Fake Safety

The wearing of helmets while cycling is a new thing. People started putting them on their kids in the safety scares of the 1990’s. Then they because a weird fashion statement for middle aged people. The pros started wearing them, so the amateurs started wearing helmets, for the same reason they wear jerseys. The fact that they look stupid and probably don’t work does not matter.

A leading neurosurgeon has controversially claimed that cyclists who wear helmets are wasting their time.

Henry Marsh, who works at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London, said that many of his patients who have been involved in bike accidents have been wearing helmets that were ‘too flimsy’ to be beneficial.

He made the comments while speaking at the Hay Festival during a discussion with Ian McEwan, whose 2005 novel Saturday featured a neurosurgeon.

He cited evidence from the University of Bath that suggests that wearing a helmet may even put cyclists at greater risk. The research showed that drivers get around 3 inches closer to cyclists who wear helmets because they perceive them as safer.

He said: “I ride a bike and I never wear a helmet. In the countries where bike helmets are compulsory there has been no reduction in bike injuries whatsoever.

Of course not. Think about the ways you can crash on a bike. One is you just fall over to the side while not moving. Unless you strike your head on a curb or rock, you bruise an elbow and that’s it. Since this is less likely than falling down the stairs and we don’t wear helmets walking around the house, it makes no sense to wear a helmet on a bike to mitigate against this possibility.

Another way to crash is you hit something and go over the bars. That’s going to hurt, but you’re much more likely to break an arm or wrist than break your melon. That’s why broken arms and wrists are vastly more common than broken heads. More important, that flimsy piece of plastic is not saving your head if you take a direct hit.

The other possibility is you get hit by a car. A broken melon is the least of your worries in that case. The sudden deceleration is going to cause a lot more damage than just cracking your skull. of course, that bit of plastic and foam is not going to matter, other than to make it a bit easier to identify your body. That’s always been the real benefit of wearing a motorcycle helmet

“I see lots of people in bike accidents and these flimsy little helmets don’t help.”

Mr Marsh said that he had been riding his bike for 40 years, wearing a cowboy hat, and had only fallen off once.

“I have been cycling for 40 years and have only been knocked off once. I wear a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. I look completely mad.”

Cyclists travel around 3.1 billion miles each year in Britain. Lights and reflectors are a legal obligation after dark, and reflective jackets an increasingly common sight.

But helmets are not compulsory in the UK, unlike in Australia and parts of the US, yet the government encourages cyclists to wear one.

Research conducted by Dr Ian Walker, a professor of traffic psychology at the University of Bath, showed that motorists drove around 8cm closer when overtaking cyclists with helmets.

He suggested that drivers think helmeted cyclists are more sensible, predicable and experienced, so therefore the driver doesn’t need to give them much space when overtaking.

Non-helmeted cyclists, especially non helmeted “women” are less predictable and experienced, according to this study and so motorists give them more room.

That’s something experienced cyclist know. The safest way to ride on public roads is in the middle oft he road with traffic. The drivers will see you and not try to pass you at a high rate of speed. They will also see that you can’t see them. They may get pissed and blow the horn, but they are unlikely to drive over you.

3 thoughts on “Fake Safety

  1. Biker for forty years. Always wear an excellent (Snell Approved) full face helmet. Multiple downs, singly and with cage assists. No head injuries ever.

    Proof positive skid lids work (massive damage / road rash to hands / arms / shoulders notwithstanding).

    • Motorcycles are a different deal because of the speeds involved. On a peddle bike, you’re far less likely to take a spill and when it happens it is usually at low speed. Strangely, most people fall off their bikes while at a stop.

      The bigger issue is the helmet. Bike helmets are mostly worthless. Motorcycle helmets are much better at protecting the head.

  2. Meh. My father was rear ended while biking and the styrofoam helmet split (as designed) and his head was fine. Would have been worse sans helmet.

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