Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

feature

Why is Dan Walker’s claim that a bike helmet saved his life so controversial?

“Don’t be a helmet, wear a helmet,” says the presenter – but what’s the evidence behind the slogan?

Earlier this week, as I’m sure most of you know by now, the broadcaster Dan Walker was involved in a nasty collision with a motorist while riding his bike.

Footage has since emerged of the terrifying spill, captured on a motorist’s rear-view camera, which shows the Channel 5 presenter riding on the busy Moore Street roundabout near Sheffield’s city centre, before a driver veers across into his lane, clipping him from behind and sending him clattering to the ground.

A clear case, then, of careless, or some may argue dangerous, driving, which left Walker with a bloodied and bruised face and feeling “glad to be alive”.

Dan Walker (Twitter/Dan Walker)

> Dan Walker "glad to be alive" after being hit by a driver while cycling

So, why then did the former BBC Breakfast host become the centre of a social media storm this week, one which appears to have divided cyclists into two distinct camps?

The whole furore, which Walker has himself addressed both on Twitter and in an article for the Sunday Times, stems from a seemingly innocent comment he made on the day of the collision concerning the usefulness of his helmet.

The 45-year-old claimed that a police officer and paramedics who attended the scene told him that he wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for his helmet, a revelation that prompted Walker to inform his Twitter followers to “get one on your head” when riding their bikes.

The fact that the presenter chose to focus on his helmet as the one variable that affected the outcome of the collision appeared to some on social media to suggest that, in Walkers’ eyes, bike helmets are an integral component of cycling safety, and that if everyone wore one more lives would be saved on the road.

That suggestion provoked two distinct sets of responses, crudely summarised as follows:

  1. ‘Yes, helmets are extremely important – why would you not leave the house without one?’
  2. ‘Prioritising the importance of helmets is just another example of our car-brained, victim-blaming culture.’

The presenter addressed these two points of view in a Sunday Times article about the incident (which also touched on the anti-cyclist reaction from motorists unhappy that Walker was riding on “their roundabout”) and in particular the claim that, by urging others to wear helmets, he was “doing the heavy lifting for militant drivers”.

> Motorists blame crash victim Dan Walker for not riding on underpass cycle lane – described by locals as “filled with broken glass”

“My helmet is smashed and I’m glad that it wasn’t my head,” Walker writes. “I have always worn a helmet since I attended an awful traffic accident in Manchester when I first started out as a journalist.

“Every police officer can tell you about a cyclist’s head they have had to try to put back together at a road traffic accident so they can be identified by their loved ones. They are never wearing a helmet.”

The presenter concluded the article by suggesting a new campaign slogan for cyclists, based on a message sent to him by a well-wisher this week: “Don’t be a helmet. Wear a helmet”.

While it’s clear that Walker never intended to provoke such a heated debate with what on the face of it seemed a fairly innocuous comment, relayed to him by an emergency services member in the wake of a traumatic crash, the backlash that followed his tweet – and the presenter’s own response to it – has nevertheless highlighted the complicated and often confusing relationship between helmets and road safety.

Should everyone riding a bike, as Walker claims, wear a helmet to keep them safe? And, to stretch the presenter’s point to its logical conclusion, should helmet wearing be made mandatory?

Chris Boardman, the former Olympic champion-turned-active travel champion, doesn’t think so. In fact, back in 2014, the then-British Cycling policy advisor described the “helmet issue” as a “massive red herring” which is “not even in the top ten of things you need to do to keep cycling safe or more widely, save the most lives”.

> Chris Boardman: "Helmets not even in top 10 of things that keep cycling safe"

There are a number of case studies which support Boardman’s stance, perhaps the most famous – and hotly-debated – of which was conducted by psychologist Dr Ian Walker of the University of Bath, who concluded that motorists tend to give more space to cyclists not wearing helmets, therefore lowering the possibility of a collision, and the potentially grisly consequences outlined in Dan’s Sunday Times piece, in the first place.

So, what role, if any, do helmets play in keeping cyclists safe? This most divisive of issues can be split into two discrete factors: the scientific and the societal.

The science

When it comes to the science around helmets, the answer is: it’s complicated.

A 2017 review by statisticians at the University of New South Wales found that, based on 40 separate studies, helmet use significantly reduced the odds of head injury, and that the probability of suffering a fatal head injury was lower when cyclists wore a helmet (though, the authors noted, helmets cannot eliminate the risk of injury entirely).

Another study from the same year, this time from Norway’s Institute of Transport Economics, concluded – based on an overview of almost 30 years’ worth of analysis – that bike helmets reduced head injury by 48 percent, serious head injury by 60 percent, traumatic brain injury by 53 percent, facial injury by 23 percent, and the total number of killed or seriously injured cyclists by 34 percent.

The protective ability of helmets has also increased in recent years, thanks to the use of different materials in the design process and the advent of technologies such as MIPS, designed to reduce rotational motion to the brain in the event of a crash.

However, while they are certainly useful when it comes to lessening the potential severity of a serious head injury, helmets have proved markedly less effective when it comes to preventing concussion, a reality of their protective limitations recognised by only one in five competitive cyclists, according to a recent study.

“Our conclusions are not that cycling headgear doesn’t afford protection, but that more independent research underpinning new technologies marketed for reducing concussion is needed,” said the study’s lead, and former racing cyclist, Dr Jack Hardwicke last year.

Volvo Cars and POC develop world first  car bike helmet crash_test (1).jpg

> Could Volvo and POC end the helmet debate? Swedish firms partner for "world first" car and cycle helmet crash tests 

However, perhaps the most important limitation associated with helmets – and one that is particularly pertinent in Dan Walker’s case – is their ability, or rather, their inability to protect riders involved in collisions with a vehicle.

In 2020, Eric Richter, the senior brand development manager at helmet manufacturer Giro, sought to clarify the “many misconceptions” about helmets.

“We do not design helmets specifically to reduce chances or severity of injury when impacts involve a car,” Richter said.

Current bike helmet testing procedures are fairly rudimentary, involving helmets being dropped from different heights on either a flat or an angled surface, and do not take into account collisions with vehicles.

According to Richter, “the number of variables” – including the speed, mass, and profile of the vehicle, as well as the angle of impact – “is too great to calculate”.

Despite their ability to prevent serious head injuries, helmets then, as Giro points out, are not designed to protect cyclists from dangerous drivers. Which brings us onto the second major factor influencing the role of the helmet in the wider road safety discussion: societal and cultural norms.

Societal factors: Where do helmets sit on the safety pyramid?

In the UK, a nation where proper, protected cycling infrastructure is in its infancy, and can at best be described as geographically variable, helmets have long played a central role in cycling culture.

Right from the time your parents popped off the stabilisers on your first bike, the call to ‘wear your helmet’ has been a constant one. So, it stands to reason that helmet use must lead to safer cycling, right?

In 2016, a study by the Toole Design Group analysed the correlation between helmet use and fatality rates amongst cyclists on the roads in eight countries.

The Netherlands – the world leader for safe cycling infrastructure with a strong bike riding culture – reported the lowest rates of helmet use and the lowest cycling fatality rate per distance travelled.

On the other hand, the USA, of the eight countries examined, reported the highest rate of helmet use. But it also reported the highest fatality rates too.

In his Sunday Times article, Dan Walker noted the gulf in infrastructure and culture between the Netherlands and the likes of the UK, which he argues provides all the more reason for British cyclists to don helmets out on the road.

“I have cycled in Amsterdam where ‘hardly anyone wears a helmet’ and it’s great, but the whole transport culture revolves around two wheels,” he says.

“In the UK, we don’t have the same respect for vulnerable road users. I have witnessed terrible driving and awful cycling everywhere. We desperately need better infrastructure, better training, and more respect for other road users, but a bike is never going to win a tussle with a car and the questions always seem to be centred around what a cyclist should do to stop getting killed, rather than safer driving.”

On the other hand, the kind of figures presented by the Toole Design Group could also be used to add credence to Ian Walker’s theory that, in some motorists’ eyes, helmets can represent a kind of protective shield which seemingly permits them to drive dangerously around lid-wearing cyclists – despite, as Giro have said, their dubious effects when on the receiving end of a two-tonne vehicle.

Another study from 2019, presented at the National Road Safety Conference, also suggested “a higher accident/injury rate may result from helmet usage” and argued that “there is strong evidence that helmeted cyclists suffer a higher rate of upper body limb injuries than non-wearers, suggesting a higher rate of falls than non-wearers.”

> Wearing a cycle helmet may increase risk of injury, says new research 

As Chris Boardman noted over nine years ago, it’s clear that simply reinforcing the notion that reactive protective gear such as helmets and hi-vis clothing are an essential element of everyday cycling cannot simply act as a replacement to proactively building safe cycling infrastructure and addressing driver behaviour.

“It’s a bit like saying ‘people are sniping at you going down this street, so put some body armour on,’” Boardman said in 2014.

Chris Boardman in Copenhagen (copyright Britishcycling.org_.uk)

Chris Boardman cycling in Copenhagen, sans helmet

Encouragement to wear helmets, either from governments or TV presenters on Twitter, are according to Boardman’s analogy “a big campaign to get people to wear body armour, by the people who should be stopping the shooting.”

The chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum, Dr Robert Davis, was one of the most prominent critics of Walker’s claim that his helmet “saved” his life, and has argued that such a claim feeds into society’s inherent anti-cyclist bias and acts as a “red herring”.

Culturally defined safety measures such as helmets, lights, and hi-vis, Davis says, “can act as a diversion from what needs to be done for real road safety”, placing the onus once again on the more vulnerable road user to be wholly responsible for their safety.

Davis’ vocal criticism of Walker’s call for cyclists to wear helmets is, in many respects, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.

With cyclists – a group, you would imagine, united in the goal of making the act of riding a bike as safe as possible – at loggerheads over a safety issue such as helmets, attention naturally was diverted from the dangerous driving that caused the Channel 5 presenter to clatter to the ground with an unceremonious thump.

By focusing on helmets (and their contentious ability to mitigate the effects of a collision with a car, such as the one suffered by Walker), the ability and desire to tackle dangerous driving, as well as creating suitable, safe spaces for cyclists, is impeded – and the blame shifted away from the dangerous driver and back onto the vulnerable road user.

Societal factors: Should we all wear helmets?

Finally, the implication, spread by Walker, that his helmet was crucial in saving his life raised the inevitable question: Should all cyclists wear helmets at all times?

That was certainly the argument put forward this week by Nick Freeman, the lawyer nicknamed ‘Mr Loophole’ for his ability to obtain not guilty verdicts for celebrities charged with motoring offences.

Speaking to BBC Three Counties Radio’s Jonathan Vernon-Smith in the wake of Walker’s crash, Freeman called on bike helmets to be made compulsory for cyclists.

“Cyclists are so vulnerable,” he said. “They are exposed to massive dangers on the road from motorists, from the road surface itself, and it just seems to be common sense to say you need to wear these items to protect yourself.

“It’s going to be a mandatory requirement because, as Dan Walker very happily said, it saved his life. Irrespective of blame.

“We all make mistakes when we’re cycling, we all make mistakes when we’re driving, but if those mistakes could be fatal and that could be avoided by simply wearing something, then surely as a society we have no choice, we have to adopt that.”

However, despite Freeman’s claims, the issue around mandatory helmets is not quite as simple as that.

In December, the Department for Transport insisted that the UK government has “no intention” of making wearing a helmet while cycling a legal requirement.

Minister of state for the department, Jesse Norman, responded to a question on the matter in the House of Commons by pointing out that the issue had been considered “at length” during the cycling and walking safety review in 2018.

Norman said that while the Department for Transport “recommends that cyclists wear helmets”, the “safety benefits of mandating cycle helmets are likely to be outweighed by the fact that this would put some people off cycling”.

Chiswick High Road 02 copyright Simon MacMichael

> Government shuts down mandatory cycling helmets question from Conservative MP 

The UK government’s approach to mandatory helmets is in line with a school of thought which suggests that mandatory bike helmets – and their apparently inherent association with danger and the need to protect yourself – could discourage cycling, which on balance is much healthier for the population to practice without protective equipment, rather than simply not doing it at all.

In Australia and New Zealand, two of only four countries in the world to have implemented a universal, nationwide helmet requirement (the others being Argentina and Cyprus), the number of people cycling has fallen in the thirty years since the laws were introduced.

A recent analysis of census data found that, since New Zealand made helmets mandatory in 1994, children’s cycling “reduced from 23 million hours to 13.6 million hours in less than a ten-year period and currently is about four to five million hours per year”.

A 2019 article by law professors Julia Quilter and Russell Hogg argued that Australia’s mandatory helmet laws “have become a tool of disproportionate penalties and aggressive policing”, with failure to wear a cycling helmet the most-commonly issued on-the-spot fine in New South Wales.

In the US city Seattle, mandatory cycling helmet laws were dropped in February last year after officials expressed concerns about the laws unfairly impacting black people and the homeless.

One of Australia’s most prominent opponents of the mandatory helmet laws, Sue Abbott, says that “it beggars belief that in the 21st century we take something as benign and beneficial as bike riding and we punish people.”

Todd added: “We accept that a helmet might help in the event of an accident … [but] you must distinguish between crash data and population data. It hasn’t had any measured safety benefit at the population level. Across population, the reduction in injuries was no more than the drop in cycling.”

Meanwhile, Edward Hore, the president of the Australian Cycle Alliance, argued that wearing a helmet “should be a choice”.

“We’re not talking about banning helmets, we’re talking about making them optional,” he said.

“If you’re in a peloton down a beach road, and you’re not wearing a helmet, you’re a bloody idiot, let’s be frank.

“But we’re talking about the rider in the park with a family, the local commuter, the gentle ride down the street. Once you’ve measured your risk you can decide whether or not you want to don a helmet.”

Conclusion: One group, two debates

In many respects, the fierce social media debate that arose in the wake of Dan Walker’s call for cyclists to wear helmets is evidence of one group engaging in two separate conversations at the same time.

Yes, helmets are certainly beneficial, and in some cases essential, and can play a key role in preventing and reducing serious head injuries and fatalities.

But they cannot be viewed as a simple like-for-like replacement for safe infrastructure and addressing dangerous driving at its source.

By placing the helmet at the centre of a discussion concerning a high-profile and well-reported collision between a cyclist and a motorist, the onus for road safety – as Walker himself noted in his Sunday Times piece – is once again “centred around what a cyclist should do to stop getting killed, rather than safer driving”.

Helmet child

The social media storm that engulfed Walker’s bike helmet advocacy is perhaps indicative of the fact that most cyclists are unaware of the two-sided nature of the debate – he clearly didn’t intend it to be a loaded statement, it’s his opinion and choice to wear a helmet while cycling, and he meant no harm by what he said.

However, as we’ve noted above, there is plenty of evidence to support the view that he could have used his profile to promote things that are shown to improve cyclists’ safety much more than protective equipment.

Nevertheless, there could have been a whole host of reasons why he didn’t though, and it’s understandable that after such a nasty and traumatic experience he was just thankful for the equipment that he was told prevented his injuries from being much worse.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing a bike helmet – as odd as calling for all cyclists to wear a helmet is, it’s arguably just as weird to be actively against helmet wearing in all instances – and lots of studies have outlined their benefits.

Cycling overall though is a relatively low risk activity, especially when riding on designated cycling infrastructure at low speeds, and, as has been the case in Australia and New Zealand, mandating helmet use only puts people off riding their bikes.

To paraphrase Dan Walker himself, don’t be a helmet – make your own choice.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

Add new comment

151 comments

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to marmotte27 | 12 months ago
0 likes

I'd say 3.3 dog-related deaths per year and >100 cyclist deaths per year is a false equivalence.

I'd say wearing a helmet when you go cycling and wearing a bite-proof jacket whenever you leave the house is a false equivalence.

I'd say the risk-reward balance is a false equivalence.

If you disagree, that's up to you.

Sources:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36652787/#:~:text=Results%3A%20In%20tota....
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/reported-road-casualties-great-...

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
5 likes

We're not only talking about deaths. And injuries by dogs are not rare.

Pretty sure by the way that not far from 100% dog-related deaths are due to biting, but far less than 100% of cycling related deaths are due to head injuries.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to marmotte27 | 12 months ago
0 likes
marmotte27 wrote:

We're not only talking about deaths. And injuries by dogs are not rare.

Pretty sure by the way that not far from 100% dog-related deaths are due to biting, but far less than 100% of cycling related deaths are due to head injuries.

I'm not sure what you're talking about and frankly I don't care. Dan Walker has been talking about helmets saving his life. Much of the article above talks about the efficacy of helmets saving one's life. So yes, I'm taking about deaths.

If you think that wearing a helmet when you cycle on the highway is equivalent to wearing a bite-proof jacket when you leave the house I feel sad for you.

Avatar
IanMSpencer replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
4 likes

My wife's step-mum got attacked by a dog when cycling, losing a chunk of calf. It got horribly infected and became what is known as a "life-changing injury". It stopped her long distance cycling, where they would leave home in inner London and merrily cycle around the UK, stopping off at various family members spread around the length and breadth of the UK. So don't be so dismissive of dog attacks. I reckon I have many more bad interactions with dogs than I have with cyclists either on foot, in the car or cycling.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to IanMSpencer | 12 months ago
0 likes
IanMSpencer wrote:

My wife's step-mum got attacked by a dog when cycling, losing a chunk of calf. It got horribly infected and became what is known as a "life-changing injury". It stopped her long distance cycling, where they would leave home in inner London and merrily cycle around the UK, stopping off at various family members spread around the length and breadth of the UK. So don't be so dismissive of dog attacks. I reckon I have many more bad interactions with dogs than I have with cyclists either on foot, in the car or cycling.

I'm not being dismissive of dog attacks. As I previously stated, people die from them. 3.3 people a year.

But let me ask you a question: Does she now leave the house with a bite-proof jacket at all times, or does she think that the risk is insufficient to warrant such a restrictive measure?

Avatar
brooksby replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
4 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
hirsute wrote:

"Imagine Dan Walker had been attacked by a dog. Now, instead of talking about muzzling dangerous dogs, we were telling people to wear bite proof jackets and check they weren't carrying sausages. That's where we are just now."

10 likes and counting for this obvious false equivalence. What a joke.

13 and counting right now.  Please can you explain why its a false equivalence?

If you're too dense to realise that wearing PPE to reduce the risk associated with every-day hazards in a dangerous environment is not the same thing as wearing PPE to reduce the risk associated with an event that occurs so rarely every occasion makes BBC news, then explaining it to you is just wasted effort. Including this comment.

You're really mean, aren't you?  At least Martin remains (generally) polite...

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to brooksby | 12 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
hirsute wrote:

"Imagine Dan Walker had been attacked by a dog. Now, instead of talking about muzzling dangerous dogs, we were telling people to wear bite proof jackets and check they weren't carrying sausages. That's where we are just now."

10 likes and counting for this obvious false equivalence. What a joke.

13 and counting right now.  Please can you explain why its a false equivalence?

If you're too dense to realise that wearing PPE to reduce the risk associated with every-day hazards in a dangerous environment is not the same thing as wearing PPE to reduce the risk associated with an event that occurs so rarely every occasion makes BBC news, then explaining it to you is just wasted effort. Including this comment.

You're really mean, aren't you?  At least Martin remains (generally) polite...

I thought sticking with something as light-hearted as "dense" in response for something so completely moronic was being polite.

Avatar
brooksby replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
1 like

.

Avatar
Simon E replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
3 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

If you're too dense to realise that wearing PPE to reduce the risk associated with every-day hazards in a dangerous environment is not the same thing as wearing PPE to reduce the risk associated with an event that occurs so rarely every occasion makes BBC news, then explaining it to you is just wasted effort. Including this comment.

You could have contributed something useful but instead you resorted to insults (yet again). Suggesting that you're not half as smart or as well-informed as you think you are.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to Simon E | 12 months ago
0 likes

Where did I insult anyone? If someone fails to put two and two together, is it an insult to say that they're bad at maths?

People who are dense as a concrete block or as thick as two short planks can live perfectly acceptable lives, for example as a Tory peer, or a Brexit supporter, or as someone who spends their life watching YouTube dashcam videos and then posting cycling-related ones on Road.cc.

It takes all sorts to make a world.

Avatar
brooksby replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
4 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Where did I insult anyone? If someone fails to put two and two together, is it an insult to say that they're bad at maths? People who are dense as a concrete block or as thick as two short planks can live perfectly acceptable lives, for example as a Tory peer, or a Brexit supporter, or as someone who spends their life watching YouTube dashcam videos and then posting cycling-related ones on Road.cc. It takes all sorts to make a world.

If you're so convinced that we're (I'm?) so beneath your intellectual level, then why didn't you just explain your point (as I'd politely asked) instead of going straight in with the snark?

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to brooksby | 12 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Where did I insult anyone? If someone fails to put two and two together, is it an insult to say that they're bad at maths? People who are dense as a concrete block or as thick as two short planks can live perfectly acceptable lives, for example as a Tory peer, or a Brexit supporter, or as someone who spends their life watching YouTube dashcam videos and then posting cycling-related ones on Road.cc. It takes all sorts to make a world.

If you're so convinced that we're (I'm?) so beneath your intellectual level, then why didn't you just explain your point (as I'd politely asked) instead of going straight in with the snark?

If you liked Hirsute's comment and/or agree with it, it shows that you are unable to distinguish between two obviously very different things. You should be able to make the distinction on your own. You should not need it explaining to you.

Avatar
brooksby replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
1 like
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Where did I insult anyone? If someone fails to put two and two together, is it an insult to say that they're bad at maths? People who are dense as a concrete block or as thick as two short planks can live perfectly acceptable lives, for example as a Tory peer, or a Brexit supporter, or as someone who spends their life watching YouTube dashcam videos and then posting cycling-related ones on Road.cc. It takes all sorts to make a world.

If you're so convinced that we're (I'm?) so beneath your intellectual level, then why didn't you just explain your point (as I'd politely asked) instead of going straight in with the snark?

If you liked Hirsute's comment and/or agree with it, it shows that you are unable to distinguish between two obviously very different things. You should be able to make the distinction on your own. You should not need it explaining to you.

And if you have the time to post so much snark, you shouldn't mind taking the time to help all us poor dimwits understand your lofty chain of thought...

Avatar
Simon E replied to brooksby | 12 months ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

And if you have the time to post so much snark, you shouldn't mind taking the time to help all us poor dimwits understand your lofty chain of thought...

He won't. It's all bluster and bullshit. I bet he only has a Level 2 in H&S from a local FE college where you only had to turn up for 2 lectures a week to pass. Or was that the First Aid course?

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to brooksby | 12 months ago
0 likes
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:
brooksby wrote:
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

Where did I insult anyone? If someone fails to put two and two together, is it an insult to say that they're bad at maths? People who are dense as a concrete block or as thick as two short planks can live perfectly acceptable lives, for example as a Tory peer, or a Brexit supporter, or as someone who spends their life watching YouTube dashcam videos and then posting cycling-related ones on Road.cc. It takes all sorts to make a world.

If you're so convinced that we're (I'm?) so beneath your intellectual level, then why didn't you just explain your point (as I'd politely asked) instead of going straight in with the snark?

If you liked Hirsute's comment and/or agree with it, it shows that you are unable to distinguish between two obviously very different things. You should be able to make the distinction on your own. You should not need it explaining to you.

And if you have the time to post so much snark, you shouldn't mind taking the time to help all us poor dimwits understand your lofty chain of thought...

It's not my job to educate you, nor my desire to.

I'm just calling out the flagrant false equivalence. I don't know if it's been caused by ignorance, or an active desire to misinform. I don't know whether you know better, and frankly I don't care. I'm just calling it out as the BS that it is.

Avatar
NOtotheEU replied to ShutTheFrontDawes | 12 months ago
5 likes
ShutTheFrontDawes wrote:

bad at maths . . . . thick as two short planks . . . . Brexit supporter . . . . watching YouTube dashcam videos

Wow, have we met or were they just lucky guesses?

