Calling out New York Magazine

Today, while patiently waiting for my Volvo to be inspected, I decided to browse through New York. I came across an article by Tim Murphy about actor Matthew Modine, who is apparently quite an avid cyclist. Among other things, we learn that Modine never wears Lycra and received his $1400 bike as a giveaway from Puma. Then, comes the kicker: He doesn’t wear a helmet! Directly from the article:

So why doesn’t he wear one? “Because I don’t assume that I’m going to get hurt.” Then he seems defensive: “Should we wear helmets when we walk down the sidewalk?” Then his logic gets really shaky: “I think that people that wear helmets, cars are a little more aggressive with them.”

Upon first glance you may be tempted to agree with Murphy’s dismissal of Modine’s logic, but Murphy is in the wrong. Controlled experiments have shown that wearing a bicycle helmet does increase the likelihood that cars drive closer to you and, therefore, the likelihood that you will be hit by a car. Is this sufficient reason not to wear a helmet? Not necessarily. If you are an unskilled cyclist, it still may be in your interest to wear a helmet since the risk of hitting your head when falling off your bike is higher than the risk of being hit by a car. But, for an experienced cyclist like Modine who is riding along the busy streets of New York City, the risk calculation is different (more cars means a greater risk of being hit), and it may indeed make sense for him not to wear a helmet. This isn’t even considering the discomfort the helmet causes him. I mean, what’s next: Should Modine wear a full metal jacket to protect his body from the risk of injury? Tim Murphy should be the one on the defensive for his lack of logic.

For more studies that attempt to answer some really interesting questions on the  macro-impact of mandatory bicycle helmet laws (which have benefits and drawbacks), check out this link:

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by neil on June 11, 2009 at 3:55 PM

    Full metal jacket refers to a type of bullet, not body armor.


    • Posted by Josh on June 11, 2009 at 4:09 PM

      Thanks for clarifying for the readers, Neil. To be clear, I never claimed to be using the phrase in its standard use.


  2. Posted by Dan on June 11, 2009 at 4:19 PM

    Josh, was that, in fact, a pun?


  3. Posted by Tim on June 11, 2009 at 5:44 PM

    Josh wins; he gets the first post recognized by a larger media outlet.


  4. Posted by priya on June 12, 2009 at 6:29 PM

    concise, incisive, flawless! except for your italics.
    much love.


  5. very good thanks


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