Do you wear a helmet?

Serious discussion of cycling issues
skelkelly
Posts: 66
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2011 16:23 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby skelkelly » Tue Dec 20, 2011 16:42 pm

uneasyonwheels wrote:I do not wear a helmet and in about 70 years cycling I have never felt the need for one nor am I convinced by any of the "evidence". I am more concerned about breaking other parts of the body such as shoulders,arms etc which seem much more vulnerable and where no protection is offered. It seems ludicrous when you see people with helmets but practically nothing above the waist including women with bare arms and shoulders.It certainly makes me squirm when they are inevitably going to fall off probably on to gravel. If they are not going to fall off why are they wearing helmets? Helmet wearing presupposes that you must always fall off! My worst injuries came when I fell off my feet but I am not expected to wear a helmet then.


So you do wear shoulder / elbow / knee protection I take it?

snorri
Posts: 2975
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 19:44 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby snorri » Tue Dec 20, 2011 22:49 pm

by diy » 20 Dec 2011 16:10
Its all about risk compensation

You want to wear a helmet and have given your reasons, I do not feel similarly but would certainly not attempt to dissuade you from wearing a helmet it is a personal decision and should remain as such.
However, although admitting to being neutral on the overall benefits you still advocate compulsory wear for all . You must be aware that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks, and that laws requiring helmet wear will reduce participation in this healthy activity, with negative effect on the health of the population, also the reduction in number of cyclists will result in higher accident rates as the 'safety in numbers' effect is reduced.
The comparison with seat belt wear is somewhat obscure. The safety benefits to the wearers of seat belts in cars are proven, but as you say there is no statistical evidence of an overall safety benefit from cycle helmet wear. I don't agree with your assertion that seat belts have little effect on risk compensation, drivers adjust their driving style to accommodate the perceived risks and seat belt wear is factored in to the assessment, just as cycle helmet wearers adjust their behaviour... "there will always be an element of risk compensation" you say. It is not uncommon to hear regular helmet wearers expressing concerns for their vulnerability and saying they cycled more cautiously when for some reason they have had to cycle without a helmet. Non wearers are constantly aware of their vulnerability and cycle accordingly. Just as compulsory usage would make helmet wear a subconscious act, so would factoring in helmet wear to the risk assessment become a subconscious act.
Mandatory helmet wear will not "address" the risk compensation effect, by your own admission, existing helmet wearers are already influenced. Will their cycling style change if compulsory helmet wear is introduced? I can't see it happen, but all of those new to helmet wearing will be added to the numbers already influenced by the risk compensation effect thus providing no overall saftey benefit.
Let's just leave helmet wear to the individual, and not call for measures to introduce compulsory helmet wear for all cyclists.

User avatar
diy
Posts: 6384
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 20:49 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby diy » Wed Dec 21, 2011 08:15 am

Snorri,

I don't buy the argument that compulsory helmet use will reduce cycling. It certainly didn't for motorcycling. Voluntary helmet wearing among cyclists is much higher than it was for motorcycling when the laws were introduced. For some anecdotal evidence on my commute to work yesterday by motorbike in london, I only counted 5 or 6 cyclists without helmets out of probably 2 or 300 cyclists I passed. In fact I counted more that didn't have lights.

If you look at the anti-helmet law sites like http://cyclehelmets.org their argument seems to be along the lines of.
1 - helmets don't make much difference to injury and can exaggerate certain injuries
2 - helmets will reduce participation

1 - They seem to take the high impact low probability injuries and spin them out of proportion, while playing down the lower impact higher probability benefits that are evident. Anything attached to your head that increases the "gearing" (i.e. rotational forces) and mass of your head will cause greater risk of a broken neck under certain situations. They seem to apply the utmost scrutiny to others research and make sweeping claims, and tenuous links to support their own, with no scrutiny whatsoever. You see this kind of behavior from people campaigning for lower speed limits and more speed cameras. i.e. they cling to small facts which support their argument, group incompatible statistics and ignore those that don't.

