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Hackles raised by focus on helmets & high viz + James Cracknell helmet article

Day 3 of The Times newspaper’s Cities Fit For Cycling Campaign sees the paper publishing a 12-page ‘Guide To Safe Cycling' and encountering something of a backlash from some cyclists in the process. Parts of today's guide have not been universally well received, and while there is undoubtedly huge support for the campaign amongst cyclists, The Times is also finding out that they can also be an independent and prickly bunch, who don’t like being lectured or told what to do.

Among criticisms levelled at the paper on social networking sites such as Twitter are its decision to include an article from James Cracknell, now a strong supporter of helmet compulsion, who amongst other things likens those who cycle without a helmet to football hooligans, plus the newspaper’s own advice that cyclists should wear a helmet as well as high visibility clothing.

Cracknell, the Olympic rower turned TV personality, almost lost his life in 2009 after he was struck in the head by a truck’s wing mirror while filming in the United States. He believes the fact he was wearing a helmet saved his life.

However, with helmet compulsion being a subject guaranteed to incite heated debate, Cracknell has come under criticism from some quarters for the pro-helmet stance he has adopted in pieces written for The Daily Telegraph.

As one blogger points out, Cracknell appear on Alpina’s UK website as a “sponsored athlete" despite insisting, after mentioning his Alpina Pheos helmet in The Telegraph that, “I don’t have a commercial relationship with the manufacturer, by the way".

Cracknell's piece in today's Times is accompanied by a picture of him holding the helmet, still stained with blood, that he was wearing when he was struck by that lorry, although there is no mention of his apparent sponsorship by the manufacturer.

Cracknell also likens those who choose to cycle without a helmet to football hooligans.

“If you are cycling without a helmet, you are being selfish to your family and friends,” he asserts. "It is like with football in the Eighties, when a violent 1 per cent minority of football fans meant the other 99 per cent were tarred as hooligans."

The Times itself suggests, in a two-page spread under the heading ’12 ways to cycle safely’ – there’s an interactive graphic here, under the ‘Graphic: 12 safety tips’ tab – wearing a helmet and high-visibility clothing; it cites a statistic, unsourced, that “60 per cent of cyclist fatalities are head injuries,” but fails to acknowledge arguments against them often outlined by opponents of compulsion or that in the case of cycling fatalities involving motor vehicles - which make up the majority - the outcome is unlikely to have been altered by the wearing of a helmet.

On a day when coverage in the main newspaper focused on the success of the municipal authorities in Copenhagen of getting people cycling, the focus on helmets and hi-viz strikes a dissonant note for many – seeming to miss the point that when a city is fit for cycling there should be no need for helmets or high viz cycling gear. In Copenhagen and in other cities with high levels of cycling such as Amsterdam, such equipment is noticeable more for its absence than anything else. Cycling is an everyday activity, carried out in everyday clothes something that was achieved by getting more people on bikes and changing the attitudes of drivers in particular about interact with other road users.

Among those interviewed for the newspaper’s supplement today are Rebecca Romero and Chris Boardman, as well as several everyday cyclists who have no ambitions of following that pair to Olympic success, but simply want to get around on their bike, safely.

There is also an article penned by Jon Snow, the Channel 4 broadcaster and CTC President, although he is writing in a personal capacity. A couple of his comments do give food for thought.“The Times Cycling Manifesto is good as far as it goes, but there is a serious dimension missing: human rights,” he says.

“The dominant creature on the urban road is the single-occupancy car. One person in a motorised 60 sq ft metal box.
And what are we cyclists — one person on a thin strip of tubing with two wheels.

“One has the power, the presence and the rights; the other is deprived of all three. Is that equality under the law?

“I would willingly pay a licence fee for my bike if it meant that separated cycle ways were provided as my right,” continues Snow.

“My children were deprived of the right to cycle to school, even of the right to cycle safely at university — it was, and is, quite simply too dangerous.”

Even in a private capacity, that’s a startling point of view to be expressed by someone who is the figurehead of one of Britain’s leading organisations for cyclists.

