Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

A total helmet.

MAKE the most of the next few days.

For now, things will be almost as normal. Middle-aged men will have middle-aged spread, the roads (apart from London) will be as they usually are, and it may or may not rain.

But come the weekend all that will change.

On Monday morning, all over the land, middle-aged spread will be sucked unhappily into skin-tight Lycra as the middle-aged men wheel unsteadily out on bicycles that have cost more than the family car.

They will take to the roads in their thousands for the morning commute, throwing themselves recklessly in front of delivery vans and 12-wheel trucks in the belief that the wraparound glasses they spent £300 on will protect them from grisly, wet, and smeary death.

They will zip through red lights, bunny hop (with some effort) over pavements, and swerve around pushchairs while perspiringly telling themselves that pedalling furiously on razor-thin wheels is not just the only way they can stay upright, but a guaranteed way even the not-so-beautiful can become ruthlessly attractive.

But none of them will be Bradley Wiggins, most of them will be as out of puff as a magic dragon fresh out of rehab, and even if they were Bradley Wiggins they'd still get knocked off their bikes.

He said after his gold medal win yesterday: "London has got a lot busier since I was riding a bike as a kid around here. I was knocked off several times."

If the British athlete with most Olympic medals ever gets knocked off his bike, then the middle-aged Wiggo fan who takes to two wheels after a trip to the cycle shop on Saturday has little hope of being immune from kissing the front end of a bus.

Cyclists who regularly use busy roads in towns and cities can be very chippy about their chosen method of transport, and there are plenty of drivers with an equally scathing attitude about the zippy little sods who don't pay any road tax.

But as Wiggo says - and let's face it, no-one's going to argue with him for the next 10 years or so - "I think we have to help ourselves sometimes... they have to all co-exist on the roads. Cyclist are never going to go away however much drivers moan, and as much as cyclists might moan about certain drivers, they are never going to go away. There has to be a bit of give-and-take... there are some cyclists who don't help themselves".

And after a cyclist was killed in an argument with a bus yesterday, our new king of the road pointed out the bleeding obvious which is that cyclists should not be plugged into phones or listening to music, they should have working lights and - shock! - they ought to wear helmets if they don't want to die.

(He didn't point out, but I will, that if you don't die you might be brain-damaged, and it would be painfully ironic if your fitness regime turned you into a vegetable which needs a nurse to wipe its bum twice a day.)

You'd think cyclists would be glad they had a high-profile representative making public utterances which might embarrass the government into a long-overdue look at cycling and traffic laws, wouldn't you?

But no.

Someone called Chris Peck from the national cycling charity CTC - who ironically, appears to be a total helmet - has said, in all seriousness, that making people wear protective headgear would be unhealthy.

Mr Prick's argument is that making it a legal requirement to wear a helmet would "stifle cycling" and that as a result less people would do it, having an adverse affect on general public health.

He said: "Making cycle helmets compulsory would be likely to have an overall damaging effect on public health, since the health benefits of cycling massively outweigh the risks and we know that where enforced, helmet laws tend to lead to an immediate reduction in cycling."

The scientific basis for Mr Peckerhead's claim is that in countries where people cycle more, they tend not to wear helmets. In countries where they wear helmets more, they cycle less.

He does not appear to have worked out there is a possibility that the reason people cycle less and wear helmets more may in both cases be linked to the fact they're more likely to be squished, rather than that the wearing of helmets may be what's putting them off.

Mr Prat elsewhere suggests that 60 road deaths a year of cyclists is an acceptable risk when compared to the number of deaths caused by his idea of not cycling - 'physical inactivity'.

And he says that to cut that number we should instead reduce the number of cars on the road, speeding, and "the risks that heavy vehicles pose".

Righty-ho. Except you're not going to make most car drivers cycle when it's raining, or cold, or busy, cyclists speed a hell of a lot more than cars in urban areas and I'm not sure how we're going to make heavy vehicles less big and heavy. Or are we supposed to build lorries out of cushions?

I cycle and drive around London, and they're both less than perfect experiences. There are vehicles that get too close, where the drivers don't pay attention, where blind spots mean a bus turns left in front of you and if you're not careful you go head-first into the side.

But cyclists aren't some kind of morally-superior physical being, whatever we might think of Bradley Wiggins. A friend of mine was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing by a twit doing more than 30mph through a set of red lights, and had a near-fatal serious head injury. And several times a cyclist who has ignored lights, signs or other rules has ended up sprawled across my bonnet through no fault of mine.

Each time it happened it was terrifying. I don't want a cyclist to kill themselves on my car any more than I want to intentionally mow one down, but it sometimes seems like I may not have any choice in the matter.

Seeing as cycling is about to have a massive burst in popularity it seems unlikely a few new rules about road safety would put much of a dampener on it. Helmets generally don't kill people as often as not wearing them does, so they're probably a good idea.

And it would likewise not do much harm to reheat the old Cycling Proficiency Test, the 1947-designed parade of wobbly arm-waving around the school playground in a fluorescent jacket which lots of us took as children but which any adult who walks into a cycling shop does not have to prove they can remember.

It's been rebranded but is not compulsory and it can't be unrelated to those twits Wiggo complains of who race over pedestrian crossings while listening to their iPod and doing 35mph without lights, bell, or helmet, and wearing black Lycra because they think looking cool is more important than being spotted by the car in front which they haven't noticed is indicating left.

Perhaps rather than moan about Sir Wiggo's perfectly-sensible opinions the national cycling charity could be as glad as the rest of us are that someone is finally famous for doing something brilliant and knowing his stuff, which is as good a reason as any to pay him some attention.

And if you think 'physical inactivity' might kill you and worry cycling could do exactly the same but can't be bothered to do it safely, then maybe spend the weekend growing some sideburns and setting up a zip wire in the back garden where middle-aged men are apparently in their element.

Wear a helmet, but don't be one.

Zip Me Up Before You Bo Jo.


Anonymous said...

Trust Foxy to put it in a nutshell

Anonymous said...

Foxy, your arguments rather ignore the fact that we can study countries that introduce cycle-helmet laws. So while the traffic stays the same, we can see if the number of cyclists getting squished increases or decreases and whether more or less actually start cycling. We have, and it's mixed news for helmet lovers.

Leaving arguments about actually starting cycling aside, it's perfectly true that if you're in an accident, you're better off with a helmet. It is not true that you're more likely to have an accident without one. Apart from anything else, drivers treat you very differently if you look like a wobbly fool (Boris bikes are also good for inducing this effect).

And yes, I would love to see my fellow cyclists getting hauled up by the hundredweight every time they jump red lights and do other stupid things.

Adam C said...

Ha. Luv it.

Mike Fleming said...

There is an interesting debate to be had on how much of a role the government should play is protecting people from themselves. One of the interesting consequences of having a National health Service is that it could be argued that people have a responsibility to take sensible precautions against damaging themselves in a way that would require NHS treatment, however if that is an argument in favour of bike helmets then I guess it is also an argument in favour of government legislation to force people out of extreme sports and to make overweight people to exercise. This raises all kinds of civil liberties questions.

Foxy said...

The article kind of links to the charity's stats on those cycle helmet laws, so I don't need to waste space on repeating it.

And yes accidents aren't caused by helmets - they're caused by a combination of bad drivers and bad cyclists and plain bad luck, sometimes. But helmets can't hurt, is my point.

Anonymous said...

Don't want to get in to the cycling debate, but the argument given by Mr Peck is facile. The University of Warrington published a study on the use of headguards in boxing and helmets for cycling. (Very) long story short is that the damage is done when the head is hit as the brain bounces off the inside of the skull. A helmet would not stop that, it would just stop the grazing, cuts etc to the skin. When you're under a bus or lorry and your head is twice as wide as it should be, a helmet is going to be of little comfort

Dan John said...

Yet another well-written and provocative article, Foxy.

As a daily commuter cyclist into London and a self-confessed speed-demon on the straight it winds the living buggery out of me when I see cyclists jump red lights/pedestrian crossings. They do us a massive disservice and, whilst a minority of cyclists are militant red-light anarchists it will only take one shunt to make them think about their actions.

And as for Mr Peck, admittedly putting a helmet on a helmet may be overkill, but it would take an individual who has no respect for their face or grey matter to say that they shouldn't wear a helmet. It takes two seconds to put on and doesn't impede a cyclist in anyway.

Maybe having been a motorcyclist on the streets of London for three years has given me an awareness of my own mortality, but respect drives respect and anyone who doesn't won't be long for this World anyway.

Anonymous said...

Journo does five minutes research, then writes a piece to stir up the water, making a complex issue simplistic and essentially trivialising it for Sensation's sake. Did the last eighteen months of scrutiny into your profession teach you nothing?
Your viewpoint may well be correct in essence, but if this was your school homework it would get sent back with 'Show your working' on it.

Foxy said...

You're right, this is JUST like phone-hacking.

Anonymous said...

In that you've found an easy way to turn in some copy, without doing the hard work, yes.

Anonymous said...

It's illegal to drive a car without a licence/without lights on/whilst talking on a phone, etc. The government make all sorts of laws to protect our safety. I see no civil liberties issues whatsover. You have to wear proper safety gear to do extreme sports.

A friend of mine was knocked off her bike and even though she was wearing a helmet it didn't fit properly and it fell off. She was knocked unconscious, and it could have been a lot, lot worse. Luckily she survived with no long-term problems, but the state of her afterwards would convince anyone to take cycling safety seriously. At least it shocked her into getting a proper helmet.

For some reason people seem to think that safety issues don't count when it comes to cycling. Despite the huge dangers, cyclists don't have to be licensed, they don't get into trouble when they run red lights and ride on the pavement (nearly mowing down pedestrians) and they seem to think they should be immune to any kind of laws. And this is most ridiculous as the laws are for their own good. In a fight between a car and a bike, the bike will always come off worse. It's like a 12 year old moaning to her mum because she doesn't want to wear a seatbelt in the car. Cycling is a serious business, we all need to start taking it seriously.

Foxy said...

I'm amazed you don't think correct use of capitals is hard work.

Mark Morley said...

Don't get me started on Mobility scooters....

Mike Fleming said...

Rules forcing motorists to have their lights on/have a license/not use a mobile phone are more to protect the safety of others rather than the driver. An analogous example would be seatbelt laws which, to me at least, raises similar civil liberties issues. They are both something you'd be stupid not to do it but the government shouldn't be able force you to.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Formula 1 drivers all wear helmets. Shouldn't normal motorists too?

Anonymous said...

Cyclists should wear helmets, and not wear headphones. Helmets increase visibility as well as containing the mess made by a cyclists head when a motorist drives into it. Motorists should look where they are going, concentrate on driving, and follow the highway code. Many cyclists and quite a few motorists follow these simple rules. Many don't, but it's cyclists and pedestrians that get killed.

James C Ibbotson said...

As both a car driver and a cyclist, I can see both points.

With regard to the recent death in London this picture paints seems to suggest what has occurred.


It looks like the bus has turned left and the cyclist had been killed on the left hand side of the bus. This is a very dangerous position as a cyclist.

As a car driver, were not used AT all to people undercutting us and checking our left hand mirrors. At Junctions such as the one pictured HGVs pull out wide to create an angle to turn.

A helmet might not have made much distance in this case, but some road sense from the cyclist should have. Being in the drivers blind spot on a left turning junction is about the most dangerous place you can be.

But a helmet might well make the difference in small accidents.

Why else do F1 Drivers, ALL Motorcyclists, and ALL professional cyclists wear them ?

Any Cyclist who refuses to wear one should observe the professional whom ALL wear them.

I'm you want to emulate the pros, follow everything.

Not just the bits you like.

Arthur said...

"the zippy little sods who don't pay any road tax."

Well, neither do motorists, given there's no such thing, but I'm sure you knew that and are being provocative.

sagnelson said...

When I was riding on Sunday club runs aged 15 (not that long ago but when cycling was less popular than it is now) I was taught that a car was a very heavy killing machine. Before I was 20 and riding 250 to 300 miles every week I had been knocked off by everything: cars (mostly Volvos), tractors, lorries and I still bear scars of newly resurfaced roads, broken arms and collar bones, fractured wrists and disclocated fingers. But my head was always in one piece because I HAD TO WEAR A LID. I didn't like it but I did it.


Now I don't ride so much but that's because of the massive difference between a "cyclist" and "someone on a bike" because SOAB never has the road awareness, the experience or the bike handling skills to avoid trouble, even in the rare cases where there conributory negligence is less than 100%. SOAB is a danger, not a cyclist.

And for any SOAB coming towards me on the pavement: hold on tight because years of riding has taught me where the weight gets distributed around the bike.

Anonymous said...

What, even when they're at odds with the arguments you're making? Come on.

No, helmets can't hurt, and I wouldn't discourage them. But the argument is a serious and time-wasting distraction from teaching cyclists to ride safely and drivers to look out for the buggers.

Foxy said...

No, I was saying what silly motorists say about cyclists. I'm sure you can spot irony.

EdinburghEye said...

I don't ride a bike, so I've no dog in this fight, but:

I have heard that there is no evidence from countries that have introduced mandatory bicycle helmet laws that the death rate goes down - but the number of cyclists on the road drops.

I have heard that British drivers are *less* likely to drive safely next to a cyclist who *is* wearing a helmet - and since it's motor vehicle drivers who are responsible for killing cyclists, not the other way about, it seems like a campaign to change driver attitudes is more necessary than a cycle helmet law.

Finally, it seems far from clear that the cyclist would have survived whether or not he was wearing a helmet - if you're hit by a bus at speed, a helmet won't save you.

Anonymous said...

I think the point is that the helmet is going to provide cushioning if you twat your head on a pavement or someone's bonnet when you crash. Of course it's not going to protect it from being crushed under a ton of vehicle you pedantic fuckwit.

Foxy said...

Yes, safety helmets. An awful distraction.

Anonymous said...

It's bloody obvious that wearing or not wearing helmets is the not the cause of accidents/squishing - it's bad cycling and bad driving (and definitely bad pedestrians) which cause accidents/squishing; also obvious is that telling people they HAVE to wear one will decrease numbers of cyclists - brits are like that (yet increase number of die-hard anti-helmetists and reckless cycling - so probably increase squishing) - it's also bloody obvious that for your safety in the city you should wear a helmet. SO - message is obvious - wear one as it's safer, and cycle (and drive/walk) more sensibly (and take a shotgun to cyclists going through red-lights, to pedestrians walking into roads relying on ears not eyes, and drivers not giving a buggery about other road-users). Yours, boris-biker-of-EC1V

Anonymous said...

I agree. I've commuted into central London every day by bike for over 10 years and the biggest risks to my safety have been (in order);

- pedestrians not checking for traffic
- other cyclists, particularly speed freaks jumping lights and cutting me up
- motorbikes
- cars
- pigeons and dogs
- lorries and buses (because I give them a wide berth)

So far in 10 years I've never had an accident. I'm not a perfect cyclist but I keep to the rules of the road, try to be considerate of all other road users and, most importantly keep looking around and behind me.

beck13 said...

They are bad examples of potential questions of civil liberty. I am sure that no-one would these days think it acceptable to drive a car without wearing a seat belt, for the driver's own protection. It follows that wearing a helmet can similarly do nothing but help to protect a cyclist.

Driving and cycling is done in public, on public roads. Extreme sports are not. There is a very easy delineation there.

Making overweight people exercise is a health concern, not a safety one. Although the two are most easily considered in the same regard, a health risk involves the onset of disease, whereas a safety risk involves the onset of sudden injury. As much as I don't want to dismiss the very real problem of obesity, it only serves as a tangent to a civil liberty argument.

Drivers of all other forms of transport must be licensed to show that they bear responsibility for them. Surely cyclists should do the same. Similarly, as a driver must wear a seat belt for their own safety, surely a cyclist should wear a helmet.

Anonymous said...

...That's 1-0 to the reader.

Anonymous said...

University of Warrington!? You cannot be serious! What it the world coming to?!

Anonymous said...

Normal motorists don't drive at 200mph.....

Anonymous said...

A few points/anecdotes. I'd been cycling into London for a few weeks when my nipper asked me why I don't wear a helmet. Seeing as I didn't want to admit to being a stupid vain twat the two of us went to a cycle shop. I asked the chap behind the counter if wearing a helmet was considerably safer and worth the cost. He raised his eyebrows, looked at my kid and said "it will help if you fall off and bump your head." I think he was being polite for the sake my offspring. Suffice as to say, I now wear a helmet.

The closest I've come to a proper scary crash is when a woman with a buggy strolled into the road. I turned the air blue and managed to avoid her but I bet her baby hasn't heard language like it since.

Don't get me started on cars not being cyclist aware.

Anonymous said...

Yes, a distraction. If you want to improve road safety, make car occupants wear helmets - half of road fatalities are head injuries. If we're going to have a evidence based policies, let's do it consistently.

SoupWaiter said...

er... professional cyclists wear helmets to reduce wind resistance. For the rest of us, yes helmets should be the law.

Miss Wednesday March said...

I saw a gaggle of middle-aged, lycra-clad cyclists going past my shop this morning, merrily cycling the wrong way up a one way street. Sadly, not one of them was squashed and I wasn't quick enough to get out there and point out the error of their ways. Or use the word, "pillocks". As the child of two racing cyclists, I'm horrified on a daily basis at the things people do on two wheels whilst assuming the rules of the road (and pavement)don't apply to them. A compulsory licensing and test system wouldn't be a bad thing. I suspect it may well save more money (at least to the NHS in emergency medicine and longterm vegetable-tending) than it costs to implement.

Anonymous said...

A lot of cyclist (including Brad Wiggins) also have cars and pay road tax - and probably many family cyclists have more than one taxed car. Those that don't have cars probably also pay some form of council tax.

Right now I can see the Helmet Suppliers rubbing their hands at the thought of all the cash coming their way from the scaremongering.

Angharad Beurle-Williams said...

Sorry - but this is wrong. There is little evidence that wearing a helmet reduces your chances of death/brain damage. In fact, there are some studies that suggest that wearing a helmet INCREASES fatality rates (perhaps due to less wary drivers) and some suggestion that helmets may increase the magnitude of rotational injuries which are considered the worse (the other being linear injuries). Many countries which have introduced mandatory helmet rulings are rescinding them. It's not a simple matter at all! Mandatory helmet rulings have consistently led to lower cycling numbers, which does lead to a decrease in public health.

Soap said...

But car occupants are protected by a big metal shell, airbags and seatbelts. You utter moron.

Anonymous said...

You wanted an objective opinion on whether it's a goo idea to buy a helmet, so you asked a man who sells helmets? Well done.

And as for this ranty little article from Foxy, we all know that mandatory helmet law makes cycling less popular, and therefore makes cycling more dangerous for those who stick at it.

We all know that the countries with the most cyclists have the fewest helmets, and the Dutch even have a chuckle at countries where people routinely wear helmets to simply ride a bike. Helmets for walkers next? Actually research shows helmets for pedestrians and even for drivers would save more lives, so where's your story on that?

Soap said...

It's not just for the cyclists own safety in my opinion. What about when a cyclist runs a red light and gets hit by a car and is killed due to not wearing a helmet, what about the psychological impact on the driver of the car? It wasn't the drivers fault in any way shape or form but that wouldn't stop the guilt that comes from knowing you helped to end another persons life, especially when a very simple precaution could have been taken by the cyclist in question and the only reason for not taking it is because they didn't want to look 'uncool'.

Anonymous said...

Just what we need - another law to tell us what to do. What the fuck is wrong with leaving it up to the individual? Hello? Let's take some responsibility for OURSELVES rather than yet another law which dictates how we run our own lives. Just bugger off.

Anonymous said...

Wiggins tweet from 4 hours ago, just so it's crystal clear:

"Bradley Wiggins ‏@bradwiggins

Just to confirm I haven't called for helmets to be made the law as reports suggest "

BryanB said...

In most of the countries I've visited where cycling is used more than in Britain, most adult cyclists do not wear helmets. However, most of those countries also separate cycles from cars properly, moving the bikes either onto dedicated cycle paths or onto a signed and shared footpath.

For instance, in Germany, where I'm typing this, it is quite rare to find a cyclist on the road. This may well explain why there are fewer cyclists injured despite far lower levels of helmet usage.

The shared footpaths also mean that pedestrians learn to pay attention and watch out for cyclists.

The other factor is speed - most cyclists I see in Germany, the Netherlands, etc, probably aren't doing much more than 6mph. That makes being helmetless less dangerous for them, and sharing the pavement less dangerous for pedestrians

On the other hand, when I'm commuting into London I'm aiming for a modal average of 15mph, and I'm forced to share the road with cars, buses and vans - so you can bet I'll be wearing a lid.

Anonymous said...

Choice is good. I can look 50m up the road and see all the dangerous dickheads who are (statistically) more likely to be causers of accidents or end up in one. Dickheads DO NOT wear helmets (how ironic) and yes cyclist with helmets die sometimes (I didnt for the record). But if compulsory I then have to concentrate a lot more on oaps, hipsters and basket pushers....which would be annoying.

Anonymous said...

The arguments about helmets are slightly missing the point. Unfortunately a helmet would not have saved the life of the poor soul who died last night. What would have would have been separation of cyclists from drivers at dangerous junctions (this particular junction has been flagged repeatedly as dangerous)

However, as a cycling commuter in London, I never go out without my helmet on. We should be encouraging kids to go out doing the same. There should be more punishment for cyclists who break the rules of the road. Confiscate bikes, driving license points, fines, jail. Real deterrents.

We should be able to co-exist as cyclists/pedestrians/cars/buses/lorries, but all of those groups like to see themselves as distinct tribes who deserve right of way. As long as people are being dicks on the road, helmets won't save lives.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I cycled in London for twenty years & I always wore a lid. Having worked with people with acquired brain injuries & seen what is presented in A & E plus poor inattentive drivers / bad roads I always opted for my safety. Today I popped out on my son's bike but I didn't wear a lid: wonderful freedom. However, I intend to pop out & buy myself a new helmet tomorrow. I prefer having the choice because do we not have more than enough pointless unenforceable laws?

Anonymous said...

His stats are correct. Why do you think helmets are required in motor racing? - Another Anonymous

Anonymous said...

But if half the road fatalities are from head head injuries then the big metal shell isn't protecting them. You utter moron.

The Sunrise Pedallist said...

If you are hit by a car, bus or motorcycle there is no bicycle helmet on earth that is going to prevent brain injury. A lorry doing 30mph will do you a lot more damage than a bicycle doing 30 mph. If you doubt that, try to imagine a bicycle going through a house wall. Impossible. Cars and lorries do it regularly because they weigh more. It really is that simple.

Bicycle helmets can and do sometimes mitigate brain injury if you fall from a bicycle without extra help. They don't help when in collision with anything coming the other way or when the cyclist is suddenly accelerated by someone running into him or her and adding their kinetic energy to the cyclist's.

Nothing will stop multiple-vehicle cycle fatalities until attitudes change to the extent that it would be impossible to imagine any driver ever saying: 'it's only a bike.'

By all means let's have a bicycle test. And let's make it compulsory for everyone who wants to drive, so they know what 'it's only a bike' feels like.

But spot on about banning lycra.

The Sunrise Pedallist said...

If you are hit by a car a cycle helmet is NOT going to save your life.

Karen said...

I wasn't sure whether the people saying that helmets don't actually help were right, so I did some research:

For just one example, from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (quite good at number-crunching), "Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets."

For another example, my coworker was hit by an SUV going fast enough to nearly knock her foot off - but she was wearing a helmet. Leg = mangled (though healed now). Brain = perfect.

I get the civil liberties piece, I really do, but statistics don't bear out the anti-helmet position.

Anonymous said...

It's not Road tax. No such thing. It's vehicle tax.

Emma Copson said...

A wonderful example of victim blaming mentality *slow hand clap*

Banksy said...

You're right, some men will take up cycling and some, very few proportionally, will die in a horrible accident.

The majority will not.

And of that majority, a reasonably large proportion, who would have had a heart attack in their 50s or 60s, will now not have one, as a result of getting some exercise.

It's basic stats. Accidents are horrible, but relatively rare relative to total numbers cycling. Heart attacks are also horrible, and horribly frequent.

Do the math.

Anonymous said...

As a cyclist who chooses to wear a helmet, I have to say that of all the hot air talked on this subject over the last 24 hours this is without question the worst and most uninformed article I've read.

The evidence shows that when compulsory cycle laws were introduced in Australia the number of people cycling declined but the rate of cyclists dying stayed the same. Ergo: all introducing helmets does is put people off cycling.

Similarly the Dutch experience shows that where you separate bicycles from motor vehicles the numbers of people cycling shoots up and the number of accidents shoots down. Middle aged women and children in Holland don't wear helmets because they don't need to. They cycle slowly and carefully in their everyday clothes.

Fact: a helmet is designed to protect you from head injuries at collisions at less than 12 miles an hour. In cycling terms, wearing a helmet on a bicycle makes as much sense as putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg. It will stop the blood coming from the cut, but it won't help the bone heal.

Compulsory cycle helmet laws are like the Dangerous Dogs act, superficially attractive. But once anyone with any knowledge looks at it, they quickly realise that it would be totally counter productive.

And to cap it all, this article mentions 'road tax' which was abolished in 1937.

I've been a journalist for more than 25 years. If I'd written an article as misinformed, as full of inaccuracies and as badly argued as this then I'd retire out of shame and go and live on a small island where I could never, ever read an article ever again.

Considering asking the Leveson enquiry to look at blogs and submitting this article as evidence.

Anonymous said...

ok. from a totally bipartisan point of view.(i'm a cycling truck driver)
cyclists need to realise that when you're trying to wield a 44ton lump of metal through our capital city, with all its wonderous bus lanes and traffic camera nazis at every turn.
to deliver all your "precious" that you must have.
please don't dive under our wheels to gain those few extra seconds of free time.
if you get dragged under the wheels of a 44ton artic driven by a lost albanian truck driver looking for an address on a half arsed printed delivery note.
just remember you voted for this bullshit at the last election!

Rob Ainsley said...

In her comment above, Karen tells us that because 91 per cent of cyclists killed weren't wearing helmets, this proves that we should wear helmets.

Er, Karen, one hundred per cent of those killed weren't wearing a bullet-proof jacket. Does that mean we should make bullet-proof jackets compulsory?

After all, wearing a bulletproof jacket can't do any harm, and might just protect you in case of an accident. Always wear one, therefore, make them mandatory, and blame the victim.

Angharad Beurle-Williams said...

Brilliant. I wish you weren't anonymous because you've just made the best point I've read on this subject.

The funny thing is, what Bradley Wiggins actually seemed to be saying was that cyclists should wear helmets to protect themselves *legally* - i.e. if you get fatally crushed by a vehicle and you were wearing a helmet - the driver has no leg to stand on. Pretty cynical, actually.

Anonymous said...

what's important is that you've managed to make yourself feel superior to everyone! well done you!

Anonymous said...

er... no they don't. Professional cyclists wear helmets to protect their heads in the event of a crash. If they were only interested in aerodynamics surely a swimming cap would be more use than a helmet?

Mark said...

I'm a cyclist (and a road tax paying motorist, but that's been covered elsewhere). I came off my bike last year going pretty quickly - there wasn't a car, bus or lorry in sight - and my head in the ground pretty hard. So hard, in fact, that I split my helmet in two places. But that was the helmet doing it's job. My head was absolutely fine. If I hadn't have been wearing a helmet I'd have fractured my skull at the very least.

Wearing a helmet doesn't make me a safer or less safe cyclist. I wear one because if I come off my bike it's likely that I'll hit my head on the road. When I'm in traffic, I ride sensibly and with a massively heightened sense of spatial awareness (compared, say, to walking down a pavement). When I'm driving my car I give cyclists as much space and respect as I can.

It shouldn't be that difficult.

Mark said...

I don't necessarily believe that wearing of helmets should be made compulsory. However, your 'Fact' above is (a) untrue and (b) a very poor analogy. Cycling helmets are designed to absorb impact between the head and, most commonly, the road. To cite 12mp/h is disingenuous in the extreme. I came off my bike at 35km/h and my helmet absorbed the impact - and in doing so split itself in two, as it is designed to do - which would otherwise have fracture my skull.

The analogy of "putting a sticking plaster on a broken leg" is, of course, ridiculous. Helmets aren't designed to treat injuries already sustained but prevent injury in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Rather suggests that 44tonne trucks should be banned from city centres. Most of the fatalities from trucks have been drivers overtaking, not signalling correctly and swerving left. Helmets don't help.

David Mitchell said...

Foxy, I'm going to be cycling coast to coast at the end of August for a girl I teach who is 11 years old and who has 2 brain tumours. I will be out on the roads with my middle age spread hoping to raise money for her as I tackle 180 miles in 2 days. To sponsor me please visit and you can also catch up with Abigail on her blog here:

Stuart Wilkes said...

Look, your argument here is complete crap. Whilst a helmet does nothing to help you if a bus turns in on you, there are plenty of cases where they do protect you, and potentially save your life.

I cycle across London every day. Two years ago, I was cycling through Wimbledon past a petrol station. A car coming the other way swerved across the road at the last second, turning into the forecourt across my path. I was travelling at about 20mph, as was he in other direction. I swerved, but he still hit me.

The force of the collision ripped the front wheel off the bike, shattering my forks. I was thrown off the bike landing halfway across the road. I landed on the road, dislocating my shoulder, hitting my head on the ground.

My helmet was cracked down the side, but I didn't suffer any head injuries. There's no way to prove what level of protection it provided, but I was dammed glad I was wearing it.

The driver was clearly at fault and was cautioned by the police. But all the cycle lanes in the world and changes in driver attitudes won't stop bad things from happening on occasions. I was cycling responsibly, had a high visibility jacket on, and powerful lights on my bike. None of these helped me, but my helmet did.

The fact that we need to make our roads safer for cyclists and make drivers aware of those on two wheels doesn't change the fact that a helmet can save your life in certain circumstances. I don't necessarily want to see it made law to wear helmet, but if you cycle on the road without one you're a fool in my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about the science of this but when I came off my bike a couple of years ago I pretty much ended up head butting the floor at 25mph.

Had I not been wearing a helmet (incidentally the helmet went in the bi after the accident as the polystyrene filler had snapped in half) it would have been my head hitting the floor.

I suspect the best case scenario would have been a broken nose and concussion. Worst case would have been a fractured skull. The first question the triage nurse asked me at A&E was "were you wearing a helmet."

Patrick Neylan said...

"Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 reportedly weren't wearing helmets."

I bet 100% weren't wearing oven gloves. The conclusion is obvious.

Nick said...

Foxy - Good points, well made. Speaking as a law-abiding and helmet-wearing cyclist, I am constantly irritated by those idiots who think that road rules in general and red lights in particular don’t apply to them; I always make a point of shouting at cyclists who jump the lights. There must be lots of accidents involving cyclists hitting pedestrians at crossings that go unreported.

I'm glad that Wiggo has used his new-found popularity to make the point that we all need to learn how to co-exist on the roads.

Making the proficiency test mandatory is probably unenforceable but maybe every bike sold in this country should at the very least come with a free copy of the Highway Code.

Anonymous said...

Except for the fact that not wearing a seatbelt in the back can mean you kill the person in front of you.

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