if other traffic is coming before blindly and like an asshole opening your door, it doesn't matter how you open the door after you became aware of what is going on around you. I call this behaviour the "Dutch Common Sense".

The article mentions that: in NL we have no separate term for it, exactly because it is considered common sense.

As for being taught: it was taught by both my driving instructors, in the sense that I was consistently told off for opening my door using the wrong hand, even if I was very careful to check my mirrors and side. I wasn't asked to perform this feat on my driving test, but they don't need to be explicit: it's fairly challenging to exit the vehicle without opening the door.

I (also Dutch) also have never heard about this practice of using your right hand to open the left door. It's an interesting idea, but certainly not common practice. I have never in my entire life seen anyone open their door like that. People just know that you must start looking backwards first and then open the door slowly.

I learned a variation of the Dutch Reach in my driver's license test (tested in Haarlem, school teaching it Max120). He didn't give it a name or anything and seems like common sense and I think it's a better way than the Dutch Reach described in the article.

When you open the door you grab the door handle -- the thing that opens the door -- with your right and plastic black handle -- the thing that gives you more 'grip' -- with your left. By doing this you have a lot more control on closing the door as well if you still happen to accidentally open it when you shouldn't have.

I had to retract once, because it appeared I had a blindspot where I couldn't see a cyclist.

Not bullshit: i also am dutch and my driving instructor taught me this right hand and look over shoulder technique. But i agree with parent comment otherwise: our solution to being "Doored" is more about common sense using the mirror (its there for a reason) and looking around, and not what hand we use. Its a helpful aid maybe. After reading this on HN i noticed i do tend to use BOTH hands.. left on the big grip and right on the handle-button. I think using both hands here is important as this is what allows you to retract the door, as other comments pointed out.

Second this. I learned to use mirrors and look over your shoulder as you open the door. Like you would if you were to take a left turn. Basic situational awareness.. This whole "Dutch reach" thing sounds more like something written for the internet points.

As for the whole helmet thing, they do not make you more safe. Proper infrastructure makes you more safe. Unless you're riding downhill, racing or performing stunts. You don't wear kneepads when you walk down the street do you?

Even if we just ignore the Netherlands, bike riders aren't being doored left and right in Denmark either. Sure "The Dutch Reach" is a clever trick to get people to look out for bike traffic, but really it's just common sense.

Like in the Netherlands, bike lanes in Denmark are mostly placed between the road and the side walk, so by not looking out for trafic you risk getting your door torn of by an SUV, rather than hitting a bike.

Yeh, as an American driver I don't know how people open their doors in the city WITHOUT looking first.

In rural areas where bikers ride on the sidewalk and are not super common, sure, but I can't remember a time driving in a city where I was NOT super paranoid about hitting a car or a cyclist or a pedestrian with my door.

I think with the influx of people moving into urban zones, you get a lot of the suburban "biking is for hippies, so who cares?" mentality. I moved into a city five years ago, and while I quickly learned about dooring both as a driver and cyclist, I can't help but wonder how many people just don't realize that it's "a thing". Couple that with the hatred I often see towards cyclists, and I can pretty easily see how people either don't know or don't care to look before opening a car door.

No bullshit. I was taught this. It's standard practice. You may have just had a shitty instructor.

Well I wasn't taught the 'Dutch Reach' either when I got my driving lessons. I also have never heard the term before and it certainly is not standard practice.

No apparently people teach that you open the door, stick your face out in front of the oncoming bike instead. Or try squint past the door pillar and the headrest?

I really like my door not to have dents, scratches and blood all over it (especially mine) so I look in the already-optimally-positioned mirror on the outside of the door where my hand goes to check if there is some other vehicle coming first before I open the door.

And I am not even Dutch.

I passed my driving exam in NL a couple of years ago, and I was taught to open my door this way. There was nothing about it being to protect cyclists in particular, though.

Saying that you're Dutch and have never heard of this behavior is hardly evidence that the other 16 million Dutchies haven't heard of it.

Awww... you're ruining a cute internet story I could share with people that perfectly explains everything! :'(

This, I was only taught that looking over the shoulder is preferred to mirrors but not much else.

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