Bradley Wiggins wrong on helmets

It is understandable for Bradley Wiggins to enter the debate on cycling helmets given the awful coincidence of a cyclist being killed by an Olympic bus on the day he won his gold medal, but he is quite wrong in demanding they should be made compulsory. This would not only be a deterrent to cycling but also points the blame at the victims of these accidents, rather than those responsible.

We do not know the precise circumstances in this tragedy, but the very fact that the driver has been arrested suggests that the cyclist was not to blame. Whether he would have been helped by a helmet – or indeed whether he was wearing one – is not known. However, it is known that the wearing of a helmet both encourages drivers to behave differently – and more dangerously – towards cyclists and that it may well make the cyclists ride less carefully. I certainly experience a bit of that myself when I have worn a helmet as it seems to make me more care free.

Moreover,  evidence from parts of Australia where helmet wearing was made compulsory (see  http://www.cycle-helmets.com/ ) shows very clearly a sharp reduction in cycling and no reduction in hospital admissions. I took a long time for cycling levels to start rising again.The message that making helmet wearing compulsory sends out is that cycling is dangerous. But it’s not. London has around 300,000 cycle journeys per day, which is more than 100m per year. There were 16 deaths last year which means one for around every 6m journeys. Few cyclists wear helmets in successful cycling countries, such as Holland and Denmark because the risks are low. Drawing attention to  helmets is the  wrong focus. It is the streets that need to be made safer for cyclists.

In fact,  making car drivers wear helmets would save far more lives as some 50 per cent of car occupant deaths are the result of head injuries. One researcher suggests that drivers should wear a headband with a hard shell, but this idea is rarely discussed, let alone considered. Cyclists, the victims, seemed to be  blamed for their misfortunes in a way that car drivers – who have ‘accidents’ – never are.

Of course if cyclists want to wear helmets that is up to them and children should be encouraged to wear them as they are particularly vulnerable but it must remain a matter of choice for adults. Our wonderful sporting hero needs to understand that racing round France at 50 kph  is not the same as casual cycle riding  in London’s back streets.

 

 

 

  • Agreed. We need to stop the accidents happening in the first place! Wearing a helmet isn’t going to reduce the number of accidents (other than as a side-effect of discouraging cycling in the first place).

  • Email

    The cyclist was KILLED. Obviously they’re going to arrest the driver of the bus. Can you imagine an incident where a road user is killed and the other person involved isn’t arrested? Try reading this then disagree http://www.jamescracknell.com/blog/2011/07/20/a_video_appeal_from_james_use_your_head_use_your_helmet-220

  • It does appear that the cyclist rode up the inside of the bus, in which case I feel terribly for the bus driver: he would have been unaware, and not expecting, a cyclist to be on his left. Eye-witness account, if true, says the victim’s lower body was crushed by the bus. An inch of polystyrene on his head would have been of no use at all.

    The blame, if any, lies with the people who designed that road layout, without using some of that huge space to provide safe cycle paths well away from the danger of motor vehicles. This was supposed to be “the greenest Olympics ever”, with ordinary people being actively encouraged (at least with words) to use bicycles to get to and from the Games and around London. But instead of top-quality provision for safe cycling, we see cycle routes closed for “security” reasons with diversions using extremely dangerous motor roads.

    I agree with all you say above (all the research is available here: http://www.cyclehelmets.org) except for “children should be encouraged to wear them as they are particularly vulnerable” – children need to learn to instinctively protect their heads when they fall over. Children also need to be encouraged to be active to reverse our terrible childhood obesity problem, and cycling is a top-quality form of physical exercise. My seven-year-old twins walk, run, and cycle a great deal. They have each hit their heads when doing each of these activities, and now they know that it hurts, and they know first-hand to avoid that sort of thing as much as possible. A child that has learnt that hitting their head on things is fine, because the helmet removes any pain, is learning a potentially dangerous thing.

  • Srb6554

    So Bradley Wiggins says something you disagree with which automatically makes him wrong does it? And your assertion that the wearing of helmets would point the blame at cyclists is quite frankly staggering in its stupidity. Does the wearing of seat belts point the blame at motor vehicle drivers? Does the wearing of helmets on motor cycles point the blame at those users? Of course not; it’s an extra SENSIBLE device aimed at assistance of protection of life. No we don’t know the precise details of this incident; in fact, neither you nor I know the majority of the details so you engaging in the kind of mud-slinging you always do when these tragedies happen helps nobody. For someone who constantly promotes himself as so aware of these things, you write an immense amount of drivel about them.

  • @Email: Yes, I can imagine an incident where a road user is killed and the other person involved isn’t arrested. Around seven or eight people are killed on the UK’s roads every day. In almost all of these cases it’s considered to be “an accident”, and no-one is charged, let alone arrested, let alone prosecuted, let alone punished in any way. Even in the handful of cases where the driver is found guilty, they usually escape with a small fine. If you want to murder someone, use a motor vehicle.

    In this sad case it would appear that the fault lay in the design of the road, mixing humans on bicycles with heavyweight motor vehicles with restricted vision.

    James Cracknell has a vested interest in selling polystyrene hats promoted as “cycle helmets”, which you should take into account when reading his views. Individual anecdotes have no significant value, either, you need to look at population-level data, which unequivocally shows that cycle helmets have no significant safety benefit, and that compulsion leads to 30% to 40% fewer people using bicycles for transport. The net result of cycle helmet compulsion is more premature deaths, in all the countries that have tried this experiment. http://www.cyclehelmets.org for all the research findings.

  • roundrobin

    I presume that you’ve not seen this then!

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2598379/ 

  •  @srb6554 “So Bradley Wiggins says something you disagree with which automatically makes him wrong does it?”: no, Bradley Wiggins said something that is proven to be wrong both by many scientific research papers and by long-term whole-population results from the few countries in the world where cycle helmets are compulsory. Helmets have no proven safety benefit. This is a good read from a helmet testing laboratory who know exactly what protection a helmet can provide: http://cyclehelmets.org/papers/c2023.pdf

  • Robin Hay

    That wasn’t what Brad was getting at. He said that cyclist had to take responsibility for their actions, and a couple of easy ways to demonstrate that were to make helmet wearing compulsory and to outlaw Ipods etc. Then motorists and their apologists cannot justify their actions because of perceived failures by cyclists. It’s all about gaining the high ground before fighting the main battle. A straw poll of my friends would put the the blame on cyclists for their antisocial behaviour.

  • Horrific looking junction for cyclists – see picture on this page – 
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/01/cyclist-killed-collision-bus

    inside of left lane was “natural” place for him to be to get to the ASL supposed to keep him safe.  

    Whole junction apparently reconfigured for Olympics but nothing done to make it safe for cyclists.  

  • I was not impressed with the road layout at this location when I visited on 18/7, and reports of the crash indicate that another cyclist was present but riding behind the coach when it set off from the traffic signals and made a 180 degree ‘hairpin’ turn to join the A12.  This junction has been created for the 2012 site, as Eastway was 1-way Westbound at this location, and has been made 2-way (with a narrow lane width) to get the intensive coach & bus traffic out from the media/games family/staff bus station and car park access at this location. One clear reason for not having an Eastbound connection from Eastway at this point was the hazardous manouevre of the full lock U turn to join the A12 which has now been created for the vehicles leaving the ‘media centre’ gate

    The cyclist who reported being present writes that he crawled under the coach? to comfort the trapped victim.

    I was tempted to take a few more photos of the road layout but that would probably have had me advised to delete them on 18/7. The lack of clear signage and lining and bad design presented a very confusing situation.  Eastway was 1 way with contra-flow cycling pre 2012 works, but the canal bridge and junction immediately the other side made it necessary to send games traffic back out Eastwards.  Image shows an inappropriately signed bollard on the approach to the junction where the crash occurred – main traffic lane passes to the right, but if the keep left arrow is observed drivers are directed to use a 12″ wide gap, the exact purpose for which is not clear.  Beyond this point an added width of 2 lanes of carriageway was marked up as two Games Lanes, with no indication of where you should go having cycled to this point.  The safer place is in the offside Games Lane, given the strong potential for vehicles in the nearside lane to be making the hard left turn.

    On the other hand there may have been an assumed cycle facility using the golden surfaced footway – which would then dump cyclists on to the carriageway right at the apex of the 180 degree left turn – practically a repeat of the same design deficiencies in the Bow Roundabout.  From picture Bus B has just done a 180 degree turn from Lane A.  Road layout shows added width of 2 Eastbound lanes, both marked Games Lane at traffic signals, shoe horned in to space between A12 and Eastway and potential danger of driving straight on into Westbound traffic through open & wide gap protected by  No Entry signs (a similar design weakness exists at Blackfriars, Great Victoria Street junction). Thank goodness the guys who design roads with this unsecured hazard are not let loose designing railways.

    Maybe if road fatalities were investigated with the same rigour as rail sea and air crashes and the causal factors clearly spelled out in a formal report we might make progress on safer road design.

  • Dyl

    Here is a witness point of view. He seems to think the cyclist was at fault… 
    http://www.reddit.com/r/bicycling/comments/xiud7/just_sat_down_with_some_poor_bloke_for_his_last/

  • PS to srb – given your concern over head injuries in road crashes I’d suggest you immediately begin campaigning for helmets to be worn by all occupants of motor vehicles, as around 50% of fatalities in motor vehicle crashes are as a result of head injuries, and likewise address the problems of far higher levels of head injury in fatal pedestrian incidents, and incidents in the home.  Personally I reckon that a couple of million years of development and testing which has provided my brain with a resilient and robust protection system far tougher than a piece of polystyrene is fine for everyday going around on a bicycle. 

    NB I note that the recent, apparently single vehicle, incident where a cyclist died from head injuries after apparently hitting a wall with reports that the rider was wearing a helmet.  Short of a cocoon which encloses the entire head and secures it to prevent rotational – and generally serious internal brain or spinal column damage, cycle helmets make little difference on the impact but potentially create major risk in other respects, and seriously reduce the potential for positive health benefits through making cycling less accessible. 

     

  • DaveyB

    Christian I sometimes wonder if your more dumb comments are made merely to stimulate debate, or if your really believe that stuff.  Suggesting that people will ride less safely because they’re wering helemts is one of the most crass things I’ve read. I wear a helmet because I once woke up in hospital with a head injury having come off my bike (no other vehicle involved).  A helmet would have prevented the injusty I sustained.  I make a choice, but it does not affect the way I ride.  As it happens I would oppose any move to make wearing helemts compulsory, but only because we already have too many laws.

  • Dan J Rogers

    I don’t think this is a dumb comment. It’s quite easy to see how cyclists may feel more confident (and therefore take more risks) with a helmet on than without. For instance motorists (IMO), because cars have so many safety features, now drive much more recklessly than they used to. If airbags were replaced by spikes you’d see a huge difference in how people drove.

    BTW I am pro-helmet and wear a helmet 99% of the time. 

  • Elephant_never_forgets

    I tweeted to CW in same vein about vehicle safety features isolating motorists from the effects of their actions

  • ChrisE

    You feel more secure if you are wearing a helmet. Therefore you will be inclined to take more risks. This is a crassly simple fact that you can verify yourself by going for a cycle without your helmet. The fact that it affects the way you cycle isn’t up for debate!

    Next, it is probably true that a helmet may have reduced your injury when you hit the ground with no other vehicle involved. That is, after all, what they’re basically designed for.

    Thirdly, I’m glad you oppose any move to make helmets compulsory but you ought to be opposed because the studies and evidence show this to be the correct thing to do, not because of some arbitrary opinion on how many laws exist.

  • Dyl


    You feel more secure if you are wearing a helmet. Therefore you will be inclined to take more risks. This is a crassly simple fact that you can verify yourself by going for a cycle without your helmet”

    This is total nonsense.

  • MotoRider114

    Funny how when it comes to cyclists you say ” This would not only be a deterrent to cycling but also points the blame
    at the victims of these accidents, rather than those responsible.” . Yet as a motorcyclist while we stare down the EU trying to force a chunk of new rules on motorcyclists to try and make them safer even though the majority of the time crashes happen due to a car driver not paying attention and yet no one stands up for us. So i say they should be compulsary, if motorcyclists are expected to take responsibility and be the victims why not cyclists too?

  • Michael

    Agreed – wearing a helmet (which I do and encourage others to) does not give some kind of guarantee of survival in an RTA nor does anyone think it does. Spinal injuries, lost limbs, broken bones, burns requiring skin grafts are not prevented by wearing a helmet you simply lessen the chances of brain injury. Anyone who doesn’t get that should think about getting a bus ticket.

  • I presume you’ve not read the reports (including that one) here then!

    http://www.cyclehelmets.org

  • Robert

    To follow up my tweet earlier – I cannot ride a bike (balance etc) but drive and like to believe I’m cyclist aware and sympathetic to cyclists’ needs sharing our roads.

    Strikes me that cyclists’ interests will be best served if motorists can be made to understand precisely how they should behave in and around cyclists.

    For example – in the olympic road races on Sat and Sun the support vehicles travelled ‘twixt and ‘tween the bikes inches behind and alongside – is that what you want all drivers to do on the road? I’d think NOT.

    Saying to drivers use commonsense is not enough – we need proper guidance especially about how to overtake bikes on ordinary streets and on country roads.

    Should we treat bikes as if they are full width cars/lorries? Can we slide by as if you aren’t there if we see the bike riding in the gutter or inside double yellow lines?

    Should we wait patiently behind going along bendy country roads with white double lines in the middle or is it OK to squeeze cyclists a bit so we don’t cross the double whites?

    My option is always to wait behind but it really winds up the drivers following me & they always pass closer to the bike than me!

    Being deadly serious – car & lorry & bus drivers need guidance. More than “think bike”. How do you want to be treated in specific circumstances – especially the passing/overtake manoeuvre?

  • As a medical researcher I’ve followed the scientific evidence published on effectiveness of helmets and frankly I’m underwhelmed by it. The evidence in favour of helmets is nowhere near as clear cut as some would wish the general public to believe and there is a lot of evidence that compulsory wearing of helmets does not improve cyclist safety overall and seems to have the negative effect of discouraging cycling. It is a fact that the countries with some of the best cycling safety records e.g. the Netherlands and Denmark have some of the lowest rates of cyclists wearing helmets so clearly other safety factors count much more. I was also struck by published research in the USA on the wearing of skiing helmets and it’s effect on ski fatalities. Essentially although the wearing of helmets in skiing is now very popular in the USA it has had very little impact on the numbers of fatalities. Interestingly the effect it does seem to have is in changing the listed cause of death on the death certificate. Thus it looks as if doctors and coroners are inclined to list head injuries first if the victim wasn’t wearing a helmet, but will list other injuries first if they were wearing a helmet. Cycle helmets are not designed to protect cyclists from injuries caused by collisions with motor vehicles, they’re designed to provide some protection from injuries as a result of falling off at slow speeds. Most cyclist deaths from road accidents seem to involve severe and multiple injuries, not just head injuries.

  • joro

     I can answer one of Robert’s questions …

    Latest Highway Code Rule 129 :

    Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT
    cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining
    premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided
    the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal
    cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10
    mph (16 km/h) or less.

  • I think many of the comments on this blog are confusing observation and explanation. The observation is that in those countries that have seen a large increase in the wearing of cycle helmets, there has not been the expected improvement in cyclists safety. Indeed in some studies the opposite effect has been seen, i.e. increased wearing of helmets seems to be associated with decreased safety. Whilst that is the observation, it’s much more difficult to demonstrate the explanation for that observation. Thus statements such as wearing a helmet makes cyclists or drivers less cautious as the explanation are very hard to prove. But not knowing the explanation for the observations shouldn’t be used to undermine the validity of the observation itself.

  • Jackmyster001

    I urge anyone who belives a cycle helmet does not prevent or help fend against death, to watch this ( its 30 seconds)

    http://www.pinkbike.com/video/265041/

    anyone who watches that and then opposes cycle helmets, clearly does not undertsand the risks of cycling.

  • Derekl

    Whatever the merits and demerits of the wearing of a cycling helmet are, it may be worth noting that if a non-helmet wearing cyclist is involved in an accident resulting in head injury which is the fault of another and then decides to pursue a claim, they will be greeted with an allegation by the defendant that the failure to wear a helmet amounts to contributory negligence, justifying a reduction in any award of compensation.
    The allegation alone will increase the stress of the litigation and may encourage the cyclist’s legal advisors to advise a discount in any settlement to reflect the risk of the allegation being proved.
    That said, the courts have decided that while failure to wear a helmet can amount to contributory negligence, the onus is on the defendant to show that that failure aggravated the injury. In the one reported case I could find where the argument was run seriously (a collision between motorcycle and cyclist), the judge was not so satisfied, largely because he accepted evidence that the effectiveness of a cycle helmet as protection is limited at any significant speed (12 mph or above) and the nature of the injury (to the rear of the head) would not have been helped by a helmet in any event.
    I have my doubts that the argument is likely to be accepted where the accident involves any significant speed, as most car/cycle accidents do, but the risk is there, and as I point out above, it will certainly increase the stress of an already stressful process.
    Slight side-take on the issue, but perhaps worth taking account of.

  • Chairrdrf

    Excellent post Christian.
     Do take a look at http://www.cyclehelmets.org  for the evidence – not that true believers are ever swayed by it. Or http://waronthemotorist.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/all-those-helmets-posts-in-one-place/

  • Lizzylouise

    Isn’t it all about education? The world has changed. The number of people trying to travel has increased. Eventually wearing a helmet will be like wearing a seat belt but there is still a long way to go. Horse riders wear them unless stupid and it saves lives like everything else. Education is the only hope ESPECIALLY for SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT  decisions of individuals. I’ve met Boris and given him a dressing down but he was wearing a helmet today and he got on the zip wire and didn’t lose his rag – that gives him some points he did not have before. Christian! Please wear a helmet! Because………x

  • Nicola

     @Jackmyster001 that isn’t cycling. That is rock climbing on a bicycle.

  • Tim

     Interesting video.  It has convinced me…not to use roads where lorries are driving at 75 miles per hour.  Oh and I disagree.  Have you seen this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07o-TASvIxY ?  And do you wear a helmet when travelling in cars?

  • John A

    That’s very interesting.  I was unaware of it as I suspect are most other cyclists.  But Bradley Wiggins’s comments make more sense in this context.

  • DaveyB

     There is no doubt that cycle helmets are rarely life savers when a cyclist is involved in a collision with another vehicle, but helmets do reduce injuries in other cases.  When someone falls of a bike and no other vehicle is around, a visit to hospital will not be recorded as a Road Traffic statistic.  So we simply cannot rely on statistical data from elsewhere which suggests that there has not been “… the expected improvement in cyclists’ safety”.

  • Similarly, you only need to watch this to know that full body flame retardant boilersuits prevent death.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtgkiLZFgus

    Anyone who watches that and then opposes compulsory full body flame retardant boilersuits for motorists does not understand the risks of motoring.

  • Richcgtr34

    “However, it is known that the wearing of a helmet both encourages drivers to behave differently – and more dangerously – towards cyclists and that it may well make the cyclists ride less carefully. I certainly experience a bit of that myself when I have worn a helmet as it seems to make me more care free.”

    You’re on your own with this. I don’t care how many studies you can quote. That’s one of the daftest things I’ve ever read on the internet.

    Helmets – they protect your head when you have an accident. How many people have had a bang on the helmet and brushed it off as opposed to being killed or injured, that the studies you quote don’t and can’t possibly account for?

    Utter, utter rubbish.

  •  And I’m afraid you’re misinformed Derek, no court has ever decided that not wearing a helmet was contributory negligence or has ever reduced damages as a result.  There was a case where the judge made a judgment which rejected the claim of contributory negligence, he issued an obiter dictum which said that it was possible that such a claim would succeed.  It has no force in law, went completed against his own judgment, and was widely reported as setting case law, which it very definitely didn’t.  Some comments on the case here http://www.cyclistsdefencefund.org.uk/smith-v-finch-jorgensen-v-moore-reviews-cases-involving-cycle-helmets-and-contributory-negligence

    It would appear to be completely impossible in English law to challenge an obiter dictum and get it withdrawn, no matter how nonsensical it might be.  The fact that it is still being referred to demonstrates quite how damaging it is, despite having absolutely no force in law.

    There is nothing to take account of, and given that nowhere with a helmet law or with a massive rise in helmet wearing after propaganda campaigns can show any reduction in risk to cyclists, unlikely ever to be so.

  • The rider in your video would probably never had attempted riding down that slope if he wasn’t wearing a helmet, so the helmet caused his falling off and any subsequent injuries.  If he hadn’t been wearing it he would never had put himself at risk.  The only thing this video proves is that helmets are likely to make you take bigger risks, not that they have any protective effect.

    How do you explain the fact that nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing after propaganda campaigns can show any reduction in risk to cyclists?

    Check out cyclehelmets.org for a few facts rather than spectacular but irrelevant videos.

  •  You may consider it total nonsense, but unfortunately, there is a considerable body of research showing that it is true.  You might like to read “Risk” by John Adams first.

  • “Agreed – wearing a helmet (which I do and encourage others to) does not
    give some kind of guarantee of survival in an RTA nor does anyone think
    it does”

    I’m afraid you’re wrong.  My MSc dissertation examined whether people thought that helmets were more effective than they really were and whether they thought cycling was more dangerous than it is, and if the two attitudes were related.  The findings were that most people did think that cycle helmets were much more effective than they really are and that they thought that cycling was much more dangerous than it really is.  The only explanation for this was helmet advertising, not by the manufacturers as they are covered by advertising standards, but by third parties like BHIT, BRAKE and the BBC, which has been overtly promoting cycle helmets for thirty years.

    Many people think that cycle helmets will save their lives, and you only need to google for helmet saved my life stories to find thousands.

  •  You refer to the Cochrane Review about cycle helmets, which completely failed every applicable criteria of Cochrane Reviews and has seriously damaged their reputation as independent reliable research.

    This review was carried out by the most vociferous proponents of helmets, examined mostly their own biased research and excluded anything that didn’t fit with their already decided conclusions.

    No independent, unbiased research has found any beneficial effect from cycle helmets, unless you count obscene profits for the manufacturers that is.

  • Chrisevans26

    Richcgtr34 you’re entitled to your opinion, of course, but you are expressing an opinion without reference to facts.  Well-documented studies have proved conclusively that when people are given added protection they feel safer and accordingly take more risks – unintentionally, of course, but the effect is that the additional protection has an overall neutral, or even negative, effect.

    ‘I don’t care how many studies you quote’ sounds like bigoted ignorance rather than intelligent comment to me.

  • Richcgtr34

    Chisevans26 – Please could you enlighten me on a few concerns I have:

    1. “Well-documented studies have proved conclusively that when people are given added protection they feel safer and accordingly take more risks” 

      – if this is true then why do I only ever hear this argument trotted out when the subject is cycle helmets? Why is nobody campaigning for the abolition of the compulsory wearing of car seat-belts? Surely everyone will drive more safely if they weren’t wearing one? Or motorcycle crash helmets? Or any other personal protection of any kind? What is it that’s unique about cycle helmets that when talking about them, it is the only time *ever* that you will hear someone claim that less protection is better, and that some care-free abandonment of personal well-being takes over people when they are physically better protected, leading them to gamble with their own lives?

    2. Given that vast numbers (i.e “most”)  serious accidents involving cyclists are down to carelessness by a vehicle driver, what difference does a cyclists attitude make, whether influcenced by an increased sense of invulnerability or not? If it’s a car/bus/lorry drivers fault then what does it matter what the cyclists attitude is? Are all cycling accidents the fault of cyclists?

    3. It seems to me that vast numbers of people are going to get knocked off their bike, bang their helmet on the ground and walk away without ending up as some hospital statistic. What are these numbers? Because it also seems to me that if these numbers aren’t taken into account, then any alledged “studies” into the effectiveness of helmets are 100% worthless. This is like claiming seat-belts should be banned because not enough people who’ve been in car crashes whilst wearing a seal-belt are turning up at hospital to be counted.

    Thanks.

  • Derekl

    Richard – it is quite correct that no court of record has reduced damages for contributory negligence in failure to wear a helmet, which is what I said. My point was that facing such allegations adds seriously to the stress of litigation, which is already a stressful process and may well encourage advisors to suggest some compromise on settlement.

    I think you have misintepreted the judgment I was referring to. The judge was called to consider the allegation of contributory negligence for failure to wear a helmet. His first consideration was whether in law it could be. He found it could in a carefully reasoned judgment having heard argument. He then moved on to consider whether, on the facts, that failure here amounted to contributory negligence and concluded it did not.

    The legal finding was thus central to that aspect of the judgment (and does not go completely against his own judgment, as you put it, but forms a part of it). It is not obiter, and, even if it were, because there is a reasoned judgment on the issue, it is more than likely to be followed.

  • LadyP

    I don’t have statistics. But my best friend was 29 and pregnant when she was knocked off her bike in Amsterdam, yes, in the Netherlands, and died of head injuries that may have been prevented had she worn a helmet. I hope my teenage boys don’t read your article because I want them to wear helmets.

    I agree, also, that we should make our streets more safe for cyclists.

  •  1. The phenomenon of risk compensation has been known about and discussed for many years.  I’d recommend “Risk” by John Adams, which relates it to many activities.

    2.  The difference is that if a cyclist is feeling invulnerable because they’ve been told a helmet will make them safe, they will take more risks.  If they aren’t wearing a helmet and consequently feel vulnerable, they will take extra care and be more alert to the mistakes of others.

    3. I must admit that I can’t understand your point at all.  If countries with helmet laws can’t show any reduction in risk, and all long term, large scale, reliable research shows no reduction in risk then there isn’t any reduction in risk.

  • “When someone falls of a bike and no other vehicle is around, a visit to
    hospital will not be recorded as a Road Traffic statistic.” 

    I’m fairly sure that this is the wrong way around, and that any single vehicle incident of a cyclist being injured is recorded as an RTA.  This leads to various anomalies because most of such accidents are children who are just playing on their bikes, vastly inflating the figures.  Since children can’t operate any other road vehicle while they are playing, this massively distorts the figures

  •  James Cracknell was sponsored by the helmet manufacturer and has a financial interest in selling more.

  • Stephen

    I wonder what Bradley Wiggins’ & Shanes Sutton’s views on helmets are after the past 24 hours.

  • montmorency

    Another aspect of helmets is that while they _may_ help regarding potential actual head injuries, they may exacerbate neck injuries. There is also the issue of their possibly affecting balance. I believe there is research to that effect, but sorry, I don’t have any quotes or links to hand.

    I’m old school, cycling since the early 1960s, and I don’t wear one. I have worn one, and I would again under certain circumstances (e.g. irregular, unpredictable, off-road conditions). In normal circumstances, I actually get more bang-for-buck out of wearing a hat … waterproof, warm, or sun-hat, depending on the season. It’s my choice, and I want it to stay that way.

    Countries where they take cycling more seriously, i.e. more ordinary people cycle on a regular basis, in ordinary clothes, by and large, e.g. Holland, Denmark, Germany, don’t, by and large, wear helmets. (That may be changing slowly in Germany, but I haven’t been lately). You could say it’s because there are better facilities over there, but I’ve observed that in certain places in Holland, for example, cyclists have to “mix it” with motorists almost as much as here. True, drivers treat them with a bit more respect, because almost certainly the driver is also a cyclist at other times, and members of his family will be as well.

    On my list of things to do to improve cycling comfort and safety (including things cyclists can do for themselves), helmet-wearing would be bottom of the list. Top of the list would be: practical knowledge of rules of the road; awareness of traffic and interaction with traffic. I actually think driving lessons would be good for many cyclists.

    Bradley Wiggins is an expert in the type of cycling that he does. I’m not aware that he’s an expert in utility cycling, which is, I suspect, the area of cycling that would be most affected by helmet compulsion. Unfortunately, people will give undue weight to his opinion.

    My real beef about helmets is that making such a big issue of helmets means the the more important aspects of road-system safety are neglected.

    BTW, there is as much logic in making pedestrians wear helmets as cyclists. Drivers too, if it comes to that.

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