06/04/2012 09:54 EDT | Updated 08/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Cyclists too cool for helmets baffle neurosurgeon

An apparent trend among some Calgary bicycle riders to skip the helmet has a medical specialist shaking his head.

Tanya Hagen cycles every day, but she rarely bothers with head protection, she said.

“I think that the kind of emphasis on the helmet does kind of exacerbate that culture of fear. It makes people think it's dangerous somehow.”

Instead of a helmet, Hagen wears a hip, grey toque. "There are a couple of reasons. One of them, I'm sorry to say, is vanity."

Hagen said she feels perfectly safe without a helmet.

"If you were genuinely, genuinely concerned about protecting yourself from being maimed in various ways, you would wear full body armour."

Alberta introduced legislation ten years ago mandating helmets for children, but there is nothing requiring adults to wear one. Even at low speeds cyclists can suffer devastating head injuries, according to Calgary neurosurgeon Dr Bradley Jacobs.

"I think there's an absolute lack of common sense,” he said.

"I think you can look great wearing a cycling helmet. And my counterargument is you don't look very good in the intensive care unit after a craniotomy.”

The Canadian Institute for Health Information said last year that the number of serious head injuries in Canada from bicycling dropped over the past 10 years thanks to a greater use of helmets.

In 2009-2010, 4,324 Canadians were hospitalized as a result of cycling injuries.