A ‘cycling safety’ campaign from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham

From the Birmingham Post

Hospitals see 50 per cent rise in cycling accidents since Olympics

Cyclists inspired to hit the streets by Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic stars have left medics battling a 50 per cent rise in bike accidents. Figures collected by Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital showed falls from bikes had increased from an average of 20 per month last year to 30 this year.

It is, of course, entirely possible that there are 50 per cent more people riding bikes in Birmingham compared to the equivalent period last year, as a result of the ‘Olympic fever’ this story talks about, in which case the 50 per cent rise in bike ‘accidents’ might not be quite so alarming. But we don’t know. The rise in casualties are presented in isolation, which isn’t helpful.

And more than 70 people went to the A&E department last month suffering cycle-related injuries, while four people died in collisions.

Two of these people who died in collisions in and around Birmingham were 18-year-old Anthony Phillips, who was killed when a car mounted the pavement in Droitwich, and an as yet unnamed 19-year-old who was hit by a bus while cycling in Wolverhampton. Another cyclist, Paul Lake, was found dead by the road in highly suspicious circumstances in Kingswinsford, near Wolverhampton. He had suffered ‘serious injuries’; it is still unclear what happened to him. The fourth cycling death in the area appears to be that of 78-year-old Arthur Bough, who was hit by a lorry in Kidderminster, some 20 miles from Birmingham.

A flavour of the other ‘accidents’ involving cyclists around Birmingham comes from this incident in Ashchurch where a cyclist was struck by a Range Rover towing a caravan. He suffered ‘serious injuries’ and was airlifted to the aforementioned Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Likewise this cyclist was also airlifted to the hospital with ‘multiple injuries’ after being hit by a van in Solihull. The article notes that

the van also hit a house after colliding with the bike

Which gives some idea of the force with which this man must have been hit.

What does the hospital have to say about these incidents? Margaret Garbett, the hospital trust’s matron for A&E –

“Over the last two months we have seen minor injuries, such as cuts and broken bones, and some very serious injuries, including four fatalities. The majority of those patients were not wearing protective equipment such as helmets or brightly-coloured clothing.

“Cycling is a great sport and we actively encourage our staff and the public to keep fit by cycling but, first and foremost, we want people to be safe on their bikes. We hope our campaign will encourage cyclists to wear protective equipment and clothing, to ride safely on the roads. We also hope motorists will be more aware of cyclists when they are driving.”

I hate to break this to Margaret Garbett, but brightly-coloured clothing is not ‘protective equipment’. (Cycling isn’t necessarily a ‘sport’ either, nor is it a ‘hobby’, as the BBC journalist in this now lapsed video about the same story described it).

Nor is a polystyrene hat going to be any use at all when you are struck by buses, lorries, or cars mounting the pavement, or vans that subsequently damage houses.

Frankly this is an insane response to cyclists being killed and seriously injured on the roads around Birmingham. It appears to me that the hospital is not paying any attention at all to the circumstances under which people are being maimed and killed while riding bikes, and only observing the absence of day-glo jackets and polystyrene helmets when they arrive broken and bleeding in their accident and emergency department.

But never mind. They’ve teamed up with Halfords to launch a ‘cycle safety campaign’.

QE staff are dealing with so many biking accidents that the hospital has launched a cycle safety campaign with store chain Halfords and safety charity RoSPA. It aims to encourage motorists and cyclists to take more care on the roads and urges them to wear protective gear such as helmets and high-visibility clothing.

This poorly-worded sentence appears to suggest that motorists in the area are also being ‘encouraged’ wear high-visibility clothing and helmets, but of course that can’t be right. Motorists never suffer head injuries.

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10 Responses to A ‘cycling safety’ campaign from Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham

  1. “Encouraging people to take care” isn’t going to help at all. You can take all the care in the world but accidents still happen and with a road network that has conflict and hostility designed IN TO it rather then trying to find ways to remove or at least reduce the exposure to danger of vulnerable road users then cyclists are going to continue to be injured and killed.

  2. Totally agree.

    “And more than 70 people went to the A&E department last month suffering cycle-related injuries, while four people died in collisions.”

    I wonder how many of these 70 people actually had “cycle-related injuries” which I would think of things like going round a bend to fast and falling off, or cycling into a wall.

    If a car driver killed someone walking alongside a road, would that be a “walking-related injury”?

  3. Cyclestrian says:

    At least some NHS trusts see (part of) the bigger picture:

    I’ve read a lot on pros and cons of polystyrene hats but very little on high-vis. I’m wondering if the QE is privy to some research on whether styling oneself like a highlighter pen really makes injury less likely. Genuinely interested. Anecdotally I find very bright lights much more effective than a fluorescent jacket, at any time of day.

  4. More of the same ‘blame culture’ presented as safety campaign by people who mean well but miss the point entirely. I remember the day when ‘protective clothing’ meant wearing waterproofs or a rain cape 😉 I’m afraid the only time a motorist would be ‘more aware of cyclists’ would be for harsher sentencing to take dangerous drivers off the road and strict liability. What’s going to happen when EVERYBODY is wearing hi-viz, what will these people be campaigning for next?

  5. John Kirk says:

    Excellent analysis – unlike the QE statement or the article.

  6. Nothing will make motorists “more aware of cyclists”, human nature means that motorists and cyclists will make mistakes however well-trained and however attentive they are. Sadly the modern obsession with the “visibility” arms race means that motorists now only expect to need to notice things that are brightly lit or fluorescent, leaving them more with attention to spend on their mobile telephone conversations.

    The workplace Health and Safety industry knows from bitter experience that personal protective equipment, signs, and training are the least effective measures to increase safety. Most effective are removing the danger altogether (banning cars), followed by minimising the danger by keeping it physically distanced from people (physically separate spaces for cars, and people to travel along, perhaps even separate places for heavy lorries too).

    If you start with the correct assumption that people will make mistakes and will have lapses of attention, however well trained and however “visible” things are, you end up with a different set of safety priorities. The Dutch call it “sustainable safety”, and it works very well.

    We need “road danger reduction” not more “road safety”.

  7. monchberter says:

    I take the perspective of anyone at the *cough* sharp end of cycling accidents with a pinch of salt. Staff in A&E are disproportionately going to see the effects of incidents where a cyclist has been hit (for whatever reason).

    Of course this is going to colour their view of cycling as an activity. Tied to the physicality of their job, they’re going to have strong opinions on the parts they believe they can prevent, due to their expertise in physical matters, that’s going to be physical forms of prevention and protection, not wider issues of driver awareness and the unsuitability of much of the road infrastructure in this country. It stands to reason.

    I think medics need to be a key audience to change perceptions of cycling;

  8. biking2work says:

    Wasn’t going to cycle to work tomorrow anyway but gonna wear my lid and hi viz jacket to make sure that I protect myself from other motorists

  9. I’m afraid that doctors and nurses are very much part of the problem of danger on the road. Do see the chapter on The Doctor’s Tale in my “Death on the Streets: cars and the mythology of road safety” http://rdrf.org.uk/2011/06/death-on-the-streets-cars-and-the-mythology-of-road-safety/ .

    For a combination of victim blaming, failing to reduce danger or even exacerbating it, and generally missing the point and getting hold of the wrong end of the stick at least a couple of times more or less every time they open their mouths on the subject of danger on the road, doctors and nurses are hard to beat.

    Sometimes they will make the right noises about reducing motor vehicular traffic, but watch what happens in tems of parking places at your local health centre or hospital.

    This excellent post describes a very typical attitude. While we are on the subject of “raod safety” being part of the problem, yet again it is car parts sales people Halfords and RoSPA at it again.

    An inversion of reality: dreadful, wicked and wrong, wrong, wrong.

  10. pm says:

    “the van also hit a house after colliding with the bike”

    Following the general pattern by which motor vehciles running into cyclists are described as ‘cycle related’, this presumably qualifies as a ‘house related accident’?

    Clearly we need a campaign encouraging houses to be painted in reflective day glo colours.

    Also, I suspect the best way to help motorists see cyclists is for those cyclists to habitually carry anti-tank weaponry. I suspect motorists would suddenly become much better at spotting them.

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