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Photo of mangled helmet shared more than 30 million times after cyclist walks away from crash

Ben Hobbs was hit by recycling truck but had miraculous escape - thanks, he says, to helmet

A cyclist who was run down by a recycling truck and narrowly avoided being killed has said a shared a graphic photo online of his mangled helmet online could warn others of the dangers of riding without one.

Ben Hobbs, 46, was riding to work near his home in Devon in March when he was hit by the truck. He was knocked off and suffered a broken spine, broken ribs, broken sternum and a head injury.

The photo of the Specialized Echelon helmet has since been shared more than 30 million times and sparked intense debate online.

He told the Western Daily News: "It's quite surprising that the image has had such an impact. It has been shared around the county and I'm really grateful for that.

"I've heard cyclists say that helmets are not the be all and end all because they only cover certain places but the helmet certainly worked for me."

He said: "I don't know what speed I was going at when the driver cut across in front of me but I didn't have time to stop.

"I was on my way to work and it was about 9am when the accident happened. There were a few people who stopped to help and a fantastic first aider who had to stop me from trying to get up.

"People kept telling me that I was in a mess but I didn't know what was going on. I kept trying to get up and I didn't know I had a serious spinal injury.

"I don't remember much but the first thing I can clearly remember is being in the ambulance. In the hospital I still didn't accept that it had happened to me and kept trying to get out of bed in the night.

"By day three a nurse sat down with me and said you've broken your back and you need to stay in bed."

The father of two is still recovering rom his injuries at home.

He said: "My head injury was right on the top of my head. The helmet has done the job for me.

"I'm a good rider and I'm confident. Nothing like this has happened to me before and I've been riding since I was four or five.

"I ride about 6,000 miles a year in Devon and commute to work everyday which is about 13 miles. I had just finished doing a complete overhaul of my bike and it was in 100 per cent condition.

"You've got no control of what will happen when you are on the roads. As a cyclist I make a balanced decision and go by the theory that you need to expect the unexpected. You don't know what people are going to do."

Mark Walker, a first responder for South Western Ambulance Service, shared the photo on his Facebook page after he was sent it by a colleague.

He said: "He is a lucky man. If it had been his head that had hit the van he wouldn't be here today. He was wearing the helmet in the correct position and it took the pressure of the impact.

"This is a powerful image and that shows the importance of wearing a helmet when cycling on the road."

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133 comments

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farrell replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:

That's the point isn't it cycling IS more dangerous than many other daily activities..

No it isn't.

No it isn't.

No it isn't.

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RTB replied to farrell | 8 years ago
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farrell wrote:
RTB wrote:

That's the point isn't it cycling IS more dangerous than many other daily activities..

No it isn't.

No it isn't.

No it isn't.

Afraid it is, basic science says so. The more people accept this instead of denying it, particularly those from the cycling community, the more likely better safety and awareness will become. Even Chris Boardman's campaigning implicitly acknowledges that cycling is dangerous. Why would you need to improve the safety of something that isn't?

Wear a helmet, don't wear a helmet, your choice. My objection are those 'Flat-earth' apostles like you farrell that would irresponsibly and disingenuously attempt to mislead less informed folk. Thank goodness there is a healthy and growing band of active, experienced cyclists that advocate an opposite position.

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vonhelmet replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:
Joeinpoole wrote:

Why don't helmet-evangelising numpties like you understand that cycling is no more dangerous than many other daily activities that we all do without wearing helmets?

Ah Mr. Angry from the pub, I remember you from before. That's the point isn't it cycling IS more dangerous than many other daily activities. Absurd and irresponsible to suggest otherwise. Pure physics (applied for that matter too) and increased variables provides the obvious science behind that even if instinct fails or is ignored.

Much as I'd love to see your scientific theory behind why it's so dangerous, the statistics based on actual real life suggest it really isn't as dangerous as you think.

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Aapje replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Possible but minute compared to the lives they will save (cf motor bikes).

Your reference to motor bikes shows that you are unfamiliar with the huge gap between motor bike helmets and bicycle helmets. They are night and day in safety levels (not surprising if you just look at the area they cover & their weight).

Fact is that bicycle helmets are only designed to help if you land on top of your head, at about the same speed as when you topple over from stationary position. If you fall differently they may 'grab' the road, causing rotational injuries to your brain and/or neck. A gentleman above described how this happened to him. If you fall harder, the helmet quickly becomes useless as crash energy goes up with speed squared (e = mc^2). If you fall a bit softer, you would have survived anyway (the skull is actually pretty good at preventing milder injury). So a helmet can only work at certain speeds, if you hit your head in a specific way.

So rational thinking says that helmets will reduce the impact of some incidents and make others worse. In many accidents it will do nothing (even though the helmet may be damaged). That is why anecdotes like yours are so useless. They do not provide real information on how often helmets help, how often they harm and how often they provide no big benefit. Especially when we know that people are very poor at drawing conclusions (doctors performed blood letting for ages, since they saw patients get 'better' aka their fever went down; despite their survival chances going down too.)

Ultimately, after decades of research, there has been no conclusive evidence that bicycle helmet have any measurable impact on survival rates. Unlike motorcycle helmets and seat belts where the evidence was overwhelming. In itself, this is really strong evidence that the usefulness of helmets is very limited, so the victim-blaming crowd should stop with proclaiming huge benefits for which they cannot provide solid evidence.

PS. Was that paramedic talking specifically about bicycle helmets or did he conflate all kinds of helmets, as you seem to imply?

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RTB replied to Aapje | 8 years ago
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Aapje wrote:

Your reference ..... weight).

If you fall harder, the helmet quickly becomes useless as crash energy goes up with speed squared (e = mc^2).

WTF?!

You are aware that "c" in Einstein's equation (Special theory of relativity) is the speed of light (3 x 10^8 m/s) and that 'E' is the total energy contained in a given mass (m) [not weight which is gravity acting on mass] from its quarks, leptons, bosuns and Higgs-Bosun up.

We're not talking about atomic and quantum level energy release here FGS.

I think Newton's laws with a heavy layer of finite element analysis overlaid should get you into the right area if you want to have another stab.

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Aapje replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:

I think Newton's laws with a heavy layer of finite element analysis overlaid should get you into the right area if you want to have another stab.

You're right, I got confused. It's actually E = 1/2 * mv^2

Which doesn't change my argument one bit, btw. Energy still increases with speed squared, which is the point I made and which you ignored. Just like you ignored all my other arguments.

Just so you could pedantically point out a single error that didn't weaken my argument even a little...

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RTB replied to Aapje | 8 years ago
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Aapje wrote:
RTB wrote:

I think Newton's laws with a heavy layer of finite element analysis overlaid should get you into the right area if you want to have another stab.

You're right, I got confused. It's actually E = 1/2 * mv^2

Which doesn't change my argument one bit, btw. Energy still increases with speed squared, which is the point I made and which you ignored. Just like you ignored all my other arguments.

Just so you could pedantically point out a single error that didn't weaken my argument even a little...

More than confused I'd say. There's a quantum level of difference.

Sorry to say wrong again. "v" is velocity not speed. It is a vector property and that is important. Mass is not weight and velocity is not speed. Further, you cannot simply apply Newton as you have done which is why I flagged FEA to make an accurate calculation. "m", the entire mass of the object, is not acting at the impact point and "v" (because it is a vector) has directional considerations.

All helmet manufacturers of repute use MCAD systems with FEA to design their products and impact simulations and results form the core part of the product design. The big challenge they have to reconcile is how to make a helmet that is light/aero/comfortable balanced against requirement #1 protection and safety performance. Collectively they spend multi $$M in R&D and the current helmet technology is impressive in both how it looks and what it does.

The one thing it is not, as too many on here try to pretend/believe, is the "emporor's new clothes".

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mrmo replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:

All helmet manufacturers of repute use MCAD systems with FEA to design their products and impact simulations and results form the core part of the product design. The big challenge they have to reconcile is how to make a helmet that is light/aero/comfortable balanced against requirement #1 protection and safety performance. Collectively they spend multi $$M in R&D and the current helmet technology is impressive in both how it looks and what it does.

The one thing it is not, as too many on here try to pretend/believe, is the "emporor's new clothes".

RTB, you are starting to show some real stupidity I really suggest you go away and read the helmet standards then come back and tell us all about how effective they are.

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Joeinpoole replied to mrmo | 8 years ago
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mrmo wrote:

RTB, you are starting to show some real stupidity I really suggest you go away and read the helmet standards then come back and tell us all about how effective they are.

RTB is rapidly disappearing into the ever-deepening hole he keeps digging for himself. He started with smugness, telling us all how fit and sensible he is ... then he sidestepped all statistics and evidence ... then he became an expert on physics ... and now apparently he's an authority on helmet design and manufacture.

Where will this journey take us next?

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RTB replied to Joeinpoole | 8 years ago
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Joeinpoole wrote:
mrmo wrote:

RTB, you are starting to show some real stupidity I really suggest you go away and read the helmet standards then come back and tell us all about how effective they are.

RTB is rapidly disappearing into the ever-deepening hole he keeps digging for himself. He started with smugness, telling us all how fit and sensible he is ... then he sidestepped all statistics and evidence ... then he became an expert on physics ... and now apparently he's an authority on helmet design and manufacture.

Where will this journey take us next?

Well given I have a joint degree in engineering & applied physics, am a qualified engineer and have worked in the design automation (CAE/CAD/CAM) industry for more than 20 years that does give me a modicum of subject matter and professional knowledge. Hence why it is comical (or sad) when you see people on here (mis)quoting Einstein in a RTA (Einstein works pretty well in a Supernova or the LHC but not so well on a High Street near you).

But there you go if that equates to stupid according to Mrmo then I'll happily take my stupid over what you guys have given so far. As for smugness you guys have that all wrapped up with the breathtaking complacency and 'flat earth' ignorance you show towards a serious subject.

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mrmo replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:

Well given I have a joint degree in engineering & applied physics, am a qualified engineer and have worked in the design automation (CAE/CAD/CAM) industry for more than 20 years that does give me a modicum of subject matter and professional knowledge. Hence why it is comical (or sad) when you see people on here (mis)quoting Einstein in a RTA (Einstein works pretty well in a Supernova or the LHC but not so well on a High Street near you).

But there you go if that equates to stupid according to Mrmo then I'll happily take my stupid over what you guys have given so far. As for smugness you guys have that all wrapped up with the breathtaking complacency and 'flat earth' ignorance you show towards a serious subject.

RTB, i have a degree in Physics and a Masters, what does this tell me about designing helmets sweet FA, I know the standards to which helmets are designed, i am aware of the differences between US, Europe, and Australia. Did you know that the moulds used for the "same" helmet differ depending on the market.

http://cyclingtips.com.au/2013/04/australian-helmet-standards-what-you-n...

If helmets were about safety why aren't the standards updated and pushed? Would you buy an NCAP 1* car?

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fukawitribe replied to Aapje | 8 years ago
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Aapje wrote:

Fact is that bicycle helmets are only designed to help if you land on top of your head, at about the same speed as when you topple over from stationary position. ... So a helmet can only work at certain speeds, if you hit your head in a specific way.

Utter bollocks... even if the 'fact' were true (which it's not).

Aapje wrote:

So rational thinking says that helmets will reduce the impact of some incidents and make others worse. In many accidents it will do nothing (even though the helmet may be damaged). T

Agree with the former, unfortunately there is an almost complete lack of data on the balance between the two scenarios let alone any detailed testing, which should be worrying for both proponents and opponents alike. Change 'many' to 'some' and i'd go along with the the gist of the latter too..

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JonD replied to giff77 | 8 years ago
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giff77 wrote:

Migstu. A mountain bike helmet or downhill helmet has a totally different design to the helmets that roadies/commuters are persuaded to wear.

A lot of mtb and road helmets are virtually identical, IIRC some of the Specilaized ones in particular, difference is often just the peak. In terms of basic construction they're effectively identical and are evaluated against the same standard. Jump-style pisspots generally have a harder shell that won't fall apart on impact, tbh I couldn't say re DH helmets.

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Tony replied to Migstu | 8 years ago
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Migstu wrote:

So, where is the evidence that helmets are so very ineffective please?

' Conclusions: There is no evidence that cycle helmets reduce the overall cyclist injury burden at the population level in the UK when data on road casualties is examined.'
Hewson P J, Cycle Helmets and Road Casualties in the UK, Traffic Injury Prevention, 2005;6(2):127-134

"The benefits of helmets seem too modest to capture" Prof. Sir David Spiegelhalter, University of Cambridge, Bicycle helmets and the law British Medical Journal 2013; 346

//roaddangerreductionforum.files.wordpress.com/2013/12/newzealandhelmetsv6.jpg)

As examples of the many studies out there.

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atgni replied to andyp | 8 years ago
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andyp wrote:

'Basic science Andy...velocity, mass, variables, vectors, proportionality, laws of physics, applied laws of physics. As a scientist you should be capable of postulating it from source, it's kind of obvious (if you know science of course).'

Basic science says that all the above also apply to sitting in a chair, having a shower, going to the shops. To then apply these to define some kind of arbitrary 'X is more dangerous than Y' is of course very poor science. HTH.

There is of course the missing random variable with sitting in a chair, having a shower or going to the shops (assumed walking) when compared to cycling. i.e. potential interaction with motor vehicles.

Helmet use may prove to be the 'marginal gain' that stops a head trauma killing you. The choice is ours to make, so don't wear one if you don't want to.

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STATO replied to JonD | 8 years ago
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JonD wrote:
giff77 wrote:

Migstu. A mountain bike helmet or downhill helmet has a totally different design to the helmets that roadies/commuters are persuaded to wear.

A lot of mtb and road helmets are virtually identical, IIRC some of the Specilaized ones in particular, difference is often just the peak. In terms of basic construction they're effectively identical and are evaluated against the same standard. Jump-style pisspots generally have a harder shell that won't fall apart on impact, tbh I couldn't say re DH helmets.

Downhill helmets are much tougher beasts with a lot of them designed with special impact absorption features. Often tho downhillers take to using motocross helmets, as cycle helmet (design standards) simply don't provide any protection from hitting something solid at 20+mph. Note that a lot use spine protection and many use neck braces also, as hitting something solid with your head at speed tends to transfer a lot of energy through your spine.

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fukawitribe replied to Tony | 8 years ago
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Tony wrote:
Migstu wrote:

So, where is the evidence that helmets are so very ineffective please?

As examples of the many studies out there.

I always love the NZ and Australia studies as examples of how some people use good data to generate poor science, e.g. as if to imply that there is emphatically little to no physical benefit in wearing a helmet if you have an off on the road (not un-commonly inferred to be of almost any type) - that the demographic is an ignorable variable in the experiment... it's frustrating... it's the same state of mind that says a surviours helmet smashed into tiny pieces is proof it saved their lives.

There is a lot of good science around, and much more to be done, on the physical and psychological issues surrounding helmet wearing and enforcement - I just find it depressing that it always seems to come down to using sound-bite slanging matches.

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Joeinpoole replied to fukawitribe | 8 years ago
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fukawitribe wrote:

I always love the NZ and Australia studies ...

So do I. It means we've got 20-odd years of data that pretty much proves that the wearing of helmets does *not* reduce injuries or deaths ... but that mandatory laws requiring helmets *does* massively reduce cycling amongst the population.

I'm 55. I always cycled to school and left at 17, a good few years before cycling helmets were even invented. On school holidays, aged 15-16, me and my mates would youth-hotel our way around the country, covering up to 100 miles per day whilst wearing the fashionable massively-flared jeans of the day (with cycle clips obviously). Unless you were a professional there wasn't even cycling-specific clothing available to the general rider and nor was there perceived to be a need for it. You just wore normal clothes when you cycled. It wasn't a problem. You didn't need poncy, padded shorts back then either.

I didn't see the need for cycling helmets then and I still don't. In all my time cycling, my family (my Dad cycled to work every day until he was 55), my mates, etc, I've never personally known any incident in which a cyclist had a head injury at all ... let alone one that might have been prevented by a polystyrene hat. I just don't perceive cycling to be a high-risk activity that requires PPE.

On the other hand I have known quite a few folk that have sustained head injuries through drinking ... myself included. If we *were* to mandate helmet-wearing for any particular activity then undoubtedly it should be for drinking alcohol first. Who's up for sitting around a pub wearing "alcohol helmets"? Statistically they would be far more necessary and effective than cycling helmets.

I do however get the impression that the lycra-clad, helmet-wearing, "I fucking-well have the right of way" cyclist of today is much less risk-averse than I would be.

Judging by the thousands of "helmet-cam horrors" that they like to publish I almost invariably find myself thinking "why didn't you slow down when the situation you eventually found yourself in, clearly had the potential to develop dangerously, well before it actually occurred? I would have done so".

So I ride without a helmet but use my experience to avoid danger that can be anticipated. If you think that wearing a helmet and then ploughing on, at speed, into danger will somehow help you ... well, good luck with that!

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giff77 replied to JonD | 8 years ago
0 likes
JonD wrote:
giff77 wrote:

Migstu. A mountain bike helmet or downhill helmet has a totally different design to the helmets that roadies/commuters are persuaded to wear.

A lot of mtb and road helmets are virtually identical, IIRC some of the Specilaized ones in particular, difference is often just the peak. In terms of basic construction they're effectively identical and are evaluated against the same standard. Jump-style pisspots generally have a harder shell that won't fall apart on impact, tbh I couldn't say re DH helmets.

Cheers JonD. Was always under the impression mountain bike helmets had a different design for some reason. There you go then.

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birzzles | 8 years ago
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People should take responsibility for themselves, and not expect others to take the strain. The only strangers I care about are non human.

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thehairs1970 replied to birzzles | 8 years ago
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Wow Birzzles. You must have loads of friends.

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Northernbike | 8 years ago
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'I'm a good rider' and 'you need to expect the unexpected' seem slightly at odds with 'I don't know how fast I was going and I didn't have time to stop'.

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kie7077 | 8 years ago
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To all of the people who say 'I wear a helmet'

Do you wear it walking? Do you wear it going down stairs? Do you wear it in the car?

No, even though those activities would benefit equally from wearing a helmet.

And anyway, this isn't about YOU, this is about the helmet companies wanting legislation which would in turn put people off of casual cycling as a means of transport, leading to more obesity and CO2 emissions.

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zanf replied to kie7077 | 8 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:

To all of the people who say 'I wear a helmet'

Do you wear it walking? Do you wear it going down stairs? Do you wear it in the car?

No, even though those activities would benefit equally from wearing a helmet.

Laura Ashley would have been saved by wearing a helmet? Maybe Robert Atkins would have lived as well?

If only the pro-helmeters had spoken to them first!! Oh the huge manatee!

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RTB replied to kie7077 | 8 years ago
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kie7077 wrote:

And anyway, this isn't about YOU, this is about the helmet companies wanting legislation which would in turn put people off of casual cycling as a means of transport, leading to more obesity and CO2 emissions.

Conspiracy theory much. Is this really the depth of your thought process on such a serious subject?

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AJ101 replied to RTB | 8 years ago
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RTB wrote:
kie7077 wrote:

And anyway, this isn't about YOU, this is about the helmet companies wanting legislation which would in turn put people off of casual cycling as a means of transport, leading to more obesity and CO2 emissions.

Conspiracy theory much. Is this really the depth of your thought process on such a serious subject?

you mean like http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/3557721.stm - Race ace backs cycle helmet law

Quote:

Coulthard also has a company selling Facesaver cycle helmets, designed by one of the McLaren engineers.

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RoadChick2 | 8 years ago
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How the hell is the title of the article "walks away from crash" when he BROKE HIS SPINE, broke his sternum, and suffered a head injury?!!??!?!?!  39  40  102

A better title would've been, 'lived to tell the tale'.

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Paul J | 8 years ago
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I am curious to hear how the helmet protected his back.

I am curious how the lesson from this incident is "Cyclists should wear helmets", when it wouldn't have prevented this incident or this person's injuries, and when other countries avoid such incidents much more effectively by ensuring cyclists are separated from HGVs as much as possible by building cycling infrastructure and restricting access of larger HGVs in many of the more dense urban areas.

I am reminded of another person who suffered serious injuries on a bicycle and now goes around arguing for helmets. Comment via my blog:

http://paul.jakma.org/2012/06/20/helmet-no-protection/

In the UK this emotive, non-empirical, non-evidence based approach to safety - of which the helmet obsession is a symptom - is helping to *block* the _real_ safety measures. As such, this idiotic approach to safety, embodied by the helmet obsessives, is *killing* people.

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Beefy | 8 years ago
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 20 I dispair, does anyone really care if you do or do not wear a helmet?

It's your head protect it as you see fit, helmet or not! Some of the nonscience makes me smile though on both sides, this is obviously a network of people with immense knowledge of impact protection and perceived risk taking. Brilliant!!  24

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Cyclist in Exile | 8 years ago
0 likes

Very interesting. Wear a helmet, or don't. Who should really care other than you? Unless it becomes law.

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