06 May 2009

Copenhagenize Injury Alert!

A reader here in Denmark sent me this clipping from a newspaper. Please, sit down before you keep reading. It's shocking stuff.

It turns out the that the American Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report [try putting THAT publication under 'employer' on your dating website profile and see how many emails you DON'T get...] has analyzed a report that shows pet cats and dogs are to blame for a whoppingly shocking 87,000 fall injuries each year in America alone.

87,000 people have shown up at emergency rooms in the course of one year around the country because they tripped over their cat or dog or the dog pulled them on the leash.

87,000. Eighty-seven thousand. And another 87,000 next year. And the year after. And on and on unless we do something.

Where, in the name of Odin, are the safety freaks on this important issue?! Where are the helmet and safety gear manufacturers?! There are people out there to be bullied! There is safety gear to be sold! Millions to be made!

I want action. Let's mobilize! Here's what we do...

We don safety gear - helmets, wrist/elbow/knee protection and we walk up to strangers on the street with a dog and accost them rudely, telling them that they're stupid for not wearing appropriate saftey equipment.

We sneer at them saying that we're not going to pay for them when they're hospitalised. We'll lobby insurance companies to raise the premium for pet owners and to refuse payouts for injured pet owners who weren't wearing safety gear when they fell.

Cat owners require more intense action since they rarely walk their cats outdoors. Bastards. They think we don't see them but we do. We'll have to go door-to-door. If they don't open for you, climb through a window. We have self-righteousness on our side and we know what's best for everyone else.

We'll get the police involved, too. They can stand on the street and hug pet owners and hand out helmets and safety gear. Or they can tackle unprotected pet owners on the street, pepper spray them and arrest them. That'll teach 'em.

After a period of intense bullying feebly disguised as promotion we can lobby our politicians and push for mandatory helmet and safety gear laws for pet owners of all ages. Even if you don't have a pet, there's probably one near one just waiting for the opportunity to strike you down in your prime so support your LSES [local safety equipment shop] and get protection now, before it's too late.

And these 87,000 people are only in America. Think how many people are out there owning pets around the world. Living happily in ignorance and not even caring that we are trying to help them.

This madness has got to stop. Who's with me!? I SAID... WHO'S WITH ME!!??


Dapper Dan said...

I'm never going home... I've got two cats and a rabbit... Imagine the damage a rampant bunny could cause!

Mikael said...

good thinking. and regarding the rabbits... don't EVER watch Monty Python's The Holy Grail again...

lagatta à montréal said...

Should I get a wee helmet for Renzo (my black cat) as well? And a tailguard?

Mikael said...

if you don't already have one []i'm shocked to learn this sad fact], you are a pathetic, irresponsible person and I ain't paying for you if you get hurt. :-)

Sean Carter said...

dont get me going on allergic reactions and the damage caused by itchy, watering eyes and violent sneezing!

or all the accidents caused by errant cats and dogs that are hit by unsuspecting cyclists every year!

the horror! the horror!

Erik Sandblom said...

Don't forget those dangerous ladders. In Sweden 6000 people are hospitalised every year due to falling off a ladder.


Anonymous said...


May I suggest you alter the focus slightly. Giving the number of people hit by stray bullets in Canada and the US, you're point would work better if you advocated for mandatory wearing of bullet proof vests when walking on the street, entering shopping malls or any other location where a gun fight has been reported in the news.

I started advocating for the mandatory wearing of bullet proof vests after the most recent shooting in Yorkdale Mall, a very upscale (I could never afford to shop there) shopping centre in Toronto, Canada.

Problem is, people might not detect my sarcasm and actually take me seriously.

Mikael said...

Eric... get mobilized! Time to act!

Anon... get mobilized! Time to act!

Let's make millions off of this shit!

The Culture of Fear is an Only for Profit venture!

Mikael said...

sean: check your neighbourhood for pets [aka biological, allergical wmd] and start sueing the owners.

just think... you could walk past a cat, start sneezing and then trip and bump your head! Someone has to pay and it ain't you, man! :-)

Anonymous said...

The only way to fight fear and hysteria is with more fear and hysteria.

At first glance, this approach may seem illogical, but the trick is to be more of an asshole than the other guy, thus enabling you to claim the moral high ground.

didrik said...

We should have bullet proof vest laws too. It's just common sense. Around 12,000 people are killed in the US every year by hand guns so everyone should be wearing a vest at all times. Sure, they're inconvenient and ruin your look, but don't be vain and stupid, and don't think it can't happen to you! Just wear your bullet proof vest EVERY TIME you are around other people.

jsrassat said...

You can almost feel the revolution in the air. I've never really thought of "man's best friend" being such a rampant killer. As for cats, I've already been warned thanks to this site: www.catswhothrowupgrass.com/kill.php

Best of luck avoiding the grave dangers known as house pets.

Mvh from Minneapolis, Mn.

Mikael said...

anon 18:34: so relating to bicycle culture we should try to get people to fear enjoying to ride? Get them afraid of the sensation of riding to work? interesting. :-)

didrik: forget the inconvienence and ruining your look... my god, there are people walking around 'feeling' safe and secure. walking 'carefully' even. these are real zealots. they must be stopped. we are the truth.

jsrassat: luck is on our side. we're one step ahead. thanks and keep up the fight.

portlandize.com said...

not to mention 400,000 emergency room visits per year related to beds! since you're in full-body contact with your bed most of the time that you're in it, I would definitely recommend full-body armor while sleeping, having sex, etc. I don't understand why anyone wouldn't wear it, if it might save them from an emergency room visit.

Ls said...

I'm with you but more injuries happen in the kitchen, how are we going to tackle dangerous cooking?

Mikael said...

oh god... beds and kitchens. the enormousness of our safety crusade has escaped me. we need a name, quickly. we need brochures handed out to insurance companies and emergency wards alerting them to the gravity of this situation and demanding that they refuse to treat or insure reckless people who are wearing safety equipment. anywhere.

buy stocks in helmet companies... let's make a bundle and buy some cool cars.

shit... don't we need a name for this crusade?

FFF - Fearfully Fearing Fear? or
Citizens United by Notorious Trauma Statistics?

townmouse said...

Fear Unites Citizens Knowing What's In The Statistics!

Adrienne Johnson said...

Now, now, people. There is no point in blaming the animals. The are a known risk, after all, my neighbor calls my cat 'Tripping Hazzard'. The true problem here is that the populous has not been properly inculcated with a sufficient dislike of reason. If we, the members of C.U.N.T.S, are to truly fulfill our charter, we must find new ways of stunting the everyday person's ability to recognize true risk. We must do more.

Swine Flu was an excellent exercise. However, we failed to factor in the media- once the fear story ran a bit old, thinking started up again and poof! all that hard work was lost.

C.U.N.T.S. needs your best work, your clearest focus if we are to eradicate the scourge that is independent and balanced thinking. We can not keep the world 'safe' as long as anyone continues in the mistaken belief that knowing the truth and applying reason will get them anywhere.

Now, how is that economic melt down coming?

Kiwehtin said...

Ah, I guess I *should* have sent you the TreeHugger story from Monday or Tuesday about children being injured by falling TVs. Posted by the regular helmet campaigner there, no less, but for some reason (despite the statistics about all the children in the US who are injured by falling TVs and the observation that by far most of these injuries are head and neck injuries), well, it didn't occur to him that this would be a reason to call for all TV watching kids to wear... well, you know...

I pointed out this inconsistency in a comment, of course:


Oh, and yes, having cats, I can understand how you could trip over them. I worry sometimes about breaking their little legs when they go charging between my feet without me knowing.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post. I used to wear a helmet to protect my head from injury, but now, thanks to you, I have been enlightened. By the way, I am also throwing away my family's smoke-detectors, shredding my seat-belts, ignoring the warnings on my medication, no longer looking both ways when I cross the street, sniffing glue, engaging in unsafe sex with intravenous-drug using prostitutes (there are more handgun deaths in the US than AIDS deaths!), etc. etc. etc.

Just a cyclist said...

Anon @01:06 You seem to have a healthy relationship to biking relating it to sniffing glue, head injuries, fire and AIDS... not

Anonymous said...

Just a cyclist,

You're right: there's ABSOLUTELY NO RELATIONSHIP between head injuries and cycling. A complete fiction. A myth. Like unicorns.

Just a cyclist said...

Yes anonymous. Keep up the good work promoting cycling positively. And well, when you're at it why not going on and promote safe bathing as well... you know water and suffocation...

Adrienne Johnson said...

anonymous 1:06 2:46

I get it! You are one of those Hummer dealers that is going out of business! Well, sorry you are feeling bitter about that. But look at the bright side, fewer Hummers means fewer brain injuries for the cyclists! ; )

Anonymous said...

So either you're anti-helmet or you're a Hummer dealer. You're either with us or against us. A patriot or a terrorist. A believer or an infidel.

Mikael said...

what's all this cycling crap all of a sudden? i thought i made it clear that there are greater dangers out there.

anon's pinko stalinist babble is only a test to see if you all are 'in the zone', 'on the same page' and truly united in the C.U.N.T.S.F.F.F. cause. He is actually one of us. In fact, he is an inspiration to future generations in the glorious Culture of Fear.

Mikael said...

incidentally, i've never actually met anyone who is 'anti-helmet'. let me know if you bump into one.

Mikael said...

townmouse: sorry, i missed your fabulous title proposal until now!

Adrienne: you're right... that 'people thinking for themselves' angle is dangerous to our crusade. i demand research into how that can be stopped.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Annon already gave us the way- sniffing glue! Double whammy- stops thinking now, destroys brain for future non-thinking.

Erik Sandblom said...

Anonymous 02:46, head injury and skull fractures sound serious. But I looked it up and found that 80% of skull fractures in Sweden are minor. Only in rare cases does a minor skull fracture result in lasting damage. It's like breaking a leg: unpleasant but you make a full recovery. I haven't found a source in English but maybe someone can help with that.

I Sverige drabbas ca 20.000 personer/år av skallskada varav ca 80% är av lindrig karaktär, inkluderande commotio/hjärnskakning. Huvudvärk, koncentrationssvårigheter och en känsla av lätt uttröttbarhet kan vara bestående under flera dagar och i mer sällsynta fall veckor månader eller rent av bli kroniskt.Skallskador, lindriga (commotio, hjärnskakning)

Darren Alff said...

Brilliant. This is so funny because this is how people act when you talk about riding a bicycle without a helmet. Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

"incidentally, i've never actually met anyone who is 'anti-helmet'. let me know if you bump into one."

Go look in the mirror.

No, wait, my mistake. You hate the people who wear helmets, not the actual helmets themselves.

My apologies. Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant. This is so funny because this is how people act when you talk about riding a bicycle without a helmet. Great stuff!You just don't get it, do you? YOU're the ideologues. NO ONE, in either this or the last helmet thread has told you that you have to wear helmets. But anyone who suggests that helmets MIGHT be useful is told that they're not part of the true, glorious COPENHAGEN bike culture, the one true religion. (Ah, yes, Copenhagen, that wonderful laid-back city where they ostracize you for dissent...) This kind of crap is destroying cycling advocacy.

amsterdamize said...

@anon: are you a child? Ironically (or better, not surprisingly), you just don't get it.

(Tip of advice: start a blog about cycling, publish, opinionate, debate, use that rational you have. Do that for two years and then come back and whine. Or better, don't.)

*Anons are sooo 2004*

Mikael said...

"anons are soooo 2004"... THAT is hilarious.

I suppose if I'm to respond accordingly to our troll I should write something like "i'm rubber you're glue, bounces off me and sticks to you..." or "i know you are but what am I..."

but that is sooo 1973.

Ideology is used for political gain and/or profit. People who wish to see more cyclists hardly fit into that category.

the point of view presented here is the same as is presented by cyclist unions all over Europe. We're just better at pissing miserable people off.

Isn't this the moment you boldly state "I'm deleting my bookmarks and never visiting this site again?"

Anonymous said...

Even though I hold a lot of the same views as Mikael, I have lost most of, if not all my respect for him. Why you ask? Because insulting and dehumanizing any who don’t share the same views is ideological warfare, not advocacy.

Claiming a moral victory because you’ve managed to piss someone off is not only childish, it’s foolish. I fail to see how deliberately anti-social behavior promotes cycling?

