Sidney rider says her head was likely saved by helmet advice

Two falls on Salt Spring Island ride raises awareness of the value of wearing a bike helmet.

Aaron Mankowske of Russ Hays The Bicycle Shop in Sidney shows the model of bike helmet that could have saved local resident Sally Atton from a head injury.

After seeing two cracks in her bike helmet following a pair of crashes while riding on Salt Spring Island, Sally Atton hopes her example will encourage others to be safe.

Atton, who recently moved to Sidney, says she’s an avid recreational cyclist. She was heading out to ride with her son, who was visiting recently from the U.K., and stopped in at Russ Hays The Bicycle Shop on Bevan Avenue.

“The helmet I had was around 10 years old,” she said. “Aaron (Mankowske) at Russ Hays saw that it was an older helmet and said it was no longer safe.”

So, her son bought her a new one. They had their bikes tuned up and headed over to Salt Spring Island to ride.

That’s where Atton experienced two falls. She said she wasn’t quite ready for the steep hill when they got off the ferry at Ganges Harbour and as she tried to stop, she fell over. With a little help from her son, she got back up, shook it off, and continued the ride.

Later, her bike’s thin road tire caught something on the road and she fell again while traveling at a moderate speed, this time injuring her arm. She visited the hospital on the island to receive stitches. Atton said she had no idea she’d hit her head. It was when she brought her bike back to the shop in Sidney that Mankowske noticed a spidering pattern and two cracks in her helmet’s foam padding.

“I hadn’t noticed them at first,” Atton said.

Mankowske said it’s surprising she hadn’t felt anything when she crashed, but the helmet definitely had sustained damage where it protects the side of the head. He agreed it appears the helmet did its job.

He said modern helmets are designed to withstand a single impact. The foam padding is set up to absorb an impact, dispersing the effect throughout the helmet. Once that foam is damaged, it no longer provides the same protection level and the helmet itself should be replaced.

Mankowske said the helmets they carry are built to meet Canadian and European safety standards.

Properly fitted and in good shape, he said they should protect cyclists who experience similar falls.

He encourages riders with older helmets to inspect them for cracks or other damage. And if they want to keep their heads safe, consider getting a new one if the helmets are past their prime.

Having experienced first hand how a bike helmet can save someone from injury, Atton said she wants other cyclists to check the age of their helmets, and make sure they’re still in good condition.