My comment to Radio 2 on cycle helmets

As widely reported elsewhere, a “judge has ruled that cyclists may be partly at fault if they are knocked off their bikes while not wearing a helmet”:http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/outrage-at-ruling-on-helmets-for-cyclists-1645736.html. The issue was discussed on “BBC Radio 2″:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/ by Matthew Bannister, standing in for Jeremy “Daily Mail FM” Vine.

Just after the intro to the piece, there was an advert for the BBC’s coverage of Formula 1 car racing (something that encourages some drivers to drive like idiots), an unfortunate juxtaposition but typical for the MSM, where “dog bites man” or “car driver kills people” isn’t news.

Seeing as my comment wasn’t read out, I thought I’d publish it here.

bq. Cycle helmets aren’t a panacea. They tend to cause cyclists to take more risks, and some research has shown that helmet-less cyclists are shown more respect and given more overtaking room than helmet-wearing ones.

bq. The only thing that compulsory helmet wearing will do is reduce the number of cyclists. Fewer cyclists = less safety for those who remain. The greatest thing that would increase cycle safety is more cyclists.

There were lots of messages and calls saying “yes, you should wear a helmet” “a helmet saved my life” and “helmets should be compulsory”.

They should all go and read “The Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation”:http://www.cyclehelmets.org/. The issue isn’t as simple as “wearing a helmet = greater safety”.

There was also the usual “serves them right, pavement terrorists” rubbish, as well. This person should ride a bike for a bit, and then comment further.

4 thoughts on “My comment to Radio 2 on cycle helmets”

  1. "helmet-less cyclists are shown more respect"

    This phrasing is open to interpretation. There is more deliberate avoidance, but I think respect is the wrong word here.

    The BHRF seems to have a lot of "circumstantial evidence" and "anecdotally", and, in their defence, explain that good data is hard to find and hard to create. I'd give them about the same level of credence as a phone-caller on Radio 2.

    I cycle and walk a lot. The cars are a problem for cyclists (and potentially fatal), the cyclists are a problem for pedestrians (and potentially cause injury). Dismissing either problem is short-sighted.

    Do you think compulsory lights on bikes would reduce the safety for those that remain?

    1. "respect" was a word I chose and is, I admit, more loaded than the finding of Ian Walker's study, that drivers' average overtaking clearance was greater when they were passing cyclists without helmets.

      Lights are already compulsory, but even if they weren't it's comparing apples and polar bears. Lights will ensure that you are visible. Helmets may or may not protect you, depending on the circumstances of any given collision.

      Anyway, I'm still wearing my helmet, even though it won't do a lot if I come off the bike while freewheeling down The Hollow at 30 mph.

  2. Unfortunately media tends to follow the prevailing wind, never mind if it's right: it'll get ratings up.
    I'm inclined to agree with the BHRF data as it seems to be from a wide variety of sources. I went there as a very concientious helmet wearer, and came away a lot less sure. I don't wear a helmet now, but that may be because I'm riding on relatively safe German roads…

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