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Major Canadian study concludes protected bike infrastructure does more for safety of cyclists

A major Canadian study has found no link between cycle helmet legislation and head injuries, and has recommended governments focus on providing bike infrastructure to protect cyclists instead.

Between 2006-2011 the study recorded hospitalisation data from different Canadian jurisdictions, some with mandatory helmet laws, some without. Of an average 3690 hospital administrations per year in riders aged 12 and over there were 622 hospitalisations per 100 million bike trips in Canada.

The study found helmet legislation did not reduce head injury rates, while female riders were injured less, and areas with a greater proportion of cycling trips saw lower injury rates. The CTC's Roger Geffen says the study provides further evidence cycle helmet's aren't a panacea for cycle safety.

Aussie helmet law does more harm than good, Senate hears

The study published in the BMJ, Bicycling injury hospitalisation rates in Canadian jurisdictions: analyses examining associations with helmet legislation and mode share, notes bicycling injury research is "dominated by helmet research" but while helmet use is associated with reduced odds of head injury in a crash, "studies examining the effect of helmet legislation have shown more mixed results".

The report found: "Helmet legislation was not associated with reduced hospitalisation rates for brain, head, scalp, skull or face injuries, indicating that factors other than helmet laws have more influence on injury rates."

Of all cycling-related injuries torso or extremity injuries occurred in 82% of those hospitalised, head injuries (including brain, and face) 25%.

Females had "consistently lower" hospitalisation rates than men for all injury causes (including transport and sport cycling), while areas with higher proportions of cycling trips saw fewer traffic-related injuries. The lower injury rates among women are attributed to less risk taking behaviour.

The report states: "We found that hospitalisation rates for traffic-related injuries were lower with higher cycling mode shares, a 'safety-in-numbers' association consistent with results elsewhere and for other modes of travel."

It concludes: "These results suggest that transportation and health policymakers who aim to reduce bicycling injury rates in the population should focus on factors related to increased cycling mode share and female cycling choices. Bicycling routes designed to be physically separated from traffic or along quiet streets fit both these criteria and are associated with lower relative risks of injury."

Roger Geffen, Director of Policy at CTC the national cycling charity said: "Once again researchers have unearthed evidence which casts doubts on the usefulness of cycle helmets.  They not only provided limited protection - they are only designed for minor falls, not collisions - but there is also evidence that they may increase the risk of collisions happening in the first place, by making either drivers or cyclists less cautious, or indeed by increasing the risks of neck and other injuries.

"What's clear though is that there's no justification for health or safety professionals to bang on about cycle helmets as if they were a panacea.  Their focus needs to be on reducing the risk of collisions occurring in the first place, by reducing traffic volumes and speeds, creating safe and cycle-friendly roads and junctions, tackling bad driving and reducing the risks from lorries.  That's what will help achieve more, as well as safer, cycling, in order to maximise the benefits cyclists gain from 'safety in numbers'."

27 comments

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hennahairgel [61 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

3, 2, 1...

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steviewevie [37 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes

Anyone for popcorn?

 

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skull-collector... [144 posts] 1 year ago
4 likes
hennahairgel wrote:

3, 2, 1...

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

 

 

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velobetty [71 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

I'm just glad this article didn't mention mudguards too, otherwise it would /really/ go off!  3

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hennahairgel [61 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes
skull-collector-not-really wrote:
hennahairgel wrote:

3, 2, 1...

Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

Isn't that self-contradictory?

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mrmo [2092 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

so lets ban men from riding bikes.

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Wolfshade [198 posts] 1 year ago
6 likes

Unfortunately we are living in a post-scientific age where fact and opinion are given the same credence.

 

:'(

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OldRidgeback [2760 posts] 1 year ago
5 likes

I was thinking of having a banana for lunch

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jameshcox [23 posts] 1 year ago
1 like

It'd be  more interesting to know the effect of helmet use vs non use, rather than legislation vs non-legislation.

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Ush [900 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
mrmo wrote:

so lets ban men from riding bikes.

Well, that's one option. I'm just glad that my proposals for mandatory sex-change operations will now get some teeth.

Think of the children.

Meanwhile in Canada I'm told that public opinion is in favor of banning cyclists from the road because "they just don't mix with cars" and making helmets mandatory because people crashing with them get serious head injuries:

https://soundcloud.com/tommy-schnurmacher-show/gang-of-four-the-cycling-...

http://globalnews.ca/news/2081968/radio-canada-journalist-isabelle-riche...

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Sakurashinmachi [49 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

It's very simple:

1. When helmets were introduced in Melbourne there was NO huge reduction in cycling - I've read the relevant study and that's not what it says.  Building social policy on a misinterpretation of a very old study that none of the pundits appear to have actually read is very, very stupid.

2. Making helmets compulsory did bring about a reduction in head injuries in Australia - the report that said otherwise was fundamentally flawed (because they got the dates of the hospital data wrong) and was withdrawn from the journal that originally published it.

3. Cycling is booming in Melbourne and most other parts of Australia.  In my area it's been estimated that 20% of commuters are now going to work by bike.  We get bike jams.  In other words, making bike helmets compulsory doesn't stop people cycling.  

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nowasps [520 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

HelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmetsHelmets

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adamthekiwi [141 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Sakurashinmachi wrote:

It's very simple:

1. When helmets were introduced in Melbourne there was NO huge reduction in cycling [...]

2. Making helmets compulsory did bring about a reduction in head injuries in Australia [...]

-8<- snip for brevity ->8-

Hi Sakurashinmachi - I'm interested - can you cite?

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alansmurphy [425 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Sakurashinmachi wrote:

It's very simple:

1. When helmets were introduced in Melbourne there was NO huge reduction in cycling  

3. In other words, making bike helmets compulsory doesn't stop people cycling.  

 

Oops, obviously not that simple...

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Carton [374 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:

I was thinking of having a banana for lunch

 Only a banana? For lunch? What about the risks of going on a fruitarian diet ?

Think of your loved ones before you head out and eat a banana.

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KiwiMike [1286 posts] 1 year ago
8 likes

This is all you need to know: 

1. Enforce helmet law

2. Cycling falls by half

3. Risk per mile doubles

 

Simples.

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Batchy [378 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
jameshcox wrote:

It'd be  more interesting to know the effect of helmet use vs non use, rather than legislation vs non-legislation.

Yes,me too ! What is required is a proper comparison study as to the effects of accidents where head injuries were sustained to those who were wearing helmets and those that were not.

 It would be interesting to obtain statistics from the construction industry regarding the use of hard hats. For example before they were made compulsory and after.

Personally it would not be a big deal to me if helmets wearing was made compulsory as I always wear one, however others may disagree.

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jameshcox [23 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
Batchy wrote:

What is required is a proper comparison study as to the effects of accidents where head injuries were sustained to those who were wearing helmets and those that were not.

Perhaps yet more interesting is simply injuries with helmet vs injuries without (i.e. dont limit the injury to the head). Then we'd know whether they help...

Stats or not, I wear one for the 12mph-head-into-kerb-or-tree collision.

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jameshcox [23 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes
jameshcox wrote:

Perhaps yet more interesting is simply injuries with helmet vs injuries without (i.e. dont limit the injury to the head). Then we'd know whether they help...

Stats or not, I wear one for the 12mph-head-into-kerb-or-tree collision.

Well Professor Google gives me this quite old study; though the site publishing the study looks like it promotes helmet use. http://www.smf.org/docs/articles/report

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FluffyKittenofT... [1579 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Batchy wrote:
jameshcox wrote:

It'd be  more interesting to know the effect of helmet use vs non use, rather than legislation vs non-legislation.

Yes,me too ! What is required is a proper comparison study as to the effects of accidents where head injuries were sustained to those who were wearing helmets and those that were not.

 It would be interesting to obtain statistics from the construction industry regarding the use of hard hats. For example before they were made compulsory and after.

Personally it would not be a big deal to me if helmets wearing was made compulsory as I always wear one, however others may disagree.

I usually wear one, but if it were made compulsory I'd give up cycling. For me it would send a very clear message that the state doesn't want me on a bike, that the approved thing to do is to drive. There's no way I'm going to put up with a situation where I can be prosecuted if (as I occasionally do) I forget the bloody thing.

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FluffyKittenofT... [1579 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
Sakurashinmachi wrote:

It's very simple:

1. When helmets were introduced in Melbourne there was NO huge reduction in cycling - I've read the relevant study and that's not what it says.  Building social policy on a misinterpretation of a very old study that none of the pundits appear to have actually read is very, very stupid.

2. Making helmets compulsory did bring about a reduction in head injuries in Australia - the report that said otherwise was fundamentally flawed (because they got the dates of the hospital data wrong) and was withdrawn from the journal that originally published it.

3. Cycling is booming in Melbourne and most other parts of Australia.  In my area it's been estimated that 20% of commuters are now going to work by bike.  We get bike jams.  In other words, making bike helmets compulsory doesn't stop people cycling.  

Cycling is booming in Australia? Can you share the evidence for this?

I don't care about 'your area', what's the modal share for journeys overall, even just confining it to urban areas. How much has car milage dropped?

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Stumps [3464 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

I think road cc should stop the ability to make comments whenever a helmet story is published as per fatal accidents because its the same people coming out with the same stories of how a helmet did or didnt work and its getting really repetitive never mind petty.

 

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Alan Todd [4 posts] 1 year ago
3 likes

<p>[quote=FluffyKittenofTindalos][quote=Sakurashinmachi]</p>

<p>It's very simple:</p>

<p>1. When helmets were introduced in Melbourne there was NO huge reduction in cycling - I've read the relevant study and&nbsp;that's not what it says. &nbsp;Building social policy on a misinterpretation of a very old study that none of the pundits appear to have actually read&nbsp;is very, very stupid.</p>

<p>2. Making helmets compulsory did bring about a reduction in head injuries in Australia - the report that said otherwise was fundamentally flawed (because they got the dates of the hospital data wrong) and was withdrawn from the journal that originally published it.</p>

<p>3. Cycling is booming in Melbourne and most other parts of Australia. &nbsp;In my area it's been estimated that&nbsp;20% of commuters are now going to work by bike. &nbsp;We get bike jams. &nbsp;In other words, making bike helmets compulsory doesn't stop&nbsp;people cycling. &nbsp;</p>

<p>[/quote] Cycling is booming in Australia? Can you share the evidence for this? I don't care about 'your area', what's the modal share for journeys overall, even just confining it to urban areas. How much has car milage dropped?[/quote]</p>
The study referred to would be the Muarc study of 1992 by Finch et al. This was the one where a one off cycle rally inflated the count of cyclists in the second year after helmet laws by around 30%, leading the authors to claim that cycling levels had "almost" returned to pre law levels. They also made no observations in regional Victoria, where over 50% of cycling used to occur. Regional areas showed a consistent drop of modal share from 4% to less than 1% (ABS figures). As for cycling "booming" right now, this is a myth based on inner city only counts. Austroads has shown a consistent decline in cycling in Victoria during the period 2011 to 2015, which they measure as part of the rather laughable National Cycling Strategy. Australian cycling, apart from for sport and recreation, was crippled by helmet laws, and remains at pitifully low participation rates to this day.

Avatar
OldRidgeback [2760 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes
Carton wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:

I was thinking of having a banana for lunch

 Only a banana? For lunch? What about the risks of going on a fruitarian diet ?

Think of your loved ones before you head out and eat a banana.

 

What is required is a proper comparison study as to the effects of incidents where banana related injuries were sustained to those who were eating bananas and those that were not.

 It would be interesting to obtain statistics from the construction industry regarding the eating of bananas. For example before they were made compulsory and after.

Personally it would not be a big deal to me if banana eating was made compulsory as I always eat one, however others may disagree.

 

Avatar
Batchy [378 posts] 1 year ago
1 like
OldRidgeback wrote:
Carton wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:

I was thinking of having a banana for lunch

 Only a banana? For lunch? What about the risks of going on a fruitarian diet ?

Think of your loved ones before you head out and eat a banana.

 

What is required is a proper comparison study as to the effects of incidents where banana related injuries were sustained to those who were eating bananas and those that were not.

 It would be interesting to obtain statistics from the construction industry regarding the eating of bananas. For example before they were made compulsory and after.

Personally it would not be a big deal to me if banana eating was made compulsory as I always eat one, however others may disagree.

 

I'm not sure whether or not monkeys wear helmets when cycling. However I do know with some certainty that they eat bananas !

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burtthebike [805 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

Yet another long term, large scale, reliable piece of research shows that cycle helmets are irrelevant to the safety of cyclists, while short term, small scale, unreliable research shows huge benefits.  Why do most people believe the latter rather than the former?

Part of the answer is in the press releases; the pro-helmet researchers issue press releases which say that their research proves that helmets save thousands of lives a year, whereas the sceptical press release is much more restrained and factual.  Hardly surprising that the public remembers the pro-helmet propaganda, especially when the media feature it endlessly and completely ignore the sceptics.

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rich22222 [166 posts] 1 year ago
2 likes

I don't care what all you sciencey facty type people say,

A HELMERT SAFED MY LIFE, or was it Jesus?! I can't remember now, must have had a bump on the head...