Saturday, 25 November 2017

Six reasons why a mandatory helmet law is a bad idea

Beliefs. Opinions. Values. Attitudes. All that malarkey, I fear I'm about to be engulfed by a tidal wave of them. But before that happens I thought I'd turn my keyboard to a little solid evidence from some research.

On the subject of cycle helmets. This article gives more background, and included within it are its sources, links to various other articles, and critically, the real research behind the six reasons I'm going to set out below. I've chosen six because there are never any lists with six things in it, but in reality the true number is a lot bigger.

I hope my more logical friends will be proud of me.

Six reasons why introducing a mandatory helmet law is a bad idea.

1. It puts people off cycling

Study after study after study, shows cycling is good for you. If you make it harder, or people perceive it is, they won't do it. "As easy as riding a bike", isn't that what they say? If you make people have to wear helmets, fewer will ride bikes. And all the evidence from places where they have done that proves that. The cost of that is more heart attacks, cancer Type 2 diabetes, with all the health damage that ensues.

2. They don't help that much

Helmets don't actually protect you from the injuries you are likely to get from falling of by yourself, in those circumstances it's broken arms, hips, collar bones and (as I know) dislocated shoulders. They do help you if your head hits a windscreen, but not if a car wheel goes over your head. Most injuries sustained by cyclists where motor vehicles are involved are to legs, abdomen and chest. And making a cyclist wear a helmet isn't going to help there, better to focus on the cause of the accidents - driver behaviour.

3. They cause no reduction in head injuries

Evidence from Australia, New Zealand and other places with mandatory laws has actually shown head injuries to cyclists going up...

4. Other groups are more at risk

Like car drivers & passengers, pedestrians, even football players. If one activity is singled out, what is that about? Some perception of the need for fairness, rather than carefully thought-through requirement for public safety?

5. Rotational force

Most severe head injuries that cyclists suffer are to do with rotational force not impact. Helmets might actually make this worse, they certainly can't protect you from it

6. Risk compensation

Lots of evidence that cyclists alter their behaviour because they perceive they are actually protected by their helmet, which actually makes them more likely to have an accident and an injury. (see also - a helmet saved my life!)

I wear one? Why? Well for the same reason that I wear anything on the bike, to fit in with the tribe, colour-co-ordinate and look stylish of course. I am under no illusion that it will help me much if a brain-dead idiot runs into me, or if I mis-judge that hairpin on the way down the Peyresourde.

Happy pedalling!

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