Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Helmets don't make cycling safer

Now the West-Midlands Police is trying to scare people off bikes again by using old and discredited arguments. The facts are simple. Helmets may very occasionally save a life - although bike helmets are probably most effective for accidents involving pedestrians and certainly not cars. Now the police are scaring people into wearing them while that scares many more people off the roads. And that costs a lot more lives (because the physical exertion of cycling is much healthier than being a couch/car potato).

My mate Bez added a relevant cartoon to illustrate the point.
Media preview

And when it comes to arguments against helmets, let's start with the New York Times:
“Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn't justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,” says Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. 

Ben Goldacre has subjected the issue to a more scientific treatise in the BMJ:
"The enduring popularity of helmets as a proposed major intervention for increased road safety may therefore lie not with their direct benefits—which seem too modest to capture compared with other strategies—but more with the cultural, psychological, and political aspects of popular debate around risk." 

Then of course we come to the succinct arguments of Chris Boardman and Transport Minister Norman Baker on the BBC. "A lot of people would not cycle if they were required to wear a helmet."  

Yet the police still seems to want to apply anecdotal argumentation - that one person whose skull survives thanks to a helmet justifies scaring thousands off bikes by insisting on their use. What if they're wrong?  

In this case the police are not only convinced they're right, they are also aware of the number of people who would argue with them on that - and choose to ignore them in advance. "We were lambasted by a few, and again we expected the usual social media participants to come out to play." 

I for one shall continue to lambast @trafficWMP for their short-sighted position. 

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