Bicyclist dies after Coolidge Corner crash

Wicked Local Brookline reports a woman hit by a car on Sept. 10 at Longwood Avenue has died.

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This is so hard to read...

By on

This is so hard to read... always always always wear a helmet. It's when you least expect it that you need to protect your head. This is especially true in traffic and in cities where it is so hard to see cyclists and where cyclist speed compared to car speed can be an unusual inverse that drivers are unaccustomed to.

When I was younger, I hit a crossbeam at 20+mph on a bike and my head was saved by my backpack which slid up and behind my head before it hit the concrete. If it hadn't, I'd have spent more than a few hours in the hospital. I didn't have a helmet on because I figured it was only 3 blocks.

I see kids in Harvard Square daily riding against traffic without helmets. It's a miracle this doesn't happen more often here.

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So sad

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I was in the ER at the BI that same evening that they brought this woman in. I was hit by a car on Mass Ave in Back Bay. The nurse was telling me how lucky I was that I was wearing a helmet--that this other woman wasn't wearing one and was in serious condition. I believed it then, I believe it more even now.

I am a daily bike commuter in Boston. I am always dismayed by the amount of people (mostly young, but some older), who ride without a helmet. I am always tempted to nag them about when I pass them, but I don't want to sound like an angry old man. People feel confident that they won't fall. Sad part is it probably won't be anything that they do that ends up sending them to the ER. You can't control the other drivers on the street.

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there's absolutely nothing to be lost wearing a helmet...

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...but the reality is that many people (not saying you) seem to think they're a magic bullet, and that somehow the only serious injuries that occur are preventable head injuries. It's a load of shit.

A helmet does jack when you're a cyclist on a 40MPH single-lane road and someone plows into you from behind because they were checking their blackberry.

A helmet doesn't save you when a garbage truck right-hooks you and crushes your body.

A helmet doesn't do much to help you when you get doored and the corner of the door permanently disfigures your hand and your leg gets run over by the car that was 15 feet behind you.

A helmet doesn't do much to help you when you end up plastered on the hood of a cab that made a left turn straight at you and breaks your ribs.

A helmet doesn't do anything to prevent facial injuries.

A helmet doesn't protect your neck, back, hands, wrists, arms, or legs.

But, it makes for great public safety campaigns and shows that someone in the government "cares" about "bicyclist safety" by wagging a finger or patting a 5 year old on a tricycle on his helmeted head in a photo with a caption that says "wear your helmet!"

I'm not saying that wearing a helmet isn't important or valuable. It is. I'm saying we need to do much more for bikers, and it starts with enforcement of ALL traffic laws, for ALL vehicles.

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Thanks for taking a leak on my point

By on

Brett...you left out the part about how a helmet won't protect you from a Nuclear explosion, SARs, or unexploded WW1 ordinance.

Obviously it won't save you from all of the things you mentioned...and yes we all know about how about how your hand got broken that one time (I notice you mentioned hand injuries twice in your comment).

I don't have the figures in front of me, but I am sure that head injuries (like the this poor woman in Brookline) are the most common cause of death in bike accident--and wearing helmets is the best way to prevent them.

Broken legs heal, broken scapulas heal (mine did), broken ribs heal (again mine did), and separated shoulders and road rash heal (mine will)--brain injuries are pretty much a game ender.

If you don't want to wear a helmet--take your scooter and move to New Hampshire. In the meantime, perhaps the one bit of good that can come out of this poor woman's death is that someone might decide to wear a helmet.

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addressing the CAUSE, not the SYMPTOMS

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I don't have the figures in front of me, but I am sure that head injuries (like the this poor woman in Brookline) are the most common cause of death in bike accident--and wearing helmets is the best way to prevent them.

First, STOP CALLING THEM ACCIDENTS. NHTSA stopped using the term a decade plus ago, with good reason.

According to a decade plus old article, 62% of deaths (which includes people wearing helmets.)

Meanwhile, half a million people are hospitalized a year from injuries sustained while cycling. You can probably double or triple that to get the number of people actually injured, since many people don't show up in the ER immediately, or can't afford to be treated, or don't think their injuries are 'bad enough'. So, it is extremely relevant that head injuries make up only 1.5% of total injuries to cyclists.

However, my original point was about addressing the cause, not the symptoms. Do we run "wear your bulletproof vest" campaigns in the violent neighborhoods? No. We look at the socioeconomic and cultural causes, do outreach and education campaigns, etc. Now do you understand how stupid it is to fixate on addressing the symptoms, rather than the cause? Or shall we just make foam-and-bubblewrap suits for cyclists so we don't get injured, maimed, and killed on the roads by drivers?

