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British Cycling policy advisor responds to criticism, saying it "obscures real issues"...

Chris Boardman’s appearance on BBC Breakfast this morning has provoked a flurry of complaints about his not wearing a cycle helmet – even though the segment began with him explaining why he chose not to do so. In a detailed explanation this afternoon, Boardman says that while the reaction was "understandable," it is also "unfortunate because it obscures what I believe are the real issues."

The early morning TV show is featuring a report on cycling each day this week. It is broadcast from Salford, close to the Manchester headquarters of British Cycling, where former Olympic champion Boardman is policy advisor.

Prior to going on a bike ride with him, presenter Louise Minchin asked Boardman, “Viewers will notice I will be wearing a helmet but you won’t. Why not?”

He replied: “It’s a very long answer and more time than we’ve got here," before summarising his position briefly.

“It discourages people from riding a bike, you’re as safe riding a bike as you are walking, statistically, you’re much safer than you are going in your own bathroom and you don’t wear a helmet there," he explained.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with helmets, but it’s not in the top ten things that you can do to keep safe.

“We’re going to look at all of those things, but for me, I want bikes to be for normal people in normal clothes.

“About 0.5 per cent of people wear one in the Netherlands, yet it’s the safest country in the world,” he added.

“There’s a reason for that.”

Despite his explanation, the backlash on social media was predictable, many pointing out that the Netherlands already has the type of infrastructure that Boardman and others are campaigning for in the UK.

One Facebook user, John Stimpson, said: “Chris Boardman wearing no helmet and riding in black jacket and jeans. For an item on cycling safety you can't get more stupid.”

Another, Toni Smith, said: “How can you show a piece about cycling safety when the ex-champion is not wearing any safety gear? This is not acceptable! Please in the future choose an ambassador who practices what they preach!”

Many others leapt to his defence, however, with Morgan Lewis saying: “For all those people expressing outrage, I wonder if you have spent the same amount of time looking at the evidence about helmets over the years as Chris Boardman has. His view is not idly held. There is a lot of knee-jerking in these comments.”

Jonathan Richards pointed out: “About two thirds of fatalities WITHIN cars are caused by head injuries - why not a call for compulsory helmets for those travelling in cars? And as for pedestrians ....”

Meanwhile, Chris Myrie couldn’t resist asking: “Does this mean his £80 endorsed helmets from Halfords are useless?”

There was a similar division in reaction to his comments on Twitter, where Boardman himself tweeted this morning after the show: “Hi All, rather than try to address the helmet debate (again) I'm going to pen something for people to read and point you to it this PM.”

That response has now been published on the British Cycling website. Boardman acknowledged the BBC Breakfast piece had “got a lot of people fired up,” and that “my riding a bicycle in normal clothing, looking like a normal person was greeted by some with cries of horror. It’s both understandable and unfortunate because it obscures what I believe are the real issues.”

Foremost among those issues is why some cyclists in the UK believe they should have to wear a helmet while cycling in the first place, he said.

“People wear helmets and high vis as they feel it’s all they can do to keep themselves safe. It shows just how far away Britain is from embracing cycling as a normal and convenient form of transport,” he added.

Pointing to the example of Utrecht in the Netherlands and providing a link to a video of people cycling there he went on: “I’m willing to bet that even those that swear by helmets and high vis would feel comfortable discarding their body armour in such an environment. And that’s the point; in Utrecht they have addressed the real dangers to cyclists.”

While he admitted that the situation in the UK is vastly different, he said helmet compulsion was not the answer, citing drops of between 30 and 50 per cent in countries such as Australia and New Zealand that had introduced such legislation.

“If cycling looks and feels normal, more people will cycle,” he said. The more people cycle, the safer they are - the safety in numbers effect. The more people cycle, the more lives will be saved from amongst the 37,000 that die each year from obesity-related illnesses. Never mind the more than 27,000 that die annually from pollution-related illnesses.”

Boardman said he understands “exactly why people feel so passionately about helmets or high vis,” and “why people wish to use them,” but said he would not promote helmets or hi-vis nor be drawn into a debate on a topic that he considers “isn’t even in the top 10 things that will really keep people who want to cycle safe.”

He added: “I want cycling in the UK to be like it is in Utrecht or Copenhagen and more recently New York City – an everyday thing that people can do in everyday clothes whether you are eight or 80 years old. I want cycling to be a normal thing that normal people do in normal clothes. Is that wrong?”

In the BBC Breakfast report itself, Boardman outlined his top tips for cycling safely including planning your route, how to negotiate junctions and roundabouts safely, road position, stopping at red lights and giving large vehicles plenty of space and not going up the left-hand side of them.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

285 comments

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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Storck Rider wrote:

My point is was that all CB has done here is re-ignited the helmet debate rather than saying, Look we as cyclists or even just people riding a bike doing all we can to reduce our chance of injury. Now, government, do your part.

Surely there is some level of shared responsibility to improve safety?

So you agree that all women who wear short skirts are "asking for it" ??

The duty of cyclists is simply to stick to the rules, exactly the same for drivers.

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Tony [132 posts] 3 years ago
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Its a bit like going back to the Middle Ages. "You're not carrying a posy. Are you mad, you'll die of the bubonic plague?" or "I have friends who carried a pocket full of posies and the doctors say it saved their lives" or "He got a fever but they bleed him and covered him in leeches and poultices and it saved his life"

So many members of the public pitching in with zero knowledge but their own favourite folk remedy for saving cyclists' lives. No need for evidence. Off to the stake with Chris for heretically suggesting its a load of codswallop and posies and bleeding, poultices and leeches actually give no benefit at all. Can't deny the baying mob though can you?

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Mad cuclist [17 posts] 3 years ago
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YAWN!
We live in a free society, I wear a helmet to train in but if I am riding to the shop I don't, I would rather my daughter rides a bike with no helmet than sits in her room on a computer.
I agree with Chris lets look at the real issues around rider safety, a helmets worth Jack S**t when you get hit up the arse by a car at 60mph.
Would a helmet have saved Pete Longbottom, NO.

For the newbies out there Pete was a top rider in the 90's and an old Team mate of Chris's. Got chucked into the path of an oncoming car by another car which 'didn't see him'

Nick Gritton.

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kie7077 [936 posts] 3 years ago
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Storck Rider wrote:

You guys are special!

I can see very well what his end game is and why he makes his points BUT, AGAIN, the fact we are here debating this takes away from what he is trying to achieve.

I'll stop wearing a helmet when somebody can prove to me they haven't saved a single life!

I'll stop wearing a lucky rabbits foot when somebody can prove to me they haven't saved a single life!

No-one is telling you not to wear a helmet, the problem is the possibility of compulsion, why do people keep insisting cyclists wear helmets but not pedestrians and vehicle occupants? This promotes the perception that cycling is inherently dangerous and puts people off of cycling.

I'd really like to shut up about helmets, but I can't and won't until the ignorant people who keep telling others how to lives their lives off of the basis of their helmet religion.

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kevinmorice [146 posts] 3 years ago
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And on the same day as he posted that load of utter cr4p he also posted that he wouldn't let his 10 year old ride not only on roads but also on an approved cycle path! Hypocritical tw4t!!

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truffy [650 posts] 3 years ago
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How about not having compulsory wearing of helmets with the proviso that a cyclist with head injuries who does not wear a helmet is kept alive only long enough to harvest the organs?

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Mad cuclist [17 posts] 3 years ago
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I have been thinking about this....
I have been riding a bike since 1977, I have been racing since 1978 and had full seasons till 1992, and have raced at least once every year since then, I have been involved in the cycle trade for 38 years.
My point? I can't name a person who was killed by a head injury.
I wear one as I said before when training, because if it saves me from concussion that's a result, but if it stops one person riding a bike as they feel intimidated that they should wear one its a bad day.
Ps been a long time but there is nothing better than 60 mph down an alpine pass with no lid on!

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Mad cuclist [17 posts] 3 years ago
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truffy wrote:

How about not having compulsory wearing of helmets with the proviso that a cyclist with head injuries who does not wear a helmet is kept alive only long enough to harvest the organs?

What about if they impale them selves on a post? Same line as they were not wearing body armour?

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RTB [192 posts] 3 years ago
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Surely the baseline questions that should be asked are:

1. Can head injuries be caused through the pursuit of cycling?

2. If yes, can the impact of any of those head injuries be mitigated through the use of a helmet?

These days it seems that Boardman is more interested in grandstanding in his attempts to show himself not using a helmet whenever he can deliberately causing confrontation and provocation.

Rather interestingly and inconsistently on his part he always wears a helmet when he does his TdF or this year's Tour of Britain pieces for TV. I would also wager that none of his kids go out on their bikes helmetless.

All rather small minded by a decorated cyclist and if the best contributions to cycling safety he can offer are piffling suggestions like "work out where you want to go" or "give space to lorries" really it's time to return to the day job/backroom designing aero frames.

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felixcat [486 posts] 3 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Surely the baseline questions that should be asked are:

1. Can head injuries be caused through the pursuit of motoring or walking?

2. If yes, can the impact of any of those head injuries be mitigated through the use of a helmet?

I think Boardman has put in a bit more effort looking into the question of helmets than you have. You haven't even bothered to read the discussion above.

I have altered your questions to try to make it clear to you that things are not quite as simple as you think.

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Quince [381 posts] 3 years ago
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We should enforce stabilisers too. Most incidents occur when people fall off their bikes. Stabilisers make it harder to fall off bicycles, and so reduce risk of injury. I don't see why people don't use them. If enforcing them saves one life, it's worth it.

I once had to turn a corner on my bike. When I turned it, I felt the stabilisers come to my rescue and stop me tipping dangerously far over. I'm sure I would have fallen off, and died, if the stabilisers hadn't caught me. Stabilisers saved my life, and they might save yours too.

I see many adults not riding with stabilisers every day, and sometimes even children!!! It's really riles me up! Irresponsible!!! We cyclists should do everything we can for our own safety, and that includes using proper safety equipment while riding so we can stay stable. You never know when you might have to turn a corner, just like I did. Just remember folks, 'Stay Safe - Stay Stable'. Simple enough, right!?

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don simon [1717 posts] 3 years ago
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When cycling as a sport, I wear a helmet.
When pootling around town, I don't.
I guess that I agree with Chris Boardman on the normal clothes and ease of cycling thing.

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don simon [1717 posts] 3 years ago
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Quote:

We should enforce stabilisers too. Most incidents occur when people fall off their bikes. Stabilisers make it harder to fall off bicycles, and so reduce risk of injury. I don't see why people don't use them. If enforcing them saves one life, it's worth it.

I once had to turn a corner on my bike. When I turned it, I felt the stabilisers come to my rescue and stop me tipping dangerously far over. I'm sure I would have fallen off, and died, if the stabilisers hadn't caught me. Stabilisers saved my life, and they might save yours too.

I see many adults not riding with stabilisers every day, and sometimes even children!!! It's really riles me up! Irresponsible!!! We cyclists should do everything we can for our own safety, and that includes using proper safety equipment while riding so we can stay stable. You never know when you might have to turn a corner, just like I did. Just remember folks, 'Stay Safe - Stay Stable'. Simple enough, right!?

Unfortunately I have a different story involving stabilisers. While driving through town I got caught behind a young cyclist with stabilisers. In my need to get to the tail of the queue that was up ahead, I just had to get past this cyclist. I made the judgment call that I could get past safely even if it was a bit of a squeeze. I caught the stabiliser and broke it with my front wheel, the modern 4x4 is indeed a heavy old beast, this in turn threw the youngster under my rear wheels and caused an explosion in which we all died.
How safe are your stabilisers now?
The youngster wasn't wearing a helmet either.

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LinusLarrabee [119 posts] 3 years ago
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It really is eye-opening how retarded some of you people are.

As far as I can tell, nobody in these comments has called for compulsary helmet wearing.

However, a lot of people have made irrational, nonsensical arguments against helmets - often employing irrelevant personal experiences or completely stupid analogies.

I'd have more respect for you idiots if you simply said you don't want to wear a helmet out of personal choice and shut the f#%k up, rather than trying to make logical arguments your pea sized brains are not equiped to make.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Surely the baseline questions that should be asked are:

1. Can head injuries be caused through the pursuit of cycling?

2. If yes, can the impact of any of those head injuries be mitigated through the use of a helmet?

How about these as baseline questions

1. should we be discouraging laziness and inactivity in general life?

2. would compulsory helmets discourage cycling?

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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kevinmorice wrote:

And on the same day as he posted that load of utter cr4p he also posted that he wouldn't let his 10 year old ride not only on roads but also on an approved cycle path! Hypocritical tw4t!!

The hypocracy is? CB is aware that helmets are next to useless when hit by a car so doesn't want to risk his kids being killed.

and i suggest you read the statement because you have completely misread it, and got the age wrong.

http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest-news/chris-boardman-says-woul...

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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i would ask a simple question why can't the UK do as the Dutch did? Are the British really that different that there is no hope for improving the conditions of the towns and cities we live in?

http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2011/01/stop-child-murder.html

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Chuck [590 posts] 3 years ago
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truffy wrote:

How about not having compulsory wearing of helmets with the proviso that a cyclist with head injuries who does not wear a helmet is kept alive only long enough to harvest the organs?

Of course we'll also withhold care for people who play rugby at the weekend as well without protective headgear, right? Or drive their cars without helmets? After all, it's common knowledge you can get head injuries from doing those things so if they don't wear helmets, well...

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felixcat [486 posts] 3 years ago
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LinusLarrabee wrote:

It really is eye-opening how retarded some of you people are.

Well, maybe you should think about it, and try and find out why some other people believe that helmets are useless and irrelvant.

cyclehelmets.org would be a start to your education.

Here is a quotation from the New York Times

"A Bicycling Mystery: Head Injuries Piling Up
By JULIAN E. BARNES
Published: July 29, 2001

"Millions of parents take it as an article of faith that putting a bicycle helmet on their children, or themselves, will help keep them out of harm's way.

But new data on bicycle accidents raises questions about that. The number of head injuries has increased 10 percent since 1991, even as bicycle helmet use has risen sharply, according to figures compiled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But given that ridership has declined over the same period, the rate of head injuries per active cyclist has increased 51 percent just as bicycle helmets have become widespread.

What is going on here? No one is very sure, but safety experts stress that while helmets do not prevent accidents from happening, they are extremely effective at reducing the severity of head injuries when they do occur. Almost no one suggests that riders should stop wearing helmets, which researchers have found can reduce the severity of brain injuries by as much as 88 percent.

Still, with fewer people riding bicycles, experts are mystified as to why injuries are on the rise. ''It's puzzling to me that we can't find the benefit of bike helmets here,'' said Ronald L. Medford, the assistant executive director of the safety commission's hazard identification office."

You have a very black and white view of the world. Real life does not always fit your limited understanding. I will have to accept I don't have your respect. I think I will live.

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LinusLarrabee [119 posts] 3 years ago
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Felixcat, any kind of rational discussion with you is a futile exercise. You are a moron.

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jestriding [41 posts] 3 years ago
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We had a coronial inquiry last year here in NZ looking at 13 cycling deaths. About half didn't involve any interaction with a vehicle. Helmet compliance is about 93% here due to 11,000 infringement notices and $400,000 worth of fines coming from 1% of modal share (pop 4.4 mil).

2 of the deaths were from cyclists going downhill and hitting objects (power pole and rock). The speeds were 32 kph and 40 kph respectively; both riders were wearing helmets.

Hitting your head at 32 kph (19 mph) wearing a helmet kills you. That's very little additional protection from a helmet considering most vehicle speed limits are at least 50 kph.

The protection helmets provide is vastly oversold and the last thing I think about on my commute with narrow bridges and no shoulders with heavy traffic doing 100 kph is how safe I am because I'm wearing a helmet.

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Lasty [2 posts] 3 years ago
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Commuting, I wear a helmet because people are in a rush including me. On the road bike I wear a helmet because 20mph + wall or telegraph pole = hurt. I wear one on the mountain bike because tree or rock = squashed head. Riding to town on Saturday not in a rush I don't wear one and I ride on residential roads, separate cycle paths and canal toe path. If my commute was all on segregated paths I wouldn't wear one but I have several busy junctions and roundabouts to negotiate at rush hour and I don't trust drivers.