Yes, yes, I know this blog entry in intended to be humor, but the contempt it’s built on so grossly overwhelms what little wit there is, it just comes out as sad.

Anonymous said...

Before I delete my bookmarks (and incidentally there is more than one person posting as anonymous on this thread), I'd like to point out that some of us don't live in Europe but rather North America, where cycling isn't nearly as safe. I commute 12 miles to work on roads that I share with cars that often exceed 60 km/h. It would be *nice* if my city looked more like Copenhagen, but in the meantime, I will wear a helmet, thank you. And yes, I wear lycra. (BTW, I love how you have embraced the anti-cyclist "we hate lycra-wearing-weirdos" meme. With friends like you, who needs enemies?)

As for ideology, I think that the persistent insinuation that anyone who disagrees with your dogma regarding helmets (which includes a large number of North American cyclists) doesn't "really" support cycling fits the bill as political and, yes, ideological. By all means, argue for what you believe in, but don't pretend you don't have an agenda. That's just silly.

Adrienne Johnson said...

Anon and anon and anon... oh my. These blogs and jokes and teasing are about exposing the terrible reasoning behind legislation. Individuals who choose to wear helmets are not an issue. Individuals who wear helmets and then try to force them on others are an issue.

Look at it this way, how you feel right this minute (frustrated, angry, not listened to...) is how those of us (and I am in N. America not wearing a helmet) feel every time we are yelled at by motorists to wear helmets or lectured to by other cyclists at red lights about how *they* would never.... it does not feel nice, does it?

Can you learn that lesson and leave others to their own decisions? Instead of wasting time, yours and mine, on silly arguments about what is on our heads, take that energy and help make the cycling world better- get more people on bikes by helping to get infrastructure and rider training and equal rights to the road.

Go ride!

Anonymous said...


I'm sorry, but helmet laws is no longer what this debate is about. It is about whether helmet *advocates* have a place within the cycling community.

The late, great Sheldon Brown used to say "Helmet laws, no, helmets yes." It's sad that there is no room on this blog for that opinion.

I'm all for putting aside the silly argument of what is on our heads and of letting others make their own decisions, but surely that applies to Mikael and company, too? Or does the principle of respect only apply to people you agree with?

Mikael said...

on this post we're taking the piss out of the Culture of Fear. We've being having quite a lot of fun doing it, too.

If this humour isn't your cuppa, fine.

This blog is, and always has been, sceptical of helmet promotion and legislation. If that isn't your cuppa, fine. I can't do anything about the fact that you take that personally, nor will I use any more time or energy trying to figure out how you, personally, have twisted it into a 'the world hates me' rant.

This blog is what it is and won't be altering the stance on helmet promotion or legislation.

Anonymous said...

"...Or does the principle of respect only apply to people you agree with?"

The answer appears to be "yes"

Anonymous said...

1) This blog is, and always has been, sceptical of helmet promotion and legislation.

2) This blog is what it is and won't be altering the stance on helmet promotion or legislation.

Silly me. I always thought skepticism was the *opposite* of dogmatic certainty.

Just a cyclist said...

How can anyone feel offended by these posts? Just don't say that it make you feel ridiculous?

Cian said...

@ 'Just a cyclist' ... from my experience, people feel offended around this issue because going against the use of cycle helmets goes against a view of something which is to many people unquestionably safer to use.

The apparent fact that cycle helmets are needed, and that cycling is unsafe without a helmet is reinforced into many people's mind from a young age, so it can be hard to break away from such a mindset.

My personal take on the issue is I used to wear one as a child, and then stopped when I grew older. For years, I thought I was taking a large risk. As time went on the risk did not seem to be large at all and then I looked into the issue and found how it could be safer without a helmet.

I've looked at a lot of pro-helmet research and was shocked to find how limited each one was in method and scope (most pro-helmet research notes how limited it is), and more importantly how the research makes no distinction between city / commuting / everyday cycling compared to sporting cycling, racing or mounting biking.

Anyway, if somebody wears a helmet for years as an adult and it comes to a point of possibly changing their mind on the issue… not only do they have to tell them selves they have been wrong for years, but they also have to admit they have been doing something illogical and very publicly looking rather silly at the same time.

We should start support groups to help them. :)

Mikael said...

Cian... the important thing is... are you in C.U.N.T.S. or not?! :-)

Adrienne Johnson said...

Mikael, can this organization have T- shirts? At least little gold lapel pins?

lagatta à montréal said...

I have a rather sad story here in the beautiful May greenery and flowers; a young woman died after falling off a balcony while at a party, enjoying the beaufiful spring weather. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Montréal, they typical dwellings are brick or stone-faced triplexes with outdoor staircases , and each flat typically has a balcony in the front.

The frigging newspaper reports chimed in with the obligatory "alcohol may have been a factor". This was not someone driving a car, riding a bicycle, or operating heavy machinery at a building site. It was a woman in her 20s at a PARTY on one of the first warm, sunny spring days. Just about everyone was at café-terrasses or on their balconies, enjoying beers or glasses of wine.

Someone I communicate with on another forum knows the young woman's mum, who is devastated of course, as are dad and rest of family and friends.

We have a lot of balcony injuries, many of them among small children who presumably didn't have "alcohol as a factor", and of course people slipping on the outdoor staircases after ice storms. The staircases were originally outdoor because there were so many fires destroying the original buildings of old Montréal that lacked this feature (I think it became mandatory around 1880 or so).

So I guess we need balcony helmets too...


This said, I think it is very strange to insinuate that copenhagenize, amsterdamize and like sites - see our old www.lemab.ca - updated now including with a French translation of some of the Guardian article seen here - are in any way against safety and unconcerned with it, when they exist to promote a safe, non-polluting and CONGENIAL form of urban transport.

portlandize.com said...

Wow, that post sure took a bit of a left-turn.

I always find it interesting that everyone who comments negatively about the viewpoints expressed on this blog with regard to helmet promotion and legislation has a very one-sided view of what your opinions actually are.

In reality, this discussion is so much more complex than simply wearing or not wearing a helmet, or being for or against helmets, but for some reason, certain people are completely unable or unwilling to see that.

Everyone is welcome to their own viewpoint, and everyone is welcome to wear a helmet if they want, but please don't pretend that you're doing something wonderful for bicycle advocacy by telling people they should wear helmets because it's dangerous not to do so. I would also recommend that you look into the subject more before going and ranting on other peoples' blogs.

Anonymous said...


So it's OK to claim that you're doing "something wonderful for bicycling advocacy" by attacking helmet advocates, which is basically what this blog does?

No one on this thread ever "told" anyone to wear a helmet. The real argument is not over forcing people to wear helmets; it's over whether pro-helmet advocates are welcome to express their opinion. On a previous thread, Mikael opined that "you can promote helmets or cycling, you cannot do both." It's his blog, and he can say whatever he likes, but the statement does not lend itself to the kind of complex and nuanced discussion that you claim to champion.

Anonymous said...

The approved model for debate:

1 – state opinion

2 – insult the other while claiming moral superiority

3 – claim victim status when the other does to you what you’ve done to them

4 – repeat as necessary

I honestly expected to see one side or the other achieve some degree of pwnage by following the guidelines, but so far it’s a dead heat.

Please note that the bicycle helmet debate does not have exclusive rights to this model. This model has been effectively employed by Ford vs Chevy, Foreign vs Import, and most notably, Us vs Them.

Anonymous (no the OTHER anonymous. Yep, that one)

Just a cyclist said...

Helmets cannot be promoted without without implying that their non-use is wrong. And it does not lend itself to any nuances or deviations from its "moral" whatsoever.

dr2chase said...


we've got multiple things going on here:

- cycling is much more dangerous here in the US than in Copenhagen, so it is possible for an individual to make the rational choice to wear a helmet here, but not there. However, if you are indeed rational in your helmet use, you will wear a helmet whenever you are doing something that is riskier (in terms of fatalities per hour) than cycling. Happily, this information is available on the web:


If you wear a helmet cycling, but not driving, you're not behaving rationally. It makes more sense to wear a helmet in a car than it does on a bike.

