03 September 2008

Helmets for Pedestrians and Motorists

Helmets for Pedestrians
I actually saw this yesterday here in Copenhagen.

In Denmark we have the Danish Pedestrians' Union [Dansk Fodgænger Forbund] who do everything they can to fight for the pedestrians rightful place in the traffic.

I figured that with the current fanaticism coming out of the Danish Cyclists' Union, the Danish Traffic Safety Board and the Danish media at large, they would be interested in saving pedestrians' lives, too. It is the logical continuation of their ideology and lack of respect for science.

So I asked the head of the Pedestrians' Union a couple of questions in an email interview:

Question: I can see that the statistics show that pedestrians are at risk from head injury. I can also see that the Danish Traffic Safety Board and Danish Cyclists' Union are currently attempting to promote bike helmets. Does the Danish Pedestrians' Union have plans for promoting helmets for pedestrians so we can reduce the number of injuries in traffic? Pedestrians are at a higher risk than cyclists. Wouldn't it be a good idea?

Answer: Hi, Mikael. No, we haven't considered promoting helmets for pedestrians on the street. There are several reasons [choose freely];

1) We haven't even thought about it.

2) People who are injured in solo-accidents usually get injured in their home instead of the traffic. So people should probably wear helmets in the shower, instead.

3) Our primary goal is to get all the different players in traffic to obey the traffic laws so that traffic accidents become, in theory, impossible.

4) It ruins your hairdo.

5) You can't pull your rain hood over the helmet.

6) We risk changing peoples' attitudes and making it look like it isn't that dangerous to hit pedestrians - "But they have helmets on!"

In the big picture you shouldn't expect us to inconvienence pedestrians with this kind of promotion in order to 'save' them from the stupid mistakes made by drivers/riders of vehicles in traffic.

Actually, I think that motorists would stop hitting pedestrians immediately if it became widely known that pedestrians will explode with a large BANG and scratch the paint job on the car.

Best regards,

Dansk Fodgænger Forbund - www.fodtrafik.dk
Mikael le Dous

Nice to see that he is A. rather well informed about helmets and B. able to see the irony. As Wifealiciousness said, "Now there's a man you would enjoy having a beer with."

Indeed.

Helmets for Motorists
Here's an interesting article about saving the lives of motorists, by Nigel Perry in New Zealand. If the ideological fundamentalists wish to save lives, they will read this and act accordingly and immediately.

We were sent a couple of links by readers;
- Forbes has an article on their site from a previous issue about motorcycle helmets.
- This guy doesn't like Bell Helmets - the company - at ALL.

Fakta om cykelhjelm
Fakta om sykkelhjelm
Fakta om cykelhjälm

18 comments:

Cyclemaniac said...

Too funny! It is amazing at how carried away things can get. Perhaps wrapping pedestrians in bubble wrap would help also? It would (at least) make for a great photo opp (please don't take that as a suggestion to go out and bubble wrap your grandmother and place her in some Copenhagen crosswalk!)

Super post!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out again that helmets for everyday bicycle riders are an absurd invention.

Anonymous said...

whats you're thoughts on this?

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/09/helmet-debate-is-over.php

(i think i can guess)

Anonymous said...

incase you can't be bothered to look at that link it says:

"A new study released in the Journal of Pediatrics looked at the death rate in Ontario, Canada for kids on bikes before and after the mandatory helmet law was passed in 1995 and found that it cut the death rate in half."

Anonymous said...

One. Track. Mind.

This blog used to be interesting and informative, now it's just anti helmet dogma ad nauseum.

disgruntled said...

I think it's great that you even have a pedestrian's union let alone that it's run by a guy with a sense of humour.

Now, where can I get a 'caution, explodes on impact' t-shirt? On second thoughts, maybe not, especially if I'm planning on using the tube...

Zakkaliciousness said...

if you were faced with a drop of 20-40% cyclists, you too would do what you could to stop it.

and it's anti-helmet PROMOTION, not anti-helmet.

Christopher Ray Miller said...

I think it is quite unfair to accuse the blog's author of having a one track mind or of promoting a dogma. Far to the contrary, he writes about a good mix of issues that affect cycling as an important mode of transport in cities -- that looks like a multi-track mind to me -- and far from being a dogmatist, he is not afraid to point out the factual problems and logical inconsistencies of the arguments for (bicycle) helmet use that helmet compulsionists and other helmet enthusiasts seemingly refuse to take into account let alone acknowledge. The monomania is really on the helmetarians' side, not on the side of those who indefatigably (however irksome that may be to those who don't want to hear the rest of the evidence) point out the gaping holes in helmet compulsionists' arguments.

I have seen this kind of attitude on another well-known and high profile "Green design" blog, one of whose contributors single-mindedly posts piece after piece in favour of enforced (bicycle) helmet wearing, and lets past endless comments and links telling the familiar "so and so was definitely saved from a gory death of spilled brains because they were wearing a bike helmet and that's because I think so" type of argument but failed to post a comment I wrote about a helmetless collision with a taxi coming the wrong way that sent me flying some five metres spinning some 130 degrees, hitting my head on the ground -- resulting in several stitches to the forehead and a very scraped up left side of my face -- but did not send my brains spilling, thank you very much; and pointing out that a recent well-publicised traffic death of an exceedingly careful young cyclist on a side street in Chicago was due to massive head trauma despite helmet use... Despite several suggestions now, that site has yet to publish any piece on the important work of John Pucher at Rutgers University, which shows how important putting in good biking infrastructure is to cyclists' safety, showing the massive difference in cyclist safety between helmetless but bike friendly northern European jurisdictions and helmet-compulsionist but massively car-centric North American jurisdictions.

As for the recently published Ontario study summarised in the Treehugger link posted by the anonymous contributors (at 14:10 and 14:35), the summary of the paper posted in the Treehugger article shows an extreme and irresponsible jump on the authors' part from the statistical findings to a hypothesis, unsupported by the statistics or any other data that might have been considered in the study itself -- we can't tell from the conclusion -- that the reported decreased "bicycle-related mortality rate in children 1 to 15 years of age" "may be attributable in part to helmet legislation" (" may ... in part": what are the supporting data?), to a massive leap in logic again unsupported by any of the data that "these findings support promotion of helmet use, enforcement of the existing law, and extension of the law to adult bicyclists".

These claims are basically worthless because they are not supported by anything the authors appear to have considered in the study. To come back to what useful data come out of the study: there was a reduction in deaths of between 50 and 60% over the 12 year study period, depending on the measure used. Period. These statistics say nothing to us about what factors are behind this decrease, whether it is helmet wearing or other factors (such as inappropriate bicycle forms, e.g. mountain bikes, whose geometry bends the rider forward; or factors contributing to the fatal accidents and the host of other factors that any worthwhile study will consider), nor does it (appear to) distinguish between deaths due to head trauma and other factors. Nothing whatsoever justifies the authors' injecting their personal opinions into the conclusion as if they somehow logically flow from the statistics they derived. The study is only of relative value as one that should spur further research, this time qualitative, into the host of factors that in fact combine to contribute to cyclist danger or safety. The personal opinions injected by the authors in the guise of logical conclusions are worthless and irresponsible.

Anonymous said...

Helmet promotion - provided the information is presented in an accurate, objective way - is very, very different than mandatory helmet use laws. While I do wear a helmet, but don’t support mandatory bicycle helmet laws, I’ve got to say the anti-helmet crowd seems to be only too eager to remove the freedom to weigh evidence and choose for ones self. Exactly the same behavior they condemn in the pro-helmet legislation crowd. Double standards are indeed alive and well.

Anonymous said...

One other thing. A question:

Around this part of the blog-o-sphere, do the studies that favour the anti-helmet outlook get subjected to the same scrutiny as the studies that come out in favour of helmets?

I ask this honestly because it seems that if a study comes out pro-helmet, it is mercilessly dissected, discredited and discarded as worthless. I don’t think I’ve seen a study that comes out against helmets given the same treatment here? Has the Australian study been subjected to this level of scrutiny?

Zakkaliciousness said...

thanks for that post, christopher. very heartening and informative.

cycle helmet promotion and legislation are bedfellows. they have much the same effect. that's why we fight it.

regarding the question, scientists will dissect anything. it's telling that most pro-helmet studies get ripped apart on a scientific level. bad science?

remember, helmet advocates sell helmets.
bicyle advocates sell cycling.

there is no financial gain in being anti-helmet or anti-helmet promotion/compulsion. it's much more lucrative being pro-helmet.

those who are against helmets are generally pro-health, pro-cycling, pro-society.

Anonymous said...

“regarding the question, scientists will dissect anything. it's telling that most pro-helmet studies get ripped apart on a scientific level. bad science?”

It’s also telling that anti-helmet studies aren’t dissected or even questioned – at least around here.

So if the goal is to avoid bad science and mis-information, shouldn’t then bold statements such as:

“At lower speeds it is impossible to crash and hit your head”

and

“Children under 14 are not at all at risk of head injury on bikes, so there is no need for them to wear one.”.

also be held to the same scrutiny?. When claiming that something is “impossible” it’s probably a good idea to have some data to back that up.

“those who are against helmets are generally pro-health, pro-cycling, pro-society”

Got any stats to back up that rather sweeping generalization?

Luis Peters said...

What about streets runners?
Will they promote helmet use for streets running?

m e l i g r o s a said...

Joon wears a helmet even in the car, in the movie Benny & Joon

Anonymous said...

Great info. Articles/data/studies should be permanently linked. Thanks, Jack

Anonymous said...

I agree - it's the mandatory-ness that irks most of us. I generally ride with a helmet here in So. Cal., but I don't want to be forced, into it. When I visited Amsterdam last summer, I did not wear a helmet. The cycling seems different (safer) there than here.

Mark

Andy B from Jersey said...

I'm at Rutgers University studying under John Pucher and I couldn't get access to the full journal artical because it is too new to be in the electronic databases at the university.

What I could gather from the abstract was that they were looking at raw numbers and not considering a lowering of child cyclist numbers due to either the law or a just the general trend in less childhood cycling that is prevalent in many English speaking countries.

From the abstract I found the conclusions to VERY presumptuous. I'll try to remember to read the full article next month.

Anonymous said...

Actually the argument about not being able to get your rain hood over your helmet is no longer valid. If you buy an Arcteryx jacket it has a hood that will accomodate a helmet. Not only that but the hood actually looks better with a helmet than without it.

Although I owned a bike helmet before buying my Arteryx jacket I never used it. Now I wear my helmet every day - even when I'm not cycling!