Bike Helmet Seminar Invitation
So. Back to this thing about helmets. You might think that I’m either just writing about this for controversy’s sake, or a glutton for punishment. Actually it’s neither - I just want to understand the facts.
Not that there was much in the way of punishment after the last post. There was only one comment that had a special kind of insulting included, and I left that one in. Strictly in the spirit of “Sticks and stones, oh and several tons of metal driven at me when I’m riding my bike may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. I’m sure you understand.
No - this is my thing. People think that the whole helmets issue is cut’n'dried, black and white, and a matter that can be resolved with good old fashioned common sense. But I’m telling you, it really ain’t necessarily so. I’m not going to preach to you about which side of the argument is right, and which is wrong. We live in a (pseudo-) free society, and as an adult, you’re free to make up your own mind.
So what I’m going to ask you to do, is read and think about what each side of this argument seems to be saying - I’ve assembled a little reading list for you below. No matter which side you start out as believing, treat both sides with equal respect. More importantly, treat each side with equal disdain - look for the flaws in both sides, especially the one you’d be inclined to have gone for from the outset.
Is that a deal? Because if it is, then your comments further below will be very welcome. You’ll get extra credits for referencing other materials (that aren’t just repetitions of what we have here), finding flaws in your own arguments, pointing out where research has been funded with an agenda from either side, and the use of non-selectively filtered data to make your point.
If on the other hand, you’ve already made up your mind and really think you don’t need read any of this stuff (especially the “other side’s” arguments, ‘cos they’re a special kind of stupid), then your comments are still welcome. But if it’s obvious that you haven’t done your reading preparation for this seminar, I will remorselessly mock, deride, and generally belittle you in front of the rest of the class.
OK - those are the rules, and these are the articles on your reading list:
- The article (re-published in various forms here in the UK and elsewhere) that started my “maybe helmet’s DON’T make as much sense as I’d thought” thinking: Ian Walker’s research on overtaking clearances & road position, which features some stuff that’s totally counterintuitive.
- The British Medical Association’s (BMA’s) 2007 briefing paper on cycling and health. “The BMA urges legislation to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory for both adults and children.“
- The British Medical Journal’s (BMJ’s) Analysis and Comment on the benefits of bicyle helmet legislation, by Dorothy Robinson. Careful analysis of confounding factors, which may have distorted pro-helmet evidence. Her argument that mandatory helmet usage discourages cycling is widely reported, such as this pdf example by John Franklin, author of Cyclecraft.
- This phenomenon might be explained by David Hembrow’s discussion on the various ways in which we perceive safety - actual, subjective, and social. He makes the point that wearing a helmet might increase your own sense of safety, while simultaneously reducing that in others.
- CycleHelmets.org’s claim that the analysis over the percentage of head and brain injuries prevented by helmets is wrong.
- Department For Transport’s (DfT’s) Bicycle Helmets: Review of Effectiveness. “There is now a considerable amount of scientific evidence that bicycle helmets have been found to be effective at reducing head, brain and upper facial injury in bicyclists“
- Cycling Health In New Zeland - a campaign to remove compulsion - cites this article about bicycle helmet injury prevention statistics (full article unfortunately not available without fees). The point made in the abstract we can see for free is, “increased helmet wearing percentages has had little association with serious head injuries to cyclists“
- Finally, this site, The International Safety Union for Cyclists, as first highlighted via the schuperbe guys over at Copenhagenize.com. It’s probably a spoof site, but one that’ll confirm any conclusions you’d reached from the first seven or so articles - irrespective of which way your thinking was going.
So tell me, what’s your understanding from reading this lot?