2 - I really don't see how anyone can claim compulsory helmet wearing would reduce participation. Not because it is wrong, but because it is totally unknown. You could easily have exemptions for things like Boris bikes to support occasional use. There are two questions which you'd need to ask:
- would you give up cycling if wearing a helmet became law?
- would you be less likely to take up cycling if wearing a helmet became law?

The only way you can really know without having a law is to focus on the groups who don't wear a helmet and understand why.

User avatar
FJS
Posts: 4733
Joined: Wed Jul 30, 2008 09:59 am

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby FJS » Wed Dec 21, 2011 09:16 am

I always wear a helmet when out training or racing on my road bike or otherwise out for a longer ride - basically any ride I put on lycra for
I never wear a helmet for short rides around town (say 2 mile, most much less), go to the shops, small errands, to the pub, etc. Rides I wear normal clothes for and on a chunkier bike.

diy wrote:The only way you can really know without having a law is to focus on the groups who don't wear a helmet and understand why.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_o3chL8phA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0q-ej1eihoU

diy wrote: You could easily have exemptions for things like Boris bikes to support occasional use. There are two questions which you'd need to ask:
- would you give up cycling if wearing a helmet became law?
- would you be less likely to take up cycling if wearing a helmet became law?
What if using a Boris bike is no exception, or what if most riding you do is Boris-bike-style riding on a Boris-bike type bike you own yourself? How do you make that exemption? I wouldn't be hugely opposed to something like what Spain has done - helmets compulsory on the open roads but not in town (centres)/built-up areas, but haven't seen anyone suppport that here in the UK. My impression is that the argument to make helmets compulsory is mostly done with the kind of cycling you wear special clothes for and get somewhat sweaty in mind, the one that dominates here. Compulsory helmets would probably not influence participation in that kind of cycling, but it's more likely to be an inconvenience and deterrent for short-distance normal-clothes rides in town, especially for certain categories (for instance teenage girls), or prevent its future uptake.

DrKJM
Posts: 254
Joined: Tue Sep 27, 2011 18:10 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby DrKJM » Wed Dec 21, 2011 15:38 pm

Surely the question for this, and any other issue, is do you *need* a law? I don't know the stats for head injuries caused by cycling but don't perceive it to be such a great drain on the public purse that we should make it compulsory. (The only reason for making it compulsory being to protect the greater good which in this case could only be financial or to protect the vulnerable from themselves and others. Vulnerable here meaning those incapable of making their own informed decision). There are many more risky things we don't ban or significantly mitigate (smoking at home for example) and many we do because of risk to others (smoking in public buildings).

For the record, I choose to wear a helmet most of the time.

snorri
Posts: 2975
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 19:44 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby snorri » Wed Dec 21, 2011 22:35 pm

diy wrote: - I really don't see how anyone can claim compulsory helmet wearing would reduce participation. Not because it is wrong, but because it is totally unknown. You could easily have exemptions for things like Boris bikes to support occasional use. There are two questions which you'd need to ask:
- would you give up cycling if wearing a helmet became law?
- would you be less likely to take up cycling if wearing a helmet became law?
The only way you can really know without having a law is to focus on the groups who don't wear a helmet and understand why.

Regarding reduced participation, it is not totally unknown, it's there for all to see on the cyclehelmets website, the analysis is drawn from figures produce by the governments of the countries which have introduced compulsion laws, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. There has been reduced participation in these countries, what leads you to believe things would turn out differently if this country were to bring in compulsion?
Regarding focusing on groups who don't wear helmets, the reason they don't wear helmets is quite clear. You were unable to come up with research data or evidence to prove the beneficial effects of helmet wearing, no one else can find data either, so in effect the jury is still out. Why should cyclists be required by law to wear safety equipment whose worth is unproven?
You talk of possible exemptions for Boris Bikes, but why? The users of these bikes may not be regular cyclists, even if they are the hirers will not be used to the handling characteristics of the Boris Bike. They are cycling on the streets of the biggest city in the country and may well lack local knowledge. Boris Bikers must be at greater risk of accident than many cyclists in the UK and why you would suggest exemption for them whilst continuing to call for compulsory wearing by the less at risk cyclists I just cannot understand.
Let us leave helmet wearing to individual choice and not call for compulsion, please.

User avatar
diy
Posts: 6384
Joined: Mon Sep 14, 2009 20:49 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby diy » Thu Dec 22, 2011 07:17 am

DrKJM wrote:Surely the question for this, and any other issue, is do you *need* a law? I don't know the stats for head injuries caused by cycling but don't perceive it to be such a great drain on the public purse that we should make it compulsory. (The only reason for making it compulsory being to protect the greater good which in this case could only be financial or to protect the vulnerable from themselves and others. Vulnerable here meaning those incapable of making their own informed decision). There are many more risky things we don't ban or significantly mitigate (smoking at home for example) and many we do because of risk to others (smoking in public buildings).

For the record, I choose to wear a helmet most of the time.


That is a convincing argument. It changes the question to - how many injuries could be avoided through compulsory helmet wearing. If that answer is unknown, then its the place to start.


uneasyonwheels
Posts: 20
Joined: Thu Sep 22, 2011 18:44 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby uneasyonwheels » Fri Dec 23, 2011 19:26 pm

skelkelly pads should be compulsory for all. More important than helmets!

User avatar
weadmire
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 14:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby weadmire » Thu Mar 01, 2012 17:58 pm

dly, How much experience of coming off with and or without a helmet do you have? For the avoidance of doubt I am talking about personal experience here, not what you know of what did or didn't happen to someone else. I might as well ask the same question of all the other pro helmeteers here.
WeAdmire.net
13-15 Great Eastern Street
London EC2A 3EJ

User avatar
weadmire
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 14:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby weadmire » Sat Mar 10, 2012 13:41 pm

dani_01, That's possible but very very unlikely. Are you sure you would have hit your head if you hadn't been wearing a helmet? In my quite extensive experience of falling/crashing both with and without a helmet (eight bone breakers to date four with and four without, I don't count just falling off) the best you can expect is to have the helmet save you from some cuts and bruises. But since your head is much more likely to hit the ground, or whatever else is in the way, if you are wearing one than otherwise, helmets in my experience only save you from the effects of the impacts they play a part in causing.

If you add the small increases that risk compensation delivers: both in the behaviour of drivers in getting closer to cyclists who wear them when they are interacting with cyclists on the road; and similarly in the risks cyclists will take in the mistaken belief they are safer with them than without them; you will start to understand why the wearing of helmets has been done to death as an internet topic for the last 25 years or so. Put another way if there was a clear cut benefit to wearing a helmet other than to assuage anxiety among the insecure and/or inexperienced then we would know by now and this topic would be a non starter. Or put yet more clearly if helmets saved lives it would be obvious - the argument would be over. They don't and it isn't.
WeAdmire.net
13-15 Great Eastern Street
London EC2A 3EJ

Wirral_Paul
Posts: 2387
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 20:19 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Wirral_Paul » Mon Mar 12, 2012 23:02 pm

weadmire wrote:Or put yet more clearly if helmets saved lives it would be obvious - the argument would be over. They don't and it isn't.


Seeing as you're so sure - do you want to share your PROOF and end the debate forever??

I personally never ride without a helmet and believe plenty of serious head injuries and deaths have been prevented by one (including me after smacking a rock when mountain biking). I dont need any proof with crash test dummies, or all the statistics in the world to convince me i'm probably better off with a helmet than without. As for the "speed that a helmet becomes redundant" argument, its probably a waste of time really considering it it as every accident is different and a 40mph glance on the helmet could be whole lot less severe than a "still clipped in" 0mph fall sideways onto a kerb edge.

For each of those who have crashed numerous times and are here on this thread to claim that helmets made no difference, there's probably a fair few cyclists who aren't here any more to tell us that a helmet may have saved them. To me that's all the justification i'll ever need!! :cry:

User avatar
bompington
Posts: 4684
Joined: Thu May 22, 2008 11:18 am

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby bompington » Tue Mar 13, 2012 06:23 am

weadmire wrote:But since your head is much more likely to hit the ground, or whatever else is in the way, if you are wearing one than otherwise

Evidence?

User avatar
weadmire
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 14:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby weadmire » Tue Mar 13, 2012 12:28 pm

Wirral_Paul,

I think you are missing my point in asking for the proof that will “end the debate forever.” The fact the argument has been banging on for 20 odd years is the proof that the benefits of wearing a helmet are far from clear cut. If the benefits were clear there would not be an argument, at the very least there would be much less of an argument. Presently 20 years or so on there is no less of an argument than there ever has been. The onus of proof lies with the pro lobby and they have struggled with it for as long as internet forums have existed.

Bompington, Evidence? It's broadly in two parts. My first four whacks had me always wearing my helmet and I always hit my head. Two of these falls were quite innocuous and at quite low speeds but I always whacked my head when I fell with a helmet. My next four had me without a helmet and they were much more severe impacts. In two of them I didn't hit my head. But as I said these eight were ones where I broke bones, I came off many times otherwise and did not hit my head when I was not wearing a helmet and I always hit my head when I was.

The last of the whacks I had wearing a helmet involved a pedestrian on the A26 in Southborough, Kent, it's between Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells. The pedestrian wasn't looking in my direction and stepped in front of me, there was no way of avoiding him and at the last moment I dipped my helmeted head to take the impact on my helmet. I glanced off one of his shoulders and weight forward ploughed headfirst into the ground. I was quite severely injured, face and left shoulder mostly. Looking back I realised if I had not been wearing said helmet I would not have led with my head and my weight would not have been so far forward: Much less likely that I'd have hit the road head first.

Whacks without a helmet: One was at the junction of Wormwood Street and Bishopsgate, the junction where a courier died last month. I was heading north at about 25mph when a driver, on his phone, before this was illegal, turned right off Bishopsgate into Wormwood Street. I did not have time to so much as touch the brakes, my front wheel hit the car just behind the front wheel arch sliding down the body work before fully engaging with the rear wheel arch, the bike with a Reynolds 853 steel frame folded in two and I got about 30 feet of air, landing beyond the junction. I did not hit my head.

Evidence II: A friend of mine was wiped out by an r sole in a van on Commercial Street. Like mine on Bishopsgate she got plenty of air. The driver was nicked and his insurers put up the usual dick head adversarial defence. An early question from the insurer's legal team was were you wearing a helmet. Her whack came some time after mine and by now helmets could apparently influence the claim through the BS of contributory negligence. In this case despite there being no head injury the insurer's lawyers keep banging on with the helmet question. After dealing with two half baked expert witnesses appointed by her lawyers - who had no real reply to the irrelevant helmet question - the victim asked the consultant who was treating her, Mr Tom Crisp, if he would offer his expert opinion. I believe the insurers lawyers were attempting to make the case if she did not hit her head the impact cannot have been as severe as claimed and therefore she was a malingerer and exaggerator. Of course they could not bring themselves to be completely clear with the accusation. Best to imply.

Tom Crisp is expert, he has been an orthopaedic consultant to the British Para Olympic squad, but he does not tart himself as a forensic expert. His evidence, which was accepted, was that helmets are more likely to cause an impact to the head because their mass and momentum, and its centre in an impact, will tend to overcome the hard wired muscular reflexes in most of us that will otherwise pull our heads out of the way of an impending impact as best as they can. These reflexes develop in proportion to the un-helmeted everyday mass of our heads. That might be opinion but it is certainly the case that an average helmet probably adds 5-10% in mass to an average head, and adds it to the head's extremity. Given the accelerations and decelerations we are talking of in impacts like falls I doubt anyone here can say said 5-10% extra would be controllable for necks other than those connected to the shoulders of F1 drivers and front row forwards.

In a cycling context - like helmets and jumping traffic lights, (see the links in the text that describes this t shirt): http://weadmire.net/tshirt/traffic-lights-t-shirt – the risks we take are not as clear cut as people like to think.
WeAdmire.net
13-15 Great Eastern Street
London EC2A 3EJ

snorri
Posts: 2975
Joined: Sat Oct 11, 2003 19:44 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby snorri » Tue Mar 13, 2012 13:03 pm

Wirral_Paul wrote:I personally never ride without a helmet and believe plenty of serious head injuries and deaths have been prevented by one (including me after smacking a rock when mountain biking).

The "helmet debate" stems from concerns that helmet wearing may become compulsory for on road cycling.
The arguments, for and against, are based on the risks faced by the on road utility or leisure cyclist. There is as far as I know no "helmet debate" relating to helmet wearing for off road or sporting events.

Wirral_Paul
Posts: 2387
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 20:19 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Wirral_Paul » Tue Mar 13, 2012 18:38 pm

weadmire wrote:Wirral_Paul,

I think you are missing my point in asking for the proof that will “end the debate forever.” The fact the argument has been banging on for 20 odd years is the proof that the benefits of wearing a helmet are far from clear cut. If the benefits were clear there would not be an argument, at the very least there would be much less of an argument. Presently 20 years or so on there is no less of an argument than there ever has been. The onus of proof lies with the pro lobby and they have struggled with it for as long as internet forums have existed.


The point i was making is that you stated at the point that "helmets save lives" - that they dont and want to know what makes you so sure as to go on a public forum and state this?? I agree that there is no conclusive proof either way - but still you see fit to state otherwise (because in your own crashes you havent been killed or suffered a serious head injury??).

What do you base your statement on?? Is it really wise to suggest to potential newbies reading this thread that wearing a helmet is a good idea? Could you sleep if someone read your comment, didnt wear a helmet, and then died of head injuries in a future accident if you found out that they took your statement as gospel?

We all have the option as to helmet or no helmet - but i think its wrong to suggest to anyone that helmets are pointless!!

Why is the onus of proof on the "Pro" lobby?? This isnt a court where we have to show beyond reasonable doubt that helmets save lives.

Wirral_Paul
Posts: 2387
Joined: Mon Jun 06, 2011 20:19 pm

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby Wirral_Paul » Tue Mar 13, 2012 18:50 pm

snorri wrote:
Wirral_Paul wrote:I personally never ride without a helmet and believe plenty of serious head injuries and deaths have been prevented by one (including me after smacking a rock when mountain biking).

The "helmet debate" stems from concerns that helmet wearing may become compulsory for on road cycling.
The arguments, for and against, are based on the risks faced by the on road utility or leisure cyclist. There is as far as I know no "helmet debate" relating to helmet wearing for off road or sporting events.


I fail to see the relevance of where the debate stems from within this thread - ie compulsory in law. Personally i'm against them being compulsory for adults but that doesnt mean i dont think everyone should be encouraged to wear one, and against statements on public forums that helmets dont save lives without providing any evidence to back this up beyond "I'm not dead so thats the proof"

User avatar
weadmire
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 14:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby weadmire » Tue Mar 13, 2012 18:58 pm

Snorri,
Eh? The argument had been done to death long before the compulsion brigade started being gobby. I took one thread to about 60 pages on a now defunct LCS website after being hit from behind. My bike, it had a carbon frame, was wrecked, it was quite a heavy impact. The back of my head had engaged with the windscreen wiper spindle of the van. I had a cut but no bruising. On the thread I happened to observe that had I been wearing a helmet, given they stick out some way at the back, I might have been saying if I hadn't been wearing one I might have....etc. And backing it up with some images of a broken helmet. I recall someone with a degree in Astrophysics from UCL, calling himself Leggy Blonde, being a key protagonist. He went off on one to the point of mentioning his academic credentials. The whole thing had nothing to do with compulsion, racing, mountain biking, leisure, road or any other subdivision of cycling, nor for that matter have any of the others I have taken part in.

Now you come to mention it I think the mention of compulsion in the context of helmet arguments is mainly an attempt to refresh a tired topic. It gives people who like to promote the wearing of them the opportunity to seem broad minded – I wear one but I do not agree with compulsion because it will reduce the number of people cycling and that.... etc etc. You will have read loads of comments like that.
WeAdmire.net
13-15 Great Eastern Street
London EC2A 3EJ

User avatar
weadmire
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 14:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby weadmire » Tue Mar 13, 2012 20:06 pm

Wirral_Paul,

Am I persuading you? Your arguments have become incoherent.

Newbies? Helmets either work to the point they are worth wearing or they don't. On the strength of my experience, and I haven't described it all, I think at best they only save wearers from the risks they enhance – your head is more likely to hit what might be in the way when you are wearing one, your head might be cushioned to an equal opposite degree because you are wearing one. Beyond that things seem to stack up against them, risk compensation being the most obvious area I have experience of.
WeAdmire.net
13-15 Great Eastern Street
London EC2A 3EJ

User avatar
weadmire
Posts: 163
Joined: Sat Aug 08, 2009 14:50 pm
Contact:

Re: Do you wear a helmet?

Postby weadmire » Wed Mar 14, 2012 15:00 pm

Wirral_Paul,

(because in your own crashes you haven't been killed or suffered a serious head injury??).

You are wrong about that. The most serious whack to the head I took came without a helmet. I was descending an 11% hill - for people who know the area it is on the lane that runs between Bells Yew Green, nr Frant, and Wadhurst Station. I was confronted by a car moving off from the rough bell mouth of the gateway to a field. The bell mouth covered a conduit for a drainage ditch and was on the left, the car was moving off diagonally and was struggling to go up the hill I believe from a standing start. The lane is narrow and the area adjacent to the bell mouth was strewn with grit and small stones. I thought I had escaped as I struggled to control the skidding bike but the bottom of my handle bars engaged the top of the offside of the front wing just as I thought I had got past. The bike was pulled into the car and my head hit the offside windscreen pillar.

I was unconscious for about 20 minutes. The driver of the car involved drove away. I was found lying in the road some distance from my bike. Because there was no one else around the person who found me presumed I had just fallen off. Initially the police were not called because it was assumed to be a simple cycling incident.

My facial bone was broken diagonally from around my right eye socket to a point just above my right front tooth. I spent the night in one of the worst hospitals in SE England, Tunbridge Wells General, now closed. The very large gash above my right eye caused by the lens of my spectacles was sewn up by a drop dead gorgeous Greek doctor who explained her motivation in coming to T Wells General as the value of the intensity and amount of UK A&E work being the equivalent of about 5 years of Greek experience in about 12 months. Because my facial bone was broken I was transferred to the Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead the following morning - they specialise in this sort of injury.

The consultant I dealt with questioned me closely and among other things wanted to remove the stitches above my right eye and replace them. He looked at me meaningfully in this regard and told me he could diminish the amount of scaring by changing said stitches. The Greek Doctor needed more practice apparently.

One of the more uncomfortable questions he asked concerned wearing a helmet. This was a difficult question. Among other responsibilities I had a wife and four children. I naturally felt this time round I had taken my helmet reluctance too far. You can therefore understand my surprise when he said it was probably just as well since my face had clearly absorbed a good deal of the impact and would recover but that it was possible that had I been wearing a helmet I might have broken my neck and been killed or rendered quadriplegic. Seeing my discomfort at being asked the helmet question he might have been being sympathetic, but it did not strike me that way.

You ask about my attitude to advising people new to cycling about helmets? Broadly similar to my advice about traffic lights. Bin anxiety, look for traffic not lights; risks are less obvious than they seem. I don't know how many offs you have had, I am guessing not many. If this is so and a mother is influenced by you and your inclination to helmets, to the extent she straps some heavy lump to her offspring's head, only to see them disabled for life in some minor fall because the useless helmet caused said offspring to go down on their heads - how would you be sleeping?
WeAdmire.net
13-15 Great Eastern Street
London EC2A 3EJ


Return to “Campaign”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest