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Not all bike helmets are created equal

Summer is here, and New York City is home to many excellent places to ride a bike. While the city has many dedicated bicycle paths, like Manhattan’s Hudson Greenway, where you won’t have to deal with traffic, a lot of time riding in the streets among a barrage of vehicles is inevitable.

When biking, safety is extremely important. While you may follow all the rules of the road, some drivers won’t and that could put you in danger. When a 20-pound bike goes up against a two-ton car, the bicycle always loses. The easiest step you can take to protect yourself is wearing a helmet. But recent reports show that some bicycle helmets don’t offer an adequate amount of protection.

Why wear a helmet?

Helmets are the most important piece of safety gear a bicyclist can own. The number of bicyclist killed in accidents is on the rise, and the majority of those who died in bicycle accidents were unhelmeted at the time of the crash. Helmet usage reduces the odds of a head injury during an accident by 50 percent and reduces the chances of trauma to the neck and face by 33 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Though New York state law only mandates that riders 13 years old and younger wear helmets, it’s a good practice for bicyclists of all ages. Studies show that helmets greatly decrease the chances of traumatic brain injuries – injuries to the head that affect the brain and can cause concussions, memory loss, severe impairment, comas and even death.

Unsafe helmets

While the most bicycle helmets on the market provide adequate protection, it’s best to do your homework. Consumer advocacy group Consumer Reports recently rated three popular bike helmets as safety risks and advised against purchasing them.

One helmet, the Bontrager Ballista MIPS, failed testing because the straps and buckles that hold the helmet in place broke easily.

The other helmets, the Morpher Flat Folding helmet and Woom Kids helmet, failed the impact absorption test – a test that no helmet tested by Consumer Reports has failed since 2006. The Morpher helmet failed the side impact test, and the Woom helmet failed the rear impact test.

Though these helmets failed Consumer Reports’ testing, they all passed federal Consumer Product Safety Commission tests. When asked about the helmets’ issues, representatives from Morpher and Woom both showed concern and said they’d investigate the reported issues. However, Trek Bicycles, the manufacturer of the Bontrager Ballista, said it stood by its product and would not make any changes.

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