Avatar
wtjs | 1 year ago
3 likes

Every police officer can tell you about a cyclist’s head they have had to try to put back together at a road traffic accident so they can be identified by their loved ones. They are never wearing a helmet

I have every sympathy with Walker, but this is obviously tripe which casts some doubt on his 'presenter of the news' credentials. More anger than is apparent should be directed at the expletive-deleted driver- where is the police action? I wear a helmet almost all the time (when cycling, ho! ho!), not only because it's a good reproducible means of wearing a camera. I believe that wearing a helmet-cam increases my risk of head injury compared with cycling with a helmet  but without a camera (which I do often), but I don't know about the comparison with the risk incurred without a helmet or camera (which I virtually never do). Wearing a headcam without a helmet is probably very rare anywhere.

Avatar
kil0ran replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
6 likes

It's utter bollocks that a professional journalist (as he is) should be ashamed to have uttered. It's not true and it's classic fearmongering.

Avatar
ShutTheFrontDawes replied to kil0ran | 12 months ago
0 likes
kil0ran wrote:

It's utter bollocks

Except it's not as has been demonstrated by studies including one IanMSpencer posted just below your own comment.

Avatar
IanMSpencer | 1 year ago
4 likes

This would seem to be the relevant study to review. In part, it picks apart the statistical bias of other studies (like how hospital data is not sound as many people have accidents who don't go to hospital), then adds in some further comment based on good understanding of how helmets actually work.

They also explain the nature of different sorts of bike accidents.

Worth a read.

https://trl.co.uk/publications/ppr446

Avatar
marmotte27 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Everything that needs to be said has been here:
https://www.renehersecycles.com/helmets-wars-missing-the-point/

Avatar
Xenophon2 | 1 year ago
4 likes

Clearly, road.cc's advertising contracts are up for renewal and they want to attract some extra traffic.

Nothing better than a helmet vs no helmet article, -a topic that has been beaten to death and then some- to make that happen.

 

Avatar
ktache | 1 year ago
15 likes

Had he been wearing a full face helmet then his face would have been protected and then he wouldn't be eating soup through a straw.

A Hövding may even have prevented him from being knocked out.

Yet it was his choice not to be wearing these protective gear.

I could claim that it is his fault for not wearing either of these options, but that would be victim blaming.

Avatar
HoarseMann replied to ktache | 1 year ago
6 likes

Don't forget the cyclist airbag vest he chose not to wear:
https://heliteuk.co.uk/product/helite-bsafe/

Avatar
Hirsute replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
2 likes

Risk compensation seems a big factor for that.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to ktache | 1 year ago
7 likes

I think people just accept that if x was a risk and didn't happen, then *something* must be the reason for it.  (People aren't strong believers in random happenings).  That's reinforced because whether or not you believe that everyone else around you probably will.

My take on all the noise about "choice":  this is about "societal norms".

Or even more basic: humans are the "mimic chimpanzee".  When deciding how to do something people copy other people.

I suspect most decisions are based more on things like that and also a heuristics of "how it feels" rather than much rational calculation (not many experts on cycle crashes out there or suitably trained epidemiologists).  Reason is something that is mostly used to explain your choice to others after the fact

In NL, most people on bikes don't wear a helmet *.  So most people continue not wearing helmets.  They may give reasons like "why should I buy that?  I've never needed one" or "it makes my head hot".  But I bet 99% of this is just that cycling has never *felt like* a particularly risky activity so the sellers of helmets never got a good start.

Conversely - in NL most "cyclists" - e.g. people out on "sporty" bikes for more vigorous exercise, or taking part in a cycling sport -  wear a helmet.  (In NL I believe this is a "wielrenner" as opposed to a "fietser").  That is the norm for "sporting cyclists".  If you ever see the real racers they're wearing lycra and helmets.  So people copy that - and the community of sporty cyclists has that as its norm.

As is well known the "norm" isn't only set by the community of people practicing that activity:

In the UK - society at large mostly don't cycle and very few do regularly for transport.  So the majority have decided that because they view cycling as a risky activity (which is partly why most don't cycle) suitable PPE is required **. Cycling - while statistically still a very safe activity in UK! - certainly *feels* more risky and much less relaxed in the UK than in NL.

That's self-reinforcing.  I doubt the perception in the UK would change unless we have a large group who do cycle ** and find they are happy that they don't *feel* unsafe.  So we have a "norm" which is set by people who don't cycle.  Finally I suspect that since humans are extremely poor at accurately estimating risks / probabilities but are quite risk-averse there's an inherent bias towards being willing to consider activities risky - especially those we don't regularly participate in.

* Interestingly there's some anecdata about that after some time in NL people who formerly wore helmets while riding tend to discard them.  No idea the reason, whether the "social conformism" or whether people *feel* safer and more relaxed so don't feel the need etc.

** Mass cycling would require vastly fewer cars and / or much more convenient protected infra anyway...

Avatar
marmotte27 replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago
4 likes

Very good post! Did I say this is an excellent post? Brilliant post by the way.

Social pressure/norms is the main reason for anything happening/not happening, and is in itself the outcome of all sorts of biases.

"Finally I suspect that since humans are extremely poor at accurately estimating risks / probabilities but are quite risk-averse there's an inherent bias towards being willing to consider activities risky - especially those we don't regularly participate in."

This. Ad infinitum.

Avatar
JoanneH replied to chrisonabike | 12 months ago
2 likes

Helmets for sport vs no helmets for tootling around town makes sense to me -  I would never go out on a long ride for exercise without a helmet, but I never wear one if I'm jumping on a hire bike to pootle into central London. That's partly because I'm usually going out socially and don't want to lug a helmet around with me to a restaurant, bar or the theatre, and often I won't cycle home.

That said, if I'm cycling for an errand, as opposed to exercise, on one of my own bikes I do tend to stick my helmet on, because they're somewhat faster than a hire bike and thus any accident would be more likely to cause me injury (because physics).

But it's all my personal choice and my own risk assessment, and we should all be allowed to make that risk assessment.

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to JoanneH | 12 months ago
0 likes

That all sounds like how I might operate.  However my point is that most people take their cues from the social norm, and go with the flow.  (Apart from those particularly given to evaluating things or the contrarian - who simply go against the flow without much thought).  So I suspect neither most of those cycling in the UK NOR most in the Netherlands (whether fietsers or weilrennen) are making a decision based on a thorough analysis of risk.

Which in itself suggests that while we should study things "but evidence!" isn't what actually might settle the "debate".

Also I am almost certain that the fact this whole "debate" keeps getting air time is nothing to do with actually making things safer for the rather few people who cycle in the UK.  Even cyclists weighing in appear to have more to say about the behaviour of other cyclists - after all they themselves can just make their own decisions and do what they want.

For what it's worth the Dutch might* be at a point where doing more to encourage helmet use.  If only for certain higher-risk populations e.g. the old / the young.  For them given the large numbers cycling and how effectively they've made cycling safe it might actually be one of the more effective interventions they could make if they wished to reduce injury.  However making it compulsory might also be an own-goal in health terms - if it affected numbers of trips.  That could happen if e.g. people didn't want to go out in the evening and then have to do something with their helmet.

I suspect the same intervention in the UK would not change very much.  Certainly not in terms of absolute numbers simply because most people don't cycle.

* All in Dutch but worth the effort - from the page here there are both infographics on cycling and general traffic safety in NL and a very detailed dive into powered bike (e-bikes, pedelecs and low-power mopeds) safety.  It appears that in terms of numbers single-vehicle crashes (e.g. someone fell off / ran into an object) is the main issue.  Of course this doesn't say (and it's not recorded I think) whether the overall harm from this outweighs e.g. rarer collisions with motor traffic.

Avatar
wtjs replied to chrisonabike | 12 months ago
2 likes

most people don't cycle [in the UK]

This is greatly understating the point- the vast majority of people in the UK don't cycle, ever, even for journeys so trivial you wouldn't count them as a journey. 

Pages

Latest Comments