jump to navigation

Helmets October 4, 2020

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
trackback

Someone sent a tweet about an interview that is, I think in the Mail, John Drennan talking to Eamon Ryan.

Whatever about the colour stuff, this issue of bicycle helmets is puzzling. It seems to have been taken up by some on the libertarian right over the past two decades and they’ve run hard with the idea that it dissuades people from cycling or (rather like masks) they’re an outrageous imposition on personal freedom. I find that former an unlikely thesis, not least given the actually quite good adherence to using them generally, and the freedom stuff doesn’t convince me at all. What do others think?

Comments»

1. Michael Carley - October 4, 2020

They do dissuade people from cycling and they don’t make you safer. The principal dangers to cyclists are bad drivers and bad infrastructure.

Liked by 3 people

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

But how many do they dissuade as against those who are open to wearing them, and the stats on safety don’t seem to me to be robust. Some of the studies I’ve seen are very thin indeed. The very first question I’ve been asked when after the three fairly serious accents I’ve had on a bicycle over twenty odd years where respectively I broke my hand, my pride and my ribs, the latter early this year, was from doctors, did I bang my head. In no instance did I but that suggests a significant vulnerability to head trauma that a helmet would have mitigated to some degree.

Like

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

By the way it’s not just a case of people being dissuaded to start, Eamon Ryan suggest in teh interview that some people who do cycle now would actually give up cycling. I’d have thought that number would be vanishingly small. But to be honest given the recklessness which can be seen daily of many of those who cycle without helmets particularly on the rental bicycles (not all I hasten to add) that might not be the worst thing.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

And just to be clear, no question bad drivers and infrastructure are a huge issue with cycling safety too.

Liked by 1 person

Michael Carley - October 4, 2020
WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

Yeah I’ve read Walkers studies. They’re certainly not uncontested and the general advice is across range of states to wear helmets.

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/sep/22/bicycle-helmets-reduce-risk-of-serious-head-injury-by-nearly-70-study-finds

Like

2. alanmyler - October 4, 2020

There’s a joke I heard on this topic. Q: What do neurosurgeons call people who cycle without helmets? A: Organ donors.

I’m in two minds myself. I do a lot of country cycling down here at weekends with a local group, 70km spins usually, and a couple of times a year we sign up for a bigger event, the Tour De Wherever type of thing, and I’d always wear a helmet for that type of cycling. In the city I’m not sure, I’ve used the Dublin bikes without a helmet a good few times and never felt unsafe in that regard. City cycling is certainly a different type of risk, and as mentioned elsewhere above there are dangers that a helmet won’t do much to alleviate.

Having said that, the brother in law has actually given up cycling after two bad falls last year while out with a group. The first fall involved a bang on the head, after which he bought himself a superduper reinforced fiberglass helmet. The second fall involved the destruction of that helmet and a stay in hospital for concussion, and having to piece together the details of the incident from other people’s descriptions as he has no memory of it at all. So, yeah, helmets are important, he’d probably be dead or brain damaged if he wasn’t wearing that one that day.

Liked by 1 person

Alibaba - October 4, 2020

I agree that helmets are important, as are bad drivers, bad infrastructure and even strong winds pushing cyclists towards dangerous outcomes. But I was surprised to read a leading neurosurgeon who says cycle helmets are useless:

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/cycle-helmets-don-t-provide-protection-says-neurosurgeon-9465257.html

If I cycled, though I don’t, I would err on the side of caution and put the helmet on.

Liked by 1 person

3. sonofstan - October 4, 2020

I’m with Michael on this one.
I’d keep cycling if they were compulsory and reluctantly wear one, but I’m far from persuaded. Very few people seem to wear them in cities where cycling is a mass pursuit – Amsterdam, Copenhagen.
One of the messages helmet wearing gives out to the non- cyclist is that cycling is dangerous, best left to fit, male, competitive types and not for the anyone else. Which means that urban cycling remains something that such bloky types do, making the streets of cities here and in Ireland less inviting for people who just want to cycle to work and back in normal clothes.
I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Eamon Ryan though.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

Hahah, it happens.

If streets here were pedestrianised fully and there were more precautions, wider cycle lanes etc, I’d be a lot more sanguine about it. But we’re not there by a long shot. Cars are crazy, streets are very narrow. Cyclists don’t abide by lights and there’s a low level tension between some motorists and cyclists that erupts into rage as well.

I think the sheer volume of cyclists has helped in diluting the ultra male aspect of it that you point to and which I can’t say I like either (north strand at 5 pm can be fairly scary too as some people appear to think the route out of town is the tour de france). I see a lot more folk in suits/slacks/business skirts with a helmet on than I used to and that’s a real plus. But I think there’s an issue about now wearing safety gear – gloves and so on on bicycles and it’s frankly terrifying to see some of the risk taking going on.

One other thought. I broke three ribs in Feb. Came off my bicycle at the Point, hit a pot hole. I stood up, walked away. I hit my ribs off the handlebars I think which twisted. I was wearing a helmet and I think that if an impact – at lowish speeds where my falling off the bicycle was almost a mild tumble could break ribs I’d be concerned had I hit my head and what that might have implied so I’d be very cautious about it.

Like

4. roddy - October 4, 2020

In the 1920s ,my grandfather was cycling home from Magherafelt when his bike struck a pot hole.He went over the handlebars and struck his head on the road.He spent a week in Magherafelt hospital ,receiving little or no treatment (my late mother described it as “no better than a work house”) and died.He left a wife and 6 children,the oldest aged nine at a time when there was next to no welfare state and my mother and her siblings took turns at staying with relatives for periods of up to a year to help ease the pressure. As children we could not understand why we were warned to get off a bike when going down a steep hill and similar warnings about trousers getting caught in the chain etc while our neighbours received no such instructions.I always wondered would a helmet have saved him or was the combination of poorly lit road,bad road surface and woeful medical care just too much.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

Sorry to hear that roddy, that’s the sort of event that has a terrible impact on a family.

Like

roddy - October 4, 2020

Cheers WBS,but they managed not too bad.My grandmother was able to hold on to her 30 acre farm with the help of my Grandfathers brothers and they were able to keep the wolf from the door.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

Grans are unsung heroes in a lot of families including my own too

Liked by 1 person

roddy - October 4, 2020

One intriguing aspect of the story is that I know so much about an event that happened nearly 100 years ago and which was told directly to me by someone (my mother) who was alive then!

Like

5. alastairmckinstry - October 4, 2020

The evidence to date is that the effect of having more people cycling outweighs the benefit of compulsory helmets: when compulsory helmets were introduced in Australia and parts of Canada, it became measurably more dangerous to cycle (but only just so).

Yes, wearing a helmet is safer than not doing so, but it has only a small effect in a collision with a vehicle: they’re explictly not designed to protect in such cases.

The real issue however is deterring those who ‘cherry pick’ to enforce helmets, hi-viz and say “well we’ve tried; cycling is just dangerous”. Helmets are essentially irrelevant to safety on the roads (it is far more important to wear them in cars, but we don’t). We need to emphasise that helmets are a distraction from the task of separating bikes and pedestrians from cars and trucks.

Liked by 2 people

sonofstan - October 4, 2020

“The evidence to date is that the effect of having more people cycling outweighs the benefit of compulsory helmets”

Definitely.

Like

6. Joe - October 4, 2020

A friend told me that the most important safety thing for a cyclist is to wear a hi viz jacket.
I wear a helmet most of the time but sometimes I don’t.

Overall I also agree with Eamon Ryan on this one.

Like

WorldbyStorm - October 4, 2020

High visibility crucial – reminds me of someone I worked with who was very admiring of a guy he saw cycling out in Tallaght with streamers of fluorescent stuff and as he said no one was going to not see him.

Liked by 1 person

benmadigan - October 4, 2020

hi visibility should also be essential for pedestrians after sunset. People in dark winter clothing and footwear crossing poorly lit streets are hard to see

Liked by 1 person

7. gypsybhoy69 - October 5, 2020

Week before last a cyclist made me laugh out loud and I’m bulling with myself for not taking a picture.
Anybody familiar with the quays will know what work has gone on with the cycling lane and a lane in some parts for pedestrians. Anyhoo near the Ha’penny bridge as I’m heading back up towards the Four Goldmines I see a twenty something female coming towards me cycling on the path. All those thousands of yo yo’s wasted on this special individual. As somebody who has never driven I must say that cyclists tend to infuriate this pedestrian.

Like

WorldbyStorm - October 5, 2020

As a cyclist of twenty fives years in and out of the city on a daily basis in that time I find cyclists are often their own worst enemies. I’ve seen some terrible accidents involving people who’ve taken not even the most elementary precautions – lights, vis-vests (yeah, helmets too). One of moment that stands out was I think just around Christmas where I was close to Five Lamps. Two guys my age pull up a little ahead of me, there’s were a good number of people in between us on bicycles. I could see them say something seemingly in anger but didn’t catch it. Lights turn green. They’re away, I pull back to let a bus pass by. A moment later the bus pulls into the stop beyond the funeral home but breaks incredibly sharply. I was grand but it almost caused a person ahead of me to slam into it. There’s the sound of voices beyond and we go around the bus to discover the two fellers having an argument so violent that they’re standing there the bicycles sliding out from under them, arms on each other just an instant away from hitting each other and one of them shouting ‘You cut in front of me back there, I’ll kill you for that…’ or something equivalent. The bicycle had to break to stop from running them and their argument over.

You’ve got to wonder.

Like

sonofstan - October 5, 2020

I drive (not that much anymore), cycle and walk in town. Whichever one I’m doing, I tend to be a little scared of people doing the other two.
(although drivers more by a mile – including when I’m driving myself)

Liked by 1 person

crocodileshoes - October 7, 2020

As a lifelong pedestrian/bus user who’s never driven, I see the cycling boom with a jaundiced eye. In my suburb hundreds of families have been out cycling in the last few months (good) but 90% of those kids are learning to cycle on the footpath. Another generation being trained to believe that the roads are too dangerous to ride on, so they’re fully entitled to render the footpaths too dangerous to walk on.

Liked by 3 people

8. tafkaGW - October 7, 2020

FWIW in over 3 decades of cycling as my main mode of transport I’ve had 4 bone-breaking accidents, two caused by car drivers and two by ice and wet steel.

In two cases my helmet has been a write-off and the doctors said without it my skull would have cracked.

These days I wear a cyclist’s airbag because of the better shock / kinetic energy absorption and the neck protection.

Liked by 1 person

tafkaGW - October 7, 2020

BTW in both car-driver-caused accidents I was lit up like a Christmas tree. Some drivers just won’t / can’t look.

From having driven cars and vans myself I know how difficult looking everywhere can be – the technology is just not capable of being used to a sufficiently high degree of personal safety. Not to mention the safety of the ecosystems of which we are a part.

So replace it with public transport, walking and cycling.

Liked by 2 people

WorldbyStorm - October 7, 2020

Ice is terrible. Once was cycling through East Wall, concrete 1950s streets in places, ice on them and they’re lethal. Bicycle slid over on side. I was grand, and the creature was too, but not happy with the situatoin.

Like

alanmyler - October 7, 2020

Ice is awful. Glad you were all ok in those incidents. I’d one years ago cycling home from school, went into a right angle bend in the Sandyford industrial estate, went over on the ice, slid right across the incoming lane of traffic just ahead of a truck coming at me, a very lucky escape. I’ve been nervous of ice ever since. I’d no helmet on of course, it was the 1970s, not that a helmet would have saved me if I’d gone under the truck.

Liked by 1 person

9. pettyburgess - October 7, 2020

There’s a key distinction that gets glossed over between whether it’s advisable to wear a helmet and high viz when cycling and whether it should be compulsory to do so.

I tend to answer yes to the first question at least in current Irish conditions, with deeply inadequate cycling infrastructure and a culture which prioritises the convenience of drivers over the safety of other road users. But I answer a very clear no to the second question.

Firstly it depresses cycling numbers which is a serious negative consequence. Secondly it reinforces a culture of reducing road safety to the duty of others to avoid harm at the hands of motorists. We give over far too much physical space for cars in our towns and cities, both moving cars and parked cars. We prioritise the convenience of drivers far too much at every level. Taking space from drivers, prioritising other forms of transport through segregation on every street, making driving less and less convenient, would make an enormous contribution to cycling safety, pedestrian safety, speeded up public transport, less polluted air, less greenhouse emissions etc etc. And incidentally, driving offences should carry long disqualifications as a matter of course. The legal system here defaults to treating piloting a ton of metal at speed through residential areas as a kind of right that shouldn’t be lightly interferes with.

Liked by 3 people

sonofstan - October 7, 2020

+1000

Like

10. CL - October 7, 2020

“A nurse at NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn was fatally hit by a motorcycle while she was one her way home from an overnight shift on Saturday, according to police and reports….
[Kang] is at least the 19th killed on New York City streets to date in 2020 and one of thousands of essential workers who have come to rely on cycling as a reliable and physical distancing-compliant method of getting to and from work,” Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris said about the crash.”
https://patch.com/new-york/parkslope/nurse-killed-cycling-home-notorious-brooklyn-avenue-cops

Like

11. sonofstan - November 24, 2020
WorldbyStorm - November 24, 2020

Of course good cycling infrastructure is something that one wants. But even the best cycling infrastructure isn’t going to be everywhere and on all roads – or not in achievable timescales of less than many multiple years. Material constraints quite beyond that are a factor. Consider that cycling doesn’t happen in one environment or context – weather, particularly rain, impedes the ability of other road users and pedestrians to see other road users, and of course it impacts on cyclists abitlity to see others. Lighting, environmental lighting, quite apart from street lighting, is also a factor. Dawn, dusk, poorly or not at all lit roads are all matters to be contended with too. One needs to have safety gear too so that pedestrians who will not hear oncoming bicycles will have the chance to see them, and other road users too. And there’s the basic reality that in a context of light bicycles and riders going onto roads there’s always a chance even with cycle lanes of other vehicles coming into contact due to accident. I’d be loath to stop wearing vis-vests and helmets given all those material constraints, and even in the context of optimal cycle lanes.

