Safety first?

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"Wear your helmet!" Moms are obligated to say it, and in many American cities, riders are obligated by law to do it. But psychologist and avid cyclist Ian (ironically-named) Walker recently challenged conventional wisdom by asking -- can wearing a helmet increase your chances of getting hurt on a bike?

The answer, according to his own studies, is yes. He found out by rigging his bike up with an ultrasonic sensor that could detect and record how closely cars passed him while riding on city streets, and by riding regularly for two months with a helmet, and for two months without. He was passed by about 2,500 cars, which on average passed 3.35 inches closer to him when he wore a helmet. "They see the helmet and think, Oh, there's a serious, skilful person," Walker says. "And you get hit."

Does that mean Walker (or mental_floss) is advocating that you ride without one? Well, no, not exactly. (That would be irresponsible.) But it is interesting to note that during his study, Walker was hit twice -- by a truck and a bus -- both times while wearing a helmet.

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December 12, 2006 - 3:15am
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