The helmet brigade strikes again

There’s an article in the Telegraph that has got me all riled up. I’m not going to link to it but the headline is something like, “Teenager seriously injured because he wasn’t wearing a bicycle helmet”. Why do people think it’s ok to shame cyclists for not wearing helmets? Do they do the same to smokers or people who don’t exercise? Maybe they do but I have never seen a newspaper headline like this: “Obese mother who drives children to school dies of heart attack”. You just don’t see that and I doubt the people who drive their kids right up to the school gate in their tanks ever get shouted at, as I do on my bike, even though I’m likely to cost the NHS far less in the long term and I’m not putting noxious gases into the air that harm our children. No, instead I am the one who gets abused. And for what it’s worth, I do wear a helmet but most people don’t realise that because it’s an invisible helmet.

Physical inactivity is the biggest health problem of the developed world. Air pollution kills 50,000 people a year in the UK. People who ride bikes, with or without helmets, are doing a great service to society. I’m not in favour of compulsory helmet legislation because it reduces the number of people who ride their bikes which is bad for the health of the population as a whole. The risk of injury and death from not wearing a helmet is far lower than the risk of not doing any exercise at all. Cycling UK has a good summary of the facts.

I should know better than to read an article in The Telegraph.

11 thoughts on “The helmet brigade strikes again

  1. I get wound up by the same idiots. I once caused a fellow parent to completely lose it with me at the school gate, because I pointed out that 90% of those delivering children to school by car could have walked or cycled, because they live locally (I was pulling my helmet back on as I said it). He ranted something at me, and stormed off to his car, holding a coffee from Starbucks. I didn’t dare tell him that drinking anything while driving the car was an offence too, or parking with 10 metres of a junction, or indeed parking in the street where the school is.

    1. This made me laugh although I’m sure it wasn’t very funny at the time. Parents at our local school can park right outside the school gate and I hate it. They park there in enormous range Range Rovers which sometimes sit idling and polluting there air while they stare at iPhones waiting for the bell to ring.

  2. New York newspapers and TV news shows aren’t much better. One is always seeing lines like “The cyclist, a tourist on a Citibike, was not wearing a helmet,” or The cyclist, a 27-year-old from Brooklyn [they might as well write “dumb hipster”], was not wearing a helmet.” It doesn’t help to be wearing a helmet if the front of your bike is clipped by a delivery truck making an illegal right turn in front of you, which happened to my son: he broke his collar bone and bruised his ribs, and yes, he was wearing a helmet. This past summer, a woman in Manhattan was struck by a bus, which ran over the lower half of her body. When she screamed at the driver, he swore at her. “She was not wearing a helmet”—as if that was going to protect her legs and hips!

    The focus should be on drivers and their inattention to the road and others who are not in a car. Regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet or not, bike riders are very vulnerable to a speeding ton of metal and plastic whose operator isn’t even watching the traffic in front of him.

    1. That poor woman who got run over by a bus and then shouted at by the driver. That is beyond belief. I’m amazed she survived being run over by a bus! I agree that there needs to be much more responsibility by drivers for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. There also needs to be cycling infrastructure. It’s unacceptable for us to expect people on bikes to ride next to busses.

  3. The claim that helmets improve safety seems to be at least a little controversial. But if that reasoning is correct then airbag helmets (“invisible” my foot!) are the way to go.

    The one issue that occurs to me is that inflated airbag helmets are pretty large, which might enhance the chance of snagging on something in the course of a collision.

    Is inflation triggered by acceleration or motion sensor?

    1. Airbag helmets are by far the best. This helmet safety video compares Hovding with all the main standard styrofoam helmets:

      I’ve never heard of them snagging on things but one area they cannot provide protection with is if you accidentally hit your head on a street sign or something else overhead. They only deploy if you fall off your bike but if you hit your head on something without falling off then they’re not going to work. I think that’s a pretty unlikely scenario though.

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