The sweet irony of bike helmets

Believe it or not, bike helmets are not universally loved. In fact there are big groups of people in the biking world who think that they bring more harm than good. As a bike advocate, I’ve often found myself in the middle of this conversation but never knew what to believe, but now there’s more data.

Ian Walker, a psychology professor from the University of Bath, has been conducting research about how motorists react to him riding on his bicycle with and without his helmet. By attaching ultrasonic sensors to his bike that measured just how much room cars give him while passing. He found that when NOT wearing his helmet, drivers gave him an average of 3.35 inches more room while passing. In fact, if he didn’t wear his helmet AND wore a wig to look like a woman, he got an additional 2.2 inches.

I’d always heard that you get more room when you don’t wear a helmet, but it was cool to see that assertion backed up by the numbers. Is the extra respect worth the sacrifice in protection? That’s up to you to decide. More about this research at “Scientific American”: