Saturday, 19 March 2011
Mandatory semi-relevant babe picture
Moving away from motorbikes for a moment (don't worry, we'll be back before long): what do you think about the wearing of cycle helmets?
There was an interesting debate a few years ago over at Treehugger (visit for research purposes only), with all points of view if you follow the links therein. My view was formed by a reading of the excellent Richard's Bicycle Book, when I was a regular cycle commuter back in the late 70s/early 80s. Accidents involving head injury on bicycles occur mainly in urban areas, and mainly to children, so if you are an adult riding in the country, you probably don't need to wear one. I didn't.
Recent research (links in the Treehugger site) suggests that the wearing of helmets makes a big difference to child injury rates, and very little difference to adults. This makes a kind of sense. The protection that the helmet provides for an adult is counterbalanced by the increase in the likelihood of having an accident if you are wearing one, and overall rates stay unchanged. I assume this is due either to risk compensation (you feel safer and therefore take more risks) or a change in the behaviour of the car drivers around you. This piece of research suggests that drivers will see a rider wearing a helmet and assume an increased level of competence, and will therefore drive closer to the bike when overtaking.
Some countries make the wearing of a helmet compulsory, either for all cyclists or just children (for example, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and some US states), and I have just picked up a hint that this may well be on the cards for the UK. The IAM are holding another poll, this time on the wearing of cycle helmets. Why would they be doing that, I wonder? As usual, you don't have to be a member to participate, and they want as many views as possible.
Go and make your views known. And ponder a curious fact: the countries with the best cycle safety records (Denmark and the Netherlands) have among the lowest levels of helmet use. It's a complex issue involving infrastructure and attitude, but it's interesting.