Bike helmets are not designed for car impacts, says leader Giro
Sales of bicycles and accessories increased during lockdown, with many new riders now on the roads. Some will wear head protection, but a major manufacturer of bicycle helmets pointed out that bicycle helmets are not designed to mitigate impacts from motor vehicles.
“We have seen a strong increase in demand”, Eric Richter, senior brand development manager at Giro, told me via email from California.
This increase, he adds, is “gratifying because we see customers coming back to bikes that have been in storage or underused for years, and it’s such a positive long-term opportunity.”
However, cyclists should not rely on bicycle helmets to provide protection against collisions with large, heavy and often fast cars, trucks or other road vehicles.
“There are a lot of misconceptions about helmets,” Richter told the UK trade magazine. Cycling industry news July 6.
“We do not design helmets specifically to reduce the risk or severity of injury when impacts involve a car” said Richter.
“The number of variables is too large to be calculated.”
These variables include the speed of the motor vehicle, its mass, the angle of impact and the profile of the vehicle.
In 2016, 50% of those killed while cycling in the United States did not wear a helmet, which leave the other half, some of whom may have been wearing helmets but were still killed after being struck by motorists.
It may seem obvious that lightweight bicycle helmets, typically made from expanded polystyrene, offer little protection against fast-moving, multi-ton motor vehicles, but many cyclists without helmets report that some motorists are yelling at them not to wear. helmet.
And, one could even argue that wearing a bicycle helmet introduces a new danger: that of overtaking “nearby” by motorists who wrongly assume that bicycle helmets are forms of armor that will protect cyclists in the event of a crash. motor vehicle shock.
It was the conclusion of a highly cited study by British psychologist Ian Walker, who discovered that bare-headed female cyclists were granted the longest overtaking distances by motorists. His 2007 study used a bicycle equipped with a camera and a distance measuring device.
Dr Walker recorded data from 2,500 drivers who passed him on roads near his place of work, the University of Bath. Half the time he wore a bicycle helmet and half the time he did not. The results showed that motorists tended to overtake him closer when wearing a helmet.
“Wearing a bicycle helmet has led to [motor] the traffic gets very close when passing, ”concluded Dr Walker. With an Australian statistician, he replicated the study in 2018 with similar findings.
Such “penalty passes” can also lead to collisions, collisions which can result in injury and death, and not to those guilty of dangerous overtaking.
Last year, research by car maker Volvo and bicycle helmet maker POC found that “current bicycle helmet testing procedures are fairly rudimentary.”
the Swedish brands said these tests involved “Helmets falling from different heights on a flat or inclined surface, and do not take into account [motor] bicycle vehicle accident.
Bicycle helmets sold in the United States must pass federally mandated tests designed by the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and sometimes also by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Tests verify protection against skull fractures, but bicycle helmets are not designed to prevent less immediately catastrophic injuries such as concussions.
“The materials that are used in most [recreational] the helmets are designed to absorb the high impact energies which can produce skull fractures and severe brain damage, ”explains a CPSC Statement.
“However,” the organization cautions, “these materials have not been proven to counteract energies that can cause concussions.”
The CPSC points out: “No helmet design has been proven to prevent concussions.”
Outdoor sports lawyer Jim moss, ASTM Helmet Committee member, agrees: “No bicycle helmet is designed to prevent concussion. Period.”
“The current helmet standards deal well with the common types of impacts and the energies associated with them,” says Richter.
While bicycle helmets may offer little protection against motor vehicle impacts and may not offer guaranteed concussion protection, they can save lives when worn in the accident scenarios for which they are intended. were designed, such as hitting headfirst in a tree branch or falling onto the sidewalk in a low-speed fall.
Not all hits to the head are direct impacts, many occur at an angle, and many modern helmets now offer protection against such rotational forces, which could be the cause of at least a few concussions.
The main manufacturer of anti-rotation technology is MIPS, which stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. A helmet equipped with a MIPS insert allows some movement between the outer shell of a helmet and the layer against the head, absorbing some rotational shock and potentially reducing the risk of concussions.
“In recent years, the increased focus on managing rotational forces has had a significant impact on the design, technology, engineering and testing of helmets,” said Richter.
“Understanding the effects of rotational movement on the brain and working to reduce rotational forces by incorporating technologies such as MIPS into helmets over the past 5-10 years is the most visible example of how the technology has evolved. head protection in response to increasing knowledge. ”
Giro is owned by Vista Outdoor
Bell Helmets was founded in 1954 to manufacture helmets for motorsport. Evel Knievel said her Bell helmet helped save her life after her motorcycle crash at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, in 1967.
Giro’s first product was the class-changing 1986 Prolight, a ventilated bicycle helmet that weighed half the weight of other bicycle helmets of the era.
Vista Outdoor is headquartered in the surf town of Scotts Valley, near Santa Cruz, and is home to the Dome, a brand-independent research center that began in the 1950s as a laboratory and workshop. for Bell Helmets.
“Head protection is serious business,” says Dome promotion website Helmetfacts.com.
Article updated July 11 with details of the 2007 and 2018 “close pass” helmet studies by Dr. Ian Walker.