Headway’s Brick Wall

I really, really wish I didn’t have to write another ‘helmet’ post ever again, but the Headway brain injury association have made me. Thanks very much.

Here’s what they’ve done. They’ve responded to Chris Boardman’s appearance on BBC Breakfast with a sanctimonious, error-strewn press release, that only serves to highlight their total inconsistency on the issue of head protection.

This is their release. I won’t link to it; you can find it easily by Googling, if you so wish.

Former Olympic cyclist ‘setting poor example’

03 November 2014

Headway has expressed its anger and disappointment over a BBC Breakfast feature on cycling in which Chris Boardman was seen cycling through Manchester city centre wearing dark clothing and without wearing a helmet.

Mr Boardman, a former Olympic cyclist and currently a policy advisor for British Cycling, was cycling with BBC reporter Louise Minchin, who was appropriately dressed and was wearing a helmet in compliance with the Highway Code and BBC editorial policy.

Mr Boardman attempted to justify his reasoning in a subsequent piece to camera which was later posted on the BBC Breakfast Facebook page.

In this one-sided interview, Mr Boardman states that ‘it (wearing a helmet) discourages people from riding a bike’ and that while ‘there is absolutely nothing wrong with helmets, they are not in the top ten things you can do to keep safe’.

In July 1998 Mr Boardman featured in a full-page article in The Sun in an article entitled I was saved by my helmet. Following a crash at 30mph that left Mr Boardman unconscious, the cyclist said: “If I was left unconscious with a helmet, then I don’t like to think what would have happened if I had not been wearing one.”

He continued: “I will continue to wear one. It was a real lesson for me. Things could have been so much worse. At the moment you are not forced to wear a helmet but I choose to.”

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, has labelled Mr Boardman’s appearance on BBC Breakfast and his recent comments as ‘dangerous and lacking in common sense’.

“It is worrying that a leading figure in the world of cycling should be allowed to put across such a dangerous and irresponsible view of helmets in this manner,” said Peter.

“The UK’s leading independent transport research institution, the Transport Research Laboratory, has recently demonstrated that cycle helmets are effective in reducing the risk of head and brain injury. The TRL has also dismissed the myth that helmets put people off from cycling, stating in a report to the States Assembly in Jersey that there is no evidence to suggest this is accurate. In fact, cycling in Australian states where helmets are compulsory has never been more popular.

“Questions have to be asked about why a representative of British Cycling, which receives public funding, is actively encouraging cyclists to disregard the Highway Code, putting their lives at risk in the process. Mr Boardman is on record saying he is lucky he was wearing a helmet when he had an accident, which can happen to any cyclist at any time. His recent actions and comments are dangerous and irresponsible.

“The reality is that had Mr Boardman not been wearing a helmet when he had his accident he might not have been able to cycle around Manchester this morning. He needs to explain why he said one thing then and the complete opposite now, and why he promotes a brand of helmets in his own name if he feels they are not effective.

“It is vital that cyclists are given education and encouragement to ensure they comply with the Highway Code and increase their safety by wearing helmets.”

This is the video of Boardman cycling around Manchester that has provoked this outrage; accompanied by Minchin, who as a BBC employee, complying with BBC editorial policy, is of course wearing an eye-meltingly bright yellow top (‘appropriately dressed’, according to Headway), and a helmet. The subsequent piece to camera, in which Boardman explains why he chooses not to wear a helmet for ordinary, everyday cycling, is here.

Note, firstly, that Headway are arguing that Boardman is ‘actively encouraging’ people not to wear helmets. Such is the perspective of the blinkered zealot. Suggesting that people should have a free choice whether they wear helmets, or not, simply isn’t ‘actively encouraging’ one of these options, any more than me offering you a choice between fish and chips and a curry amounts to me ‘actively encouraging’ you to have a curry.

Note also that the Headway press release talks about ‘complying’ with the Highway Code, by wearing a helmet (and apparently ‘disregarding’ it, by not wearing one).

But there is no requirement to wear a helmet in the Highway Code. It’s merely a recommendation; a ‘should’, not a ‘must’. To take just one example from elsewhere in the Highway Code, Rule 102 suggests that

children should get into the vehicle through the door nearest the kerb

Which is a recommendation. Entering vehicles through other doors is not a ‘failure to comply’ with the Highway Code. Clearly, talk of ‘compliance’ with regard to helmet-wearing is gibberish.

The central ‘argument’ in the Headway press release is just as bizarre. It appears to be that Boardman once crashed his bike while wearing a helmet, acknowledging, at the time, that his helmet might have reduced the injuries he suffered, and that this somehow makes him a hypocrite.

But as the press release itself mentions, that crash occurred at 30mph+, in a sporting event, with considerably higher levels of risk. A video of that crash is below, at around the nine minute mark. (And there’s an interesting footnote to this story. Not far from where Boardman was injured, a child watching the race was hit, suffering – yes, you guessed it – serious head injuries, far more serious than the ones Boardman suffered.)

Riding at these speeds, competing with other riders in close proximity, bears absolutely no relation with the kind of cycling Boardman was doing in the BBC video – slow cycling, in ordinary clothes, around a city.

Indeed, it bears as much relation to cycling in the Tour de France as driving to a supermarket does to rallying; yet I’m sure Headway don’t berate rally drivers for setting ‘a poor example’ by driving to the shops without their safety equipment.

Here's rally driver Ari Vatanen, setting a very poor example, by driving a car without his safety equipment.

Here’s rally driver Ari Vatanen, setting a very poor example, by driving a car without his safety equipment.

Either Headway can’t tell the difference between these wholly contrasting kinds of cycling, with their entirely different levels of risk, or they do know the difference, and have chosen to belligerently ignore it to ram home their dogmatic point. What’s worse?

But when it comes to head injuries suffered by people employing different modes of transport, this ‘broad brush’ approach from Headway – the approach that apparently can’t tell the difference between the Tour de France, and cycling around town – suddenly vanishes. Headway become deeply selective about which kinds of activity require protective headgear.

Take a look at the case studies on their website. Any head injury that was sustained away from a bicycle passes without comment about the presence or absence of a helmet. Any head injury that happened to involve a bicycle – lo and behold, a helmet is preached about.

Here’s Ben Quick, who was hit by a car while walking, and suffered severe head injuries. No comment on whether he should or shouldn’t have been wearing protective head equipment.

By contrast, Gareth Green, who hit his head on the ground while cycling, having swerved to avoid a bus, thinks that “the Government should make wearing cycle helmets the law. If all cyclists wore helmets, fewer lives would be lost or forever changed by brain injury.”

No comment on whether this logic applies to the pedestrians and drivers featured on Headway’s website; drivers like Luke Flavell, who crashed his car into a lamppost, suffering serious head injuries. His lack of protective headgear again passes unmentioned. Or Michael Darracott, who severely injured his head when he flew through his car windscreen. It’s almost as if Headway don’t care if drivers injure their heads – why aren’t they advocating full-face crash helmets for car occupants?

Like Ben Quick, Nicola Scott was knocked down by a car while walking, suffering serious head injuries. Should she have been wearing a helmet? Or Paul Calderbank, who was hit by a taxi while walking? Headway don’t say.

By contrast, Kirsty Offord, who happened to be on a bike when she was struck by a car, is ‘determined to promote the use of cycle helmets’. Likewise, Carolyn Molloy, who suffered a brain injury when she crashed her bike, ‘strongly believes that cycle helmets should be made compulsory.’ And unsurprisingly, Sinead King, who fell off her bike in her back garden at the age of six, also manages to preach about helmets.

This is Headway’s Brick Wall.

Risk, taken across the population, does not stop when you get off a bicycle. The figures make that quite clear. In fact they make it clear that it may not even subside.

And this is The Brick Wall against which one has to beat one’s head when trying to discuss helmets: the fact that the evangelists believe cycling to warrant a helmet when real figures show that there’s no demonstrable risk above other activities for which even the evangelists argue that a helmet is not necessary.

Why is that Headway seemingly don’t care about serious head injures suffered by people walking and driving, even though the rates at which these serious head injuries are suffered are comparable to the rate at which people cycling suffer serious head injuries?This selectiveness is all the more remarkable in the light of their failure to distinguish between 1998 Chris Boardman, and 2014 Chris Boardman. It’s a selectiveness that comes and goes. There’s apparently no difference between riding in a peloton during a 30mph competitive sprint, and trundling around a city; yet there is, somehow, some critical difference between striking your head having slipped over while walking in your back garden, and doing the same thing while cycling, enough to justify preaching about helmets in the latter case, but not in the former.

Headway really need to take their single issue campaign away, have a think about what it is they’re trying to achieve, and attempt to reach a measure of consistency. At the moment, they are embarrassing themselves.

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45 Responses to Headway’s Brick Wall

  1. rdrf says:

    Sorry Mark, but you are going to have to carry on doing this for the duration. And the likes of Headway will not listen, or think they are “embarrassing themselves”. They will carry on, and on, and on…and people like you and I will have to as well. (And even in the wee hours of the morning!)

    You can, however, learn some interesting things by looking at the evidence (not that Headway et al will). You might as well, because you will have to keep on returning to it.

    One way forward is to be more forceful than St. Chris of Boardman and raise the issue of how lids may not even be in the top ten (100?) of things to make cycling safer, by looking at risk compensation and everything else. For example. do take a look at http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/27/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law-the-evidence-and-what-it-means/ which offers explanations as to the effects of helmet laws shown here http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/12/17/the-effects-of-new-zealands-cycle-helmet-law/ . And http://www.cyclehelmets.org .

    Keep on keeping on.

  2. It makes me really sad that Headway exploit people who have suffered the loss of a loved one in a bicycle-related incident. These people clearly want to feel that they are doing something positive to help them make sense of what they have been through, but naturally they aren’t experts in road safety or PPE. Headway preys on these vulnerable people to help them propagate an inconsistent message which accomplishes nothing for people like those who have been lost. Headway are charlatans of the highest order.

  3. I’d love to know what the hard numbers are for the most common head injury-causing activities. So few people cycle in the UK, I’d be surprised if cycling was the top one.

    I’m sure I read somewhere (though it may have been US statistics) that falls are one of the most common causes of head injuries, and travelling in a motor vehicle too.

    If there are indeed more head injuries caused by these activities, then surely any decent head injury prevention campaign would focus on helmets for those activities? If the goal is to save the highest number of lives, why focus on what is still a niche, minority activity?

    Either way, we know how to actually reduce cycling head injuries, a proven method with guaranteed results. If Headway’s goal is to make cycling safer, then the safe cycling infrastructure of the Netherlands provides the answers, not car-centric countries with helmet laws like Australia.

    • Har Davids says:

      Headway doesn’t seem to be interested in countries like The Netherlands, where only a very small minority wears a helmet while cycling during everyday activities. Or maybe the people who live there are beyond saving, insisting on riding their bikes in great numbers for decades without too much safety equipment.

    • Paul M says:

      My hobby is sailing, in dinghies and larger boats. In dinghies I wear a “buoyancy aid”, or lightweight life jacket. In yachts I wear, much but not all of the time, a CO2-inflatable lifejacket.

      I don’t wear a helmet. There has never been any pressure on me or on fellow members of the sailing club to wear one. If I chose not to wear a buoyancy aid however they would not be happy at all.

      In terms of risk, I would say the helmet was more important. If I capsize, I get wet, and perhaps a little tired righting the boat and climbing back in. That’s all. If the boom swings over suddenly, I could get clocked quite hard, knocked unconscious, or suffer real injury. In fact I got a nice shiner a few weeks ago as I was preparing my dinghy for launch and the sail swung across in the wind. A helmet would probably have taken the blow and spared me the shiner.

      Or if I get whacked on the head and knocked over the side, unconscious, I could drown. That is what happened to a friend of Chris Evans (which is how it found its way into national media), a publican who owned a yacht and took a bunch of inexperienced mates out for a sail in the Solent. He got hit by the boom, wasn’t wearing a life jacket, and drowned. It was the blow to the head that did for him, not the lack of a lifejacket – if he had been conscious he could probably have trod water for long enough to be rescued. The waters around the Solent are so busy that all his mates would need to do is shout for a bit and someone would come across to help them. (Someone did, but too late)

      Funny thing, but I don’t remember Headway issuing a press release demanding that helmets for sailors become compulsory.

    • Ollyver says:

      According to the US Centre for Disease Control: 40% falls, 15% “hit by an object accidentally”, 14% motor traffic collisions, 11% assault, remainder other/unknown. (http://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/get_the_facts.html).
      The NHS has something similar, but no numbers.

      The question is, of all activities, how many hours on average spent doing that activity result in head injuries? And what is the cut-off after which it is an acceptable risk? 1 hour? Definitely not. 10,000 hours? Probably ok.

      Preventing falls and assault is a lot more difficult than getting people to wear helmets. I suspect the campaign is less about reducing overall numbers, and more about eliminating the easiest problems first. So perhaps cyclists do suffer more head injuries per hour they’re on the road than drivers, and so there’s a higher (percentage) payoff in terms of getting them to wear helmets.

      So then I looked for the statistics for head injuries per hour travelled, and found this:

      Cyclist – 0.41
      Pedestrian – 0.80
      Motor vehicle occupant – 0.46
      Motorcyclist – 7.66

      (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0001457596000164, via http://www.howiechong.com/journal/2014/2/bike-helmets#.VFi8mfmsXPs)

      How many of those cyclists were wearing helmets, and thus avoided head injuries? I don’t know. But at first glance, it seems like the focus could move to pedestrians and motor vehicle occupants now. Or finding the few motorcyclists who aren’t wearing one.

      • Ollyver says:

        (That is, 0.41 head injuries per million hours travelled by bike, etc. Else motorcyclists would never get out of their own street.)

      • Thanks for finding those stats, you clearly have better Google-mojo than I do!

        I knew that motorcycling was the most dangerous mode, but I didn’t realise it would be by such a massive amount.

        This rather makes my motorbike-enthusiast stepdad look foolish, when last year he was ranting about bicycle helmet compulsion!

    • WD says:

      Those statistics you mentioned need to be considered in terms of demographics as demonstrated by the Department of Transport’s findings. More children receive head injuries while cycling than adults and more children receive head injuries while on a bike than they do while in cars. Their findings also show that helmets are particularly effective in low speed accidents not involving direct impacts with vehicles – this is contrary to what the author of the above article suggests by saying that helmets aren’t necessary in slow speed conditions. Again the risks should be considered across specific age groups and cycling abilities. I wouldn’t expect an Olympic cyclist to fall off his bike at low speeds but kids and inexperienced cyclists are prone to just those kind of low speed crashes that can cause such injuries.

      • “this is contrary to what the author of the above article suggests by saying that helmets aren’t necessary in slow speed conditions.”

        Are you saying they *are* necessary?

        • WD says:

          Yes for those groups i.e. Young children who are not only far more likely to have low speed accidents but also more likely to suffer serious injury due to those accidents they are necessary

          • Okay. What I am interested in is the threshold for ‘necessary’, given that children suffer head injuries in other forms of activity, other than cycling, for which we wouldn’t even consider helmets. Do you know where that threshold sits, and why?

            • WD says:

              Protecting children from head injury is necessary at all times – that’s the threshold. That doesn’t mean they should wear helmets at all times but I think you would agree that responsible parents do take steps to protect their kids in everyday life.

              Take for example one of the stats that Chris Boardman fired off earlier in the week e.g. It’s more dangerous to go to the bathroom than it is to cycle. Given the risk involved with slipping in the bathroom a parent would probably do the following things to avoid an injury
              1. Keep the bathroom floor and surfaces dry
              2. Install anti-slip devices
              3. Cover sharp/hard surfaces
              4. For younger children not allow them in the bathroom unattended

              When you compare this with the environment a child rides their bike in you can see you can’t carry out the same kind of process in order to make it safer. You can’t change the outdoor surfaces they are riding on, you can’t install safety materials on things they might bump into,etc. Furthermore (and given Chris Boardman’s recent article about his kids on the BBC this is something we can agree on) cycling should be about freedom. You don’t want to be running next to your child holding them up so they don’t bump their head in the same way that you might hold them in the bath – they should be free to go and enjoy the experience. In any kind of environment that children are in you always have to look for that balance of being able to function and it being safe. That is the threshold.

              Chris Boardman and British Cycling haven’t shown that they are capable of carrying out a proper risk assessment for children. They’ve used pop-statistics with the sole purpose of creating sound bites to be spread over social media. If they want to be taken seriously as an organization that champions cycle safety then they will need to revisit “the helmet debate” where children are concerned.

              • So your position is – helmets necessary to prevent injuries while cycling, but not necessary to prevent injuries at other times.

                Can you not see the inconsistency here?

              • WD says:

                “So your position is – helmets necessary to prevent injuries while cycling, but not necessary to prevent injuries at other times.

                Can you not see the inconsistency here?”

                I’m sorry there doesn’t appear to be the option to reply to your post so i will just quote it and add it on to my previous post

                The reason there are differences in methods for preventing head injuries is there is no universal environment, set of actors within that environment and problems faced in that situation. This is not only true when talking about cycling and head injuries but also of the world as a whole. Further down the page i note that some contributors with experience in risk assessment have added certain steps for assessment in a construction environment. I am sure that they would be happy to admit that the safety procedures that they deemed necessary to undertake on a construction site wouldn’t be the same for if they were working on a nuclear submarine – this is not to say they are being inconsistent on safety rather that having considered the different environment and people within that environment they needed to adapt the way they protect themselves. Inconsistency in terms of the level of safety provided WILL exist if people just make straight comparisons between different environments and situations and take that to be their basis for a proper risk assessment (this is what Chris Boardman and British Cycling have done) . Do you disagree? Do you feel that because it is deemed unnecessary to wear a helmet in some environments it must logically be unnecessary to wear them in all environments? Do you think that adults and children should be treated as a single case when talking about cycle safety?

              • It’s not clear to me whether you think the law should be changed to make helmets a legal requirement.

              • WD says:

                “It’s not clear to me whether you think the law should be changed to make helmets a legal requirement.”

                That’s because I didn’t say.

                Perhaps you could answer the questions i posed above regarding where you stand on the necessity for separate risk assessment for children cycling?

              • You can actually install safety devices on things you might hit. Angling the kerbs on the 30 km/h roads and other roads where cyclists would mix with cars and the kerbs within a cycle track and next to any cycle lane, so in general on both sides of the travelway where cyclists would go (cars can benefit too from a similar technique, angling their kerbs at 45 degrees where they otherwise wouldn’t be angled at 30 degrees) makes it safer for them to hit their kerbs as well and building hard shoulders on the dual carriageway expressways) makes it far safer to hit the kerb. I hit angled kerbs in Amsterdam on purpose to test this, I never fell over or lost control, even a few millimetres of an upstand at home made me wobble, even a 10 cm low curb would make me completely fall over).

                You can locate trees a certain distance away from the place where cyclists would be riding (and other obstacles, UK shared use paths are crawling with obstacles and bumpy surfaces), you can install a buffer zone between car parking and the area where cyclists would ride (access road/cycle lane/cycle track), you can use more grass and low flower and bush plants that aren’t thorny or hard to A, green up the cycleway, B, make the environment better, C, be more aesthetically pleasing and D, safer if you do fall over.

                And of course, you can prevent many more crashes with cars. Cycle tracks on distributor roads, completely apart from through roads and mixed only with very low speed low volume access roads, 30 km/h in the built up area and 40 km/h in the rural area, having most intersections involving a distributor road be roundabouts, otherwise making them right in right outs only with the crossing speed at 30 km/h with a median refuge for cyclists and pedestrians and a buffer space to make it so that cars can make their turn and give way effectively and having the protected intersection for speeds up to 50 km/h and grade separation everywhere else.

                We can do education on cycling while intoxicated, high, and distracted in non antagonizing ways so that it feels like even on protected infrastructure, cyclists need to pay attention to their surroundings but are not responsible for crashes when it really is a car driver’s fault, and making it feel like it’s the ordinary cyclist going at 20 km/h on an omafiets on perhaps a woman in her 20s not a middle aged man in lycra on a race bike.

                A lot of effective ways to reduce the number of crashes, even fewer head injuries, and you still say that helmets are the most effective way to save in a crash?

      • Conrad Clayton says:

        Thank you for a sucinct explanation of why children need to wear a helmet…
        For me (as a BikeAbility trainer) there are two issues,
        1) as explained above children need to wear helmets..
        2) as an adult involved in cycle training, and therefore setting an example..I ought to wear a helmet.
        and it occurs to me as a mountain biker, (which is a significant cycling subset..) I definately need to wear a helmet!

        • WD says:

          it’s good to hear that you set an example for the kids. As i’m sure you know the biggest challenge that faces getting kids to wear helmets is peer pressure. I think that’s why there has been a lot of backlash towards Chris Boardman’s decision not to wear a helmet from parents (if you read Facebook in particular there seemed to be lots of parents worried about the message being sent to their kids). To get more kids wearing helmets we need role models, a solid educational programme and access to affordable/free helmets for those families who might struggle with the financial burden – indeed recent studies show that children from deprived families are at significantly greater risk of head injury!

          • Baz says:

            I’m uncomfortable with the idea that children wearing helmets is a given, while for adults it is not. Most of us posting on these forums and debates learnt to cycle as children without helmets. We are all still here. Before it can be taken that children should wear helmets we need to have a study that shows that helmets do not increase the risk of rotational injuries to brain and neck. The human body has been designed to be able to protect itself from injury very well, and that includes children. Where the body is unlikely to be able to protect itself is when speed, force, height etc are increased from what is normal for the human body. I am not sure that child cycling speeds come into that category. Tour De France cyclists. Yes. Downhill mountain bikers. Yes. Children not racing. Probably not. Adults utility cycling. Probably not.

            • WD says:

              Without wanting to repeat myself the study that i mentioned above shows that helmets are effective in preventing head injury in low speed crashes and that these crashes are more likely to involve children than they would adults. The TLR’s 2009 review of cycle helmets ( on behalf of the DoT) also states that there is no evidence to suggest that cycle helmets increase the risk of rotational injuries.

              In regards your comments about human physiology, it is the very fact that children’s skulls aren’t fully formed and don’t offer the same protection to the brain that an adult’s skull does that makes wearing a helmet more necessary for them. For example children are more prone to diastatic fractures of the skull where the bones in their skull have not yet fully fused together meaning that multiple bones fracture causing a gap to open in the skull and the brain (which is incredibly delicate) to become exposed/damaged.

              In short if you are a child you are more likely to have an accident which involves you receiving a blow to the head and you are more at risk of suffering permanent brain damage as result of that blow. This is why in my opinion helmets for young cyclists are necessary.

      • That’s a good point you’ve made there about the age ranges.

        On Twitter I’ve gotten into these debates, and have always requested people back up their assertions with actual data.

        Only once did anyone actually provide any. It was a link to a study which suggested that bike helmets were overall beneficial to children, but detrimental to adults.

  4. Paulc says:

    So just what are their “connections” with the motoring lobby then? That’s the only explanation for their constant harping on about helmets for cyclists yet ignoring others injured in or by cars…

    • Ian says:

      I suspect the only connection is psychological. Like most people in the UK (maybe everywhere?) they have internalised the idea that there is no possible alternative to motor vehicles for mobility, and so are unable to do or say anything that might make motor vehicles less attractive,

    • Petar Zivkovic says:

      James Cracknel was (maybe still is) sponsored by BMW, & a helmet manufacturer.

  5. cycling in Australian states where helmets are compulsory has never been more popular

    That’s just a flat lie.
    Firstly, it’s compulsory in all states.
    Secondly, the number of cycle trips has increased, but at only a third of the rate of population growth – an effective decline.

  6. Schnauzer Minelli says:

    Love that video link. not a single helmet. I agree, it’s sad to see Headway exploit feelings of people who have lost loved ones. I also find their wording VERY aggressive

  7. ‘Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, … [said] “It is worrying that a leading figure in the world of cycling should be allowed to put across such a dangerous and irresponsible view of helmets in this manner,”’

    It is even more worrying when a senior figure in a charity calls for the limitations on the freedom of speech of those who think differently which is exactly what McCabe is saying here – namely that “leading figure[s]” should not “be allowed to put across” different viewpoints.

  8. T.Foxglove says:

    Can’t we all become members of Headway & change them from within to ensure they provide consistent advice on risky activities, the occurrence of head injuries & appropriate use of helmets to mitigate them. Obv’ it may make washing your hair when showering a PITA but if it saves one life…

    • Joe says:

      Excellent point you make about showers!
      My brother battered me with a Tonka toy and fractured my skull so obviously if all children were made to wear playground helmets that could prevent a similar occurrence. Likewise, I fell out of bed once and banged my head so maybe I should wear a bed helmet as well, (or stop drinking).

  9. paulc says:

    This man has an axe to grind:

    “The man behind the law

    This is at heart a political decision and the primary mover is Andrew Green, a member of the States of Jersey, the island’s combined legislature and executive. He initially pushed for helmet compulsion for all cyclists but says he is happy with the eventual decision.”

    “Andrew Green (Chairman)

    Andrew Green is Minister for Housing in the States of Jersey. He was elected as a Deputy in the States Assembly in November 2008.”

  10. Christine Jones says:

    It’s frustrating that you have to keep responding from the stand point of an actual cyclist, actually using their bike for transportation.
    Headway are totally inconsistent with their stance on head protection and if they are to prevent head injuries, they surely should be looking at the causes which in the case of urban cycling aren’t down to the physical act of riding a bike and have much more to do with being hit by motor vehicles – in other words infrastructure, road design and speed restrictions are going to do much more to prevent being knocked off a bike.
    I wear a helmet when competing on a road bike, and when riding a bike designed for speed for London rush hour. I don’t wear one to go to the shops or for a ride on a sunday out with the kids. My kids wear helmets because they are always mucking about, they fall off at the drop of a hat but the one major accident my youngest had was wobbling while scratching his head because his helmet makes his head itch and he wobbled off the pavement into the path of a lorry. The helmet wouldn’t have helped against a 40 tonne HGV but he was lucky and bounced off the petrol tank instead of the wheels. It didn’t stop the police and paramedics from championing my parenting for making him wear a helmet. I would rather he didn’t have to cycle on the pavement along a road with 40 tonne lorries on the way to school. A better route to school, or to restrict the movement of HGV’s during the school run would have been much more useful.
    I did an interview for BBC look east without wearing a helmet and defended my reasons for not wearing one, I don’t think it was aired.
    I’ve since moved from the UK to the Netherlands so I can cycle with my children. No helmet will make the roads in the UK safe enough to ride for transportation with my children, far far more is needed to make it safe to ride with kids.

    • That accident must have been terrifying. I hope you are enjoying better experiences in the Netherlands.
      It’s been some time now that I myself moved from the Netherlands to the UK, and I still don’t understand why this country is lagging so far behind in all matters cycling when there is such a shining example next door. When reading about your youngest’ accident, I can’t help thinking about the one thing everyone seems to ignore here when it comes to safe cycling for children: the bicycles. Scratching your head while on a Dutch children’s bike wouldn’t give you half the wobble that British bikes do. Nor would looking over your shoulder or indicating with an outstretched arm. Having seen what was on offer, I went back to the Netherlands to buy proper bicycles for my own children. They learned to cycle upright, and I felt confident enough with their stable position that I never gave them helmets to wear. I warned them though that they would certainly have to wear one if they ever were to start cycling on the type of bike their friends were riding. I think UK children’s bikes are unnecessarily dangerous and overcomplicated, and therefore unsuitable for use on roads with other traffic.

  11. Andy says:

    From: http://www.hse.gov.uk/construction/lwit/assets/downloads/hierarchy-risk-controls.pdf

    “Risks should be reduced to the lowest reasonably practicable level by taking preventative measures, in order of priority. The table below sets out an ideal order to follow when planning to reduce risk from construction activities. Consider the headings in the order shown, do not simply jump to the easiest control measure to implement…

    1. Elimination
    2. Substitution
    3. Engineering controls
    4. Administrative controls
    5. PPE

    …Only after all the previous measures have been tried and found ineffective in controlling risks to a reasonably practicable level, must personal protective equipment (PPE) be used. For example, where you cannot eliminate the risk of a fall, use work equipment or other measures to minimise the distance and consequences of a fall (should one occur). “

    • Guy Chapman says:

      Exactly. This has always been my biggest criticism of the Liddites.

      • Anyone who campaigns for compulsory helmets, but has nothing else to say about other (considerably more important) measures that would reduce head injuries is basically a fraud.

        • paulc says:

          or worse, a shill for the motor industry

        • Guy Chapman says:

          Exactly. It reminds me of a project I worked on as a recent graduate. The boss wanted to automate balance inspection of abrasive wheels in the green (uncured) state. We calculated that the variability would be reduced if the mixing bay was air conditioned and the mixing crew started their shift two hours earlier, to allow for a consistent normalisation time prior to pressing. The boss said we could get on this right after we had automated balance testing, which of course would become redundant if the variability was fixed.

          The firm went bankrupt in 2001.

  12. fred says:

    Note that Peter McCabe, Chief Exec of Headway, can be reached on: patochiefexec(at)headway.org.uk

  13. Guy Chapman says:

    I’m relieved: I saw the title and thought they might be running with the old “would you run into a brick wall” bullshit.

  14. Jitensha Oni says:

    Ban Sikhs from cycling! They’re setting a bad example. Scrap city bike hire schemes!! Who wants nits/hair smelling like disinfectant.

    Bit late on this one, but it took a couple of days of having a feeling that there was something not quite right about many of these discussions, before I finally realised what has been bugging me. Round here I see more kids wearing helmets when being carried passively – even in quite stable cargo carriers – than when actually riding their own bikes, accompanied or not, or scooting. The figure is close to 100% but much less for the chauffeuring parents. So it’s not kids cycling per se that is the main concern to UK parents, it is simply being on a bicycle, exposed, that poses the greatest threat of head trauma to their kids than any other situation.(real or perceived, i make no comment on that). I didn’t trawl through their entire site, but Headway seem to focus on kids actually cycling, not passengers. That for me undermines their credibility even on cycling.

    However, Headway has a clear agenda: right or wrong they are saying what they have to say. If you can rebut their position, fine. But for me the important point here is that they, by design, and the BBC, let’s be charitable, by ignorance, are framing the discussion in terms of the least effective of the hierarchy of control (HoC). In contrast, Boardman and BC appear to be trying to raise the game into discussing the more effective levels of the HoC (even beyond training!). it seems to have backfired. Maybe they should have used a more explicit HoC argument, since that would sharpen the discussion round the real problems (elephants in studio etc). Note that WD’s bathroom refurbishment example uses top level HoC interventions, not more PPE. QED.

  15. rdrf says:

    Mark said: November 5, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Anyone who campaigns for compulsory helmets, but has nothing else to say about other (considerably more important) measures that would reduce head injuries is basically a fraud.


    But this is the history of the “road safety” industry. In one sense it is not – excuse the pedantry – fraudulent at all. If people are scared off from cycling by being told that it is inherently hazardous, then they won’t cycle and won’t become cyclist casualties. Result! So they are not “fraudulent”, just not interested in reducing danger to cyclists.

    Another point is that when you raise the “nothing else to say” argument, the people concerned may well say:

    1. Oh yes, you’re right, it should be like Holland, but it isn’t and won’t be, so we are going to go for helmets. Better than nothing.
    2. Oh yes, terrific, my colleagues in engineering will do the infrastructure, I’m just the School Travel/Road safety/Doctor/Public Health/Police Officer etc. And we do helmets.

    And one more point: The issue is helmet ADVOCACY (getting people to wear lids) rather than just COMPULSION. A lot of advocates will say they are not in favour of compulsion, but still spend all their time going on about getting everybody to wear lids.

    Trying to be reasonable and say that helmets are not the main issue won’t work – you have to be quite forceful (in my experience) in showing a lack of evidence if you want to be able to get away from the red herring.

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