Helmets: City doesn’t require them, so bikers don’t buy them

CitiBike riders forego safety, leaving shop owners with inventory

Han’s Market in Brooklyn Heights started selling bike helmets after a Citibike rack was installed in front of the store.
The Brooklyn Paper
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A Brooklyn Heights bodega owner thought he could cash in on bicycle renters looking for a safer way to ride by selling them helmets — but instead ended up with the foam noggin protectors collecting dust on the shelves.

The owner of Han’s Market on Clark Street near Henry Street stocked up on helmets when workers learned that a CitiBike station was coming in for a landing right outside his window, assuming that the constant stream of casual bikers would make captive consumers for his new product line, but his investment did not exactly pay off.

“We only sold one helmet,” said Han’s Market cashier Sadie Gorkhali.

The city doesn’t mandate helmets for CitiBike riders, claiming it would be nearly impossible to enforce, according to a city spokesman. But some experts, including John Pucher, a Rutgers University professor of public policy, predict that the launch of New York’s bike lending program will lead to a significant increase in serious bike accidents. There have not been many CitiBike-related injuries so far.

And riders we spoke to said they do not need to purchase a $20 helmet to make them feel safe.

“My friend and I are just going over the Brooklyn Bridge,” said CitiBiker Nina Melmkovec. “It’s going to be only 30 minutes.”

Some longtime city bicyclists say they have seen a mix of CitiBike riders with and without helmets and suspect that those who do not wear them either do not believe the research on helmet safety or care more about looking stylish.

“I wear a helmet when I ride because even though the research isn’t great on how effective they may be in big crashes, I think that anything that slows down my skull from impact is probably a good thing,” said Michael Silver. “Even if I look like a doofus.”

If that isn’t enough to put a crimp into the Han’s Market business model, this probably will: The city occasionally gives away free helmets, with fittings included, at scheduled events throughout the year. The next one in Brooklyn will take place on Tuesday in Marine Park from 5:30 pm until 8 pm.

Reach reporter Jaime Lutz at or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow her on Twitter @jaime_lutz.
Updated 10:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

ty from pps says:
How is this a story?! A bodega... a BODEGA didn't find a market for bicycle equipment? Really? This is a surprise?!

I know when I'm in the market for safety equipment, my first thought is the corner store where I buy scratch tickets and milk.

How about asking Mr. Bowers how his bottled water and snack sales are... ya know, the actual products folks go to a bodega for. Jeeesh. But guess what? Mr. Bowers also tried a new variety of pretzels a couple of years ago and it wasn't a hot seller either.... did you write about that?

I know this paper (and the whole machine it's part of) is to make sensationalist crap out of nothing, but you can do better than this. As journalists, aren't you embarrassed by these articles? Don't you have even a tiny bit of pride or self-respect left?
Aug. 5, 2013, 7:39 am
ty from pps says:
(Sorry... I misread your story. This Mr Bowers has *nothing* to do with the story.... and you didn't even interview the owner of the Han market, just a random cashier. Awesome.)
Aug. 5, 2013, 7:42 am
Bob Scott from Brooklyn says:
Han's Market aside, point is that after years of indoctrination about the importance of helmet use, CitiBike is sending a clear message: Helmets are not important.

Whatever one's view of CitiBike, the program highlight's Bloomberg's highhandedness and dishonesty. Our health-obsessed nanny mayor cares less about whether New Yorkers crack their skulls than making life uncomfortable for motorists (the latter being is a prime motivation behind the design of the CitiBike program).
Aug. 5, 2013, 8:12 am
Peter from Brooklyn Heights says:
How exactly does Citibike "make life uncomfortable for motorists"?

I know that driving is usually a -joy- in the city, but please share how Citibike has made it worse.
Aug. 5, 2013, 8:38 am
s from says:
I know every time I need something for my bike, the first place I think of is a convenience store.
Aug. 5, 2013, 8:44 am
boof from brooklyn says:
Bob Scott:

How many head injuries have there been so far (in 1.6 Million trips)?

Maybe helmets aren't that important. Maybe what's important is motorist awareness of cyclists. Which, due to the popularity of Citibike, we now have more of than ever.
Aug. 5, 2013, 8:56 am
VLM from Park Slope says:
Coincidentally, I tried to buy a quart of milk from Dixon's Bike Shop last week, and I couldn't find any there. It's an outrage really.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9 am
Kevin from Brooklyn says:
The safest cities in the world to ride a bicycle are in The Netherlands, where nobody ever wears a helmet.

Could it be that when I am being crushed by a multi-ton truck a styrofoam hat isn't going to make the slightest bit of difference?

This whole helmet thing looks to me like blaming the victim. Far better to use concrete to keep motor vehicles away from people.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9:04 am
Brian Van from Gramercy says:
Since "research on helmets" was mentioned:

There have been some statistics mentioned in the media that 97% of cycling deaths involved riders who didn't wear helmets.

