I commend Peter Steinberg for his efforts to promote bicycling safety and the wearing of helmets (“Safety on the streets,” July 15, page 1). Although the risk of significant brain injury while bicycling should be obvious to any adult in California, mandatory helmet use may be necessary to protect all cyclists and the public who pay for the victim’s health care through insurance premiums and taxes. I was taught in the early 1970s by experienced cyclists that they would never even sit on a bicycle without their helmet secured on their head. To reinforce this precept they told of their fellow club-member who, while half sitting on the saddle with one leg extended to help support him during a rest break on a Malibu road, lost his balance, his un-helmeted head striking the pavement with sufficient force to cause an intracranial hemorrhage that left him severely disabled.
During my 40 years as an avid recreational cyclist on the roads of Los Angeles County mainly (but also throughout California, somewhat in Canada, and once, in 2003, from Los Angeles to New York City on my way to my 50th high school reunion), I was struck by automobiles on three occasions (all three within 10 miles of home). The fractures, dental loss, abrasions, contusions, hip hematoma, frozen shoulder, etc. were minor compared to the probable outcomes had I not been wearing a helmet. If I spotted a cyclist riding without a helmet, I would catch up with them, initiate a friendly conversation, working in the advisability of wearing head protection. On one occasion, a helmeted younger cyclist came up alongside me to warmly thank me for the suggestion I had given him some years before. He hadn’t followed my advice at the time, but wished he had when a few months after our original conversation he was involved in an accident. He had learned the hard way, but was now spreading the word himself.
John J. Kuiper