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Says helmets save lives and prevent lifelong disability - and save money for NHS

The chairmain of a leading brain injury charity has called for all cyclists to wear helmets, and says that the Welsh Assembly should debate a change in the law.

Andrew Harding,chairman of Headway, wrote a piece on Wales Online, weighing into the helmet debate. He suggested that costs to the NHS could be lowered if all cyclists don a lid.

He wrote: "As a lawyer specialising in head and brain injuries, I represent many clients who have suffered serious brain or spinal injuries, some of whom have been injured whilst cycling, and see the devastating effects it can have on their lives.

"Arguments are also fought over whether wearing a cycle helmet should be a matter of personal choice – an opinion voiced regularly by Mayor of London and avid cyclist, Boris Johnson. Yet what is usually disregarded in this argument is the impact that a brain injury could have on the victim’s family and friends as well as the cost to us all in NHS treatment."

Mr Harding also notes that increasingly cyclists who do not wear helmets might receive lower compensation payments and different outcomes in court cases than those who do have one on at the time of an accident.

He wrote: "In legal terms, all cyclists should note that if they are involved in an accident, contributory negligence (meaning that an accident victim could be partly at fault for their injury) is increasingly being taken into consideration by insurance firms and judges if a cyclist was riding without a helmet when the accident occurred."

Mr Harding has asked that the Welsh Assembly consider legislation in favour of cycle helmets.

He cites Northern Ireland and Jersey, two places where cycle helmet legislation has been considered.

As we reported at the time, in Jersey, laws to make helmets compulsory either for all cyclists in public places or just for under-18s were proposed to the island’s parliament, the States, by Deputy Andrew Green, a long-time campaigner for compulsion after his son suffered a brain injury after coming off his bike in 1988 when he was aged nine.

The motion to make it compulsory for all cyclists was defeated by 25 votes to 24, while that in favour of applying it to under-18s was carried by 32 votes to 16.

But in Northern Ireland, a bill to make helmets compulsory ran out of time, amid widespread lack of interest for the move.

Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns Director told Road.cc: “Neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin – the two biggest parties in the Assembly - were interested in the Bill. The DUP felt that this would be legislation intruding into areas of life where it doesn’t need to go especially as they accepted that cycling is not a particularly dangerous activity. They also took on board our evidence that compulsory helmet use would seriously undermine cycle sales and the cycle tourist industry.

But Mr Harding thinks there might be more success in Wales for the proposal. He wrote: "I have recently spoken to one Assembly Member who thought that this was already law in any event, such was the obvious sense and necessity of the proposal."

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

86 comments

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stabiliser [7 posts] 4 years ago
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"As a lawyer specialising in head and brain injuries, I represent many clients who have suffered serious brain or spinal injuries, some of whom have been injured whilst cycling."

If only *some* of his clients suffered their injuries while cycling, I think Mr Harding should concentrate his efforts on making helmet wearing compulsory, for everyone, all the time.

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ermine [19 posts] 4 years ago
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Predictably trotting out the same old brainless claptrap in the face of science and common sense.

So, another highly qualified, knowledgeable, experienced individual pops his helmeted head up to be shot at by those self-centred fools who value vanity over safety. Have fun.

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JonSP [70 posts] 4 years ago
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Mr Harding refers to "the obvious sense and necessity of the proposal."
Yes, and it's also obvious the the earth is flat. Obvious is not always correct.

There are lots of complex issues here. I always wear a helmet and encourage others to do so but it's not at all clear that compulsion would actually be a good thing.

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dave atkinson [6251 posts] 4 years ago
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Perhaps we could have a point-counterpoint thing with someone from an obesity charity  39 1

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aslongasicycle [383 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm with Dave. The killers of tens of thousands in this country are lifestyle choices. Lack of exercise, smoking, over eating, over drinking, stress, cancers.

Cycling en masse helps hack down those type of deaths. We should be encouraging, not discouraging that.
Oh, and I wear a helmet by the way!

*dives behind sofa*

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themartincox [514 posts] 4 years ago
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Guys and gals, come on lets be serious here.

its not a matter for joking about and clearly some people are very passionate about this problem that we as cyclists face.

having spent some considerable time weighing up allthe cases and the evidence, and many hours poring over volumes of statistics and points of view I have come up with my own, and may i add the best, solution to the problem.

I conclude that as all accidents/incidents involving cyclists involve a bicycle, yet only some may or may not involve a helmet, it is CLEAR that its the bikes fault.

therefore I urge you to give up on this sport and go back to sitting at home in the comfort and safety of your armchairs - as NO-ONE has ever had an accident/incident with a car or lorry whilst sitting comfortably at home - and research has shown that not wearing a helmet whilst on the comfy chair is JUST AS SAFE as wearing one.

I for one will be recycling all my lycra this afternoon and cutting my bike into pieces so no-one will ever be at risk again from it!

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colhum1 [86 posts] 4 years ago
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dave_atkinson wrote:

Perhaps we could have a point-counterpoint thing with someone from an obesity charity  39 1

LoL...some might say i'm a charity case and the missus always has a go about my weight (btw cycling keeps you fit !!)So as a member of the above I say: wear a helmet  1

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Coleman [335 posts] 4 years ago
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ermine wrote:

Predictably trotting out the same old brainless claptrap in the face of science and common sense.

So, another highly qualified, knowledgeable, experienced individual pops his helmeted head up to be shot at by those self-centred fools who value vanity over safety. Have fun.

Wow. "Shot at... Self-centred fools... Vanity over safety"

 39

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ribena [179 posts] 4 years ago
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Martin Porter has written a very good article on this from a legal point of view...
http://www.cyclistsdefencefund.org.uk/cycle-helmets-a-duty-to-wear

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Paul M [360 posts] 4 years ago
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stabiliser wrote:

"As a lawyer specialising in head and brain injuries, I represent many clients who have suffered serious brain or spinal injuries, some of whom have been injured whilst cycling."

If only *some* of his clients suffered their injuries while cycling, I think Mr Harding should concentrate his efforts on making helmet wearing compulsory, for everyone, all the time.

I would also be interestd to know what types of spinal injury Mr Harding imagines would be mitigated by a helmet.

I undertsnad that the family of last week's London victim don't want their son to be exploited by vested interest groups. hame they can't honour the family's wishes.

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drheaton [3318 posts] 4 years ago
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Have to say that I wouldn't be astonished if courts started to take a lack of a helmet into account as mitigating factors should damages be sought for head injuries in collisions. It makes sense, if you could have reasonably done something to prevent some or all of your injuries and haven't then you're partly to blame for them.

I'm not saying helmet's should be compulsory, just that if you don't wear one and suffer a head injury which a helmet would have prevented (or where a helmet may have lessened the damage) surely you have to take some responsibility for it?

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ermine [19 posts] 4 years ago
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drheaton wrote:

Have to say that I wouldn't be astonished if courts started to take a lack of a helmet into account as mitigating factors should damages be sought for head injuries in collisions. It makes sense, if you could have reasonably done something to prevent some or all of your injuries and haven't then you're partly to blame for them.

I'm not saying helmet's should be compulsory, just that if you don't wear one and suffer a head injury which a helmet would have prevented (or where a helmet may have lessened the damage) surely you have to take some responsibility for it?

This is (pardon the pun) a no-brainer. Claimants in civil damages claims are always required to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable measures to mitigate the damage sustained and claimed. A court that fails to take such matters into account would be negligent and its decision would surely be subject to appeal.

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drheaton [3318 posts] 4 years ago
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ermine wrote:
drheaton wrote:

Have to say that I wouldn't be astonished if courts started to take a lack of a helmet into account as mitigating factors should damages be sought for head injuries in collisions. It makes sense, if you could have reasonably done something to prevent some or all of your injuries and haven't then you're partly to blame for them.

I'm not saying helmet's should be compulsory, just that if you don't wear one and suffer a head injury which a helmet would have prevented (or where a helmet may have lessened the damage) surely you have to take some responsibility for it?

This is (pardon the pun) a no-brainer. Claimants in civil damages claims are always required to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable measures to mitigate the damage sustained and claimed. A court that fails to take such matters into account would be negligent and its decision would surely be subject to appeal.

In that case, is there not a financial benefit to wearing a helment then, even if you don't believe it will help you?

If you suffer serious injury whilst not wearing a helmet your family may have to foot the bill for your care because you didn't take all reasonable measures to protect yourself. If you wear a helmet (even if it doesn't help) your loved ones may receive enough compensation to look after you or be provided for if you are no longer capable.

Seems to be yet another sensible reason to wear a helmet. Why anyone wouldn't whilst cycling on the road is beyond me but I guess that's personal choice.

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JonD [411 posts] 4 years ago
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ermine wrote:

in the face of science and

Other than an unrepresentative impact test, good luck in finding any.

ermine wrote:

common sense.

Yeah, we all know how reliable that is...

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t1mmyb [87 posts] 4 years ago
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Without compensation culture, there wouldn't be a problem. The only people that benefit from compensation culture are lawyers, so make lawyers illegal  1

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ribena [179 posts] 4 years ago
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Claimants in civil damages claims are always required to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable measures to mitigate the damage sustained and claimed.

You also have to show that the helmet would have prevented the injuries sustained in order to have any compensation reduced. Since helmets were never designed for accidents involving cars, and all tests so far are from riding at 12mph, that's going to be quite difficult without carrying out some additional research.

Also, if the likelihood of a head injury is similar to say, walking, is it negligent to ride without one? What if you wore a helmet, but had no driving license, bikeability or other such training? In fact, i wonder if a lack of formal cycle training or test could be classed as negligent too? or fluorescent jacket?

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mrpuncture [19 posts] 4 years ago
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I still don't understand why people are so passionate about not wearing a helmet. Came off yesterday over the top on the mountain bike(I should stick to road!) and helmet took a fair old wallop...I was fine, but would i have been without a helmet?? Obviously anecdotal evidence is no good, and I'm sure that "evidence" can be found to support any view...but to me I can't see any reason not to wear a helmet other than your hair gets a bit messy and you get a sweaty line. A small price to pay surely??

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dave atkinson [6251 posts] 4 years ago
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ermine wrote:
drheaton wrote:

Have to say that I wouldn't be astonished if courts started to take a lack of a helmet into account as mitigating factors should damages be sought for head injuries in collisions. It makes sense, if you could have reasonably done something to prevent some or all of your injuries and haven't then you're partly to blame for them.

I'm not saying helmet's should be compulsory, just that if you don't wear one and suffer a head injury which a helmet would have prevented (or where a helmet may have lessened the damage) surely you have to take some responsibility for it?

This is (pardon the pun) a no-brainer. Claimants in civil damages claims are always required to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable measures to mitigate the damage sustained and claimed. A court that fails to take such matters into account would be negligent and its decision would surely be subject to appeal.

If I'm walking past a building site and somebody drops a scaffold pole on my head, causing me a brain injury, am i then required to explain why i wasn't wearing head protection in order to receive full damages?

the only differences between that scenario and one where a motorist hits a cyclist and is entirely at fault, so far as i can see, are:

1) people (judges) think cycling is inherently dangerous
2) cycling helmets are commonly available and walking helmets aren't.

The truth is that cycling isn't really any more dangerous than being a pedestrian, or a bunch of other things where wearing a helmet wouldn't even be considered. Also, where does that argument stop? You can already buy body armour for downhilling - if i suffer a back injury in an accident that wasn't my fauly, am i negligent for not having bought armour that might have lessened the injuries? or knee and shin pads? if i am wearing a helmet and still suffer a brain injury, am i negligent because i wasn't wearing a full face helmet? or an MX helmet? where does my burden of responsibility end?

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drheaton [3318 posts] 4 years ago
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dave_atkinson wrote:
ermine wrote:
drheaton wrote:

Have to say that I wouldn't be astonished if courts started to take a lack of a helmet into account as mitigating factors should damages be sought for head injuries in collisions. It makes sense, if you could have reasonably done something to prevent some or all of your injuries and haven't then you're partly to blame for them.

I'm not saying helmet's should be compulsory, just that if you don't wear one and suffer a head injury which a helmet would have prevented (or where a helmet may have lessened the damage) surely you have to take some responsibility for it?

This is (pardon the pun) a no-brainer. Claimants in civil damages claims are always required to demonstrate that they have taken reasonable measures to mitigate the damage sustained and claimed. A court that fails to take such matters into account would be negligent and its decision would surely be subject to appeal.

If I'm walking past a building site and somebody drops a scaffold pole on my head, causing me a brain injury, am i then required to explain why i wasn't wearing head protection in order to receive full damages?

the only differences between that scenario and one where a motorist hits a cyclist and is entirely at fault, so far as i can see, are:

1) people (judges) think cycling is inherently dangerous
2) cycling helmets are commonly available and walking helmets aren't.

The truth is that cycling isn't really any more dangerous than being a pedestrian, or a bunch of other things where wearing a helmet wouldn't even be considered. Also, where does that argument stop? You can already buy body armour for downhilling - if i suffer a back injury in an accident that wasn't my fauly, am i negligent for not having bought armour that might have lessened the injuries? or knee and shin pads? if i am wearing a helmet and still suffer a brain injury, am i negligent because i wasn't wearing a full face helmet? or an MX helmet? where does my burden of responsibility end?

I don't have any statistics (and let's face it, stats will tell you anything you like) but I'd bet that accidents per journey made by bike are considerably higher than accidents per journey made on foot.

Likewise the rate of head injuries per cycling accident is probably considerably higher than head injuries per pedestrian accident (assuming you include trips and falls, and other self caused accidents as you would include coming off the bike unaided or crashing into a wall etc...)

Finally, I would expect the seriousness of head injuries sustained in cycling accidents to be more serious, on average, than head injuries received in pedestrian accidents.

Would you say all of those are sensible guesses? Obviously without looking into the actual statistics I couldn't be certain but common sense would say all of the above would probably be true.

In that case cycling is more dangerous than walking (just saying that there are X accidents for cyclists and a similar number for pedestrians doesn't take into account the vastly higher volume of pedestrian journeys, likewise injury per distance isn't a fair representation as walking journeys tend to be shorter but slower, injuries per hour of walking/cycling could be a better stat to use).

By that extremely fuzzy logic based on wildly unverified foundations I'd say that wearing a walking helmet would not be deemed to be a reasonable precaution to take whereas a helmet when cycling may be.

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OldRidgeback [2632 posts] 4 years ago
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mrpuncture wrote:

I still don't understand why people are so passionate about not wearing a helmet. Came off yesterday over the top on the mountain bike(I should stick to road!) and helmet took a fair old wallop...I was fine, but would i have been without a helmet?? Obviously anecdotal evidence is no good, and I'm sure that "evidence" can be found to support any view...but to me I can't see any reason not to wear a helmet other than your hair gets a bit messy and you get a sweaty line. A small price to pay surely??

Well riding on a challenging MTB track does somewhat increase your risk of going over the bars. You don't have to wear a helmet in that sort of riding, but it makes sense. The same goes for skate park riding on a BMX or competition BMX riding. I wear a helmet for all of those. But I rarely do for road riding, because the risks of going over the bars are lower. And in road riding, the greatest risk to cyclists come from high speed impacts or crush injuries. Neither of which scenario would mean helmet use would make a blind bit of difference. The CTC's analysis of cycle accidents say that in about 3% of them would helmet wearing make a difference as I remember. We might as well require all cyclists to wear body armour, leg and elbow and upper arm protection, as I wear for BMX competition. Arms and legs are the parts of the body most likely to be injured in a cycle accident on the road after all.

I'd be curious to see the statistics the chairman of this brain injury group has to back up his claims.

As many people have commented on this site recently, those campaigning for compulsory use of cycle helmets are looking in the wrong direction with regard to safety. The real issue here is bad driving.

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ermine [19 posts] 4 years ago
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dave_atkinson wrote:

If I'm walking past a building site and somebody drops a scaffold pole on my head, causing me a brain injury, am i then required to explain why i wasn't wearing head protection in order to receive full damages?

the only differences between that scenario and one where a motorist hits a cyclist and is entirely at fault, so far as i can see, are:

1) people (judges) think cycling is inherently dangerous
2) cycling helmets are commonly available and walking helmets aren't.

The truth is that cycling isn't really any more dangerous than being a pedestrian, or a bunch of other things where wearing a helmet wouldn't even be considered. Also, where does that argument stop? You can already buy body armour for downhilling - if i suffer a back injury in an accident that wasn't my fauly, am i negligent for not having bought armour that might have lessened the injuries? or knee and shin pads? if i am wearing a helmet and still suffer a brain injury, am i negligent because i wasn't wearing a full face helmet? or an MX helmet? where does my burden of responsibility end?

We're dealing with a common (or judge-made) law system here in the UK, therefore much of the decision-making process is based on a combination of precedent and contemporaneous observation and opinion. That element of perception might, in this instance be guided by consideration of factors such as; the availability of cycling helmets (cf the limited availability of walking helmets), the wearing of helmets by professional road cyclists (cf the limited wearing of helmets by professional walkers), the growing body of opinion from medical professional in support of the contention that helmet-wearing might reduce the number/severity of head injuries sustained in cycling accidents (cf ... you get the point). The same goes for knee and elbow pads, full-face helmets, etc - they simply are not accepted into the consciousness as default safety attire, in the same way that helmets are. The measure is, as stated above, whether the party seeking damages, has done that which would be considered reasonable in all the circumstances to mitigate the damage. Most cyclists wear helmets (certainly in the public perception) and every cycling shop sells helmets.

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nuclear coffee [213 posts] 4 years ago
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I can't believe he hasn't mentioned the simplest and most effective way to reduce cycling casualties - ban cycling.

Why not? Understand that, and you'll probably understand why he's wrong.

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ermine [19 posts] 4 years ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

The real issue here is bad driving.

Mis-use of the phrase 'the real issue' here. This should read, 'another relevant issue'.

Anti-helmet lobbyists traditionally deflect the attention away from helmet use to driver actions. These two are not mutually exclusive. It is, contrary to all the arguments, possible for a bad driver to be responsible for a collision and for a cyclist to fail to mitigate the damage resulting from that collision by failing to wear a helmet. In such circumstances, it is clear that liability may rest with the driver but compensation should be reduced because of the cyclist's failure to mitigate.

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Sarah Barth [86 posts] 4 years ago
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mrpuncture wrote:

I still don't understand why people are so passionate about not wearing a helmet.

As I understand it, most people aren't passionate about not wearing a helmet; they're passionate about THEIR RIGHT not to wear a helmet.

In practice, that means that should they hop on their bike to go to buy a pint of milk, without a helmet on, they won't be arrested, or fined.

Would you nip places on your bike as often as you did if you had to armour up every time? Would you carry one with you everywhere in case you ever use a Boris bike?

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northstar [1108 posts] 4 years ago
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The only people/organisations who want compulsory helmets want to reduce cycling numbers

Pro choice - yes. Compulsion will cause more problems for the NHS, these well meaning "bodies" never think before they speak.

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ermine [19 posts] 4 years ago
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northstar wrote:

The only people/organisations who want compulsory helmets want to reduce cycling numbers

Don't try to speak for me, or for people who share my view. I do not want to reduce cycling numbers. I am active in encouraging non-cyclists to cycle.

northstar wrote:

Pro choice - yes. Compulsion will cause more problems for the NHS, these well meaning "bodies" never think before they speak.

Compulsion WILL CAUSE more PROBLEMS for the NHS? What utter baloney! Define 'problems'. Demonstrate 'will'. Link 'cause' to supposed effect. Drivel.

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dave atkinson [6251 posts] 4 years ago
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drheaton wrote:

I don't have any statistics (and let's face it, stats will tell you anything you like) but I'd bet that accidents per journey made by bike are considerably higher than accidents per journey made on foot.

Likewise the rate of head injuries per cycling accident is probably considerably higher than head injuries per pedestrian accident (assuming you include trips and falls, and other self caused accidents as you would include coming off the bike unaided or crashing into a wall etc...)

Finally, I would expect the seriousness of head injuries sustained in cycling accidents to be more serious, on average, than head injuries received in pedestrian accidents.

Would you say all of those are sensible guesses? Obviously without looking into the actual statistics I couldn't be certain but common sense would say all of the above would probably be true.

In that case cycling is more dangerous than walking (just saying that there are X accidents for cyclists and a similar number for pedestrians doesn't take into account the vastly higher volume of pedestrian journeys, likewise injury per distance isn't a fair representation as walking journeys tend to be shorter but slower, injuries per hour of walking/cycling could be a better stat to use).

By that extremely fuzzy logic based on wildly unverified foundations I'd say that wearing a walking helmet would not be deemed to be a reasonable precaution to take whereas a helmet when cycling may be.

most of the analysis i've read comes to the conclusions that:

1) the risk is broadly the same in terms of KSI per billion km for walking and cycling. so risk per hour would be higher for walking, risk per journey higher for cycling.
2) the head injury percentage among admissions is broadly the same too, i've never seen data on the severity or otherwise of those injuries but pedestrian accident data doesn't include things like tripping over a paving stone and bumping your head.
3) the way accidents are reported (especially for pedestrians) means that the figures aren't particularly accurate

the basic gist of all of it, however, is that neither walking nor cycling is particularly dangerous.

i'm not particularly pro or anti helmet use, it's interesting to me that it's always such a hot topic though which is why i read around it a little. and it really is a little. sadly much of the stuff available to read is on websites with a really, *really* obvious axe to grind, one way or the other, so i don't really consider it trustworthy.

I wear a helmet when i'm riding to work or going for a longer ride, or heading off road. I don't wear one when i'm riding to the shops or pootling along the cycle path with my kids. my main bugbear with helmet compulsion is that it'll put people off riding to the shops on their bike, or pootling along the cycle path with their kids.

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Manx Rider [18 posts] 4 years ago
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I'm pro-choice, I don't think it makes sense to force people to wear helmets, it will just mean less people riding their bike which is not what we want to achieve.

I don't think it helps the pro-choice argument when a significant number of commenters claim there is no safety benefit in wearing a helmet. There clearly is. As there is with knee/elbow pads, but that doesn't mean they should be compulsory.

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nuclear coffee [213 posts] 4 years ago
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ermine [19 posts] 4 years ago
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I've timed it; on average it takes me 4 seconds to put my helmet on and take it back off again. Can't see that being too off-putting.

If parents wear helmets, their children will see it as first-nature to wear them and will not be troubled by the vanity concerns that afflict some unfortunate folk.

Boris bikes are the anomaly.

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