Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute
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WABA Helmet Committee

The WABA Helmet Update

Vol. 4, No. 1 - July, 1986

Other issues of the Update

New Pamphlet

Enclosed with this mailing is a new revision of the WABA helmet pamphlet "A Consumer's Guide to Bicycle Helmets." This version devotes more space to the now widely-accepted bicycle helmet standards. Since our test program has lagged, it also lists helmets whose manufacturers claim they meet the ANSI or Snell standard, but for which we do not yet have Snell labs test results. We hope that the test program is off and running again, in which case we will be revising the pamphlet again no later than the end of this year. We have been pleased that other organizations have found the pamphlet useful, and hope that more will use it now that it is more current. As always, no permission is necessary to reproduce it in whole, but if you edit the text other than the section on WABA (where you might want to put your own club's info, for example) we would have to approve your editing if you want to ascribe it to us.

We send many copies of the pamphlet out to anyone who sends us a Stamped Self-Addressed Envelope. It is our most-requested pamphlet, so WABA intends to dress it up with a cover which fits in with our other pamphlets on such topics as Washington danger spots for bicyclists and local area laws affecting cyclists.

If you have a PC and a modem, an electronic version of the pamphlet text is available on John Williams' Bicycle Forum BBS in Missoula, Montana. The number is (408) . You may have to ask John through the Chat option to help you download the file. If you want the file on a disk, send one to us and we will copy it on an IBM and return it to you with the pamphlet as a plain ASCII file or in Word Perfect format. Do not forget return postage.

New York Cycle Show

John Spiegel and your editor made it to the New York Cycle show in March. As always, it was a fine opportunity to meet the manufacturers' reps and see what new models will be coming down the line. Highlights included:

  • The Avenir is strikingly similar to the Bell V-1 Pro, and is apparently manufactured by OGK, the folks who brought you a helmet earlier which looked like the Bell Tourlite. We have sent some Avenir samples to Snell for testing.

  • Bailen has improved its headband attachments again by making the plastic button attachment thinner. We will be retesting their newest model shortly. Since the earlier modifications to the headband had already solved the headache problem which the first model caused to those with eggheads, we have dropped the caveat on that subject from our pamphlet.

  • Bell had two new helmets at the show, the Windjammer (to replace the Biker II) and the Stratos, an aerodynamic model which comes only in black. The Windjammer has glued-in pads rather than velcro mounts, a Fastex-style plastic buckle and plainer graphics than the Tourlite. Arnie Nashbar is selling them now for $26.40 plus shipping. The Stratos has a long tail at the back which evokes the "aero" helmets used by the U.S. Olympic team. We do not know if the tail affects impact performance, but it is difficult to see how it could add to safety in any way. Dean Fisher of Bell said that it had been made to meet only the ANSI standard -- not Snell -- in order to keep the weight down. This gives it impact protection inferior to Bell's other helmets. It is a nice gimmick for racers, and predictably will show up on the heads of some tourists who like the style and the $75 price tag even if it cannot meet the Snell standard. Without test results and some field use we can only say that perhaps the sexy styling will help to make people notice helmets, and add to the fashion impetus which sells most helmets anyway. We will test this one if Bell sends samples, but will not spend $75 of WABA's money for one.

  • Monarch also had a new aero helmet out. It was said to meet the ANSI standard, as was their helmet made in the style of Bell's V-1 Pro.

  • Pro-Tec has a new ANSI model coming, a welcome upgrade from their previous helmets with the squishy foam liners. It is encouraging to see some of the mnufacturers whose previous helmets would not meet ANSI beginning to produce a better product.

  • Targa has a new three-piece front fit system which allows removal of the middle pad to promote air flow. This would of course leave you without sweat control at that spot, but many riders wear a separate sweatband anyway. Targa has new colors which are very pretty and a version of the Lill Bell Shell which features Snoopy decals, which apparently increase the helmet's acceptability to kids.

  • Vetta has a new model which has large vents like the Bell V-1 Pro. Arnie Nashbar has them for $29.90 plus shipping. It is said to weigh only 400 grams and have a Lexan shell. We will test it soon.

Other than the above, there did not seem to be much innovation in safety-related bicycling equipment at the show. Cannondale's packs and panniers are being made in bright colors again, and there are now some battery back-up units available for use with generators. The better generators are coming with halogen headlamps. But the reflector, lighting and reflective clothing exhibits showed little new, despite the rise in year-round commuting and use of bicycles after dark.


Bicycling published an article in the May issue which has lots of specs and other data. It is a good article and we are sending it with this issue. Bicycle Rider has also done a helmet article following up on the earlier one which we sent you with the last Update. Even the New York Times ran a consumers' article on helmets in its April 30 issue. Still we find nobody making the simple performance distinctions we put in the Consumer's Guide pamphlet, probably due to their legal advice. Hopefully the general acceptance of the ANSI and Snell standards will eventually permit more performance-oriented articles in the major publications.

Coming Soon

A report on the papers presented at the American Public Health Association meeting. More test results.

Randy Swart

Attachment: Article from Ride On!

Newsletter of The Washington Area Bicyclist Association

March 1986

WABA Helmet Study Shows Couriers Use Them Most

By Ride On! Staff

A field survey conducted last fall by former WABA Safety Committee chair Carl Modig and WABA director Linda Keenan revealed that 68% of DC bicycle couriers wear hard shell helmets when riding--a meteoric rise in helmet wear for this group whose helmet wear in WABA's 1983 survey was characterized as "none."

Although some delivery companies require their bicycle couriers to wear helmets, the hard realities of riding in town full time are probably sufficient to motivate helmet wear. Since delivery companies rarely provide health insurance or workers' compensation, the couriers may simply be trying to protect themselves as best they can.

However, for whatever their reasons, WABA salutes DC bicycle couriers for showing the good sense to wear helmets.

WABA's previous helmet studies conducted in 1982 and 1983 indicated that 75% of deaths from bicycle accidents stern from head injuries, thus prompting WABA to begin a campaign to increase bicycle safety by promoting helmet wear. In fact, WABA leads the nation in promoting helmet usage by publishing and distributing a "Consumer's Guide to Bicycle Helmets."

The 1985 WABA helmet use survey was based on 809 riders observed in October and November in various locations from downtown to Capitol Hill to recreational bike-paths including the Rock Creek trail and the Mt. Vernon and I-66 / W&OD trails.

According to the survey, 23% of the weekend, or recreational, cyclists observed wore hard shell helmets, compared to only 11% in 1983. Washington area touring clubs can claim some of the credit for the increase in helmeted recreational cyclists since they promote helmet wear on their group rides. However, helmet wear among commuter cyclists or those cyclists riding during the week from 7 to 9 a.m. and 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. was shown to have increased only slightly--from 36% in 1983 to 37% in 1985.

How do we account for our apparent lack of impact on area bicycle commuters?

Linda Keenan offers the following possibility: "Helmet-wearing cyclists may be a mobile group, moving into and out of the Washington area at a steady rate. Individuals encouraged by WABA to wear helmets may do so and then move from the area. I'd venture to say that WABA has given rise to bicycle helmet missionaries who leave for other cities and spread the news about the life-saving benefits of helmet wear!"

There may be other contributing factors including the unavailability of helmets due to the scarcity of inner-city bike shops, the high cost of helmets, and the lack of helmet-wearing role models.

WABA is planning its next helmet wear survey for late summer, the anniversary of the first survey taken in 1982. Comparison of the data over the four-year period is expected to show a substantial increase in helmet wear among cyclists.

Paper version printed on recycled paper.

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