The Dutch argument stands.

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felixcat [486 posts] 3 years ago
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Here is some discussion of NZ's helmet law.

http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/17/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law/
http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/27/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-l...

The evidence is that the law is associated with a reduction in cycling and an increase in casualty rates. The same happened in Australia.

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felixcat [486 posts] 3 years ago
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LinusLarrabee wrote:

Felixcat, any kind of rational discussion with you is a futile exercise. You are a moron.

I am deeply wounded but I may well recover.

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Lasty [2 posts] 3 years ago
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"work out where you want to go" or "give space to lorries"

What's wrong with those suggestions?

You have to remember that most people are morons.

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Condor flyer [50 posts] 3 years ago
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There has never been a proper study to ascertain the efficacy of cycle helmets. The pros and cons have never been robustly tested which is one reason why the government has not moved to introduce legislation, preferring to leave cyclists to chose to wear a helmet or not.
But there is one irrefutable fact:
promoting the use of cycle helmets does nothing to improve road safety.
And that remains a major concern, because by the far the greatest danger to cyclists comes from others, from motor vehicles generally moving at inappropriately high speed.
No cycle helmet is intended to withstand the force from a vehicle impact, although it may do so.
Prior to the first hard-shell helmets arriving in Britain from an American manufacturer over 20 years ago, cycling here was never considered to be a particularly dangerous activity.

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felixcat [486 posts] 3 years ago
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Condor flyer wrote:

There has never been a proper study to ascertain the efficacy of cycle helmets. The pros and cons have never been robustly tested

There have been some "experiments". Australian laws increased the wearing rate from about 33% to well over 90%. One might expect that if helmets work the effect would be very clear. It was not. The number of cyclists decreased considerably, and the rate of head injuries increased.
This may not be a proper study, but it looks pretty unequivocal to me.

http://www.cyclehelmets.org/

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
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@felixcat, some of the problems may well be risk compensation, i would never dream of riding the MTB without a helmet, but what protection will that helmet actually afford??

To be honest, not a great deal, it might stop me getting a few cuts when i clip a low branch, but if i crash into some rocks it is going to hurt! as the stitches on my face can testify to, my face did a good job of protecting the helmet which suffered no scuffs or marks.

As for mounting a light or camera!!! nice way of creating a stress riser and reducing the efficacy even further!

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Quince [381 posts] 3 years ago
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don simon wrote:
Quote:

We should enforce stabilisers too. Most incidents occur when people fall off their bikes. Stabilisers make it harder to fall off bicycles, and so reduce risk of injury. I don't see why people don't use them. If enforcing them saves one life, it's worth it.

I once had to turn a corner on my bike. When I turned it, I felt the stabilisers come to my rescue and stop me tipping dangerously far over. I'm sure I would have fallen off, and died, if the stabilisers hadn't caught me. Stabilisers saved my life, and they might save yours too.

I see many adults not riding with stabilisers every day, and sometimes even children!!! It's really riles me up! Irresponsible!!! We cyclists should do everything we can for our own safety, and that includes using proper safety equipment while riding so we can stay stable. You never know when you might have to turn a corner, just like I did. Just remember folks, 'Stay Safe - Stay Stable'. Simple enough, right!?

Unfortunately I have a different story involving stabilisers. While driving through town I got caught behind a young cyclist with stabilisers. In my need to get to the tail of the queue that was up ahead, I just had to get past this cyclist. I made the judgment call that I could get past safely even if it was a bit of a squeeze. I caught the stabiliser and broke it with my front wheel, the modern 4x4 is indeed a heavy old beast, this in turn threw the youngster under my rear wheels and caused an explosion in which we all died.
How safe are your stabilisers now?
The youngster wasn't wearing a helmet either.

That's dreadful! Especially the bit where you died! We must ban stabilisers at once before more of these terrible instances occur!

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Flying Scot [1005 posts] 3 years ago
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If it was me who had paid to license hats with his name on......I would be raging.

Unless of course the helmets are from Stan Boardman.

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