Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘bike helmet law

“There’s no ethical case for mandatory cycle helmets”

with 2 comments

The Guardian Bike Blog 

This analysis by an ethicist of the evidence for bike helmet legislation would be worth reading in any event. But over the weekend there was a contentious – if not actually mendacious – opinion piece in the Sun taking the opposite view and supporting it by very selective references to long refuted “evidence”. I am not linking to that. If you want to search and pay for someone else’s opinion that’s your privilege. Though I do wonder why there seems to be an anti-cycle policy at PNG.

But I do think it is worth quoting the banner

“Helmets do not provide sufficient protection to warrant the claim that they are highly effective – and the right to cycle bare-headed is by no means trivial”

I do wear a helmet, simply because I do not wish to get a ticket. Note too that in Vancouver, the local bylaw applies to parks and bike paths that are not subject to the Motor Vehicle Act. I have had a bike crash – actually with another cyclist, on a bike path. I came off, broke my wrist and the helmet made absolutely no difference.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

July 9, 2013 at 8:48 am

Do bike helmet laws really save people?

with 7 comments

A really balanced and thoughtful opinion piece from the Washington Post. The answer is not nearly as much as the helmet law proponents would have you believe:

Helmets are sometimes said to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent, but that statistic comes from a 1989 study that has not been replicated. “Studies in the last 20 years have calculated that helmets prevent 10 to 40 percent of head injuries,”

But this is in the context of states which do not have such laws, deciding whether or not to introduce them, and mostly they will only apply to children.

“No one would argue that helmets don’t decrease the risk of injury,”

Actually I think I might. For instance I often see cyclists who have a helmet on that will not do anything to protect them. That is because they do not wear them properly. Add to that the poor design of even the best helmets – which have not changed very much since standards were established – which do very little to protect against concussion. Moreover, many people do not replace their helmets often enough – or when the helmet gets damaged. If you have a helmet on, you won’t get a ticket is about the best advice I can give people here. But I am not at all confident that in the event of a collision the helmet will make a great deal of difference. What we do know is that helmet laws reduce the number of people cycling – and they deter the safest cyclists. They also get in the way of successful bike sharing programs, which otherwise are very good news for getting more people to cycle. The big killer these days is not collisions – its the diseases caused by inactivity: obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The metabolic syndrome of industrialized high calorie food (loaded with salt, sugar and fat), high levels of car use and widespread computer use for work and (with tv and video games) leisure time. Helmet laws make people think that cycling is dangerous, when not cycling is more dangerous. While the US can still avoid most of the silliness by sensible analysis of the Canadian data

overall rates of head injuries were not appreciably altered by helmet legislation.

we have the much harder problem of getting rid of the law we have. And at the same time persuading children that they ought to wear helmets – and that we need much better helmets, which people can wear if they want to.

PS And also see Feds Withdraw Claim That Bike Helmets Are 85 Percent Effective from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association as well as this post from Gordon Price on what ought to be the definitive study from New Zealand

Written by Stephen Rees

June 4, 2013 at 9:20 am

Posted in cycling

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