How about you just don’t injure me?

Spotted in a local newspaper

I remember a debate on cycling helmets. People were writing to the Times newspaper stating that, statistically, helmets were not effective in the reduction of injuries. And then one correspondent cut through all the crap with one simple letter.

It was along the lines of: “To all those claiming cycling helmets are ineffective, I have a challenge for them. We can meet up and I’ll hit them round the head with a plank of wood. And, before I do it, they can choose to wear a helmet – or not.”

That says it all really. Let common sense prevail.

Let common sense prevail. Let common sense prevail.

Looked at objectively, this obviously isn’t a meaningful test of whether a cycling helmet is actually ‘effective’, unless the author is suggesting that such a helmet should be worn at all times. A helmet will protect your head – a bit – from someone wielding a plank, whether you happen to be on a bike or not. The fact it is a ‘cycling’ helmet is rather irrelevant here. Why minimise your risk of plank-related injuries only while you happen to be cycling? Wear a helmet all the time.

Nor does it make a particularly compelling case for why helmets, alone, are necessary items of safety equipment, but not other pieces of protective equipment. For instance, I doubt you would be persuaded by

For all those claiming bulletproof vests are ineffective, I have a challenge for them. We can meet up and I’ll shoot them in the chest. And, before I do it, they can choose to wear a bulletproof vest – or not.

as an argument for the wider use of bulletproof vests by the general population. Or, similarly –

For all those claiming shin guards are ineffective, I have a challenge for them. We can meet up and I’ll kick them in the shins. And, before I do it, they can choose to wear shin guards – or not.

as an argument for the mandatory use of shin guards by pedestrians. You would probably say, quite reasonably – don’t kick me in the shins or shoot me.

But precisely this same insane logic appears to be so persuasive to the author he presents it as an ultimate, winning knock-down argument for the use of bicycle helmets.

Why? It’s hard to hazard a guess, but I suppose an answer might lies in the notion that being ‘in the road’ is an activity that involves an innate acceptance of danger, like entering a war zone. You wouldn’t enter a war zone without a bullet proof vest, so why cycle in the road without a helmet? Being in the road is where random acts of violence similar to being hit by a plank could occur, so it’s just obvious you should take action to protect yourself. By contrast, walking on pavements is somewhere we don’t tolerate risk, and we don’t expect to have to wear shinguards in case people come flying out of nowhere to kick us in the shins.

So, in a way, the fact that arguments like this appear so often, without any reflection on what they actually imply, is a nice little window onto the established British view of the road environment, where danger is accepted as normal, and the only way to address it is to clad your body in protective equipment, rather than minimise or remove that danger at source.

This recent news story from Australia – where helmets are indeed compulsory – represents almost a textbook example of this kind of attitude –

A HAMILTON cyclist’s life was saved by his helmet after he was hit from behind by a car on Saturday morning. The impact thrust the 63-year-old man backwards on to the car windscreen before landing on the roadside. Yesterday, he was in a stable condition in Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital with multiple fractures.

“Had he not been  wearing his helmet it would have been a different story,” Sergeant Darren Sadler said. “The helmet’s taken the impact when he hit the windscreen. Fortunately the driver was travelling below the speed limit. It’s a timely reminder for all cyclists to wear a good quality helmet when they are riding.”

The accident happened in a 100km/h zone on Nigretta Road about 9am. Local crews called in the ambulance helicopter to fly the man to The Alfred for emergency surgery. Sergeant Sadler said investigations were continuing and no charges had been laid.

Multiple fractures, hit by a car travelling at around 60mph, and yet the story here is entirely about a polystyrene helmet, not about whether human beings mixing with metal objects travelling at that kind of speed is sensible or even sane.

The disturbingly similar British version of these attitudes often manifests itself in response to the injuries of children in the road environment. Earlier this year the Ryan Smith case attracted a huge amount of publicity, as the family campaigned for – you guessed it – compulsory helmets after Ryan was left in a coma after a collision with a van (while cycling, not while walking).

And more recently we have the Put Things Right campaign, set up in the wake of the death of 15-year-old Harrison Carlin, hit while cycling by a driver travelling at or above 60mph, and 12-year-old Jeff Townley, a pupil at the same school, again killed while cycling. Put Things Right is also campaigning for compulsory helmets, as well as more education.

Depressingly it seems that campaigns like this can’t conceive of any other way of approaching the issue of reducing serious injury and death, beyond shifting responsibility onto the vulnerable parties, and doing little or nothing to tackle the physical environment. We need a different kind of common sense to prevail.

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40 Responses to How about you just don’t injure me?

  1. Odd experience at the weekend. Whilst manning a stall for the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, we had a few people like this actually come up to us and rant away. Wierd

    • davidhembrow says:

      No change there, then. The same thing used to happen sometimes when I did stuff with the Cambridge Cycling Campaign many years ago.

      Cyclists are an out-group. Most people simply can’t conceive of putting themselves at such a risk as they think we do. That people rant in this way is an illustration of subjective safety issues writ large ! They don’t need cyclists talking about danger to stop them from riding, from their point of view, cycling is already akin to suicide.

      As for the bozo with the let me hit you over the head story idea, well… as Mark points out, perhaps it’s better simply not to hit people over the head. That’s what is achieved by building sensible cycling infrastructure. One of the objectives is to decrease the number of collisions. That certainly is proven to work in the Netherlands. The other objective is to increase ridership, and that’s working too. Why do people waste so much time looking for another way?

      • David, I suspect that the reason Britain wastes so much time, effort and money looking for “another way” is that (even if they refuse to admit it) most Brits are at heart Daily Mail readers (present company excepted of course) and couldn’t possibly accept that anything Johnny Foreigner does can compare with our wonderful freedoms and way of life. Yes, we’ll drink foreign beer and eat Belgian Chocolate, we’ll even pop over to Amsterdam and “drink coffee” and watch the strange foreign people on bikes wondering why they are all so slim and attractive but don’t you dare suggest that they’ve got it right – it just wouldn’t be patriotic.

        • davidhembrow says:

          Fifty years ago Britain was looking to “the continent” and had no problem with admitting it. It was a time when the country had huge exports and there was concern that crumbling infrastructure might damage industry. Particularly in road building, the continental example was looked to in order to see how to make better infrastructure and there was specifically that idea of looking for best practice and avoiding copying mistakes. In road building, Britain copied France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. However, the Dutch then went and did something else in the 1970s while Britain as well as much of the rest of Europe decided to try to stay in the 1960s instead of progressing.

        • Dermot says:

          Surely the problem is that the authorities in Britain spend as little as possible on cycling, rather than wasting “so much time, effort and money”. They are required to pay lip service to cycling facilities, so that’s all they do. It’s certainly a waste of money, but it’s not a waste of much money.

          The Netherlands had the further good fortune to have a very large percentage of journeys still made by bike when the authorities began to build infrastructure (well over 20%, if I remember right). It’s easier to justify spending the high (i.e. correct) amount of money on infrastructure when it’s for a very large minority of people rather than a very small one.

          • Whilst I mainly agree with both David and Dermot (I was being flippant anyway), both time effort and money is being spent trying to design roundabouts for London and cherry picking “faux Dutch” solutions. I expect that in the end London will end up with a costly mish mash of disjointed infrastructure rather than a seamless working solution.

          • But building decent Dutch-style cycleways WOULD benefit the majority of the population, just as it does in the Netherlands. We have to persuade the politicians that a lot of problems (obesity, congestion, air quality, etc.) would be solved very cost-effectively if only they realised the huge suppressed demand for cycling as transport. The ONLY reason cycling is a minority out-group “sport” in the UK is because there aren’t safe cycleways for ordinary “non-cyclist” people to ride their bikes along.

            We’ve tried for several decades to persuade people to cycle on the UK’s roads, so that we get enough people cycling that we can ask for decent facilities. It has failed spectacularly as a method of making cycling more pleasant or safe or an ordinary everyday activity. Persuading people that “cycling is safe, honest” is as effective as saying “sky diving is safe, honest”. Both cycling and sky diving remain minority sports, mostly used by ordinary people as charity fund-raising challenges.

        • Incidentally, not that many of the Dutch themselves use cannabis. A couple of times when they are a young adult, get bored, and go back home, not impressed. It’s mainly the tourists who actually use it. Many adults do the same around the world for the same reason, try it a few times, get bored not finding it impressive and go back home. But if you are in the US, you could easily end up with a lifetime in prison for it.

          But this is of course about bicycles. I also suspect that people don’t want to face the reality that roads are expensive, or that they don’t realize that even a large sum like 1.5 billion GBP, when distributed across the 65 million people living there, is only about 25 pounds per person.

    • Whilst manning a stall for the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, we had a few people like this actually come up to us and rant away. Wierd

      Some of this is, possibly, nothing to do with cycling. Having a rant is pleasurable. Not the sort of pleasure we admit to, but secretly, it gives us a kick. “Safety” is a “safe” subject to rant about because it looks altruistic. “concern for others” as a subject for anger – how noble, the perfect excuse.

      • pm says:

        Interesting point. Though I wonder it only really works if the target of the rant is someone less powerful than yourself, that is, an out-group? Ranting at the powerful gets intensely dispiriting after a while (I find!).

        I also wonder, particularly in relation to the helmet issue, how it is that people who consider themselves ‘liberals’, can actually end up in a nasty victim-blaming position. I think a lot of pro-helmet/high viz types fondly imagine that all their ‘enemies’ are ‘libertarians’ – that is, the type who oppose all ‘health and safety’ on general principle. And said helmet-fanatics simply don’t notice that there are other issues involved when it comes to pushing ‘safety equipment’ onto the party who don’t actually create the danger.

        • I wonder it only really works if the target of the rant is someone less powerful than yourself,

          Yes, absolutely. After all, ranting is just a teeny bit agressive – and one should take care at agressing people more powerful than yourself …

  2. kraut says:

    “Fortunately the driver was travelling below the speed limit.”

    If you hit a vehicle that’s in front of you, there seem to be a few choices:
    * You were too close
    * You were going too fast (relates, obviously, to distance as well)
    * You weren’t looking
    * You have dangerously defective eyesight.
    * Your driving was otherwise impaired.

    Of course, these aren’t mutually exclusive. So this seems a clear cut case of dangerous driving. And whether the victim of the dangerous driver was wearing a helmet, no helmet, or a clown costume is entirely irrelevant.

    I wonder how that story would have been reported if the victim was in a slow moving car.

  3. I am possibly typical of many people when it comes to the helmet debate and an example of the sheer illogicality that surrounds it. Most of my day to day cycling takes place on my big “Dutch” roadster on a segregated shared path – of necessity my speed rarely exceeds 12MPH and I don’t wear a helmet. I do have a faster bike that I occasionally use for longer distances – again mainly on the segregated route but because I’m going faster I occasionally wear a hat. Here’s the thing, my helmet is only tested to speeds below 12 MPH and falls from 4 feet so the style of riding that my helmet would protect me from is typically the time I don’t bother and other times I seem to decide “I’ll wear a helmet today” – no logical reason, just a feeling that “today would be a good day to wear a hat”.
    It strikes me therefore that the crux of the helmet debate lies in the “subjective safety” argument, if cycling is seen to be generally safe the need for protection reduces, add an element of increased risk and out comes the hat – for whatever good it may do.
    The one time (back in 1990) I did have a serious accident wearing a helmet I broke my coccyx and suffered severe internal bruising. Maybe body armour would be more use.

  4. pm says:

    While this is true, I’m weary of the helmet argument!

    But what I would say about the quoted comment is that, across a whole host of issues, I find that, nine times out of ten, invocations of “common sense” translate as “I can’t be bothered to try and defend my unexamined prejudices”.

    I’m beginning to suspect the very term ‘common sense’ was invented by intellectually lazy people with power who didn’t like having their views challenged with evidence and reason.

    (in the same spirit, I also suspect the phrase “a bad workman always blames his tools” was probably invented by a manufacturer of poor quality tools!)

    • Simon says:

      I agree – two signs that the writer or speaker is an idiot: references to it being “common sense” or (my pet hate) “it stands to reason”. There phrases only ever seem to be used by py people who don’t understand what they are talking about in an attempt to justify a half-baked argument.

      The newspaper letter quote at the top of the blog post is a perfect example of this. “Let common sense prevail” – if only …

  5. Sarah says:

    When it’s just Joe Public having his uninformed rant it’s merely weird (and it IS very weird!) When it’s the very people who are actually tasked with making the roads safer, it’s downright petrifying.

    A cyclist was killed in a dooring incident in the village/suburb where I live in Germany last year, and the police subsequently decided that they should “do something” about cyclist safety as part of their road safety education programme. So they produced a poster showing a cyclist approaching an opening car door with the caption: “Vorsicht. Rücksicht. Helmpflicht?” The first two words are key concepts in German traffic law with helpful double meanings: road users should be careful and considerate, and they should be able to see what’s in front and behind. The last word means “mandatory helmets.” The police can’t bring them in on a citywide basis, but they wish they could.

    The excuse the police gave for this victim-blaming crap (faced with a delegation of very angry cyclists from the local cycling campaign) was that they only had the resources for one poster aimed at both drivers and cyclists. Advising cyclists to stay out of the door zone AND instructing motorists to be very careful about opening doors (and to remember that cyclists can’t always let them past right away because they need to stay out of the door zone) would, they thought, have required too many posters. It didn’t seem to strike them that focussing on the behaviour of perpetrators rather than that of victims would have represented much better use of limited resources.

  6. I remember when I came across the Road Danger Reduction Forum I was perplexed as to why they were so vocal against Road Safety. At the time, I didn’t make the connection and it did take quite a lot of posts before I started to grasp that there was a key difference in what was being discussed. That’s likely for the same reasons that even certain publications that should know better, or MP’s, will refer to ‘Road Tax’, even when their description of how it works is a spot on match for the somewhat-similar-yet-polar-opposite one that actually exists, VED. The average Joe doesn’t even consider that there could be a different way of looking at things.

    As someone said in another forum, it’s a sad thing for the English language that the same word applies for danger directed at you and danger caused by you. And ‘safety’ can just as well describe removing danger at source as it can protecting you in case of an incident.

  7. Paul M says:

    To be fair to the old helmet chestnut, and perhaps to the new headphones chestnut, there might indeed be some evidence which points to wearing a helmet/not earing headphones improving your safety – that evidence will of course be complex and hard to read, and capable of alternative interpretations, and there will be contradictory evidence.

    When it comes to statement of the bleedin’ obvious claims though, none surpasses the canard that cutting charges or restrictions on car parking boosts town centre activity. Not only is there no empirical, scientifically compiled and reviewed evidence to support this apparently obvious claim, there is peer-reviewed academic research which points the other way. Some of that comes from the government’s own source, the Transport Research Laboratory.

    But then Pickles has form for not letting his mind be confused by facts, as his imperious command to local authorities to revert from fortnightly to weekly bin collections demonstrates.

  8. Meanwhile pedestrians die from head injuries, but no-one suggests pedestrian helmets:

    and here’s someone who had to be airlifted to hospital with serious head injuries:

    None of these newspaper reports say “a pedestrian, who was not wearing a helmet, has suffered serious head injuries”, nor are there any campaigns calling for compulsory pedestrian helmets.

    The attitude that cycling is a dangerous activity, undertaken by foolhardy idiots, is sadly the cause of the unnecessary hysteria. The whole cycle helmet thing is merely a confidence trick played by motoring businesses and bicycle equipment manufacturers to make a nice bit of easy money.

  9. tin-pot says:

    Wow, the Put Things Right campaing has a nasty way of putting things right:

    Although, the details of Harrison’s accident are not definitely known; being such a music lover, there is every possibility that he was wearing headphones at the time he was hit.
    As a group, PTR recognises that cyclists wearing headphones are putting themselves at risk but unlike wearing a helmet, they may not actually realise it.

    So – we don’t know how it happend, but it probably was the poor bas*ard’s own fault anyway.

    • dr2chase says:

      Of course — he deserved to be hit (after all, he was hit), but we have not yet established exactly why.

      Drivers who roll up their windows and turn their stereo on also put others at risk by making themselves temporarily deaf to the world outside their car, not that we hear much pearl-clutching about that.

  10. rdrf says:

    How should your respond to someone doing the “let me hit you” argument? A friend suggested you offer to jab them in the eyes with a pen or other handy sharp object as a way of informing them that they should wear protective eye wear. It’s common sense, after all…

    I thought this was a near perfect post. It’s just that I won’t put the solution down to any technological / engineering one, whether Dutch infrastructure or otherwise. The problem is what motorists get up to: the methods used to deal with it are secondary. The reason why the issue has not been dealt with is not because of an attitude towards other European countries, but because the UK is particularly obsessed with the car. And insofar as some European countries have got far more cycling AND a big car problem (Germany) they still need to sort out the car problem.

    May I give an old cycling campaigner git’s take on some of the comments on the post like this (and the post itself)? Years ago, when I started being concerned about how helmets would be a big red herring, the attitude of most campaigners was that it was just a side issue which would go away. They were wrong, and I’m pleased to see a willingness to confront the liddites as expressed in this post and with so many of the new generation.

    And thanks for the mention of RDRF Martin Ciastko. Do also take a look at the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation for evidence.

    • Do you realise that the whole point of what the Dutch have done is in fact to resolve the problems caused by “what motorists get up to” ? That’s what Sustainable Safety is all about. It’s not just with regard to cyclists vs. motorists, but also pedestrians relative to other modes, and to help to keep motorists from hurting each other or even themselves.

      Sustainable Safety is an all-encompassing way of designing roads to take away the opportunity for danger. It is required because no matter how much training is offered or how strictly laws are applied, humans will remain human and therefore remain fallible.

      Why are you trying to construct an argument against this ? It saves lives. Not only the lives of cyclists and pedestrians, but also of motorists.

    • Sarah says:

      Definitely agree that there is something incomplete about solutions that don’t address behaviour. In the summer, I was cycling happily along a greenway (guiding twenty 75+-year old cyclists) when we got diverted out onto a trunk road for miles because of hedge cutting. That kind of thing is more or less inevitable, so drivers need the skills to pass (or NOT pass) cyclists safely even when driving on routes that have something approaching full segregation. My experience (as an Irish emigrant in Germany) has largely been that German drivers have those skills and are willing to use them. I won’t deny that Germany has a “car problem”. There’s room for improvement, and certainly the car culture here is strong. I have the odd near-miss and occasional encounters with rude drivers. But I will definitely be much more concerned about road danger when I am in Ireland over Christmas than I ever am when cycling (on-road) in rural Germany. I will feel the fear and cycle in Ireland anyway, but one sister has already announced that she won’t be accompanying me; it’s too dangerous for her and she is going to drive. In Germany, I would be able to promise her that practically every motorist she would encounter would have winter tyres, would be driving to the conditions, and would be happy to share the road respectfully with us and to overtake safely (or just not to overtake). That’s the behaviour I encountered on Saturday evening when cycling home across the local hills in the dark through snow and fog, and I thought it was typical. In Ireland, I can really only suggest, truthfully but unconvincingly, that she will be statistically safe.

      The “car problem” wasn’t the main rant trigger among the local cycle campaigners I was talking to on Friday night. I heard the odd story about rude or dangerous driving, but there was more frustration over substandard cycling infrastructure (poor signage, new infrastructure not meeting current mandatory design standards, infrastructure being built where it isn’t required and not being built where it would actually be useful, infrastructure not being cleared of snow and gritted, cycle tracks being mandatory-use where they shouldn’t be, tourist routes that are supposed to be family-friendly abruptly sending people down steep, dangerous descents on mud and loose gravel surfaces without prior warning, official cycle routes where cycling is actually banned or made very difficult by kissing gates etc.). Of course these people are biased, like me: campaigners who see what they want to see. But is IS there to be seen as well …

      The motorists I was chatting to about cycling on Saturday evening didn’t mention traffic or a lack of cycle infrastructure as barriers to cycling either. I found myself cast as a card-carrying member of the “cyclist” out-group (subdivision: Freds with panniers) when the organizer of an event I had taken part in made a special announcement that I had arrived by bike (!) and would also be cycling (!) home. I had to answer a slew of questions about how I was going to cope with my trip as I was getting ready to hit the road. People remarked that it was dark, that it was cold, that it was raining, that it was going to snow, that the roads might be icy, that my route was hilly, and that 40 km was a bit far. I explained how I was going to deal with all those problems. Nobody said anything about cars or about a lack of dedicated cycling infrastructure along most of my route potentially being problems. And they weren’t – it was actually a huge luxury that I was able to take advantage of the sort of overspecc’ed, forgiving, almost completely idiot-proof environment that is provided for motor traffic in my part of the world. Good sightlines, wide bends, gentle gradients achieved with industrial quanitities of dynamite, loads of reflectors, good road markings, large and clear direction signs, clear warning signs (“16% gradient”;”deer”, etc.), metal nets to stop rocks falling, and cleared and salted roads with good surfaces made it easy for me to cope with snow and thick fog on a dark night. Once I had got down off the plateau and the main hazards ceased to be hills and the weather, I had the luxury of being able to worry about cars. I turned my front light up to full power and used flat shared-use paths through the fields to get back into town (terrible social safety, and I needed illegal extra lumens to follow their twists and turns, and to spot the odd loose dog in the dark.)

    • dr2chase says:

      Here in America, we have some some states with “stand your ground laws” that provide an elegant solution to the “let me hit you” argument. Not necessarily civilized, but elegant (have we established that England is civilized? Shooting people bad, running them down with cars, acceptable?).

      • John Harland says:

        Can you enlarge on the “stand your ground” concept at law?

        • dr2chase says:

          (Not sure you’re from the US, this might sound a little nuts if you aren’t). Historically, in US states, if you could defuse a violent situation by retreating, but elected instead to fight, then you don’t have a strong legal defense. Exceptions including defense within your own home. In some states the law has been changed so that if you use deadly force, it is a legal defense to assert that your life was in danger, and the issue of whether or not you could have dealt with it by retreating does no enter into it. In the caricatured limit “he scared me, so I shot him”. If someone proposed to hit me with a stick, then picked up a stick and made moves to put it in motion, in the “stand your ground” states I would be justified in shooting him.

          Speaking as an overeducated resident of Liberalchusetts, I think these laws are insane. They’ve been used by gang members who got involved in shooting matches, where the survivor asserts that since he was being threatened, he was just standing his ground.

          (With that depressing lesson in US “civics”, such as they are…) My response was intended as a response to the bullshit artificiality of “We can meet up and I’ll hit them round the head with a plank of wood. And, before I do it, they can choose to wear a helmet – or not.”

          Notice that the choices do not include “not getting hit on the head” — only violent choices allowed. Cycling, of course, is implied to be a behavior that is roughly equivalent to getting hit on the head. My flip answer is to put forth the possibility that as long as we’re being violent, why limit ourselves, and why not let the cyclist in on the “fun”? You can also regard this as buying in to the idea that it’s the responsibility of cyclists to watch out for danger — well, if that’s how the world works, then if cyclists are tired of their role, perhaps they should become more dangerous, so that drivers would watch out for them.

      • michael says:

        Funny you mention that. Its occured to me several times to wonder how that ‘stand your ground’ thing works with respect to bad driving. I’ve refrained because the violent imagery might be in poor taste! But as you mentioned it…

        Say you are in Florida, on a bike, riding along the edge of the road, approaching a junction, and a car does the failed-overtake thing and goes to turn (right, it would be over there) into you without looking.

        Now, normally one would say you were obliged to get out of the car’s way as best you can, by jumping onto the sidewalk, or even by turning right with it when you don’t want to.

        But, presumably, if ‘stand your ground’ holds, you don’t have to retreat when threatened with a weapon such as a car, instead you can whip out a large caliber handgun and shoot the driver stone dead through the side window.

        Similar issue might apply if you are a pedestrian crossing the road and an oncoming vehicle fails to slow down. No more scurrying out of the way, just unsling your RPG and blow the threat to bits!

        Have there been any test cases?

        • John Harland says:

          Why I am curious is that my experience shows holding ground against aggressive motorists is the most-effective way to discourage them from cutting in or trying to push you out of the way. No weapons needed.

          Yet under our legal system, that is seemingly illegal, despite being anomalous with right-of-way provisions here in Australia. A pedestrian or cyclist must not move into the path of a motor vehicle yet right-of-way only applies where there is a risk of collision if present trajectories are maintained. Right-of-way is meaningless unless you are under way.

          If you are forbidden to hold your ground, you will be pushed further and further out of the way.

          • John Harland says:

            The complication is that backing away is sometimes more provoking of a dangerous situation than is standing your ground – not only in traffic. It is reasonable to be expected not to inflame a dangerous situation but it is questionable when the ways of doing that are constrained by narrow guidelines.

            As with any guideline “hold your ground” becomes ridiculous when taken to extreme. It does become complicated in a country where weapons can be carried, and even concealed in some states. That does not invalidate it as a guideline in normal circumstances, including traffic.

  11. Simon says:

    To be fair, the person who wrote that newspaper article goes by the moniker of “The Secret Curmudgeon” and follows up with a rant about iPods in general:

    “My own personal view? Yep, ban ’em! And, while we’re at it, ban them on buses and trains as well.
    Or at the very least introduce a law that says if anyone else can hear your music they get to keep your iPod. Now that would be popular.”

    Although I sympathise with the view that headphones leaking noise on buses and trains is an irritation, the Secret Curmudgeon is clearly a fruitcake who hates people in general not just cyclists.

  12. rdrf says:

    Response to Hembrow:
    I have been making a case (maybe more than “trying to construct an argument”) against approaches which fail to allow for human adaptation to engineering and other measures supposedly made for “road safety” for 25 years. I do this because I think it needs to be made. In particular, whenever anybody states firmly that “it saves lives” I tend to voice a sceptical view (which I hope is based on evidence): whether on cycle helmets, hi-viz, seat belts or what is portrayed by some as Dutch highway engineering.

    I am aware of the case (“Do you realise?”), but I don’t have to agree that attempts to graft on a reading of Dutch practice into the UK environment is without problems or the only way forward.
    The point about human nature, fallible humans etc. is fine if you want to paint a picture of motor vehicle use as inherently posing threat to others, and therefore requiring proper accountability, control and regulation. I’m good with that.

    However, I still don’t agree that this danger can be eliminated by segregationism because of behaviour at junctions and elsewhere, not to mention on rural roads etc. where it does not seem to be a possibility. Most of all, it chimes in with those motorists who are going to feel justified in being even more obnoxious in all those places where we will be in proximity.

    Human beings (fallible though we are) adapt, often in positive ways. That should not be underestimated. And if we are going to make changes we need to look at the underlying political and power issues which need to be addressed even if we are just talking about highway engineering.

    • I think you are failing to take into account the extent to which the Dutch approach separates (and not ‘segregates’) cycling and driving. On local access roads, you don’t really encounter any other drivers, because through-traffic is removed from these streets. The only drivers you will meet will be either local residents, or people accessing these properties. The same applies for rural routes, which are deliberately designed so as to not be useful as through-routes.

      The simplest way to remove the threat posed by drivers of motor vehicles is to separate cycling from that motor traffic. Why? Because the opportunity for bad behaviour to have an effect rarely presents itself. It is analogous to gun control. Is it preferable to limit human interaction with guns, or to try to ensure that people use guns responsibly?

  13. rdrf says:

    I have had plenty of concerns about both rural motorists – often locals who are not going “through” and have a sense of local entitlement – and also local urban ones in side roads (with 20 mph limits). Letting them know that I should be segregated (or seperated) from them is the last thing i need.

    Having (nominally) been a transport planner for a while, i am dubious about their efforts , and those of traffic engineers, to manage motor vehicles in a way which makes everything nice and tidy.

    Still, I have already been on to your latest post. Things move fast in your world.

  14. I don’t think that’s just ‘a’ local newspaper. It takes effort and forethought to place the scant facts at the bottom of the story and otherwise report a what might be a construction-related dooring as “Cyclist crashes into stationary van”‘
    They also venture “alcoholic cyclist” as interchangeable with “alcoholic bomb hoaxer”, rather along the lines of “notorious dog-lover invades Poland”

  15. John Harland says:

    The helmet is the totem of the Serious Cyclist, as against the mere “Bike Rider”.

    Insisting that all cyclists wear helmets is a particularly effective means of deterring proletarian cycling and keeping it the exclusive preserve of the bourgoisie.

    insisting on ultra-conspicuous clothing is another very effective tool in the same chest.

  16. Lily Eva says:

    Wearing helmet can save our life.

    • fonant says:

      There’s a tiny chance that wearing a polystyrene hat (designed for impacts up to 12mph) might save your life, yes. If you think a cycle helmet is useful, you should wear one around the house, when out walking, and also in your car: people suffer head injuries in all these places more than they suffer them riding bicycles.

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