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but it doesn't have to be one or the other...

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we can promote helmet safety (a quick and easy fix) while we also work on the larger problems that make bicycling so dangerous.

however, your argument that wearing a helmet is equitable to wearing a bullet proof vest has no teeth. wearing protective gear for *any* sport is a basic self-preservation technique. wrist guards for skating, heavy clothes for riding a motorcycle, wearing pads in football or shin guards for soccer.... these things don't make you safe. but they do make you safer.

the bigger problems take time. and we should be addressing them, butwhen it's your own life, or the life of your kids or loved ones, why not take that extra tiny step?

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stop constructing straw men

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...and read what I originally said:

I'm not saying that wearing a helmet isn't important or valuable. It is. I'm saying we need to do much more for bikers, and it starts with enforcement of ALL traffic laws, for ALL vehicles.

For chrissakes, I even said it in the subject line of my original post.

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gee brett, sorry about that.

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i must have misconstrued your foam and bubblewrap suit comment to imply you thought there was something silly or unnecessary about helmets. my bad.

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Less head injuries--though more likely to cause death

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Brett:

I absolutely agree with you about going to the root cause of the problem, but until we live in a happy land were cyclists are safe on the roads (and I guess that assumes that even when all cars are banished somehow the laws of gravity will be repealed and protect those who fall without the influence of cars), the simplest and best way to lower your risk is to wear a helmet.

# There are 73 to 85 million bicycle riders in the US, including 44.7 million over age of 6 who rode more than six times in 2008.

# 698 bicyclists reportedly died on US roads in 2007.

# In a typical year over 90 percent of cyclists killed on US roads die in crashes with motor vehicles.

# The "typical" bicyclist killed on our roads is a sober male over 16 not wearing a helmet riding on a major road between intersections in an urban area on a summer evening when hit by a car.

# About 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and 27,000 have injuries serious enough to be hospitalized.

# Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders.

# Head injuries account for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycling injuries.

# A very high percentage of cyclists' brain injuries can be prevented by a helmet, estimated at anywhere from 45 to 88 per cent.

# Direct costs of cyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $81 million each year, rising with health care costs.

# Indirect costs of cyclists' injuries due to not using helmets are estimated at $2.3 billion each year.

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Ive seen a few bike crashes

where the bicyclist tries to avoid another hazard (car, pothole, other bike) and ends up losing control. this is where the cyclist has the actual crash where the head must be protected.

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Raises Hand

I have been in two wrecks in the past fifteen years, one where a helmet saved my life and the other where it saved my face and spared me a concussion.

Both wrecks were due to poor road conditions/maintenance (rail crossing in poor repair; trolley tracks under pavement causing a pavement failure) and were just me, falling down.

I still have the helmet that saved my life - I went down on the the side of my head and was knocked out. The helmet absorbed enough energy to get a 4" crack up the back and it is obviously deformed. I hit a part of my head where a full force impact would have turned a very highly vascular region into a giant hemorrhage. I got a week-long headache instead.

I rode without a helmet for the first time in years when we rented bikes in Ireland and the helmets were not available on Innismor. I kept thinking that I'd forgotten something - it was very very odd.

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Poor Young Woman! But the Focus on Helmets is Misguided

It is so sad and frustrating that this had to turn into a helmet discussion.

As others have pointed out, a helmet does not prevent accidents/collisions. In some cases, it has been shown that wearing a helmet can actually increase one's chance of getting into an accident/collision in the first place.

Once an accident/collision has occurred, The evidence on whether a helmet reduces head injury or prevents death is MIXED. In most cases, it is inconclusive. In some cases, it has shown to reduce injury (in solitary accidents at very low speeds, which was not the case here). And in some cases it has been shown to actually cause injury. Please let's allow each person to decide on their own which of those risks they wish to take, especially when combined with what is stated in the previous paragraph.

My last point, is that a cracked helmet after an accident/collision does not mean that the helmet "saved your life". It emotionally feels this way and so we savour the illusion, but it isn't actually so. A helmet will crack if you as much as bang your head lightly on a wooden ceiling beam; it was designed to do this. It does not mean that banging your head lightly on a wooden ceiling beam without a helmet would have killed you.

Please, let's allow each person to review the evidence and come to their own conclusions, rather than using socio-emotional pressure to promote behaviour that may or may not actually be beneficial.

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i'd be really curious to see some links...

By on

behind the helmets causing accidents idea. it's not a causation, or even a correlation, i have heard before.

not saying helmets are the magic answer, but i am really intrigued by the idea that they cause harm?

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I would prefer if people

I would prefer if people reading this did their own research, rather than my providing links. There are many studies, both for and against helmets. I am not an activist and do not keep the studies ready at hand, plus I do not want to be accused of presenting only one side of the story. Simply look it up on google, and you will find the information.

But to summarise: There is some evidence that wearing a helmet may increase one's chances of getting into an accident. The causes of this are threefold:

1. it has been shown that drivers tend to be less careful around cyclists who wear a helmet;

2. it has been shown that cyclists tend to be less careful when wearing a helmet;

3. and it has been shown that for some, a helmet can decrease audio-visuo-spatial awareness while cycling.

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and i would prefer...

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it people make super-bold statements that go counter to common (albeit not necessarily correct) opinion, that they not tell me to just go google it.

i was just a little curious about what you knew.

i confess, i am also a little curious about how you got your username to just link directly to your bike blog, and not to an actual user profile page?

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She's not a logged-in UH user

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In cases like that, the software automatically links the name to whatever URL the user happens to type in (which means a never ending spam cleanup, alas). I could probably figure out how to do something similar for logged in folks, if there's any interest.

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huh, interesting!

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i guess i never noticed it before.

eh, i don't personally have a need to be able to do it for myself. i like to be able to snoop around and see how long folks have been members and if they have a blog.

plus, some people who don't like to mouse over links might get really pissed if they re-directed to a pdf ;)

thanks for clearing that up, adam!

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Here Are Some Studies

A far as I know, google is a legitimate and simple way to search for articles, but fair enough: I am pasting some links.

Helmets Attract Cars to Cyclists

Risk Compensation Theory and Bicycle Helmets

The efficacy of bicycle helmets against brain injury

Assessment of current bicycle helmets for the potential to cause rotational injury

Head injuries rising despite bike helmets
Some say gear crates daredevil effect...

To Wear Or Not to Wear (and Is That Even the Right Question?)

This is a pretty random selection of articles about the points I was making. Again, I am not an activist, and my statement is not as "super-bold" as you suggest, in the sense that it is an entirely legitimate point of view. Keep in mind that I never said that one should or should not wear a helmet; rather I believe that there is evidence both for and against them. It is a debate, and it is up to the individual to decide for themselves how to weigh the evidence and where they stand in that debate.

Regarding my URL - I was not aware of having done anything special; I just typed it into the slot provided. I try not to make anonymous posts, so I thought it was only fair to supply my affiliation.

Best,
Filigree

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Addressing your sources

By on

#1 and #6 are the same Walker story that I discussed with the helmet/no helmet/wig discussion. If you buy his single test as indicative of anything greater, then go buy a wig. You'll be far safer that way.

#2 is purely a speculative opinion piece as the rebuttal following the column details better than I will as it was written by the original researchers who were being argued against in the text you're using as underlying helmets as turning riders into daredevils.

#3 and #4 discuss the rotational injury problems that helmets potentially introduce. I addressed that. I'll pose my contempt with using that research as an argument against helmets as a question: Would you rather die over 80% of the time because your head hit the ground without a helmet...or 10% of the time while wearing your helmet because your head rotated uncontrollably quickly?

#5 is a sensationalized NYT article that doesn't prove anything and doesn't defend anything. It just points out that there are people trying to discredit the benefits of using a helmet without any evidence for their hypotheses.

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Re: Continuing the Debate

Naturally there are ways to address the links I posted. There are also ways to address your addresses. This is a debate that is ongoing both in the media and in the accident prevention research community. That was my only point, and I will stop here. The Coolidge Corner incident is a sad, horrible thing and I can't help but question the energy with which we engage in the helmet discussion and neglect the incident itself.

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Google is not a valid reference source

By on

People put pages up on the internet about how monkey viruses cause cancer, but that doesn't make it true.

If you can't point to where you learned some "fact" about bike safety, then nobody can evaluate whether you were a good judge of source material or not to trust your opinion. In essence, you can't back up what you're saying.

1) ONE study in the UK by ONE man's observations showed that drivers passing him gave him about 3" less trailing room before passing when he wore a helmet vs when he didn't. Nevermind that they gave him an extra 5" of space if he wore a wig instead. If you're going to live your life based on this one man's data from the UK, you'd better go get a wig immediately!

2) That has never been shown that I've seen. What *has* been *discussed* is a need for an explanation for why helmet laws in some places have not been met with a decrease in head injuries that one might expect to find. There are tons of reasons (including just how the statistics are derived) as to why this might be, but most opponents of helmet laws latch onto one of the proposed *hypotheses* (that the rider is more risk-taking when wearing the helmet) and simply run with it as if it were the conclusion drawn from the data instead. They also dismiss the fact that most helmet wearers get in less traffic problems, have lower speed impact collisions, less serious head injuries, and use more safety gear than required. They claim it is a rider's mindset bias and not the helmet requirement that makes these people more conscious of their actions on the road...without any proof again.

3) Studies (link is only one of such studies done by the NHTSA) have shown that full face MOTORCYCLE helmets do NOT decrease hearing and minimally impact peripheral vision and that drivers compensate by increased head turning while changing lanes such that neither vision or hearing is impacted in any meaningful way by a MOTORCYCLE helmet. The idea that a bicycle helmet impacts your sight or sound on the road is just laughable.

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REAL IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH GOES HERE

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This is purely anecdotal, but I worked in a brain injury rehab a few years back. There were a lot of people there who were permanently seriously fucked up (that's the official clinical term that I wrote in their records) because of bike crashes. I don't really give a rat's ass how many inches of clearance they were given or how careful they were; these people were incontinent and couldn't speak coherently and couldn't live anywhere but on a locked ward. I didn't see a single person who had been wearing a helmet come into our program. And even if there had been, we could safely assume from aforementioned level of upfuckedness that they'd be worse off (you know, dead, so not very rehabilitateable) had they not had one on.

If you think that brain injuries are better than not having a brain injury, then sure, don't wear a helmet.

(Also, whyyyy is it that WCRB plays so many damn commercialsunderwriterships for the Brain Injury Association? Do people with undiagnosed brain injuries suddenly start listening to radio stations that exclusively play Saint Martin in the Fields? And when is Saint Martin going to get a concert hall so he can stop being in a damn field?)

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IMAGE(http://eeka.net/2inchgoodbetter.jpg)http://1smootshort.blogspot.com

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Confusing the consensus

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There's a pretty clear amount of well-controlled data showing the benefit of wearing a bicycle helmet. Saying that the results are "mixed" is like claiming that scientific opinion on global warming is "mixed". Most studies with any sort of conclusion for higher accident rates/injuries from wearing a helmet take absolutely no caution for confounding variables and are observational in nature (like a survey, where users sometimes even attest to higher usage rates than when they actually used a helmet). The only discussion I've seen to hold any merit for increased risk with a helmet is rotational injuries of the spine due to rolling the head on impact. The helmet is further away from the center line of the spine, and so if you rotate upon hitting the ground, you could twist the spine harder, like using a longer handled wrench, than if you rotate at the skull instead. Of course, from what I recall, those studies also mention that hitting your skull on the ground is more damaging in the first place than hitting the helmet first, regardless as to whether your head than rotates or not to possibly hurt your spine. In other words, you should probably still take your chances with the helmet than not, because the impact probabilities are scarier than the rotation possibilities.

Also, the study on increasing the risk of accident by wearing a helmet is based on the observation that if you force people to wear helmets by law, then you will reduce the number of riders and less riders means less change in motorist behavior which increases the risk to the remaining riders. It was the most specious argument I've ever seen on bike safety. There's absolutely nothing I've ever seen that suggests that, for any given rider, their inherent risk for incurring an accident increases by wearing a helmet one day instead of a previous non-helmeted day. The implication you make is unreasonable.

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Use your head!

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Right, and even if a helmet is going to injure your spine every time you crash (which it isn't), would you rather have a spinal injury or a brain injury? Even assuming you have a complete spinal cord injury at C4, you're still the same person. You can continue your relationships with people and can work in a field that doesn't require manual labor. But brain injuries, even minor ones, can cause personality changes, impulsivity, inability to focus, inability to do calculations, etc. It's common for people's spouses to leave them and refuse to allow kids to see them, often rightfully so, because it's really like someone has been replaced with a totally different person, and almost always a more difficult person. Brain injuries really really suck. I find it hard to believe that anyone who's familiar with brain injuries and orthopedic injuries would risk having a brain injury in order to maybe possibly avoid a fairly mild spinal injury.

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