Bicycle helmets – again!

I own up to having a hobby horse. My cycling friends will be surprised to know I don’t wear a helmet when riding it (!).

The hobby horse, of course, is my insistence on the advisability of wearing a helmet when cycling – always.

But I have today been assailed by several articles that I can’t let go without comment. I’ll be as brief as I can, and not repeat my previous comments on this safety topic. I’ll restrict myself to brief commentary on subject matter of the articles themselves.

My notice was drawn to the issue today by this potentially self-serving Facebook post by Velosure Legal and Cycle Insurance. Why “self-serving”? Well, I can only imagine that if riders take the advice that helmet use is of no help, it makes medical claims bigger and ambulance chasing fees higher!

As for the Guardian article to which they refer:

both they and Velosure should realise that a helmet’s primary purpose is for head protection (not for persuading motorists to take care, although it would be good if they did) – the head that contains a human being’s most important asset, the brain; the organ that seems to be missing in those that argue that it’s OK to ride without a helmet.

I’m certainly not going to be brainless enough to leave my helmet at home on the off-chance that somehow public road safety policy will change as a result. I’m not convinced by those that argue that personal safety measures and road infrastructure improvements are an either-or, or equivalently that somehow that tails will start wagging dogs; those that believe that will no doubt also expect that pigs might one day fly. F1 racing drivers (I think David Coulthard once said this) used to talk of leaving their brain in a box in the pits before going out to race, a metaphor for refusing to focus on the high risks of the sport (even higher back in the day) to reduce inhibition and enhance performance. For most of us this isn’t an option – or shouldn’t be.

Talking of brainlessness, in the cycling policy area I am in particular appalled that British Cycling (BC, the “organisation” that doesn’t have a system to record medication given to the professional cyclists they support; BC, that employs a doctor who apparently can’t keep his laptop safe; BC – and/or their favoured Sky team that hand carries an undocumented jiffy bag to their world-leading racer at a major event; BC, that can’t make a doctor available to present clear, honest and informed evidence to a Select Committee; and BC, that is alleged to be institutionally misogynous) continue to keep Chris Boardman as Technical Adviser despite his misplaced views on helmet wear, well documented and demonstrated in cycling advisory videos where he appears consistently riding a bike without one. With all their other failings, it isn’t surprising that BC’s HR policy in this area is also a mess.

Get thee to a doctor?

The neurosurgeon quoted in the article above might, as a by-product, also increase his caseload by persuading people to make themselves more likely to suffer a brain injury. He’s also generously spirited enough to try to get a Darwin award himself by being quoted as riding through red traffic lights, apparently OK in his opinion because it’s only his life he’s putting at risk. Really?! Ignoring the risk of secondary accidents caused by any necessary avoiding action by other road users? It beggars belief! What credibility does he have to pronounce on the choice of wearing a helmet or not? And do we really think that a research project on road-user attitudes and driving style* can distinguish a three-inch difference in road positioning when the driver sees a rider wearing a helmet. I don’t believe it. Especially as it’s quoted by our potential Darwin award winner. – Dr Tim Gamble and Dr Ian Walker, from the University of Bath’s department of psychology

More Grauniad excellence

Here go the Guardian again, with what seems to be a concerted campaign to allow bike riders to kill themselves (by giving people excuses to ignore the benefits of a helmet), which, I suppose, might be seen as a good outcome by some of their other road-using readers. Despite their insistence here that they aren’t advising people to stop wearing helmets, they miss the simple point that reducing blunt trauma and severe abrasions are the primary purposes of a helmet – anything else is theoretical puff. No-one who has suffered or seen a head-impact fall from a bike would say otherwise, surely!

The Guardian must have spiked this article on Risk Compensation!

A very good point is made in the article – the logic of NOT wearing a helmet, so as to make yourself and others be more careful, might lead you to do exactly what is suggested in the title of the web page article!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *