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Victim blaming? Headline suggests helmet would have saved the life of man killed by van

Report in to death of cyclist talks of lack of helmet and hi-viz rather than the van that hit him in broad daylight

A headline and sub-head in WalesOnline implies that a helmet could have prevented the death of an elderly cyclist killed in a collision with a van.

The headline and sub-head read: “Cyclist died of 'catastrophic' head injury after being hit by van outside supermarket. Ronald Triggs, 71, wasn't wearing a helmet or high-visibility clothing when he was involved in the crash in Cardiff.” 

Grandfather Ronald Triggs was hit by a black Volkswagen Transporter outside Lidl in Colchester Avenue at about 1.30pm on November 24 last year, an inquest heard. 

The 71-year-old retired maintenance engineer wasn’t wearing a cycling helmet or high-visibility clothing when he was struck by the van which had been turning right into Colchester Avenue from the Lidl car park.

An inquest held at Pontypridd Coroners’ Court on Thursday heard Helen Jones arrived at the Lidl car park in her black Transporter shortly before 1.30pm on November 24 to collect her son Daniel Jones who had visited a nearby gym.

Giving evidence Mrs Jones, 46, told the court she had been driving for about 25 years, had not been convicted of any motoring offences in the last five years, and had been driving the Transporter for about a year.

The link between helmet use and actual safety for cyclists is a divisive topic, especially when considering their usefulness in crashes involving vehicles and headlines such as this could be seen to put the blame on the victim.

On their website, Cycling UK state: “There are serious doubts about the effectiveness of helmets. 

“They are, and can only be, designed to withstand minor knocks and falls, not serious traffic collisions. 

“Some evidence suggests they may in fact increase the risk of cyclists having falls or collisions in the first place, or suffering neck injuries.”

Current helmet standards only require cycle helmets to withstand the sort of impact that a rider is likely to suffer if they fall from their cycle from a stationary position (about 12 mph). 

They are not designed to withstand impacts with faster-moving cars, let alone lorries.

The Guardian have also previously looked at the effect the “fearlessness” of wearing a helmet can have on the way an individual rides. 

The studies they quoted found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that helmets encouraged cyclists to take more risks because of the increased security they felt. 

Writing a couple of years ago for British Cycling, Chris Boardman, whose mother was killed in a cycling accident with a car wrote: “I understand exactly why people feel so passionately about helmets or hi-vis.

“I understand why people wish to use them. But these actions seek to deal with an effect. I want to focus the debate on the cause, and campaign for things that will really make cycling safe. 

“That is why I won’t promote high-vis and helmets – I won’t let the debate be drawn on to a topic that isn’t even in the top 10 things that will really keep people who want to cycle safe.”

In the case of Mr Triggs, senior coroner Graeme Hughes said in his summary that: “Ronald Triggs likely left the pavement opposite the junction almost simultaneously with Mrs Jones commencing her manoeuvre and at a time when his view of her vehicle was obscured by the other vehicle manoeuvring into the Lidl car park on Colchester Avenue in front of Mrs Jones.

“Once Mrs Jones became aware of Mr Triggs’ presence she reacted and braked appropriately. 

“That was somewhere between 1.5 and two seconds of becoming aware of Mr Triggs’ presence.”

“It follows from that reaction and braking in that time that it is unlikely that she then could have done anything to avoid the collision.”

A statement given by PC Ian Griffiths, who attended the scene, was summarised to the inquest and in it he commented that Mrs Jones’ view could have been obscured by the silver Honda and possibly by the “A pillars” framing the windscreen of her car.

Mr Hughes accepted the cause of death given by the pathologist as blunt head injury. He recorded a conclusion of death by road traffic collision.



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