- we've got an issue with group actions. Telling people that they should wear helmets while cycling, without also adding (as a rational person should, look at the statistics) "and also while you go up or down stairs, or drive a car" creates the impression that cycling is especially dangerous, like other activities where helmets are required. That impression discourages people from cycling, which has its own risks. Note that this suggests that even encouraging people to wear helmets, without the need for legislation, is not necessarily a good thing. Sheldon Brown's position is probably not the correct one.

- non-cycling risk #1: lack of physical fitness. 10-20x as dangerous as riding your bike, long-term (measured in terms of expected lost years of life, measured in England, which has intermediate crash dangers between Copehagen and the US). Because unfitness is so dangerous, you don't need to discourage very many people from cycling to end up with a net loss of life. If helmets provided 100% safety, which they do not, the harm avoided by getting 10 cyclists to wear helmets is offset by 1 person choosing not to cycle -- this is if the 10x factor holds. And, since helmets do not provide 100% safety, and you can die from non-head injuries, the breakeven number is probably more like 20 helmet wearers versus 1 person discouraged from cycling.

In Copenhagen, where cycling is much safer than in England or the US, the risk ratio is much larger. This means that if talk of "wear helmets for safety" discourages 1 person from cycling, for every 100 helmets worn, that there is no net increase in safety. Chew on that number for a bit, if you will.

- non-cycling risk #2: getting cyclists on the road decreases the per-cyclist crash rate, presumably because drivers become more accustomed to seeing cyclists on the road.

And note, very much, the difference between group and individual actions. If I am going to ride my bike anywhere, no matter what anyone else says or does, a helmet will always make me fractionally safer. In Copenhagen, it is a tiny, stupid fraction, in the US it is a somewhat less tiny fraction safer. It might be an irrational action compared to other safety actions that I take, but nonetheless, it would make me safer, at that moment. I may, irrationally, not wear a helmet in my car, but that does not change the fact that I have made myself fractionally safer by wearing a helmet on my bicycle.

However #1, if you're not also wearing that helmet in your car, then you are not being rational, and people are likely to make fun of you for your irrational behavior if you are loud and evangelical (aka, "a helmet advocate") about the goodness of helmet wearing.

However #2, if you view it from the point of view of public policy, dealing with real humans, who can be frightened into doing irrational, stupid things, it becomes clear that helmet legislation is wrong-headed, and in someplace as safe as as Copenhagen, even promoting voluntary helmet use results in a net loss of life, if it happens that this discourages as few as 1% of potential cyclists from riding bikes.

In the US, the emphasis on helmet use while cycling changes the safety from where it should be (on the dangerous cars and/or dangerous roads) to where it should not be (the cyclists themselves).

placesiremember said...

I agree with anonymous(es) - I find your attitude of "people who wear helmets are idiots" annoying. Sure, I agree with you that there's no reason to implement a law for mandatory helmets, and I support more cycling, but your snotty attitude comes through in every post. Wear a helmet if you want or not, but don't attack and marginalize those who choose to do so.

I wish cycling in North America was more like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, but motorists here swerve within inches of you, and curse you to "get off the road". In my city of 1 million 1% of trips are made by bicycle and we "brag" about how good that is! If a helmet will reduce my potential injuries by even 1% then it doesn't bother me to wear it. Welcome to my car culture.

It's obvious you've never stepped foot in let alone ridden a bike in North America. How can you judge what it's like here without ever having been here? End of argument.

placesiremember said...

Oh, and I should add, I'm not going to a hysterical fit and "deleting your bookmark" because I still find some value in your page. Perhaps you could do the same of people who don't hold the exact same views as you.

And as an aside (@ Adrianne Johnson) San Francisco is hardly the average North American city for cycling.

That's all.

Mikael said...

please try to actually read the texts and understand what is said.

i don't think people who wear helmets are idiots anymore than I think people who still wear white socks are idiots.

i oppose helmet promotion and legislation.

oh, and i've cycled in about 6 or 7 large north american cities including L.A., NYC, Vancouver, Boston, Toronto, as well as numerous cities around the world - so I am more than qualified to compare bicycle cultures.

End of stupid conversation.

Ajlouny said...

87,000 injuries, that's an incredibly huge amount of accidents. Wonder where they acquired those statistics.

Mikael said...

you could probably visit the link at the top of the post to the morbidity and mortality report and find the answer there.