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Pedal Me bans cargo bike riders from wearing helmets for safety reasons

"Overall the vast majority of injuries to our riders occur off the bike - that's our focus for tackling danger"...

E-cargo bike and pedicab company Pedal Me confirmed rumours it has banned staff riders from wearing helmets, citing safety reasons for the rule.

The news was first reported by Carlton Reid for Forbes after the firm posted a series of tweets on Friday explaining the decision.

The London-based cycling logistics provider said it believed riders and other road users take more risks when a helmet is worn, and that the "vast majority" of injuries sustained by staff occurred off the bike.

> Faster, cheaper, cleaner – so that’s why Lambeth chose Pedal Me e-cargo bikes to distribute care packages

Instead, Pedal Me says reporting near miss incidents, properly training riders, maintaining its fleet of cargo bikes, as well as tracking poor rider behaviour is more effective.

In response to a question posed by the owner of a bike shop, Pedal Me clarified the company's stance in a detailed Twitter thread.

"People taking risks that are sufficient that they feel they need to wear helmets are not welcome to work for us - because our vehicles are heavy and could cause harm, and because we carry small children on our bikes. Instead - we systematically work to reduce risk," it began.

"We do this by: 1) Thorough risk assessment. 2) Extremely high level of training, on an ongoing basis. 3) Near miss reporting - we track near misses, and minor injuries, and tackle the causative factors.

"We know that increasing helmet wearing rates makes cycling more dangerous per mile - although there are confounding factors here, this indicates that overall they do not provide a strong protective effect in the round - otherwise the opposite effect.

"Extensive reading of the literature suggests that this is because while helmets definitely help in the event of a crash, that risk compensation results in more collisions. So riders wearing helmets take greater risks, and those driving around them take greater risks too."

Pedal Me suggested a "major cause" of head injuries are crashes where the rider is thrown over the handlebars, something it says is "not possible" when using one of its three-metre long cargo bike.

The company also reported seeing worse behaviour from competitor firms that use helmets, saying the protective equipment seemed to make riders "much more likely to jump red lights and take risks in general".

Pedal Me currently employs 70 staff riders, who together cover around 50,000 miles per month. The firm says it has not had any third-party or passenger injuries since it founded, although there have been minor collisions.

Bungee cords were the biggest cause of injuries, but have since been phased out. The most common source of injury comes "mainly off the bike", when loading and unloading the bikes, or when at a customer's premises.

Pedal Me also outlined its internal safety strategy, including training concepts "hammered home" and repeated passenger qualification every 18 months. Additionally, "near misses get reported and investigated, allowing us to systematically tackle real safety issues based on data rather than fear".

This reporting system is credited for "major changes" to training, bungees being phased out, upgraded brakes, and changes to the maintenance process, which is undertaken by in-house mechanics. All Pedal Me bikes and riders are also tracked through nameplates and GPS.

Since 2017, one rider reported suffering a concussion in a collision, which may have been mitigated by wearing a helmet, but Pedal Me stressed: "Potentially [a helmet may have helped]. But likely would have also increased risk taking and therefore increased the number of incidents overall."

Co-founder Ben Knowles told Forbes: "We once had an incident where a member of staff was assaulted with a machete, but that doesn’t mean we would equip all riders with stab vests."

The thread prompted much discussion, including questions of the legality of denying a rider work because they choose to wear a helmet. 

Pedal Me responded to this concern, saying: "We've spent a lot of time thinking about this, and it's our legal responsibility to look after the safety of our staff, and the safety of those who might be impacted by our operations. We're legally obliged to put in rules that will keep our staff and third parties safe."

Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.

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92 comments

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SNS1938 | 2 years ago
0 likes

So much wrong with this "logic" that it's not even worth trying to explain it. 

I'm pro-helmet, pro-seat belts, pro-good tires on my car, pro-driving/riding in a safe manner, pro-earmuffs when doing loud things, pro-safety glasses ... 

Now if a worker is in an accident (and not due to their risk taking), surely they could get a lawyer to prosecute the company for not allowing them to use safety equipment?

 

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Owd Big 'Ead | 2 years ago
2 likes

You've got to give Pedal Me some credit here. People, not just us on this forum will be talking about this for weeks to come, who's wrong, who's right.

There's no such thing as bad publicity anymore and they'll be generating digital column inches by the boatload.

Not a bad strategy.

FWIW, I think they should leave helmet wearing down to personal choice. I'd rather be able to pick my riders from a big a pool as possible than dictate who I'm going to employ before they've even walked through the door.

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Prosper0 | 2 years ago
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Captain Badger replied to Prosper0 | 2 years ago
1 like
Prosper0 wrote:

https://microco.sm/out/djg6i

Great vid, thansk for posting!

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eburtthebike replied to Captain Badger | 2 years ago
1 like
Captain Badger wrote:
Prosper0 wrote:

https://microco.sm/out/djg6i

Great vid, thansk for posting!

It is good.  Little tip for the op; use the title of the vid so people know what it is and whether they want to look at it.  I don't view vids that have no title having been caught a few times by things utterly irrelevant.

It's called "Why I Don't Wear a Bicycle Helmet"

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Car Delenda Est | 2 years ago
1 like

The stab proof vest analogy doesn't fit: are they really saying they'd ban riders from bringing their own vest in, as if it'd encourage them to take more risks around machetes?
Seems like they should educate riders on the limited benefits of a helmet and let riders make an informed decision.
The next rider to get a head injury will likely sue and rightly win.

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JN35000 | 2 years ago
4 likes

One study on risk compensation that is sometimes cited is this one: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/289535569_Wearing_a_Bicycle_Helmet_Can_Increase_Risk_Taking_and_Sensation_Seeking_in_Adults

But not everyone agrees with its conclusions: https://helmets.org/up1601.htm#:~:text=The%20researchers%20found%20that%20those,be%20made%20safer%20by%20that and https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1369847818305941.

In my part of the world, most cycling fatalities in urban areas are due to accidents involving heavy vehicles (lorries, buses, coaches); the classic case is where the driver doesn't see the cyclist close to the vehicle. In rural areas, most accidents involving other vehicles happen when the cyclist is hit from behind. And of course there are also cases where the cyclist hits a stationary object, a pedestrian, or simply falls off the bike. I'm not an expert, but I think helmets probably only help in the latter category of accidents.

My opinion is that individual employees should be able to choose whether to wear a helmet or not. 

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eburtthebike replied to JN35000 | 2 years ago
2 likes

The criticism of the risk compensation paper is on the notorious Bicycle Helmet Research Institute, well known for it's helmet promotion and trashing of anything which casts doubt on their efficacy.  From the article "Imagine the consequences for seatbelt use if this conclusion were valid!"  It is valid, and it has been shown that seat belts increase risk taking by drivers.  Such a shame that the Isles Report, done for parliament before the vote on seat belts, showing just that, was never published. 

They also say that Dr Ian Walker's research into passing distances has been discredited; it hasn't.  Your second  study involves Jake Olivier, the most fervent helmet promoter in the southern hemisphere, notorious for using rather less than robust research methods.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
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eburtthebike wrote:

The criticism of the risk compensation paper is on the notorious Bicycle Helmet Research Institute, well known for it's helmet promotion and trashing of anything which casts doubt on their efficacy.  From the article "Imagine the consequences for seatbelt use if this conclusion were valid!"  It is valid, and it has been shown that seat belts increase risk taking by drivers.  Such a shame that the Isles Report, done for parliament before the vote on seat belts, showing just that, was never published. 

They also say that Dr Ian Walker's research into passing distances has been discredited; it hasn't.  Your second  study involves Jake Olivier, the most fervent helmet promoter in the southern hemisphere, notorious for using rather less than robust research methods.

As I recall, wasn't Dr Ian Walker's close-passing research performed by himself? That''s not to discredit it, but means that it should be replicated in a larger study to more fully investigate it.

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
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Getting more info would be great - although I suspect that the impact of nailing this down either way on anything (including attitudes) would be negligable.

"Natural experiments" might be best - although you'd need much more of them to tease out things like environment, other vehicles, initial positioning of car, behaviour of the cyclist.  Now where would we find such an archive of close passes recorded that we could study...?

On the general point - was the concern "it was only him doing it so not many test runs" or "he performed it so he could influence it e.g. by riding differently"?  I guess it depends on the protocol and if you trust Dr. Ian to follow it and can check that in the write-up - but then that's true of the majority of research.

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Getting more info would be great - although I suspect that the impact of nailing this down either way on anything (including attitudes) would be negligable.

"Natural experiments" might be best - although you'd need much more of them to tease out things like environment, other vehicles, initial positioning of car, behaviour of the cyclist.  Now where would we find such an archive of close passes recorded that we could study...?

On the general point - was the concern "it was only him doing it so not many test runs" or "he performed it so he could influence it e.g. by riding differently"?  I guess it depends on the protocol and if you trust Dr. Ian to follow it and can check that in the write-up - but then that's true of the majority of research.

Using NMOTD wouldn't be great as it's self-selecting in terms of who happens to have a camera, is close-passed and wants to upload it to Road.cc.

Going from memory, I think Dr Walker's close-passing was a pretty small study - something like <50 events (apologies for not bothering to go look it up) so it suffers from both small size and it could possibly have been influenced by Dr Walker (although it seems unlikely, there's a large history of psychic research where the experimenter seems to affect results even though the experiments are designed to prevent that).

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
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Sorry - I meant to put a "wink" emoji next to the NMOTD reference.  But unfortunately isn't the issue exactly that the current crop of cyclists who are regularly out on the roads are rather a rather limited sample of everyone? * Which is partly because (one of several reasons) most people (not cycling) fear exactly this kind of behaviour from motorists.

Surely what the history of psychic research, many "alternative therapy" investigations tells us is that these things are real and powerful.  They must be because they still influence the results despite these so-called "protocols" which are clearly just the current scientific / medical / academic establishment seeking to protect its own orthodoxy.

* You could even say self-selecting.  It might be partly through others labelling us but we do tend to self-identify as "cyclists".

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 2 years ago
1 like
chrisonatrike wrote:

Sorry - I meant to put a "wink" emoji next to the NMOTD reference.  But unfortunately isn't the issue exactly that the current crop of cyclists who are regularly out on the roads are rather a rather limited sample of everyone? * Which is partly because (one of several reasons) most people (not cycling) fear exactly this kind of behaviour from motorists.

Surely what the history of psychic research, many "alternative therapy" investigations tells us is that these things are real and powerful.  They must be because they still influence the results despite these so-called "protocols" which are clearly just the current scientific / medical / academic establishment seeking to protect its own orthodoxy.

* You could even say self-selecting.  It might be partly through others labelling us but we do tend to self-identify as "cyclists".

I read this interesting article recently about psychic research being the control group for scientists: https://slatestarcodex.com/2014/04/28/the-control-group-is-out-of-control/

Quote:

The idea was to plan an experiment together, with both of them agreeing on every single tiny detail. They would then go to a laboratory and set it up, again both keeping close eyes on one another. Finally, they would conduct the experiment in a series of different batches. Half the batches (randomly assigned) would be conducted by Dr. Schlitz, the other half by Dr. Wiseman. Because the two authors had very carefully standardized the setting, apparatus and procedure beforehand, “conducted by” pretty much just meant greeting the participants, giving the experimental instructions, and doing the staring.

The results? Schlitz’s trials found strong evidence of psychic powers, Wiseman’s trials found no evidence whatsoever.

Take a second to reflect on how this makes no sense. Two experimenters in the same laboratory, using the same apparatus, having no contact with the subjects except to introduce themselves and flip a few switches – and whether one or the other was there that day completely altered the result. For a good time, watch the gymnastics they have to do to in the paper to make this sound sufficiently sensical to even get published. This is the only journal article I’ve ever read where, in the part of the Discussion section where you’re supposed to propose possible reasons for your findings, both authors suggest maybe their co-author hacked into the computer and altered the results.

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

As I recall, wasn't Dr Ian Walker's close-passing research performed by himself? That''s not to discredit it, but means that it should be replicated in a larger study to more fully investigate it.

Maybe we could get NMOTD riders to tell us if they were wearing helmets?  My impression is that many are, certainly almost, if not all, of the group rides.

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Rich_cb replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
1 like

It was performed by himself, the data was then analysed by him and published by him to the benefit of his career.

That's not to say he in any way deliberately misled people but high quality studies are blinded for a reason.

I also believe that when he carried out his equally famous wig study he found no difference in passing distances for the helmeted cyclist.

They're interesting studies but they are low quality and have not, AFAIK, had their findings reproduced anywhere.

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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
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Rich_cb wrote:

It was performed by himself, the data was then analysed by him and published by him to the benefit of his career. That's not to say he in any way deliberately misled people but high quality studies are blinded for a reason. I also believe that when he carried out his equally famous wig study he found no difference in passing distances for the helmeted cyclist. They're interesting studies but they are low quality and have not, AFAIK, had their findings reproduced anywhere.

Agreed. I think with appropriate tech, it should be easy to conduct a much bigger investigation into passing distances. What would be ideal would be a camera with a built in distance sensor - that could make close-pass enforcement easier for the police and hopefully determine what factors are in play.

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Rich_cb replied to hawkinspeter | 2 years ago
2 likes

I think Walker's setup could easily be adapted for use by law enforcement alongside cameras but without verified calibration etc I'm not sure if civilian owned sensors would be court admissible.

I imagine certain 'top lawyers and road safety experts' would have a field day...

All we need if for police forces to carry out semi-regular plain clothes close pass initiatives and the message would soon get out.

That being said I think cycling Mikey, Jeremy Vine etc are probably doing as good a job in that regard, I genuinely think the average pass I get is getting better. I don't think drivers are getting better though, they're just more scared of getting caught now!

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hawkinspeter replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
0 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

I think Walker's setup could easily be adapted for use by law enforcement alongside cameras but without verified calibration etc I'm not sure if civilian owned sensors would be court admissible. I imagine certain 'top lawyers and road safety experts' would have a field day... All we need if for police forces to carry out semi-regular plain clothes close pass initiatives and the message would soon get out. That being said I think cycling Mikey, Jeremy Vine etc are probably doing as good a job in that regard, I genuinely think the average pass I get is getting better. I don't think drivers are getting better though, they're just more scared of getting caught now!

I don't see the need for much calibration as when combined with the footage it'll be obvious if it's only 1m rather than 1.5m. As long as the error is less than 10cm, then it should be fit for purpose.

If drivers are more wary of getting caught, then that counts as "better" in my book. Realistically, lots of drivers aren't interested in driving and see it as just a chore, so the police just need to give them a prod when their driving becomes potentially dangerous.

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chrisonabike replied to Rich_cb | 2 years ago
0 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

It was performed by himself, the data was then analysed by him and published by him to the benefit of his career. That's not to say he in any way deliberately misled people but high quality studies are blinded for a reason. I also believe that when he carried out his equally famous wig study he found no difference in passing distances for the helmeted cyclist. They're interesting studies but they are low quality and have not, AFAIK, had their findings reproduced anywhere.

I like the idea of blinding here - presumably you'd also have to blindfold the cyclists so they didn't know if they were wearing a wig or a tutu and alter their behaviour too?

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JN35000 replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
2 likes

Thanks for the additional insights. I was just trying to give some links as a starting point for debate, without expressing an opinion for or against the different conclusions.

On the wider debate, one official French study of fatal accidents to cyclists in 2011 concluded: "Of the 142 bicycle riders who died, 65 were considered to be the triggers of the accident and somewhat (plutôt) or even totally responsible." (https://www.onisr.securite-routiere.gouv.fr/etudes-et-recherches/modes-de-deplacement/velos-et-engins-de-deplacement-personnel/analyse-de-l-accidentalite-des-cyclistes-base-voiesur-cycliste).  The percentage of cyclists at fault seems to be suprisingly high, while of course not taking away the need for better protection for cyclists on our streets and roads. So PedalMe seems to be taking the right approach of "hammering home" safety concepts and training, and investigating near misses rather than thinking that helmets are a magic solution to the risks of cycling.

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eburtthebike replied to JN35000 | 2 years ago
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I wish my French was better so that I could understand the study.  Ah well, should have paid more attention at ecole.

Just come across this rather interesting study, which shows that the bigger the car, the more risks the driver takes.  https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10603-022-09511-w?fbclid=IwAR...

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grOg replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like

I like the helmet laws in Australia; not that I think helmets are useful in a vehicular collision but that it helps motorists identify the bogan element that ride bikes, as they never wear helmets or obey any other traffic laws; thus motorists can differentiate and not lump all cyclists together.

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hawkinspeter replied to grOg | 2 years ago
2 likes
grOg wrote:

I like the helmet laws in Australia; not that I think helmets are useful in a vehicular collision but that it helps motorists identify the bogan element that ride bikes, as they never wear helmets or obey any other traffic laws; thus motorists can differentiate and not lump all cyclists together.

Are you being racist again?

As I understand it, the aboriginal population is unfairly penalised with helmet laws which appears to be something that you support.

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Hirsute replied to grOg | 2 years ago
1 like

I suppose they also go around stabbing people and are mainly foreign.

Is there an equivalent for drivers so that peds and cyclists can know which one to avoid in case of risk of death or serious injury?

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eburtthebike replied to grOg | 2 years ago
0 likes
grOg wrote:

...identify the bogan element......

What is a bogan?

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JustTryingToGet... replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
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eburtthebike wrote:
grOg wrote:

...identify the bogan element......

What is a bogan?

Based on posts, possibly a gr0g: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bogan

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mdavidford replied to eburtthebike | 2 years ago
1 like
eburtthebike wrote:
grOg wrote:

...identify the bogan element......

What is a bogan?

Short version - the Australian equivalent of chav.

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JustTryingToGet... replied to grOg | 2 years ago
3 likes
grOg wrote:

I like the helmet laws in Australia; not that I think helmets are useful in a vehicular collision but that it helps motorists identify the bogan element that ride bikes, as they never wear helmets or obey any other traffic laws; thus motorists can differentiate and not lump all cyclists together.

Why would a motorist need to identify a bogan? All that is required by the motorist is to notice the cyclist and not flatten them.

I would suggest that current rates of motorist induced injuries and deaths indicate that motorists have no spare brain capacity whilst driving for making value judgements about other humans.

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Captain Badger replied to grOg | 2 years ago
0 likes
grOg wrote:

I like the helmet laws in Australia; not that I think helmets are useful in a vehicular collision but that it helps motorists identify the bogan element that ride bikes, as they never wear helmets or obey any other traffic laws; thus motorists can differentiate and not lump all cyclists together.

they can lump all non-lid wearers together....

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Aberdeencyclist | 2 years ago
1 like

I'd have thought this is a situation where the employer could leave this to choice of their employees .  This firm simply has a better outcome because of a praiseworthy proactive attitude to employees safety which I believe would show good results whether wearing helmets or not .  What will the new Highway Code "changes" bring , and will it even mean that his rival couriers will end up with similar outcomes ?

 

 

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