04 July 2012

Helmet Law Proposed in Denmark

Barcelona Felix et Lulu Bikes
And so the nightmare that summarises the Culture of Fear reaches the shores of Denmark. Two political parties announced yesterday that they will push for a bicycle helmet law for under 16s.

A proposal was defeated in the Danish Parliament back in 2009, when rationality was still something politicians possessed, apparently. Danish readers can check out Cykelhjelm.org for a crash course in knowledge.

The Radical Left and the Socialist Peoples' Party are behind the proposal. The traffic "safety" spokesman for The Radical Left - Jan Johansen - said to Danish Broadcasting:

"We are of the opinion that we must make our children as safe as possible when they are in the traffic".

What the Radical Left and the Socialist Peoples' Party AREN'T doing is making our streets safe.

They are NOT proposing to follow in the footsteps of over 80 European cities and creating 30 km/h zones in densely populated areas or proposing traffic calming measures in our cities.

They are NOT proposing motoring helmets, despite evidence that they would be a good idea.

They are not listening to warnings regarding bike helmet promotion or laws. Nor are they worried about the warnings from Sweden regarding children and reduced cycling.

They are NOT telling us how they will keep children safe on playgrounds or in cars - where the risk of head injury is higher.

They are NOT proposing restrictions or penalities on parents who transport their children inside of cars, what with the higher levels of microparticles than on the bike lanes that run parallel.

Etc. Etc.

The Radical Left are about as informed about helmets as the Socialist Peoples' Party are. We posted about the gaffes made by Pia Olsen Dyhr a couple of years ago. Little has changed in their lack of respect for science or just basic facts.

Here's what happened in Sweden when helmets started being promoted and then legislated. It's the same thing that happened in so many regions that have been subject to the same anti-cycling wave. We wrote about this graph here a few years ago and there is more on this graph in Swedish here.

The sad fact is that Copenhagen is the only city in the western world where cycling levels are falling. We're now at 35%, according to the City of Copenhagen. Before bike helmet promotion started in January 2008 we were at 37%. We predicted this back in January 2009.

Our only bicycle advocacy group, the Danish Cyclists' Federation (DCF) are now busy telling the press that they are against the law. This has been their position for some time, but that hasn't stopped them from projecting their personal fear of cycling onto the population at large through intense helmet promotion, together with their rich and equally uninformed uncle, Rodet for Sikker Panik (Danish Road "Safety" Council).

It's tragi-comic to see how they now have to employ all the arguments that the rest of Europe uses to fight against helmet promotion and legislation. But it's an organisation without any scientific staff - unlike the cyclist federations in so many other countries.

They have made their bed and now they must lie in it. They Culture of Fear regarding cycling in Denmark is their work, along with the Road "Safety" Council, so this development is, indirectly, their fault. Without their pornographic obsession with helmets, we wouldn't be here today.

I wonder where this will lead. Can the European Cyclists Federation help? As they have done in so many other countries that have defeated helmet laws?

Cross your fingers.


Erik Sandblom said...

A better discussion on the decline of children cycling in Sweden is here:

Allt färre barn cyklar eller går till skolan - Yimby GBG

The people who collected the information in the graph say it can't be used to measure how many kids cycle to school, even though they used the same 39 measuring points at the same times for 20 years. They say it can only be used to measure helmet use, which in itself speaks volumes about helmet huggers. They care about helmets, not cycling or even head injuries.

Helmet huggers would have you believe that bare-headed cyclists fall on their heads all the time and are no longer able to concentrate. But nobody knows how common those injuries are, and besides: walking and cycling to school IMPROVES concentration and gets kids better marks in school.

AndrewRH said...

Follow the money? Is there any link in funding between helmet manufacturers (or their PR companies) and the political parties and think tanks?

Wim Bot said...

Maybe the scientific article that Theo Zeegers wrote for Fietsersbond-NL should be translated into Danish. It will make many people reconsider their pro-helmet stance

Edward said...