That was based on some sort of weird report-parsing and isn't a verifiable statistic with reality. The truth is that most cyclist deaths in collisions are caused by neck and thoracic injuries, and other related causes such as internal bleeding / organ lacerations. A helmet does nothing to prevent neck injuries and certainly does nothing to protect chest organs.

Furthermore, users of helmets still suffer head trauma. Helmets do prevent head abrasions and skull fractures. But they are not built to decrease concussion injuries, and you can still have significant brain injury on impact while wearing a helmet.

That said, where this is a big deal is in impacts of 20mph or more. Most people on Citibikes are barely topping 10mph, and you have almost no chance of going up and over the handlebars like you do on a road bike with low handlebars and a "racing geometry". If you fall off of a Citibike, you land on your butt.

I still wear a helmet while riding a Citibike most of the time. But if I didn't have one available, I wouldn't hesitate to ride one in protected bike lanes carefully. If I get involved in a minor collision I probably will take a tumble but I won't die from a massive head injury. I know that if I am unlucky enough to be involved in a collision with a high speed vehicle, I won't have a chance anyway.

Helmets should be gently encouraged but we have no business shaming people for not using one on a Citibike... in part because the research just isn't there to show they make any major difference in that situation.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9:12 am
The Chooch from the bike lane to gentrification says:
I think Brian Van is right about the limited safety advantages of helmets, I've read some of that myself. And on a Ctitbike at low speed ... meh.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9:37 am
Jym from PLG says:
• A bodega would do well to sell water in a form that a Citibike could transport easily.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9:43 am
Bob from NYC says:
The only positive result of Citibike so far is that the large numbers of bare-headed bicyclists now on the streets has provided at least anecdotal evidence that cycle helmets are not the panacea that their advocates insist they are.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9:44 am
VLM from Park Slope says:
Really, Bob? That's the *only* positive? Whatever you say.
Aug. 5, 2013, 9:46 am
teresa from greenpoint says:
Please don't be so cavalier about speed being the only factor in your safety. If you're biking without a helmet and going very slowly, you still risk head trauma if you fall - it's all about the angle at which you hit your head, and what you fall on. Wear your damn helmet.
Aug. 5, 2013, 10:10 am
ty from pps says:
I don't know why this is about bicycles. You're right, Teresa. That's why I always wear a helmet... always! You can just be walking down a sidewalk and trip on a crack... slip on a stair... walk into a post...
Aug. 5, 2013, 10:45 am
Jimmy Two Toes from Townline says:
I wear a helmet when I bike. No biggie. If it saves me or not. I'll risk wearing it just to be safe.

The bodega guy couldn't sell helmets? Boohooohoo. When I invest in something and lose money, the paper doesn't write up something about it. Go back to selling milk and over charging ATM fees (actually, they're usually less than bank atm fees, so I guess that's good).

I like citibike. Just putting that out there. I like driving, but hate doing it in NYC for reasons anyone with a brain could deduce. The citi bikers have not made driving worse for me. If anything, there could be fewer drivers now (at least I'm 1 fewer driver now!).
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:16 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
I have a joke that I would love to share, if you don't mind: I was walking in Park Slope this weekend with my son Edgar and I walked into a bicycle shop. The woman from behind the counter said "can I help you?"....And so I say "Why, yes you can-I'll have a large meetball sub with sauce and cheese, please!"!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:24 am
Frank from Inwood says:
"The city doesn’t mandate helmets for CitiBike riders, claiming it would be nearly impossible to enforce, according to a city spokesman." What is the name of this phantom (fabricated?) city spokesman? The fact of the matter is that the STATE does not require bicycle helmets on anyone aged 14 or older. Lazy reportage, to say the least.
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:27 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Once again the streetsbloggers have come out to throw stones at a good idea that they don't agree with. I expected it from ty of course but also from others who comment here. Why shouldn't a businessman be upset that his idea isn't working due to this bike share program? This is America where capitalism is king and if bike share is eating into his profits than he has a right to be upset even if ty doesn't want him to be. For the record, I think you should always wear a helmet and the many Citi Bike crashes have shown that to be the case so far. But ty will criticize me as he always does I'm sure.
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:36 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
Pardon me, but I see that there are 2 helmets in the photograph, and he said he "only sold one". I'm not very good with math, but 1 out of 3 isn't very bad. I don't think he has that much of a right to be upset-of course this is just one man's opinion.
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:41 am
Frank from Inwood says:
"I think you should always wear a helmet and the many Citi Bike crashes have shown that to be the case so far."

Ty, please elaborate.
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:50 am
pat i. from brooklyn says:
File this story under "natural selection".
Aug. 5, 2013, 11:55 am
Frank from Inwood says:
I meant Tal, please elaborate. Sorry Ty.
Aug. 5, 2013, 12:06 pm
ty from pps says:
I was gonna say, Frank, I don't have the skills to help tall make his stupid "arguments."

And since you brought up Tal... this is a beautiful example of dumb... "Why shouldn't a businessman be upset that his idea isn't working due to this bike share program?"

Aug. 5, 2013, 1:01 pm
Kevin from Brooklyn says:
I think that all car drivers should be required to wear helmets. Lots of them get head injuries when they crash. Helmets would help their safety.

Most important, having to wear uncomfortable, dorky-looking helmets would probably lead to less car driving. That's a win for everyone who has to live in the city.
Aug. 5, 2013, 1:22 pm
boof from brooklyn says:
"For the people who shift from car to bicycle, we estimated that the well-documented beneficial effect of increased physical activity due to cycling resulted in about 9 times more gains in life-years than the losses in life years due to increased inhaled air pollution doses and traffic accidents."
Aug. 5, 2013, 1:45 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
Funny but I have been keeping an informal personal account of Citi cycle helmets vs not Citibank bike helmets and I have seen far more people wearing helmets on Citi bikes than non ones. By my count more than half of the citibank cyclists are helmeted. far more than people on other bikes.
NY state only mandates helmets for the under 12 crowd.
Aug. 5, 2013, 1:57 pm
The Chooch from the bike lane to gentrification says:
Tal, what a retarded comment. Since when does a vendor have a "right" to be "upset" that "this citibike program" is not working out "for him." How stunted is this thought! The program has no mandate to spin out business for nearby vendors. Does the weather bureau have an obligation to guarantee sales to guys who hawk umbrellas on the street?
Aug. 5, 2013, 2:14 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off, cut with the impersonations and I only got on my computer, so I am holding some of you as suspects that include ty, Frank, and even The Chooch, plus I would love to know what you did at 12:36 PM today, because I know where I was at that time. Anyway, I feel the real reason why many of those Citibike users didn't want to buy helmets wasn't because of safety, but because of the cost. Would any of you have bought them if they were much lesser or would you still refuse, because they would make a lot of you part of the system you are all trying to fight? Then again, I guess having a cracked skull is more important than messy hair especially when to a chief enabling website such as Streetsblog, it makes you all martyrs.
Aug. 5, 2013, 3:40 pm
ty from pps says:
Aug. 5, 2013, 4:17 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, just think of wearing a bicycle helmet like the time you didn't want to wear a scarf during the cold days. It's no doubt that the scarf will make your neck feel itchy, but it will prevent you from getting a cold, and we all know how bad it is to get one that time of the year. Would you prefer to have an itchy neck or a cold? The same goes with wearing a bicycle helmet. Do you prefer having messy hair or a cracked skull? As for the claim of saying that motorists should have helmets as well, they already have two things to keep them safe and that is seat belts and airbags, so there is no need for a helmet. On a side note, I am still waiting to hear where you at 12:36 PM today, or I will assume it was you who did the impersonation if you refuse to answer on that.
Aug. 5, 2013, 4:46 pm
The Chooch from an ever more competitive environment says:
Look it's just a pea-brained idea. Why would anyone buy a $45 helmet just because they're renting a bike for ten minutes. And where on earth does the genius who thought they would buy helmets get off being bent out of shape because the helmets don't sell. Like it's welfare or something. Like just because it's a city program it's supposed to pay out in all kinds of spades for everyone within spitting distance of a bike rack. SLICE the Chooch a break already will ya.
Aug. 5, 2013, 4:48 pm
ty from pps says:
A scarf will prevent the cold? Tal, are you 6 years old?
Aug. 5, 2013, 5:09 pm
The Chooch from the magic helmet says:
Tal, if that was not you at 12:36 PM, it sure fooled the Chooch. It was definitely not I.
Aug. 5, 2013, 5:25 pm
ty from pps says:
At 12:36? I was on Seneca Lane in Pleasantville, installing a video surveillance camera so this woman could keep an eye on her son.
Aug. 5, 2013, 6:33 pm
boof from brooklyn says:

If drivers have airbags and seat belts to protect them, how is it that the most common cause of head injuries in the U.S. is car crashes?
Aug. 6, 2013, 8:02 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
The cyclist in the article who said she didn't need a helmet because she was only riding over the Brooklyn Bridge was taking her life in her hands. I used to commute to work in Upper Manhattan from Brooklyn every day and the Brooklyn Bridge was by far the most dangerous part of the journey. On the downhill leg your speed easily gets north of 30mph and there are tourists and clueless pedestrians who constantly dart into the bike lane. I saw a rider splat on the downhill side of the Queensboro Bridge during the 5-Borough Ride once and it was a bloody head wound and that was after the helmet had absorbed most of the impact. So sure there are a lot of sorts of accidents that can kill you even if you're wearing a helmet. There are lots of kinds of accidents that can kill you in a car even if you are wearing a seat belt and have airbags. But it still makes sense to use safety equipment if they can save your life or prevent a lifetime of brain damage and paralysis.
Aug. 6, 2013, 8:57 am
ty from pps says:
However, the chances of purchasing said safety equipment at a bodega is pretty slim.... saltines and a single dose packet of advil, maybe.
Aug. 6, 2013, 9:30 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Nobody ever said that wearing a helmet will be a magic bullet to injuries, but without they would have been much worse. Seriously, I still feel that if cyclists did follow the traffic laws rather than flout them, they wouldn't be in this mess they are in a lot especially when they love to place themselves into harm's way. Another thing I cannot understand is why the bike zealots always bring up cars when we are talking about bicycles as if they are trying to avoid the real discussion here. Overall, if you can afford that same amount of money for anything, then I don't see why this is an issue with helmets.
Aug. 6, 2013, 4:46 pm
ty from pps says:
Nobody ever said we cared about what Tal thinks. Seriously, I still feel that if he is this ignorant his mom should really take his computer away. Another thing I cannot understand if why this dumb person from Pleasantville are always so stupid when we are talking about anything and everything as if he is trying to elevate his ignorance to a spiritual level. Overall, if he can afford to be this stupid, then I don't see why he can't just keep it to himself.
Aug. 6, 2013, 5:59 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, that question about the scarf, and you responding to it with the age does make me feel that you are really that age. Seriously, you really do need to take a chill pill and put that ego of yours aside. Even Anthony Weiner and Alex Rodriguez combined don't have one as big as your's. Also, instead of making personal attacks, you can always try not reading, but I feel that is too mature for you, and you need a place where you can still act like a Peter Pan, who is known as a boy who never grows up. Honestly, I feel that you resort to such attacks, because you couldn't find anything to defend your argument, so you attack the person instead of having a debate. I feel that you are more afraid of me than I have of you. It's so unfortunate that the bike zealots tend to stoop so low, which is why they make so many enemies rather than allies with their attitude, especially on websites such as Streetsblog. Maybe the reason that owner was selling helmets was to milk off of this program by making a profit in giving something the system wasn't giving themselves.
Aug. 6, 2013, 6:19 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal, do you have the ability to express a coherent thought?
Aug. 6, 2013, 9:08 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, if you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all, and you do feel like a Peter Pan by saying such.
Aug. 8, 2013, 3:12 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- If you don't like what I write, don't read it. Isn't that what you always say? You had your say, not let me have mine. I have a right to say you're stupid!
Aug. 8, 2013, 3:27 pm
ty from pps says:
Peter Pan... like the bus?
Aug. 8, 2013, 3:33 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, Peter Pan relates to never growing up and still acting like a child just like the way you tend to act a lot, plus I have the right to report your posts every time you make such personal attacks at me.
Aug. 8, 2013, 7:20 pm
ty from pps says:
Stop reading, Tal.
Aug. 8, 2013, 11:11 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
If I have to wear a seatbelt, then bicyclists should either (A) wear a helmut, or (B) just ride in the park, away from the taxpaying motorists. If they can't stand the heat they should not be playing in the kitchen. Just basic common sense, but this is an aspect that is missing in streetsblogger logic.
Sept. 6, 2013, 3:19 pm
Joe from Greenpoint says:
Each year in the United States, over ONE MILLION people suffer Traumatic Brain Injuries from motor vehicle collisions--one person every 30 seconds. Every 10 minutes, someone dies from a motor vehicle-caused head injury--and a second person suffers a permanent disability from the same cause.

The great majority of these deaths and horrific injuries are suffered by drivers and passengers in automobiles. And the majority could have been prevented, if only the drivers and passengers had been wearing helmets.

And yet, there are NO state and NO federal requirements for automobile drivers and passengers to wear such life-saving helmets. Even more shockingly, almost NO automobile drivers wear such helmets voluntarily, though doing so could save lives--far, far more lives then are lost each year in bicycle accidents.

Therefore, I call for the following:

- The federal government and all fifty states should pass laws requiring all automobile drivers and passengers to wear helmets. This would save countless lives.

- Until such laws are passed, all responsible motorists should begin wearing helmets voluntarily, and providing them for passengers, especially FOR CHILDREN.

- The Brooklyn Paper should investigate helmet vendors and see how many helmets are being sold to automobile drivers. Tragically, I suspect that the number is shockingly low, and that unbelievably irresponsible automobile drivers are not only endangering their own lives, and those of the passengers they carry (INCLUDING CHILDREN!!), but are also denying helmet vendors the business they are fully entitled to.

Remember, if you value your life, ALWAYS wear your helmet, EVERY TIME YOU GET IN AN AUTOMOBILE!!
Aug. 20, 2015, 10:49 am

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