Helmet Debate

by Bob McCall   June 9, 2012  

Thinking Glad to read of Spokes, Edinburgh stance on the growing pressure to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory. There are too many complexities and dishonest reporting on this subject to make the wearing of helmets a legal requirement. It would be much better to provide safer cycling conditions for all, and let each cyclist decide what safety aids he or she should adopt. Please let us dispense with the insidious nature of brainwashing and nanny politics. Such measures will do little, if any, to make cyclists safer. Smile

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If wearing anything wasn't dagerous, it wouldn't be called a Brain Bucket.

Probably the only reason the pros have to wear helmets is to satisfy the demands of the manufacturers, and if it brings money in, what do they care?

Helmets are uncool, but so are things like Bouyancy aids for sailing and watersports, HiViz for horse riding, hard hats for rock climbing, masks for sanding...

Loads of things are 'uncool' but I reckon it's way cooler to be Alive and Uncool than Dead and Cool.

Oh, and it's not like when you wear a helmet you take more risks than when you don't, that's just stoopid.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
11th June 2012 - 9:58

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"Helmets are uncool, but so are things like Bouyancy aids for sailing and watersports, HiViz for horse riding, hard hats for rock climbing, masks for sanding.."
All similar in principle
I don't wear a helmet climbing unless it's a mountain crag with lots of ledges and loose rock or somewhere where I feel someone else may lob a rock over. I don't wear a BA paddling in a canadian but did on white water where rocks are about. I don't wear high viz except commuting on my m/c in busy traffic. These things are, thank god, not yet compulsory or standard.
The chap who said he had been cyclng for 40 years does have a point. If that lorry wants you he will get you but experience helps you know when to pull over and when to get in the way.
Its up to the individual and to say otherwise in the big deal here..

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
11th June 2012 - 10:17

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double post.
This website is still the slowest about

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
11th June 2012 - 10:18

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Raleigh wrote:
Probably the only reason the pros have to wear helmets is to satisfy the demands of the manufacturers, and if it brings money in, what do they care?

Read this - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Kivilev - and tell me that all teams care about is sponsorship.

Helmet use was introduced as a direct result of an accident that may not have been as serious had a helmet been worn.

My point was solely that helmet use is, and should remain, a personal choice rather something enshrined in law but those who are against helmet wear are fighting a losing battle against public perception which isn't helped by most news outlets highlighting how dead cyclists weren't wearing helmets (and making a big story out of their deaths in the first place) and the pro tours enforcing helmet use as a safety measure.

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
11th June 2012 - 10:28

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Racing is different from ordinary road cycling. A peloton of pro-racers will cruise along at a speed that an average, ordinary cyclist couldn't even hope to reach if they tried to *sprint*. Next, cycling in a peloton or tight in line and at speed, has extra risks which are not present in ordinary cycling. Finally, when you're racing, you have a strong motivation to ignore risks and charge on - while in ordinary cycling there's no reason to take on unnecessary risk.

So pro-racing *could* be different from ordinary road-cycling, in terms of risks and benefits of helmets. Indeed, it would be very interesting to do an analysis of accidents in professional bicycle racing on closed-roads to see what effect helmets had - as it's a far more controlled environment than ordinary road cycling is. E.g. has the rate of serious head injuries and death decreased significantly since the introduction of helmets? Do pro-cyclists suffer much less concussion these days?

Ordinary cycling is very different from pro-cycling though.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
11th June 2012 - 11:25

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I agree that pro-cyclists are travelling at higher speeds in an environment that is more dangerous. My point was that the perception of cycling as requiring safety equipment is propagated by the images of Mark Cavendish or Bradley Wiggins wearing a helmet.

However, in a more 'dangerous' environment where accidents are more likely, and happen at higher speeds, and where accidents can be more serious the fact that helmet use is enforced to protect riders surely has some bearing on normal riders travelling at lower speeds. Surely helmets can only be more effective for everyday cycling?

posted by drheaton [3429 posts]
11th June 2012 - 11:34

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Why is everyone contradicting themselves, just because Pro Cyclists go faster, doesn't mean they have more accidents.

If it's ok for then to wear helmets, why don't you.

I think this argument should be postponed.

Sir Velo

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posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
11th June 2012 - 12:57

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There are some obvious differences between pro and ordinary cycling, as I detailed.

Anyway, we have aggregate data over a large data set, from which to judge somewhat the risks in cycling on the roads (which covers a gamut of cyclist types, from those in ordinary clothes about town to those in lycra charging down A-roads as fast possible - potentially in competition on open public roads). From this we know:

Normalised to distance travelled, the risks of death or serious injury (KSI) are:

Pedestrian:
37 fatalities per billion miles
518 KSI per billion miles

Cyclist:
36 fatalities per billion miles
889 KSI per billion miles

Car occupants:
3 fatalities per billion miles
40 ksi per billion miles.

Motorcycle:
138 fatalities per billion miles
1775 KSI per billion miles

Based on distance travelled. Cycling doesn't significantly more dangerous than being a pedestrian. However, distance can be misleading. Different modes of transport have different speeds, can take place on different kinds of roads, and many journeys are not inter-changable with another mode of transport. A lot of road safety people seem to like to normalise to equivalent journeys, but I don't like this - it requires arbitrary guesses at what can and can not be considered comparable, and allows a great deal of selection bias to creep in. I prefer normalising to exposure time - it makes more sense to me to think about the risk of 1 hour of walking versus 1 hour of cycling. On that basis:

Pedestrian: assume 2 to 4mph average:
0.074 to 0.148 killed / million hours of exposure
1.036 to 2.072 KSI / Mhours of exposure

Cyclist: assume 9 to 18mph:
0.324 to 0.648 killed / Mhours of exposure
8.001 to 16.002 KSI / Mhours of exposure

car occupants: assume 30 to 60mph (DfT figures suggest average speeds are ~55mph):
0.090 to 0.180 killed / Mhours of exposure
1.200 to 2.400 KSI / Mhours of exposure

So, by this, cyclists are at a 4.37 times greater risk of death and 7.72 times greater risk of KSI than pedestrians, and 3.6 times fatality risk of car occupants, and 6.67 times greater KSI risk than car occupants. The speed estimates are likely too high for cyclists and close to spot on for car, so these are likely worst case, by a good amount. However, I can't find good data on population wide average speed.

That sounds bad, however remember these are tiny risks multiplied by a low number, so the resulting risk is still *tiny*! E.g. in order to suffer a KSI, even using the worst 16 KSI/Mhour figure, you would have to cycle 30 thousand hours to have a 50% chance of KSI, which is about 90 years of cycling for a high-mileage cyclist (6000 miles per year, every year for 90 years). This high-mileage, fast cyclist would have a 10% chance of KSI after about 18 years of cycling (6000 miles every year). Similarly, the fatality risk is 2314 years (6000 miles per year) to have a 50% chance of death, 462 years to get to a 10% chance, 46 years for a 1% chance.

So, cycling is 4 to 7 times more dangerous than being a pedestrian or a car driver - and I'm trying to be deliberately pessimistic in my assumptions. However, 4 to 7 times a *tiny* risk is *still* a **tiny** risk. You'd have to consistently put in a lot of miles, over a long period of time, before these risks would become uncomfortable in terms of KSI. And even then, I suspect the adverse consequences of trauma wouldn't affect your life for long, while the health benefits of a life full of cycling would add more than enough extra years to compensate!

For fatalities, the risks are incredibly low - even if you spent an entire life on the saddle on the road, it's still highly improbable that you would end up dead!

And of course, this is for the UK (2010), which - though fairly safe - is not the safest for the cycling. Subjectively, the experience from the Netherlands is in order to improve safety you have to make the *environment* safe (segregation) and encourage participation (which has political benefits). Helmets do not help with the latter.

Data source: http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/releases/road-accidents-and-safety-annu...

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
11th June 2012 - 14:39

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Doctors told me that, given the speed of the impact, my other injuries and the damage to the helmet that I was lucky not to have suffered a very serious if not fatal head injury. I'm happy to trust their judgement.

All adults at the school bike club have to wear helmets too. You can argue all you like but there is an element of danger in cycling and schools would be crazy to permit children on trips out to cycle without a helmet. We also have to insist on seat belts on every bus trip on a commercial coach.

It seems some people who are anti-helmet would wish that no one wore a helmet, which is as daft a proposition as making helmets compulsory.

posted by paulfg42 [374 posts]
11th June 2012 - 19:37

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Hear Hear.

Just make your own minds up.

But be sure to take all the evidence into account, for and against.

And do the right thing, whether it means your brains will be lying across the road or not, as long as it goes a little way in 'proving your point'.

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
11th June 2012 - 19:58

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As a Police officer i see quite a few nasty accidents involving cyclists, some with and some without helmets.

Speaking from a purely personal perspective i have never seen someone with a helmet suffer a bad head injury whereas those without have had some horrendous injuries.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2675 posts]
11th June 2012 - 20:42

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As someone who works in the road sector and who sees a lot of data on crash statistics on a daily basis I'm convinced the pro-cycle helmet safety data is wafer thin. As a motorcyclist I'm glad to wear a helmet when riding my motorbike. But as a motorcyclist and qualified engineer, I also know the lightweigh plastic construction used in most shell-type bicycle helmets offers at best, minimal protection. I wear a road legal motorcycle MX lid when I'm racing my BMX and I know this does actually offer protection - got one for my son too. I ride on the road a lot and have locked a lot of road mile in 30+ years of serous cycling and for most of the cycle accidents I've seen (or close calls that I've had) a cycle helmet would offer little to no protection anyway. Crush injuries are the major cause of fatalities for cyclists and by a very, very long way - the DfT data is available.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
11th June 2012 - 22:53

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Paul J wrote:
There are some obvious differences between pro and ordinary cycling, as I detailed.

Anyway, we have aggregate data over a large data set, from which to judge somewhat the risks in cycling on the roads (which covers a gamut of cyclist types, from those in ordinary clothes about town to those in lycra charging down A-roads as fast possible - potentially in competition on open public roads). From this we know:

Normalised to distance travelled, the risks of death or serious injury (KSI) are:

Pedestrian:
37 fatalities per billion miles
518 KSI per billion miles

Cyclist:
36 fatalities per billion miles
889 KSI per billion miles

Car occupants:
3 fatalities per billion miles
40 ksi per billion miles.

Motorcycle:
138 fatalities per billion miles
1775 KSI per billion miles

Based on distance travelled. Cycling doesn't significantly more dangerous than being a pedestrian. However, distance can be misleading. Different modes of transport have different speeds, can take place on different kinds of roads, and many journeys are not inter-changable with another mode of transport. A lot of road safety people seem to like to normalise to equivalent journeys, but I don't like this - it requires arbitrary guesses at what can and can not be considered comparable, and allows a great deal of selection bias to creep in. I prefer normalising to exposure time - it makes more sense to me to think about the risk of 1 hour of walking versus 1 hour of cycling. On that basis:

Pedestrian: assume 2 to 4mph average:
0.074 to 0.148 killed / million hours of exposure
1.036 to 2.072 KSI / Mhours of exposure

Cyclist: assume 9 to 18mph:
0.324 to 0.648 killed / Mhours of exposure
8.001 to 16.002 KSI / Mhours of exposure

car occupants: assume 30 to 60mph (DfT figures suggest average speeds are ~55mph):
0.090 to 0.180 killed / Mhours of exposure
1.200 to 2.400 KSI / Mhours of exposure

So, by this, cyclists are at a 4.37 times greater risk of death and 7.72 times greater risk of KSI than pedestrians, and 3.6 times fatality risk of car occupants, and 6.67 times greater KSI risk than car occupants. The speed estimates are likely too high for cyclists and close to spot on for car, so these are likely worst case, by a good amount. However, I can't find good data on population wide average speed.

That sounds bad, however remember these are tiny risks multiplied by a low number, so the resulting risk is still *tiny*! E.g. in order to suffer a KSI, even using the worst 16 KSI/Mhour figure, you would have to cycle 30 thousand hours to have a 50% chance of KSI, which is about 90 years of cycling for a high-mileage cyclist (6000 miles per year, every year for 90 years). This high-mileage, fast cyclist would have a 10% chance of KSI after about 18 years of cycling (6000 miles every year). Similarly, the fatality risk is 2314 years (6000 miles per year) to have a 50% chance of death, 462 years to get to a 10% chance, 46 years for a 1% chance.

So, cycling is 4 to 7 times more dangerous than being a pedestrian or a car driver - and I'm trying to be deliberately pessimistic in my assumptions. However, 4 to 7 times a *tiny* risk is *still* a **tiny** risk. You'd have to consistently put in a lot of miles, over a long period of time, before these risks would become uncomfortable in terms of KSI. And even then, I suspect the adverse consequences of trauma wouldn't affect your life for long, while the health benefits of a life full of cycling would add more than enough extra years to compensate!

For fatalities, the risks are incredibly low - even if you spent an entire life on the saddle on the road, it's still highly improbable that you would end up dead!

And of course, this is for the UK (2010), which - though fairly safe - is not the safest for the cycling. Subjectively, the experience from the Netherlands is in order to improve safety you have to make the *environment* safe (segregation) and encourage participation (which has political benefits). Helmets do not help with the latter.

Data source: http://www.dft.gov.uk/statistics/releases/road-accidents-and-safety-annual-report-2010/

I like how you work the stats.. you've presented it in a elegant way... (which might have fooled some haha Wink )

But here we are talking about death or serious injury, what about less serious injury... and how do we classify serious and less serious injuries? (and no I'm not going to read that report to find out!)

What you've show here is that you can use some stats to tell us we probably won't die, and probably won't get an injury above a certain level which you haven't disclosed (and probably don't know?)

I think including minor injury frequency is much more useful as in a number of those situations, the helmet may be the dividing line between a less serious injury, and a serious injury as classified by the above report.

One would assume that minor injuries happen more frequently, therefore by not wearing your helmet you are exposing yourself to the serious injuries as you outlined above, but also a number of the more frequent 'less serious' injuries that would be transformed into more serious injuries without wearing a helmet? (assuming that a majority wear helmets in the reported cases of minor injuries)

posted by ALIHISGREAT [110 posts]
11th June 2012 - 23:45

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ALIHISGREAT wrote:

I like how you work the stats.. you've presented it in a
elegant way... (which might have fooled some haha )

Presumably he has taken us for a walk Plain Face

Sir Velo

Raleigh's picture

posted by Raleigh [1728 posts]
12th June 2012 - 6:38

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paulfg42: I don't want to ban people from wearing helmets, if they really want to. However, I think people who, through some authority they have, force others to wear helmets then are damaging cycling participation rates, and hence are damaging the political impetus that would be needed for the *proven* cycling safety measures to be implemented - i.e. segregation through a comprehensive cycle path network. Hence such people are damaging both cycling safety in the long-term and public health overall. Those people may be doing so with the best of intentions, however my reading of the evidence makes me believe they are misguided - however sincere.

Honestly no offence intended with that, but that's my view.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
12th June 2012 - 15:17

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Hi Paul J. I am in broad agreement with the points which you have made. There are many things to be considered before rigid laws are passed, and my own fear is that more damage could result should the wearing of helmets be made mandatory, thus allowing Authorities to suggest that "they have done their bit". The promotion of safer facilities for cyclists should be the main objective here. We all have the freedom to choose between wearing a helmet or not. Can't we just accept that and move on to other areas which need to be urgently addressed?

posted by Bob McCall [14 posts]
12th June 2012 - 17:13

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ALIHISGREAT: The "serious injury" part of KSI is defined in the road safety report, available at the link I gave. It is given on page 233 as:

"Serious injury: An injury for which a person is detained in hospital as an “in-patient”, or any of the following injuries whether or not they are detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, burns (excluding friction burns), severe cuts, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the accident. An injured casualty is recorded as seriously or slightly injured by the police on the basis of information available within a short time of the accident. This generally will not reflect the results of a medical examination, but may be influenced according to whether the casualty is hospitalised or not. Hospitalisation procedures will vary regionally."

See also pages 86 and 94 for discussion and comparison of different data-sets available. My understanding from the above is that the figures in the report use the police assessment - not categorisation from clinical data-sets.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
12th June 2012 - 17:36

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Anyone can come off a bike with no help from a car, pedestrian, other road user etc. Yes, yes we all get the 'freedom' argument but I simply dont understand why you would choose not to have the possibility of an extra layer of protection between your brain and the concrete.

The argument of segregation scares me, why should we ride on cycle paths and proper cycle routes etc - they wont always go where we need and I quite like riding on the road as is my right. Get a good helmet, light enough to not know you are wearing it and enjoy the ride.

Helmets are not proven to help you yah de yah but I would still wear one and I would still emplore others to. Ive seen plenty of experienced cyclists come off while not wearing helmets and be quite badly hurt, likewise Ive seen kids come off while wearing helmets and the helmets have been cracked in two. If the helmet wasnt there it may not have caused death but it would have caused much greater discomfort to the child - please explain why that is better (due to freedom to choose)

not all carbon is the same.

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posted by Jon Burrage [1080 posts]
12th June 2012 - 18:27

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If people dont want to wear one so be it, it's their choice and in this country of ours there still is personal choice as an option, however, can i just add this one point:

The UCI made pro and semi pro's wear helmets. People have said that they travel at greater speeds so the helmet is required as if they come off it's going to cause greater injury due to the speed etc.

With that in mind if your travelling slower (which will be 99.9999999% of us) the helmet will offer greater protection as the blow to your bonce wont be as hard.

No doubt people will disagree.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2675 posts]
13th June 2012 - 7:41

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I fell off the sofa last week, cracked my head on a chair and gave myself concussion...

(I wear a helmet for racing, don't for pottering about town. I like freedom of choice.)

posted by Mr Will [88 posts]
13th June 2012 - 10:25

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Jon Burrage: So you think cycling should be for the 1% of the population that is the confident & fast MAMIL brigade, and fsck every one else?

FWIW, I'm sometimes a MAMIL who likes to be able to speed along the road. Sometimes I'm a cyclist in normal clothes, just pottering along. I'd like to be able to do the latter with my family, Sadly, that's rare cause my wife doesn't feel safe cycling here in the UK, because of the lack of segregation.

Also, it's depressing when you meet UK cyclists who are actually happy with the sad state of cycling in the UK. Sometimes I think I should move back to the Netherlands.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
13th June 2012 - 11:28

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I don't force anyone to wear a helmet. Children who would rather not wear a helmet can still come to school without a helmet. Our club does a lot of work on road awareness and expanding cycling experiences, improving children's cycling skills and ability to take to the roads.

Incidentally, sustrans work in our school and support our club and they insist on the wearing of helmets too.

Segregation is pie-in-the-sky, especially in the current economic climate. What is needed is a campaign which convinces other road users that cyclists have a legitimate right to be on the roads and for other road users to modify their behaviour to ensure the safety of all road users.

posted by paulfg42 [374 posts]
13th June 2012 - 22:06

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"What is needed is a campaign which convinces other road users that cyclists have a legitimate right to be on the roads and for other road users to modify their behaviour to ensure the safety of all road users."
The place to look is, from my experience, Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. I know from experience that bike safety in these countries is all about getting the drivers to take responsability around cyclists.
In Sweden, for instance, there were times when I was astounded at the deferentiality of drivers towards cyclists. I gather that Netherlands can be even more so but have not riden there enough.
It is important for the whole question of bicycle safety to learn from these countries.
Sweden, interestingly, has tried to encourage helmet use but the word from the people is that all that has happened since helmets became more popular is that bike speeds have increased and hand signaling, a staple of Swedish bike safety, has decreased.
After 4 trips to Sweden in a decade, I have observed for the first time cyclists wearing flouro jackets, a clear sign that cycling is being dangerised, no doubt by the increasing use of helmets.

posted by Pjrob [21 posts]
13th June 2012 - 23:43

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paulfg42: sorry, but you said *you insist* on children wearing a helmet to be in the bike club. This means you exclude children who do not. That they can wear helmets elsewhere when not subject to your control doesn't change that.

"Segregation is pie-in-the-sky, especially in the current economic climate". And of course it wasn't the right time during the boom time either, and no doubt there'll never be a right time. This is just defeatist thinking that will lead to nothing of substance ever being achieved.

Getting road users to modify their behaviour is not the solution. Because, truth be told, the vast majority of road users are already pretty good around cyclists.

The problem in this country with cycling, the reason why only a small percentage cycle, is because they have to mix with fast vehicle traffic. Even when that traffic leaves plenty of space (which they usually do, particularly if the cyclist takes their lane - a question of *cyclist* behaviour, not other road users), it's still terrifying. When my wife cycles with me, I will stay to her right flank if on roads with traffic - creating room for her and protecting her. She *still* feels unsafe because of cars whizzing by at 40+ mph.

Just look across the water at Copenhagen, or anywhere in the Netherlands. More than half the population cycle daily there. Why? It's not because their car drivers are any better, trust me. It's not because they're festooned in even greater amounts of hi-viz and polysterene (quite the reverse!). The reason is damn obvious: cyclists *never* mix with fast vehicle traffic - they either have their own path OR the traffic speed is limited to 18mph (30km/h) or lower.

Look at the Netherlands in the morning, afternoon or at lunch on a school day: hordes of young children and teens cycling around the place (no helmets), because the *environment* has been made safe.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
14th June 2012 - 14:56

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im a roadie. I dont want no bike path. What would I be called then?! Pathie? No. Bikes are for roads, hence the name road bike.

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posted by samjackson54 [60 posts]
14th June 2012 - 19:13

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In the Netherlands, bicycle paths often are mandatory - always when they run alongside fast roads. Cyclists simply are not allowed on such roads (oversized bicycles, like the old cargo bicycles tradesmen often used, excepted). Though, a dutch road bicyclist group was trying to get this changed. Other groups, e.g. general cyclists and pedestrians, back them, as they don't like fast pelotons coming past on paths either. I think the situation is different in Belgium. There they have some kind of exception for pelotons of roadies, to allow them on many roads, I vaguely recall.

However, there are still plenty of slow, country roads and very wide paths for roadies. Just as how in the UK you might have to endure 30 to 60 mins of awful cycling on roads with fast, scary, motor traffic to get to the nice quiet country roads, in the Netherlands the roadie might have to cycle 30 mins on bicycle paths, dodging slow granny cyclists, in order to get to the nice open country roads.

So the situation in the Netherlands is still *much* better than in the UK, even for a roadie. It's certainly much, much, much better for their children, wives, friends, etc. It's just tragically fascinating that there are still cyclists in the UK who prefer that cycling be confined to 1% odd of the abnormally confident, who would prefer that their children don some polysterene before being sent out into 30 to 40mph car traffic. Indeed, if they even allow their children to cycle much at all.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
15th June 2012 - 10:51

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So every single road in the netherlands that is faster than 30mph has a bike path? BS.

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posted by samjackson54 [60 posts]
15th June 2012 - 13:30

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Paul J wrote:
Helmet promotion, I suspect, puts people off cycling, e.g. because it "dangerises" cycling.

No need to suspect. Compulsory helmet laws do not encourage cycling

http://road.cc/content/news/21503-strewth-aussie-academic-calls-repeal-c...

posted by zanf [427 posts]
15th June 2012 - 14:06

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I can't say no such roads exist, but it's certainly been part of the national transport policy for quite a while, and the dutch have been working for decades to make it be so.

Roads where the vehicle speed limit could be higher than 50km/h (31mph) *should* only ever be an autoweg (literally "car road", i.e. a main, through road - https://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gebiedsontsluitingsweg), or a snelweg (motorway), according to the Duurzaam Veilig Verkeer policies. Cyclists are banned from these roads by law (except for oversized bicycles on autowegen). You can be fined for cycling on them (http://www.fietsen.123.nl/entry/13325/alle-bekeuringen-met-bedragen-2012...).

Further, if it's not actually a law, then it's extremely unusual to ever have to cycle on a road where the speed limit is higher than 30km/h (that's *18*mph). I can't ever remember having to do so myself. It's certainly something widely implemented. In urban areas, streets in the Netherlands generally always have 30km/h speed limits - pretty much universally the case in dense urban areas (a street is different from an autoweg, in dutch terms). Sometimes even lower, e.g. within residential areas, because children are expected to be around.

The current dutch road plans do seem to allow for site/property-access roads outside urban areas to exist with 60km/h (37mph) speed limits. However, I suspect these are not going to be roads with much traffic, and likely narrower roads. They'll be the dutch equivalent of quiet country lanes, I suspect.

The Netherlands has a holistic approach to road engineering, planning and safety - "Duurzaam Veilig Verkeer" (Robustly/Durably/Sustainably Safe Transport), and it's definitely a national traffic safety policy that cycle traffic should never be mixed with motor traffic above 30km/h (i.e. 18mph). See http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheets/NL/Factsheet_Fietsers.pdf:

"In een duurzaam veilig wegverkeer is een dergelijke scheiding geboden wanneer het gemotoriseerde verkeer rijsnelheden heeft van meer dan 30 km/uur."

"In Sustainably Safe Road Transport, segregation is offered where-ever road traffic speeds are above 30km/h."

So, while I can't find an authoritative statement that says cyclists *never* have to go on roads with speed limits above 30km/h, I'm sure it's at least a national policy to achieve this. I can never remember seeing a road with >30km/h speed limits that didn't have a separate cycle-path. And my experience dates from the early 80s, and from the early 90s - i.e. before the Duurzaam Veilig policy.

Go take a holiday in the Netherlands. Spend a week cycling (the south has hills, for more fun). You'll be amazed, and almost certainly converted. If you really care about road safety, you should take a serious look there, because they objectively achieve *much* better results.

posted by Paul J [561 posts]
15th June 2012 - 16:48

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Raleigh wrote:
That kind of talk is particularly irritating.

...

But I'd like to know what's harder, your skull, or the bumper of an HGV.
.

I'd like to know how much protection you really think an inch of polystyrene foams gives to your head in the event it gets hit by an HGV?

posted by Chris James [161 posts]
15th June 2012 - 16:57

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