An interesting study in damned lies and statistics and fear mongering. Same sort of stuff I've seen promoted in the media here. The numbers show a decrease in injuries, whilst the study and headlines shout the opposite.

Shame the City of Sydney doesn't have the ability to repeal helmet laws in the council area and introduce a successful bike share (don't need another Melbourne/Brisbane flop) as it seems this would make us all safer.

A Washington Post headline proclaimed today that cyclist head injuries have increased in cities with bike-share systems, based on a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But University of British Columbia public health professor Kay Ann Teschke is challenging that conclusion, pointing out that the data cited by the WaPo actually leads to the opposite conclusion: In cities with bike-share systems, head injuries and injuries of all kinds have gone down.

“The message that bike-share is increasing head injuries is not true,” Teschke told Streetsblog. “The tone of the article suggests that head injuries go up. Really what is happening is that head injuries went down, non-head injuries went down — but non-head injuries went down more.”

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Washington Post is an awful newspaper. 

This sounds to be much the same as the story on Media Watch last night of how the Australian had managed to make a sensationalist headline about people smoking more since plain packaging.  In fact the study upon which the article was based, showed the opposite to be the case.

Washington Post is an awful newspaper

But ... but ... but ... Woodward and Bernstein !!

(Probably wasn't Richard M. Nixon's favourite, I'll grant.)

Except in this case the study itself is the one the is misrepresenting the statistics!!!   We can't blame the journalists in this case.

The authors have been long standing advocates of helmet mandation.  What they actually have found is that across all cyclists in the examined cities, the ratio of head injuries to non head injuries in hospital admitted cyclists increased slightly over the three year study period.  What is not mentioned in the headline grabbing conclusion is that all injuries, including head injuries, declined in these cities when compared to the amount of cycling done.  In other words, cities which introduce public bike share (without mandatory helmets) experience an improvement in cycling safety across all bicycle users, and for all injury types, including head injuries. 

To use this data to call for the supply of helmets (read short cut to mandation), especially in the light of the disasterous failure of public bike share schemes where helmets are required, is a clear misuse of evidence, and an irresponsible recommendation with regard to public health and active transport.


I will immediately stop sharing my bike

I thought bikes like to share.

Edited the thread title so TL;DR don't get the wrong impression. Above is a table that the "researchers" based their call for helmets on - the left hand figures are for 24 months and the right hand ones 12 months so to do a comparison requires a bit of simple arithmetic. As someone commented the flawed logic they use is like saying Fred has 10 apples and 10 oranges, Bruce has 8 apples and 2 oranges and from this concluding Bruce has 30% more apples than Fred. Maybe they were only courting controversy rather than contributing to the science. Then again it was published in a peer reviewed journal - seems to me that the orthodoxy is more important than any logic.

Some background info on the study author:

Doesn't say much for the system of peer review that such a paper can get through.

There are ways to tip peer review processes in your favour (especially if what you have to say is not 'orthodox' or may be controversial). Select a journal with a history of being at least kind to your point of view... or where you happen to know the editor. If rejected from one journal try another (and another, and so on). Some journals offer a limited-scope opportunity to nominate those you would NOT want to have review your paper (a good opportunity to weed out those who may know about the field but be passionately opposed to your viewpoint). And at the end of the day, suggestions from reviewers do not constitute mandatory changes and the final publication decision rests with the editor.  

That said, and a few (note: few) high-profile failures in the process aside, peer review is still probably the least-worst way of assessing new efforts to add to the body of scientific knowledge.

But, CMIIW, peer review does not stop once something is published.

Two come to mind: (no-longer-a-)Dr Andrew Wakefield and his "MMR vaccine causes autism" paper, and a certain local publication looking at the effect of MHL introduction on participation (which among other errors, misrepresented the date MHL were introduced). The authors of the latter said they were going to correct and re-write their paper - does anyone know if it even got (re-)published?

Well that other crackpot* BB seems to have all the inside gossip in the comments here...

(*I lifted that from Colin's link and mean it with the greatest of respect).


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