Risk compensation theory says that the safer one feels, the less careful one becomes. If you doubt this, ask yourself whether you'd drive more carefully if your seatbelt were broken. Mr. Walker's tests point to an encouraging corollary: Drivers perceive a bareheaded cyclist as being at risk, and increase their passing distance to compensate for that risk, though they themselves are in no danger. That's kind of sweet.
Jamie Flower, Arcata
Barry Evans' latest "Field Notes" ("The Great Bike Helmet Debate," May 14) says more about our infinite capacity to justify our preferences than it does about the pros and cons of bicycle helmets. Several years ago I placed a significant puncture wound in a helmet when I hit an uneven bit of wet surface while approaching the Mad River Bridge on the Hammond Trail. I was moving at less than 5 miles an hour at the time. Had I adopted the conclusions in the cited UK study I would have been wearing a wig. Balding though I am, I'll stick with the helmet.
Doug Ingold, Arcata
In his "Great Bike Helmet Debate," Barry Evans gives credence to a 10-year-old "one-man" study in Britain that concluded that motorists gave him almost 4 inches more room when he was riding without a helmet than with one. Since most motorists typically gives about 4 to 5 feet of room to a bicyclist, 4 inches one way or another won't cause me to decide I would be better off with no helmet. Motorists also give a larger berth to drunk drivers, so one might conclude that it is safer to drive the freeway drunk.
Ten days ago, I came upon the aftermath of a bike/car collision. The bicyclist was a young man I know. He was thrown in the air, his helmet landed on the pavement, slightly cracking the back of his helmet, but not the back of his head. Without the helmet, if he had lived, the rest of his life could have been much different. As it was, his bike was destroyed, but he got up and was able to carry what was left of his bike from the scene. So, I will continue to wear a helmet when I bike, and will encourage others to do likewise.
Rick Knapp, Eureka