Meanwhile, the urgency of the overriding goal of campaign by The Times – to make Britain’s streets safer for cyclists – was underlined yesterday by news of the deaths of two cyclists in incidents that took place in very different parts of the country just minutes apart yesterday afternoon.

A 77-year-old man died in the rural village of Whaplode Drove, Lincolnshire, in a collision with a car driven by an 80-year-old male; in London’s Bishopsgate, a male cyclist said by police to be aged in his sixties died following a collision with a coach.

Broad support for the campaign continues to be strong, with more than 100,000 people now signed up to it. But reaction to the comments by Cracknell and advice to wear a helmet and hi-viz gear do show that while in some cases it’s appropriate to generalise those who choose to ride bikes as ‘cyclists,’ it does need to be remembered that cyclists are individuals too, with views as diverse as the machines they ride.

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.

104 comments

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burtthebike [1219 posts] 5 years ago
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And in an interesting update in today's Times, the chair of the AA seems better informed that the president of CTC: "AA supports 20mph limit in boost for cycle safety "

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3310313.ece

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giff77 [1283 posts] 5 years ago
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I think we will always struggle with irresponsible cyclists and motorists. I'm also opposed to a possible knee jerk legislation as a result of this campaign. Individuals will continue to cycle on footways, jump lights, have no lights in the hours of darkness regardless of legislation or not. Motorists will continue to only look for other vehicles and forget that a bike is also a vehicle.

The only way forward is better education for both motorists and cyclists. Motorists need to have cycle awareness lessons. Cyclists need to go to road awareness courses - though I definitely would not want to see cyclists being licensed as has been suggested by motorists.

I wasn't allowed to bring my bike to school unless I had passed the cycling proficiency (still have my badge  1 ) when learning to drive, my instructor spent a good chunk of one lesson talking about cyclists, peds and horse riders (this must be about 25 years ago) I've commented before on the standards of driving instructors that would be a good place to start as well

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badback [302 posts] 5 years ago
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In principle the Times campaign is a good and noble cause and I can't knock them on that.

It would be interesting to see some statistics on cycling fatalities in France where the attitude towards cyclists appears to be different and helmet use seems to be less frequent in cities.

To me helmet use personal choice and should stay that way.

As for excessive use of reflective clothing - I'll start when it becomes compulsary for pedestrians who cross the road without looking out for bikes.

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wyadvd [128 posts] 5 years ago
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Quite frankly , I get tired of the tyranny of common sense. How about a bit of evidence?

like this:

http://most.psych.udel.edu/MAPlab/Publications_files/MostAstur_2007.pdf

which, having read, and re-read it myself, suggests to me that being a 2% minority group on the road, that we will be filtered out and smidseyed (believe it or not!) if we wear weird and wonderful colours that make us stand out.

READ THIS RESEARCH AND FOLLOW SOME OF THE REFERENCES!!

motorists are looking for cars at junctions because that is the only thing that might cause them harm.

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wyadvd [128 posts] 5 years ago
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badback wrote:

In principle the Times campaign is a good and noble cause and I can't knock them on that.

It would be interesting to see some statistics on cycling fatalities in France where the attitude towards cyclists appears to be different and helmet use seems to be less frequent in cities.

To me helmet use personal choice and should stay that way.

As for excessive use of reflective clothing - I'll start when it becomes compulsory for pedestrians who cross the road without looking out for bikes.

Gaz recently dug out a stat, that in Paris last year there were a big fat zero fatalities despite Paris's population being much larger than London's, and it not having many cycle lanes,very little hiviz worn and few people wearing helmets. London had 17 fatalities last year???

QED

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downfader [213 posts] 5 years ago
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I do wear a helmet 90% of the time, but I resent people like Cracknell (who I still admire in many ways despite this) and fred22.

The difference with seatbelts is that we DO have conclusive evidence that they work for multiple occupants. However we also have statistical evidence that the few years after seatbelt compulsion that cyclist and pedestrian KSIs rose as the driver/passenger KSIs fell.

Cycling for me represents freedom. I've said before - if my right to choose is removed then I might not cycle as often or at all.

I do feel, too, that the helmet/hiviz thing is a major and calculated distraction from the real issues. Many cyclists are falling into this victim-blaming trap, just as with BBC Breakfast yesterday morning when the presenter said (paraphrased) "..you're poor friend, maimed by a lorry... so what about those red light jumping cyclists!!"

He who shouts loudest seems to be listened to at the moment.  39

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Raleigh [1667 posts] 5 years ago
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Isn't there a statistic which shows that

a). You're more likely to be involved in a car crash than a bike crash

b). If involved in a car crash, you're much more likely to have a head injury.

So, why not wear a helmet in a car?

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Raleigh [1667 posts] 5 years ago
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Yeah, I agree, quoting statistics won't help you while you're lying on the roadside, brains pouring out of your head, the smell of rubber in the air as a 'hot hatchback' speeds away.

In the end, it's up to you, but do it anyway

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joemmo [1164 posts] 5 years ago
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@big mick - can you explain how the contributory negligence judgement was passed when there is no legal requirement to wear a helmet, nor could it be proved that a helmet would have prevented the injury?

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brandobiker [22 posts] 5 years ago
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cycling helmets offer no protection in road accidents as claimed by the manufacturers  2

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big mick [186 posts] 5 years ago
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Wear a Helmet already.I had an accident and i wished i had been wearing a helmet.I am now epileptic and also when my case went to court the judgment claimed contributory negligence which cost me 33% of my settlement.I have been riding for 25 years and thought it would never happen to me as i am sure you all think.thrust me it does.Now i can not work fit while out on the bike which has done more damage and hospital stays.So like i say WEAR A BLOODY HELMET!if only to stop lawyers using it againts you.No matter how much you complain about 20mph limits and driver ed you have to live in the real world which just is not perfect.Broken bones heal damaged brains dont.I always wear a helmet now but the horse has already bolted in my case.Dont make the same mistake PLEASE ,the lasts 10 years of my life has been shitty and its like playing Russian roulette every day.

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big mick [186 posts] 5 years ago
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Tell the judge and the word twisting lawyers they will tear you apart and make you sound like a fool.

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big mick [186 posts] 5 years ago
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I have been thinking down the same lines on that one but i think the cops would think it a bit strange.I would say it would save more lives persay but women would not like the helmet hair.  3 answer to @raleigh

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jdmotion [10 posts] 5 years ago
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I was cycling 600 yards when the chain fell off when I was stomping on the pedals out of the saddle. My head hit the road so hard that it bounced up and hit it again on the rebound. FORTUNATELY I was wearing a helmet. It split into two pieces (there's a picture here somewhere http://everygramcounts.blogspot.com/). If I hadn't been wearing a helmet my head would have split into two pieces.
No excuses - wear a helmet pleeeeease.

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Kevcaster [16 posts] 5 years ago
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I also flipped myself off the bike on a slow right-hander at no more than 10 mph. On a greasy surface I touched the brakes, it was my fault I made a basic and stupid mistake.
My hip took the brunt of the fall and I have been off the bike for 10 days, my head took the rest and bounced like jdmotion's; a really weird experience. The helmet I was wearing provided the necessary protection while suffering only scratches, I was slightly dazed for a few seconds and lay on the road to check there were no bone-breaks or bleeding.
20 Years ago I did the same thing, on that occasion I broke my collar bone and was concussed for an hour or so. The helmet was trashed and ended up being used for instructional talks at the local schools.
Please wear your helmets, they weigh nothing and these days are much improved. They will save you life.

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Denzilwood [27 posts] 5 years ago
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Out cycling when I was 18 I fell of my bike at speed riding down a hill and landed on my head.

Sadly I was not wearing a helmet as I could then have claimed it saved my life as no doubt it would have smashed into lots of pieces.

But as I was not wearing a helmet and still suffered no damage apart from ripping my knees to shreds (should knee protectors be made mandatory) I sadly cannot join the long list of people claiming a helmet saved my life.

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OldRidgeback [2826 posts] 5 years ago
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Is this argument still going?

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 5 years ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

Is this argument still going?

this one's set to run and run. maybe we should have a rule that we end the thread and post a nice picture of some kittens as soon as someone says 'my helmet broke in two' or 'in australia and new zealand'. something like that?

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 5 years ago
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like this:

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joemmo [1164 posts] 5 years ago
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Apparently so. And when it stops here it will continue elsewhere until the end of time or conclusive proof as to the efficacy of bike helmets, whichever comes sooner.

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a.jumper [850 posts] 5 years ago
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Yeah. There's evidence both ways, much of which has been referred to above, which I feel means it should be left to personal choice. The main undisputable fact is that the manufacturers do not claim any efficacy on vehicle-involved crashes, which are the main source of fatalities.

It's also a complete distraction from "Cities Fit For Cycling" which should be about changing the cities more than the cyclists. I suspect the Times knew this when they invited Crackpotnell to write... now can we speculate on why they'd subvert/derail their own campaign after gathering so much support?

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 5 years ago
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-

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Simon E [3154 posts] 5 years ago
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I hope nobody's suggesting those kittens should cross the road without any hi-viz. That's why cats die, you know. We need a campaign.

SAVE THE KITTENS!

HI-VIZ FOR KITTENS NOW!

NEWSFLASH!
FAMOUS OLYMPIC BLOKE TELLS ANYONE WHO LISTENS THAT HIS KITTEN WOULD HAVE DIED WITHOUT ITS HI-VIZ AND HELMET. SAYS THAT KITTEN HELMETS SHOULD BE MADE COMPULSORY FOR ALL FELINES!
(the subliminal small print: his sponsor makes the best helmets for cats. Buy one today. You know it makes sense)

Denzilwood, did your round-the-clock carer that you've needed since your bike crash assist you with that post?

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burtthebike [1219 posts] 5 years ago
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Nice pix of kittens.

Unfortunately, the discussion will continue while there are so many people who don't appreciate the difference between anecdote and data.

It doesn't matter that all the reliable data says one thing, an ex-olympian holding up his broken helmet which didn't save him from brain damage is much more convincing.

In the absolutely dire The One Show helmet promotion article last year, the head of BHIT, Angie Lee said "just ignore all the research and go with common sense." Now why would the head of an organisation promoting helmets want everyone to ignore the evidence?  39

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 5 years ago
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 39

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Simon E [3154 posts] 5 years ago
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^^ Those cats' lives are at risk.

Ignore the research, it's obviously rubbish, someone on the telly said so.

This is the essential accessory for your cat:

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big mick [186 posts] 5 years ago
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I am not claiming it will save your life but sure it will save legal problems in court

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burtthebike [1219 posts] 5 years ago
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big mick wrote:

I am not claiming it will save your life but sure it will save legal problems in court

How so? Since the only court case to find contributory negligence for not wearing a helmet was someone who inflicted the injuries on themselves by their reckless behaviour, not as the result of a road collision, your assumption is incorrect.

All other cases where the driver's insurance have tried to claim contributory negligence for not wearing a helmet have either been thrown out, or much more frequently, been withdrawn at the doors of the court. There is no instance in this country, or anywhere else as far as I am aware, of a finding of contributory negligence for not wearing a cycle helmet. Since nowhere with a helmet law can show any reduction in risk to cyclists, despite more than twenty years of experience, it seems unlikely that any such claim would succeed.

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dave atkinson [6330 posts] 5 years ago
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 22

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Bez [620 posts] 5 years ago
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Surely someone's got their facts wrong here. Whilst big mick claims to have had his damages reduced by 33%, burtthebike states that there is only one case to have found contributory negligence - by which I assume he means the only one I'm aware of, the case of Simon Reynolds last year, where the negligence was not just choosing not to wear the offered protection but also causing the accident. It would be possible that big mick is Simon Reynolds, but the damages in that case were reduced by around two thirds, I believe, not a third.

What gives?

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