Cycle helmet wearers are reckless

Tiberius

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 9, 2007
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Somerset
The delay in this response was due to 4 days being necessary to gather the necessary information as you'll see.
Hi Tony, I'm glad you've been busy. I was away in the South of France for a while - work, as it happens, so I was busy too.

I am actually quite prepared to believe the proposition that the "helmet saved my life" claims are over reported. But its the explanation that really interests me. The idea of people believing things that are demonstrably untrue has to be interesting.

One of the first things is to establish how large the over reporting is. Is it, say, 10 times, or 10,000 times? The explanations we would look for would be different in each case. To be honest, it would be difficult to stretch the extra recklessness case to account for more than a few times, so pinning down the amount of over reporting strikes me as an essential step in any discussion. I had a stab at estimating the general level and, using the set of data in front of me, concluded it wasn't much. You've suggested a revision that puts it up by a factor of 3 and I accept that.

There are standard traps (or opportunities, depending on your aim) with statistics. You can be selective with the data, you can choose an arbitrary reference sample, etc, etc. There is a saying that, if all else fails, torture the data until it tells you what you want. With respect, Tony, I think you've done all of these things.

I'm not saying any of the numbers bandied around are wrong, just that the case isn't proven.

As I said, it would be extremely interesting to try to work out the reasons for over reporting, but there's no point without some quality data to start with, and that's looking difficult.

Nick
 

dazzie

Pedelecer
Jul 16, 2008
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Actually this is a problem I sort of started experiencing when I first started riding in London (previously I rode for 11 years in Manchester).... other bikes! Bikes are effectively silent compared to cars etc and in London of late there are SO many of them compared to Manchester.
My 1st line of hazard detection (other than looking) that something is behind me is hearing, I've been surprised a few times when checking behind me to find an unexpected bike! (Unexpected as in, coz I didn't hear anything I didn't expect to see anything.)

What REALLY shocks me is cyclists wearing headphones :confused:
Totally agree on the first point - nearly had an accident with another cyclist who tried to squeeze into a gap between me and a car that didn't exist. Needless to say I called him a tw*t but funnily he didn't think he was at fault. D'oh.

I actually wear earphones now (not for the first couple of weeks whilst getting back into the swing of things), and I think the whole helmet / recklessness thing applies to them too - because I can't hear vehicles behind me now I'm less likely to make assumptions that I can swerve in the road or whatever just because I can't hear anything behind me - I always look now. It's you reckless non-headphone wearing cyclists that are causing the accident figures to be so high! ;)
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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There is a saying that, if all else fails, torture the data until it tells you what you want. With respect, Tony, I think you've done all of these things.

I'm not saying any of the numbers bandied around are wrong, just that the case isn't proven.

As I said, it would be extremely interesting to try to work out the reasons for over reporting, but there's no point without some quality data to start with, and that's looking difficult.

Nick
Come now Nick, I haven't tortured any data or set out to, it was you who did that. In this thread I presented an argument that from casual observation didn't need any proof, so I didn't present any. It was only when you tried to statistically argue something that simply did not fit with well founded experience that I did this analysis to show how your argument was founded on poor data.

I used only the data samples you used to show that your's were numerically wrong. The difference between my measured sample of the major factor and your guess at it was so huge that the case I am making is proven. No specific degree of proof is necessary when the discrepancy of the claims is so huge.

On your last point, personally as I've said, I'm not interested in the reasons for the discrepancy, only in showing that there is huge exaggeration in the claims, and that has been shown as you've acknowledged in part.
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Cyclezee

Guest
I have simply copied and pasted the following information which is several years old.
The first graph is based on figures from 1996, 38% of American cyclists wear helmets and over 100 of them died for each billion Km travelled, where as only 0.1% of Dutch cyclists wear helmets, but less than 20 died for each billion Km travelled.

The second graph shows the same data with in a different layout.

As far as the UK is concerned, almost 10 times as many cyclists wear helmets as compared to France, and approximately 12 people die in the UK for each billion Km cycled, compared to 20 in France.

What does this tell us, you are safer wearing a helmet, or there are lies, damed lies and statstics? The first thing that I question is how does anyone know how many Km or miles are cycled? Secondly how does anyone know how many people wear helmets?

J:confused: h

Helmet use, safety and obesity

Cycle use, risk of fatality and helmet use in Europe and USACycle use and obesity in Europe
Cycle use, risk of fatality and helmet use in Europe and USA

Sources
Cycle helmet wearing:
Netherlands, Denmark, Finland, Sweden [3]; Germany [7]; UK [4]; USA & France (Paris) [6].
Cyclist deaths:
EU [2]; USA [7].
Cycle Percentage of trips:
Flanders cities [5]; USA, Canada, France, Italy, Austria [7]; UK, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark [3]; Germany [1]; Netherlands [8]
These two graphs present alternative views of the same data
 
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flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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Yes, Frank published part of that earlier in the thread John, but it's part of the pros and cons of helmet wearing which wasn't my concern here. I don't care whether people wear them or not, but I do care about the greatly exaggerated claims for helmet efficacy which motivate the "nanny state" enforcement proponents.
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halflife

Pedelecer
Jul 12, 2008
33
0
Luck holding for 63 years is impossible John. A clue might be my always having full no claims bonus on my cars and motorcycles, and even extra preferred policyholder discount when that was available. Clearly I know how to take care of my safety, and miracles don't come into it. There honestly isn't a single mark on me from a road accident, nor has there ever been.

Personal protective equipment I use for certain activities like welding and some grinding since with those I cannot be in control of all parts of the materials I'm working with.

However, I notice that you too have avoided the point I was making about helmet wearers and their accidents. It's a serious point.
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Flecc. I hope your luck / skill holds out as this forum would be boring without your posts :D.
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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Flecc. I hope your luck / skill holds out as this forum would be boring without your posts :D.
Thanks halflife. Still undented as at today. Mind you, I wasn't riding but driving the officially safest car in the world today (no, not Volvo), so it probably wouldn't have hurt me if I had crashed. :D

I've already won on motorbikes since I've got rid of my last one, so my 56 years of riding them without coming off on the road is set in stone now.

At 73 this year I'm on the home straight with bicycles and cars, so I'm in with a good chance now after 63 and 55 years respectively without hurting myself in any way.

I'll continue to take risks with my postings though. ;)
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frank9755

Esteemed Pedelecer
May 19, 2007
1,223
2
London
I am actually quite prepared to believe the proposition that the "helmet saved my life" claims are over reported. But its the explanation that really interests me. The idea of people believing things that are demonstrably untrue has to be interesting.
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I'm not saying any of the numbers bandied around are wrong, just that the case isn't proven.

As I said, it would be extremely interesting to try to work out the reasons for over reporting, but there's no point without some quality data to start with, and that's looking difficult.

Nick
Clearly none of us have done a proper study of this - it's based on observation. I agree it would be interesting to do that, but we're all busy so I don't know if it will happen.

For me, when I read this post, I felt the point, which I had previously felt to be true without being certain, was proven beyond doubt!

II have several examples I can recount of when I concider that wearing a helmet saved my life or saved me from serious injury over the last 20 years of cycling, without cycling carelessly in any way.

My most recent example, last year I was cycling with my helmet on (slowly and carefully, negotiating a tricky dip) through Sherwood Forest as I do frequently when I suddenly saw stars and heard a huge bang simultaneously. Due to the low sun, I hadn't seen a broken tree branch hanging down which hit me very hard in the front of my helmet which nearly knocked me off my bike. I felt nauseous and dizzy for a few minutes. Had this happened wthout a helmet on I wouldn't have walked away without injury had I not been protected. The crushed polystyrene had taken the blow rather than my cranium. No male gonads from the trolls about riding unsafely due to wearing a helmet. I just didnt see it.
Essentially Carigada is saying that the helmet gives him confidence to ride faster than is safe given conditions with poor visibility - and that he does not consider this to be careless!
 

Tiberius

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 9, 2007
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Somerset
Essentially Carigada is saying that the helmet gives him confidence to ride faster than is safe given conditions with poor visibility - and that he does not consider this to be careless!
Hi Frank,

That is one interpretation, but its not the only one, and its a dangerous line of reasoning.

The next step would be to say that virtually every accident could have been prevented. Therefore every accident that a helmet wearer suffers was preventable. Ergo, helmet wearers are reckless. Ie, you always arrive at this conclusion, regardless of the facts.

To prove something, you have to look for counter examples and show that they don't exist. Just collecting supporting data reinforces the idea in people's minds, but it doesn't prove anything.

By the same logic above, you should also look at instances when non helmet wearers suffer accidents. Of course, with hindsight, these were preventable too. But with hindsight, was it a good decision not to wear a helmet?

We don't know enough about Carigada's situation to draw conclusions, and a conclusion based on one incident is dodgy anyway. It may be that he decided that particular journey was likely to be more risky than normal, so he wore a helmet.

In Carigada's case, the researcher trying to prove that helmet wearers are rational counts it as point in his favour; the researcher trying to prove that helmet wearers are reckless counts it as a point in his favour.

In fact, both researchers are wrong. They should not be gleefully gathering supporting data for their theories, but carefully considering the evidence against them.

Nick
 

frank9755

Esteemed Pedelecer
May 19, 2007
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London
Agreed, it's not nearly a general statistical proof that, say, social science research would require. It's only an example of one person behaving in exactly the way that Flecc hypothesised - and not just one incident as he does talk about it being a pattern of behaviour over 20-year period - and not realising it.

In that sense we've got no further than identifying a hypothesis which, as you say, appears to have some evidence of support, is interesting and would merit a proper study. Nevetheless, rational people believe many things without concrete evidence from proper studies, so I am happy to say I've heard enough to be convinced - however of course you may not be.

Could you interpret this example differently? I disagree with you there. I believe that anyone in charge of a vehicle - bike, car, whatever - should only go as quickly as the conditions allow. If visibility is impared you have to slow down or, if necessary, stop and wait. Try substituting the words 'broken branch' for 'small child' - because if you can't see it, it could be anything!
 

Tiberius

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 9, 2007
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Somerset
Nevetheless, rational people believe many things without concrete evidence from proper studies, so I am happy to say I've heard enough to be convinced - however of course you may not be.
Hi Frank,

This is my point. You've just described the way in which people become convinced about things without good reason. I'm trying to inject a little scientific method here.

Once someone wants to believe a theory, he only sees the data that supports it. Data that doesn't support it is ignored, discarded as irrelevant, or worst of all, re-interpreted in the other direction.

Take Carigada's case. All we have is a report of an accident in which the person was wearing a helmet.

The logic of one camp proceeds thus: Accidents are avoidable; he should have not had the accident; therefore he was reckless; therefore helmet wearers are reckless; therefore anyone advocating helmet wearing is an idiot.

The logic of the other camp proceeds: Accidents happen; he was unlucky; it would have been worse if he hadn't worn a helmet; its a perfect demonstration of the value of helmets; therefore anyone advocating not wearing a helmet is an idiot.

See what I mean? Each side interprets the same event as supporting their beliefs. No doubt they also think that theirs is the only valid interpretation.

Nick
 

bode

Esteemed Pedelecer
May 14, 2008
626
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Hertfordshire and Bath
Why not call it a day?

With all due respect to the erudition, experience, and wisdom of everyone who has posted in this thread, how many more times are we going to go round the houses?
This argument will not be won, because no-one on either side is prepared to concede any points to the other, and all contributors' viewpoints appear unchanged.
 

Tiberius

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 9, 2007
919
0
Somerset
With all due respect to the erudition, experience, and wisdom of everyone who has posted in this thread, how many more times are we going to go round the houses?
This argument will not be won, because no-one on either side is prepared to concede any points to the other, and all contributors' viewpoints appear unchanged.
Probably the best thing, bode, and leave the thread as a warning to the future.

The thread was never supposed to be about helmet wearing, but about how daft some of the arguments put forward were - that's why I allowed myself to be drawn in. Even so, that turned out to be dangerous ground. What the thread did show, though, was how close people who ought to be friends can come to falling out - and I apologise for any intemperate postings I made.

Actually, if you analyse it properly, what it really proved was that in 65% of discussions........ Oh, sod it, let's talk about religion and politics instead.

Nick
 

rooel

Esteemed Pedelecer
Jun 14, 2007
357
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Somewhere in the depths of this thread I expressed the opinion that we need not worry whether the wearing of a "safety" helmet makes cyclists more reckless, as how they ride is something under cyclists' own control. What concerns me is that government and other official propaganda gives motorists the impression that a cyclist wearing a helmet is protected from all evil, and that such cyclists can be treated just as carelessly or recklessly as other road users fully enclosed, like themselves, in their motorised tin shells.

Here therefore is a contribution to the helmet debate which I suspect has never been made before, demonstrating that the "official" view can be not only wrong but positively harmful: in the heydays of England's empire, on which the sun never set, it was more or less compulsory for all government officials (whites) to wear a thick pith helmet out of doors (with reprimands from on high for anyone caught bare-headed under the mid-day sun or at any time of day before sundown). Even poking one's head out of a window or port hole for a few minutes would cause the older and "wiser" colonial hands to offer heavy counsel against the folly of such behaviour.

However after the Second World War things changed rapidly. This is a quote from Charles Allen's Tales from the Dark Continent (Africa) "...during the war when British soldiers came out and walked about bareheaded and nothing really terrible happened to them, people realised at last that nobody ever really suffered from sunstroke [my emphasis]. What they had been suffering from was heatstroke - due to wearing a heavy helmet for one thing..."
 

gwing

Pedelecer
Nov 5, 2008
39
8
Chiltern Hills
Not wearing a helmet can make you less reckless?

Taking as an analogy the comparable case for rock climbing helmets where again protection is optional and also limited.

In my partners case not wearing a helmet has definitely made her less reckless. Unfortunately this was accompanied by a fractured skull but she has always been a trifle stubborn and doesn't tend to learn things the easy way :eek:

As for the original comment 'Helmet wearers are reckless'. Before she didn't wear a helmet and was distinctly reckless, now she does wear a helmet and is definitely less reckless so I guess this is a vote against the original proposition.

Besides, I'm capable of being adequately reckless without a cycle helmet as well :)
 

flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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The principle seems reasonable and mirrors that in other areas where accidents occur. As a judges ruling it's open to dispute of course, and one could call technical witnesses to show that the minimal protection of a cycling helmet would not have made a difference in a severe impact case as in the example given on that site. That could then minimise the deduction.
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Tiberius

Esteemed Pedelecer
Nov 9, 2007
919
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Somerset
I'm not a great fan of judges, but on the face of it, it does seem right. Not wearing a helmet doesn't make you responsible for the accident, but it does make you partially responsible for the severity of the outcome.

Trouble is where does it stop? Its like holding people responsible for being burgled when they live in ordinary houses instead of fortified castles. The next step is to blame them for owning valuable things.

Or to take an example more to the point. A friend of mine was beaten up by thugs while out cycling. Is he guilty of contributory negligence because he didn't eat his greens and spend 20 years as a bodybuilder?

Nick
 

rooel

Esteemed Pedelecer
Jun 14, 2007
357
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This report is very brief but it does indicate a judgement which is both shallow and illogical. I hope it will be appealed, if necessary to the House of Lords. Will their Lordships really confirm that a cyclist who does not wear a helmet and suffers head injury has contributed to his own misfortune, while a helmetless pedestrian or a motorist who suffers similar injury (and many of them do) has not?

And what about the cyclist who does not have a rear view mirror on his handlebars? Will he or she be held to have contributed to his or her own misfortune because, lacking a mirror, he or she failed to see the long vehicle coming up on the offside, indicating a left turn, before overtaking and crushing the cyclist under its rear near-side wheels? The cyclist in such circumstances who knows what he or she is sharing the road with has a better chance of taking avoiding action, eg braking, or, if electrified, accelerating beyond the danger area.

What too of the cyclist who rides along the gutter, rather than one metre out from the kerb, who goes under the rear near-side wheels of a bus drawing into a stop? Or those who sit in the gutter at lights rather than occupying the centre of the lane?

See here for a fuller report: Judgement on Helmets? - uk.rec.cycling | Google Groups

which suggests the judgement is full of conflicts: apparently the cyclist was wearing a helmet but it was twenty years old, and the judge also seems to have accepted that even if he had been wearing a new helmet it would have provided protection only at an impact speed of 12mph falling on to a flat surface. This is definitely a case for the CTC or Cyclist Defence Union to take up.
 
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flecc

Member
Oct 25, 2006
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Thanks for the link Rooel, it indeed shows what shaky grounds the ruling is based on. My reading is that the ruling is as much due to Lord Denning's precedent when Master of the Rolls as to actual evidence in the case.

Denning was always our most controversial judge, and this outcome continues the tradition of his often eccentric rulings.
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