Helmetless riders

Information

Helmetless riders

Sick of fools yelling "where's your helmet"? Can't understand why a safe mode of transport like cycling has been singled out for mandatory helmet wearing? Want to ride with the breeze in your hair? This is your group.

Members: 139
Latest Activity: on Wednesday

Discussion Forum

Examples of helmet propaganda

Started by sydneyCommuter. Last reply by Kathy Francis Sep 28. 2 Replies

Fare Dodging Stockholm-Style

Started by Jason Brown. Last reply by YUGYUG Jul 17. 2 Replies

Comment Wall

Comment by John G on August 5, 2012 at 11:29pm
I said I'd come back with some more information on how we can use risk based modeling to compare Tom's question on the relative health benefits of helmets.  This is easy to describe, although the execution gets a little complex. 

Komanoff is close in his approach in the assessment Tom referred to.  (http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/7/4/343.2.full)

We have estimates of how many people are discouraged by helmets.  We also have data on the incidence of disease and ill health related to lack of exercise.  On the face of it, it would be very easy to make a calculation of how many people are not getting out on bikes, and how likely they are to get diabetes or heart disease. 

Although this is in essence what I'm suggesting, a direct calculation would not hold up.  This approach is wrong for a couple of reasons.  Firstly there are different estimates of this data.  And there are other factors involved in the outcome.  For example, not everyone discouraged from cycling will be getting no exercise - some might be walking around instead for a similar health benefit. 

To get around this, I would propose something called Monte Carlo analysis.  This is a numerically based approach that is commonly used in financial and business risk.  It is also used in a range of scientific and mathematical applications.  

It has the benefit that it can take a number of estimates of any given set of parameters (including those of how many lives are 'saved') and produce probable outcomes.   I am confident that these would be negative.

There are some simple Excel implementations.  If we take some readily accepted values we can plug them in and see what comes out.   Is there anyone who feels they know the literature in these areas who would be willing to help?
Comment by RidesToWork on August 5, 2012 at 11:46pm

In a normal world, if you passed a law that increased the number of injuries per cyclist, it would be condemned as a failure and repealed.

There's no doubt that helmet laws made cycling more dangerous.  When you divide the number of injuries by numbers of cyclists (using the best estimates we have - involving thousands of hours of observation in both NSW and Vic) injuries per cycle km increased.  You don't have to be a genius to conclude that reduced safety in numbers and risk compensation were most likely to blame. Or that, when you add in the health and environmental losses from discouraging cycling, bicycle helmet laws are counter-productive.  A public health disaster might be nearer to the truth.

But instead of speaking out, groups like Bicycle NSW tried to be political and supported the laws in the hope that it would bring some other benefits.  I’ve not seen any evidence of those other benefits.  Compared with the improved conditions for cyclists in Paris since Velib or London since Boris bikes, you’d have to say that Australian cyclists have the worst end of the bargain.

I would have thought the ‘common ground’ Omar talked about would be to revisit those statistics that show increases in injuries per cyclist, and that this information was swept under the carpet because the government didn’t want to lose face.

The most obvious example of this is the counts of adult cyclists in Victoria, where 29% fewer cyclists were counted in May 1991 than May 1990.  This fact was so “inconvenient” that it was buried in the middle of the report, and the effect of the law on adult cyclists estimated by comparing the adult count in Dec/Jan 87/88 (a different time of year!) with May 1991.

Most people who support bicycle helmet laws do so because they think they work – they have no idea that the whatever protection helmets afford can be completely eroded by risk compensation and reduced safety in numbers.

I think the common ground is for everyone to argue that public health is paramount.  Cycling without a helmet is much better than not cycling at all.  The Piet de Jong paper showed that almost certainly the net loss to public health from people giving up cycling far outweighs any public health benefits of increased helmet wearing.  This is particularly true given the difficulties in implementing public bike schemes under helmet laws.  But it would be silly just to exempt public bike scheme users and still lose health benefits from people riding their own bikes.

Simply stressing that the health benefits of cycling, the benefits of safety in numbers and that most cyclists will continue to wear helmets, is the obvious way to fight this law.  If the cycling organizations were prepared to support this point of view (which would seem to be in the interest of all cyclists, including their members), there might be a good chance that the pollies would support it as well.

Comment by John G on August 6, 2012 at 12:00am
Omar, thanks for the prompt response. I did note that Go! is actually part of a private company.

You've said that with conditions it would be a 'good idea'. That's a little different from support. I'd compare that to another noted public official who says similar things, but then goes on to say the law should not be changed until an ill defined and long term set of objectives have been met. When you logically reduce that position, it comes out as 'no change now or any time in the foreseeable future'. With an election coming up, I won't cause embarrassment by naming her here...

So respectfully, is that a yes or a no? I'm still not clear.
Comment by Bernard on August 6, 2012 at 12:06am

Hey Omar, I support the idea of addressing MHL in concert with improving infrastructure. We have some beautiful, separated foreshore paths and about 20 to 50% of riders are sans-helmet because they feel safe, free and they're just cruising. 100 meters away, road warriors dice with traffic, and they clutch at any talisman of protection they can get. MHL with wither away as infrastructure improves.

I disagree that helmets offer much protection beyond abrasion.  To be soft enough to absorb impact at 20kph means that at 50kph they have the effect of reducing the energy of the impact to that experienced at 45kph. They may be effective in 15kph impacts but they are are a very low probability.The absurd standards test ( a linear impact from directly above) actually drives the design of useless scull-cap helmets rather testing the effectiveness of helmets in real-life collisions.

Any significant bang on the head is bad news with or without a helmet. The main danger faced by cyclists is cars and helmets do absolutely nothing for an impact with a car - a fact accepted by helmet manufacturers.

If helmets offer protection why not promote them for pedestrians, drivers, climbers of ladders, drunks etc. Drinking helmets - now there's an idea ;-)

Here's where I think MHL is an issue that impacts the broader infrastructure campaigning - misplaced trust in helmets avoids confronting the reality that the only safe solution for cyclists is to eliminate collisions with cars - as has been accepted in Netherlands.

The reason I don't make a huge issue of MHL  though I oppose it, is that unity is our best chance to make progress. We all stand together on the need for better infrastructure so that's the best place to draw the battle lines. 

Comment by Omar@Go! Alliance on August 6, 2012 at 1:30am

Hey Bernard,


We may make 100 tonight?  

100 meters away, road warriors dice with traffic, and they clutch at any talisman of protection they can get.

I have also previously noted that the type of cycling (utility bike vs roadie) seems to  be a significant factor.  Just drive 5 km out of helmet-less Amsterdam and almost every single roadie (fast, drop bar, often lycra) cyclist out for a spin is wearing one.  Same thing outside of Copenhagen even among long distance commuters.  Why?

They may be effective in 15kph impacts but they are are a very low probability.

Amid a wash of contradictory claims and extrapolations, personal experience over the years and as recent as a month ago confirms other data to me that helmets can help save ones head or face from more serious injury.  Though I certainly agree not at high speeds especially with motor vehicles.

If helmets offer protection why not promote them for pedestrians, drivers, climbers of ladders, drunks etc. Drinking helmets - now there's an idea ;-)

Yes, helmets for all!  Remember when George W. Bush hit his head falling off the couch?  Now, that's an untapped market!   Imagine the endorsement potential!

We all stand together on the need for better infrastructure so that's the best place to draw the battle lines.

Agreed, unity and focus too.  I just think there is a split when it comes to what gets the most focus across the community.  Passions run high.  I have suggested leading with MHL alone is more challenging and ultimately not sufficient towards the end goal though it appears some here disagree.  I may just have to leave it at that.

Comment by Omar@Go! Alliance on August 6, 2012 at 2:07am

John,

Complex change is always a nuanced thing... I agree that MHL should go - and it will - but I don't see it as the ultimate goal as it is often appears to be positioned.  It will not be good enough if MHL removal happens without the other improvements - and why I link them.  I also maintain that they would be more likely to be supported by the (non-cyclist) community if they were linked and was introduced with other initiatives like a bike share scheme and lower speed limits.

I think it's time I bow out now and let others get the group to 100... cheers

Comment by RidesToWork on August 6, 2012 at 10:00am

Omar: "personal experience over the years and as recent as a month ago confirms other data to me that helmets can help save ones head or face from more serious injury."

The experience of one person doesn't provide any information on risk compensation and safety in numbers. When Ian Walker carried out his research, he was hit twice by vehicles, both times when wearing a helmet.  His measurements proved that drivers left him less room when wearing a helmet.  

Even if helmets do help in some circumstances, the statistics show it’s not enough to compensate for the increased risk of injury because of risk compensation and reduced safety in numbers.  But arguing for choice, Omar, you make it safer for cyclists who want to wear helmets.  Cycling without a helmet is far better for health than not cycling, so everyone benefits.

Arguing that “It will not be good enough if MHL removal happens without the other improvements” is also counter-productive.  In other countries, increased cycling and the popularity of city bike schemes played a key role in triggering the other improvements.  As long as we have MHL, we are unlikely to get past first base – to get enough new cyclists to justify expensive cycling facilities.  Rather than promoting change, Omar, your tactics are likely to do the opposite.

Government policy should be guided by facts and scientific evaluation, not current prejudices of the non-cycling community.  After all, how many Australian drivers want lower speed limits?

 Helmets aren’t much of an issue for current cyclists – most people who dislike helmets are former cyclists.  In the main, non-cyclists have no experience to judge the dangers or otherwise of cycling, and may even consider cycling dangerous because cyclists are forced to wear helmets.  

Repealing MHL is not the only goal, but it will boost cycling, increase safety in numbers and reduce risk compensation by vehicle drivers, all of which will make achieving goals for better cycling infrastructure a whole lot easier. 

Comment by Kathy Francis on August 6, 2012 at 10:06am

Well said , RidesToWork

Comment by Si on August 6, 2012 at 10:15am

@RidesToWork

The experience of one person doesn't provide any information on risk compensation and safety in numbers. When Ian Walker carried out his research, he was hit twice by vehicles, both times when wearing a helmet.  His measurements proved that drivers left him less room when wearing a helmet. 


Omar's individual experience doesn't count, but Ian Walker's does?

Comment by RidesToWork on August 6, 2012 at 10:35am

SI: "Omar's individual experience doesn't count, but Ian Walker's does?"

What counts are the measurements of amount of room left by several thousand drivers who overtook him when cycling with and without a helmet. The fact that he was hit twice when wearing a helmet doesn't prove anything, but the repeated measurements of thousands of overtaking drivers clearly show that they left him less room when wearing a helmet, and so made his cycling more dangerous.

Omar’s experience is personal.  We’ll never know if risk compensation or reduced safety in numbers played a part in causing the crashes he talked about, or whether they might not have happened except for MHL.  

What we can do instead is look at the injury stats or the whole country to get the best estimate of injuries per cycle km before and after MHL, to show that, contrary to popular belief, the risks increased.

Comment

You need to be a member of Helmetless riders to add comments!

 

Members (138)

 
 
 

Community Ads

Sponsors





© 2014   Created by DamianM.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service