Bellingham and Whatcom County are becoming increasingly popular for those who want natural beauty in a laid-back, close-knit community. With the many trails connecting live and work spaces and clearly marked bike lanes, more and more commuters are biking to work. This means that bikes share the roads with cars and trucks. Is it safe? Though it’s not a law in Bellingham or the state of Washington, it’s important to wear a bicycle helmet every time you cycle.
If wearing a helmet could prevent a serious head injury or death, wouldn’t you choose to wear one? According to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s advocacy program here are some highlights from the US Department of Transportation’s report on traffic safety:
- 743 bicyclists died on US roads in 2013 (734 in 2012, 682 in 2011. 1,003 back in 1975)
- 48,000 bicyclists were injured in traffic 1n 2013, down from 49,000 in 2012 (52,000 in 2010)
- Bicyclists 14 and under killed in 2013: 48(13% of total). Injured: 66,017 (23%)
- Bicyclist deaths represented 2.3% of all 2013 traffic fatalities. (2.1% in 2011)
- Average age of a bicyclist killed on US roads: 44 (36 in 2002)
- Average age of a bicyclist injured on US roads: 32 (28 in 2002)
- Males killed 87%. Males injured 83%.
- Nearly one fifth (23%) of the cyclists killed were drunk. (Blood alcohol over .08 g/dl)
- Fatal crashes typically were urban (68%) and not at intersections (66%).
In the past twenty years, 90% of bicyclists who were killed were not wearing a bicycle helmet. That doesn’t sound like a coincidence, does it? There is no doubt that bicycle helmets are an essential safety gear and prevent brain damage.
How to find a good helmet?
Visit your nearest specialty bike shop, or Consumer Reports to see reviews and ratings of helmets currently on the market. Consumer Reports conducts solid testing on not just how the helmets’ shells withstand impact, but also the chinstraps and buckles to see how they hold up to a sudden and strong impact.
For more information on how to protect your skull, see these articles:
Be careful when transporting fragile goods: wear a bicycle helmet
Washington’s bicycle safety tips and traffic laws