In any case there’s a problem with that survey. The perception of people as regards safety of cyclists isn’t the actual level of otherwise of risk of cycling. None of the people looking at those cards is say myself who has to go out at various times day or night into lanes of traffic, etc. To me it would problematic due to some people’s perception that cycling was hazardous, which it is, got four broken ribs to prove it this year in a non-traffic related accident, to not wear a high-vis vest or a helmet simply to make others think it wasn’t. Indeed isn’t a logical response that if one wants to see genuine far-reaching change it is precisely by making clear how there are very real risks involved in cycling today that tomorrow others will feel pressurised to alleviate those risks. But even still, I would still personally wear a helmet and high vis vests even in a context where cycling lanes were more optimal because there is a certain risk in getting on a bicycle in pretty much every context. There’s also plenty of lightweight non intrusive vis-vests which one can use over suits or other clothes if that’s an issue.

Like

sonofstan - November 24, 2020

” The perception of people as regards safety of cyclists isn’t the actual level of otherwise of risk of cycling.”

Which is the point she was making, and the intent of the survey: it was to show that people who don’t cycle think it’s more dangerous than it is at least partly because cyclist wear so much protective gear.

Like

sonofstan - November 24, 2020

And therefore don’t cycle, and the one thing we do know is that the more cyclists there are, of all ages and genders, the safer we all are.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 24, 2020

But she also says that “When we campaign for cyclists to wear hi-vis and helmets, it can be compared to campaigning for shoppers to wear a life vest and wet suit everytime they cross the bridge. Of course, it makes you safer, but imagine lugging that with you everytime you go shopping.” And she also seems to minimise the dangers of cycling that makes little sense to me as someone who cycles daily in Dublin. “It can be scary to cross [the bridge], and people have been known to fall off into the river. It takes me much more effort to go buy healthy food, and there’s a real risk when crossing that bridge. Yet I’m more likely to die or get really sick from eating nothing but fast food than I am to die from falling off the bridge.”

But cycling isn’t like going to the shops on foot across a bridge – however rickety – with life vests. It is intrinsically a more risky proposition. Any vehicle that can reach certain speeds and has as part of its use the possibility of falling from a certain height at speed is in and of itself considerably more risky. I don’t want to overstate this, but cycling on a street given pedestrians, other cyclists and vehicles, many of those vehicles at the same or greater speeds is potentially risky. Wearing protective clothes is a sensible precaution given that.

As to numbers, the volume as I’ve noted before, of cyclists on the roads has exploded in the past six years. I agree, more cyclists makes it safer, most of the time, though some cyclists do take risks both with themselves and other cyclists by going too fast through urban settings, etc.

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 24, 2020

And one further thought. In a way it’s a pity that the issue of vis-vests was mentioned in that piece. Whatever about helmets, and my feeling about them is that for one’s personal safety it is deeply unwise not to wear them, vis-vests (and lights) are about other other road users safety. They alert other road users that one is there, particularly in reduced visibility environments, so that’s not just about personal safety but about communal safety. Helmets, well, one takes one’s chances I guess – I’d prefer they were compulsory but as it stands they’re not and the risk is taken by the individual I imagine in most accidents. I am much more keen on people wearing vis-vests and lights so I and other road and pavement users can see them in precisely the same way as it is essential that cars or trucks use (dipped) headlights.

Like

sonofstan - November 25, 2020

“I’d prefer they were compulsory”

You can take the man out of democratic centralism but…..:)
We won’t agree on this. FWIW, though, I get very annoyed at cyclists without lights.

Liked by 1 person

WorldbyStorm - November 25, 2020

Agree, a bicycle without lights is an absolute death trap. As I say to me it’s a hierarchy, helmets, vis-vests and lights. If someone has the latter I’ll wave through the others (with a frown!).

Like

WorldbyStorm - November 25, 2020

Though on reflection I’m not sure it is actually akin to Stalinism to suggest that in a given context there are more or less suitable precautions and that just as in a car one should buckle up, and on a building site one should wear a… well… helmet… and if one gets on an aircraft one should be cogniscent of the emergency exits and the safety protocols that getting on a bicycle it makes sense to take certain precautions for oneself and for the benefit of others. I don’t think the impulse to make safety features compulsory is somehow breaching human rights in the context where obviously any such move would require democratic legitimation. I’m not in a position, nor never will be, to enforce my wish they were compulsory. But given this is a very very specific instance I don’t think it’s entirely fair to read anything more or less into it than the specific.

Like

sonofstan - November 25, 2020

I wasn’t actually suggesting that it was a slippery slope from bike helmets to tanks on the streets of Prague…
🙂

Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: