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 39 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.  1

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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Just don't.

All evidence seems to point to the fact that if involved in a crash where your head is, its safer to wear a helmet.

Duhh.

But, you're 50% more likely to be involved in a car accident than a bicycle one, and in that instant, another 50% more likely to receive impact to the head.

But you don't wear one while driving.

But that's not going to help you when your brains are scattered across the A40, the tread of a Lorry imprinted on your mug.

Nice.

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Bob McCall [13 posts] 4 years ago
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been cycling for 40 years with no problems. I know a recent convert to cycling who has been badly injured after going through a red light on his new bike. Perhaps this reflects your own style of riding? Keep wearing your helmet but I fear that,in your case, the damage has already been done. Duhh!

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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That kind of talk is particularly irritating.

Cycling for 40 years sans helmet doesn't mean you'll never crash or bash your head on something.

You don't get a halo, visible to passing road users saying:

I've been cycling for four decades, ergo, don't hit me.

In all honesty, you probably won't just crash and kill yourself, that's pretty unlikely.

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

Answers on a postcard.

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Paul J [885 posts] 4 years ago
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Aldecycle: Actually, all the evidence does not point to that. Indeed, the evidence for overall injury outcome is "no net benefit", according to good meta-studies. Helmets definitely reduce head injuries (but not as significantly as thought), while *increasing* other injuries (facial and neck). See http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145751100008X.

Further, injury outcome amongst those who suffer an accident is too restricted a view of things. It's biased towards finding in favour of helmets, while ignoring what really matters: people's overall health.

The *really* interesting outcomes to consider are: a) overall bicycle safety; b) overall public health.

On the former measure, the safest place for cycling in the western world, and with the highest participation, sees the lowest rates of helmet use - the Netherlands. Therefore, it is a certain *fact* that helmets are NOT a pre-requisite for safe cycling. Rather, participation and the engineering of the environment *around* the cyclist (not on them) appear to the most important factors in safe cycling.

On the latter measure, even in the not-as-safe cycling environment of the UK, the health benefits of cycling *greatly* outweigh the risks (which are still pretty low, compared to other activities people do without thinking they need safety equipment - like walking or driving).

Helmet promotion, for ordinary, day-to-day, about town cycling, is unnecessary. Helmet promotion, I suspect, puts people off cycling, e.g. because it "dangerises" cycling.

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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trikeman [309 posts] 4 years ago
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I have to say that a legallity or not I always wear a helmet - always have done.

Thankfully, not seen too many road accidents with bikes that can make me believe they are a benefit or not - though I can think for myself and I would rather have some cushioning benefit, my head is not as hard as a kerb for example - that's beyond debate.
However, on the off road stuff I am more than convinced they are a life saver,,,, whatever the statisticians say. I can speak from first hand that several bad crashes off road witnessed by myself where the non-use of helmets would have resulted in almost certain death or brain damage - including my Daughter recently.

I dont think it should be compulsory but I would always recommend one.

Trikeman.  3

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Bob McCall [13 posts] 4 years ago
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Thanks for a very well written appraisal of the pros and cons of helmets. Your appreciation of the complexities convinces me that more accurate information and statistics should be made known to the public. This would enable each individual to choose what protection they require, and perhaps appreciate the real dangers involved to areas such as the neck. Perhaps it is like trying to choose between a rock and a hard place, but I want to be given the liberty of choosing for myself.

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samjackson54 [54 posts] 4 years ago
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I dont wear a helmet if im just going around town, no busy roads, no problems. If i go further afield, downhills, round corners, on busy roads, then for me its a no-brainer (  19 ). <-- see what I did there?  3

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Bob McCall [13 posts] 4 years ago
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Aldecycle, sorry if I irritated you earlier. Your views, and all others, are important to me. All I want is for cycling to flourish, with safety for all concerned. We can disagree on how we can achieve that end, but I'm sure that we pursue the same goal.

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paulfg42 [387 posts] 4 years ago
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I don't expect a helmet to save my life if I get hit by a car. Wearing a helmet doesn't make me feel safer when a lorry thunders past a few inches away from me. However, I know from experience that wearing a helmet has saved me from more serious injury when I've lost control on a couple of occasions and taken a heavy tumble.

That doesn't mean I want helmets to be made compulsory for adults although I do insist on it for children at our primary school bike club.

Campaigning for safer cycling conditions is the way forward.

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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Bob McCall wrote:

Aldecycle, sorry if I irritated you earlier. Your views, and all others, are important to me.

No Worries  4

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Paul J [885 posts] 4 years ago
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paulfg42: Please don't take this wrong way but.... You simply can not know that helmets saved you in previous tumbles - UNLESS you had the *exact* same tumble without a helmet OR you had a large number of tumbles with and without helmets and did a scientific statistical analysis of the results.

If you had a few tumbles with helmets and were fine, well I've had tumbles without helmets (including at speed) and also been fine. On their own, your experience is no more indicative of helmets being useful than mine is of them being needless. To be meaningful they must be analysed properly - going by anecdotes can lead to poor conclusions & decisions.

One common argument is "I fell off my bike and my helmet was broken! It must have saved my head!". However, this is a nonsensical argument - you could strap any fragile thing to your head and have it break in a fall. With that kind of logic, you could end up strapping an egg to your head and believing it was protecting you.

Further, the way polysterene helmets absorb energy is through crushing. If a helmet has worked, it should have *dents* on the *inside* of the helmet. Indeed, if a helmet splits apart before it can crush, it will have worked *less* well, if at all.

If you examine motorcycle helmets (which must pass much much more rigorous safety standards) and heavier duty mountain-biking helmets, you'll see they have near-continuous expanded-polysterene inside a full, hard shell. The hard shell helps spread force further across the expanded-polysterene, prevents it from splitting, and generally allows it to do its job of absorbing force by crushing. If you really want head protection, you should wear a helmet with a full, hard shell.

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Paul J [885 posts] 4 years ago
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paulfg42: Also, regarding making children wear them. You really have to be careful about forcing them. Firstly, kids are really great at smelling bullshit - why is it you make them wear helmets, if you don't make adults? Next: You're sending the message to them that cycling:

a) Requires inconvenient and uncool helmets. You're training to believe that cycling is inconvenient and dorky. E.g. teenage girls really care about their hair, so if you make them feel cycling is so dangerous that it requires a helmet, they're likely to not cycle at all. In Australia cycling participation rates dropped particularly heavily amongst girls after compulsory helmet laws.

b) You're teaching them that cycling is uniquely dangerous. Some will be put off - indeed, you may also be reinforcing their parents views of cycling being dangerous. The truth of course is that walking by the road is also dangerous (not really much safer than cycling by it!), as of course is travelling by car.

Be careful about the message you're sending to the next generation of cyclists - if indeed you're not actually putting some of them off cycling in the process.

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Adey [86 posts] 4 years ago
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Surely wearing a helmet might reduce injury?
Im 52 and i feel 'naked' if i dont wear my tinlid for my rides - yet i use a MB for my workin' weekly commute to my place of work yet find it harder to wear a lid!!
Why?? Abuse from my workmates? I dunno
All i can say is although i feel safer wearing a lid i can appreciate it wont safe your skull being crushed!!
Funny how most reports i read about cycling fatalities usually state if the cyclist was/wasn't wearing a helmet
Whatever floats your boat - doesn't make you a worse/better rider than me if you do/don't wear a lid IMO
I just FEEL SAFER wearing one!!
Be safe

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drheaton [3318 posts] 4 years ago
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Adey wrote:

Funny how most reports i read about cycling fatalities usually state if the cyclist was/wasn't wearing a helmet

Actually, I find helmet use is only mentioned in these articles when the cyclist wasn't wearing one. I don't often remember a fatality being reported and it being said they were wearing a helmet.

Most of the time helmet use is probably not going to save/kill you (as others have said, I don't think there are laws on what/how they should protect you) but when it makes a difference it's likely to be a significant one.

I agree that the benefit to the population as a whole is greater if we don't advocate helmet use as more people will cycle however for me the benefit as an individual is greater wearing one, I feel safer and although it may make no difference my other half certainly doesn't like it when I go out lid-less.

Also, if the pro's are forced to wear helmets by the UCI are we fighting a losing battle in advocating non-use? All the images from this year's olympics will be of cyclists wearing helmets so that will only reinforce the image in people's minds that they should be used and that cycling is dangerous.

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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mattsccm [330 posts] 4 years ago
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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..

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mattsccm [330 posts] 4 years ago
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double post.
This website is still the slowest about

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drheaton [3318 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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Paul J [885 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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drheaton [3318 posts] 4 years ago
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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?

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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Paul J [885 posts] 4 years ago
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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...

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paulfg42 [387 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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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'.

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AWPeleton [3329 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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ALIHISGREAT [119 posts] 4 years ago
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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-annu...

I like how you work the stats.. you've presented it in a elegant way... (which might have fooled some haha  3 )

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)

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Raleigh [1665 posts] 4 years ago
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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  22

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Paul J [885 posts] 4 years ago
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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.

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