Cyclist - no helmet

We’ve written about the benefits of biking. Specifically, the environmental, health and financial advantages.

To rehash the environmental benefits, biking is simply better for the environment than driving a car. Vehicles contribute the most to air pollution and vehicle exhaust contributes around 60% of all carbon monoxide emissions (and can contribute up to 95% in cities.) Cars also secrete toxic emissions including hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen. According to a study in Great Britain, air pollution from exhaust fumes kill more than twice as many people as road accidents.

If that weren’t bad enough, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, 20% of greenhouse gas emissions (responsible for climate change which, in turn, result in artic sea ice loss, problems in vegetation, sea level change and animal extinction) in the United States come from vehicles. Cars require gas, and estimates attribute 77% of a car’s footprint to the CO2 released from burning gasoline. But if environmental reasons aren’t enough, then consider the health and financial advantages of biking.

Biking, which has recently been regaining popularity, is a great alternative for cars when it comes to traveling short distance. And while it may seem inconvenient, according to the National Household Transportation Survey, half of American workers live within five miles of their work place. If even a fraction of those commuters would opt for biking then major changes could be made in our environment. Take this into consideration: according to BBC, if all commuters in the UK left their cars at home for one day a week for a year, there would be enough gas to travel to the moon and back 35,000 times.

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But it’s all not peaches and roses. According to a recent Canadian Study, reported in the Globe and Mail, cyclists who do not wear helmets are three times as likely to die of a head injury than cyclists who do wear helmets.

“Helmets save lives,” said lead researcher Dr. Nav Persaud, a family physician and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, to Globe and Mail. “There are about 70 cycling deaths in Canada every year,” Persaud said. “And based on our study, we estimate we could prevent about 20 of them with helmets.”

But the dangers with biking aren’t eliminated by wearing a helmet: The study found that 77% of those deaths occurred because of interactions with automobiles and Persaud points out that there’s more to bicycle injuries:

“Helmets only prevent injuries after a collision takes place. It would be better to prevent the collision from taking place at all. And infrastructure changes like building separated cycle lanes prevent collisions from taking place.”

Take home message: Ride your bike, but be safe and avoid collisions!

Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

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