"We are of the opinion that we must make our children as safe as possible when they are in the traffic".

Most people would agree with that. The question is why they think jumping on the helmet bandwagon actually achieves that end.

Send them on a study trip with David Hembrow in the Netherlands. Then we'll organise a study trip over here in Australia for them. We'll start the tour at a bike share stand in Melbourne where they'll see a line of unused bikes. We'll finish with a run down of cyclist numbers before and after the helmet law was introduced. Finally, we'll play 'spot the child cycling'. It could take a few days before they actually see one.

Utterly ridiculous. Do these people actually read?

Michael S said...

I'm sort of shocked. Wonder what comes next, the Netherlands?

I'm sure you read this from the ecf:


Martin Blum said...

Thought it was a joke. Damn. Is this the End of Copenhagenizing the World? The Swiss Parliament rejected a helmet Law for children a few Weeks ago. "It's a personal Choice".

Dollo said...

It is ironic that the radical left is going to lay down the groundwork for a climbing influence of corporate lobbies. You will end up with nice logos on shiny helmets, but fewer freedoms in the head of the children wearing them.

Starter said...

in Argentina we have the law 25,965 requiring cyclists this:
Article 40 bis) Requirements for riding bicycles. To be able to move by bike is essential that the vehicle has:

a) A bearing system, steering and braking permanent and effective;

b) Rear view mirrors on both sides;

c) bell, horn or similar;

d) That the driver is wearing a helmet, do not wear loose clothing, and that it is preferably light-colored footwear and use it safely affirm the pedals;

e) The driver is the sole occupant with the exception of transporting a load, or a child placed in a special seat or trunk whose weights do not jeopardize the stability and maneuverability of the vehicle;

f) fenders on both wheels;

g) Lighting and signage reflective.

(Article taken up by art. 7 of Law No. 25,965 BO 21/12/2004).

Richard Larouche said...

Let's hope that these 2 parties will end up realizing that the scientific evidence is far from convincing on this topic (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000145751100008X)

On a related note, I was told that you recently gave an interview to CBC about helmets and bicycle safety. I was wondering if you have the audio file or if you know where I can find it. Thanks!

She Rides a Bike said...

Here in Flagstaff, AZ, I see lots of kids biking in helmets (the City Council passed an ordinance requiring them for children under 12). Often they are biking with their parents. Too bad they don't learn more important basic skills about how to safely ride a bicycle on the street, use hand signals to indicate their intentions or how to share the multiuse paths with other cyclists and walkers. Of course, few of them actually seem to learn to use their bikes to go anywhere. The intent of parents to have their children physcially active is admirable but when I see the helmet my subjective feeling is that it just sucks a little of the joy out of cycling as it is subtly reframed as a potentially hazardous activity. My god, how did I survive childhood.

Kim said...

Next you know they will be importing the Taliban approach to road safety which we have here in the UK. Why is it politicians prefer to blame the victims rather than dealing with the source of the problem?

Ryan said...

I remember when I was in grade 3 or 4, the extent of bicycle safety was;
"wear a helmet...now bring these home so your parents will buy one for you." (yes they were at a school trying to sell helmets).

Ontario has an under 18 helmet law, and most I see in the age group don't wear one.

As for the following quote:
"We are of the opinion that we must make our children as safe as possible when they are in the traffic"."

To be honest, I'm tired of politicians trying to use children and safety to create more 'feel-good' laws.
Reminds of of the Canadian government -- when they wanted easier access to spy on your internet activities..."stand with us or with the child pornographers".

Sandro Lopez said...

Here's an analogy: "Imagine in order to solve the health problems related to public smoking, they would impose all non-smokers to were a mask!!!"

If you are concerned with the safety of children, you should be putting pressure on cars, not on children!.

I am more and more starting to believe that either radical and serious steps are taken against the car industry, or we will end up being buried alive in our cities.

dr2chase said...

Presumably someone in Denmark is aware of this (Danish) study: http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=485349 -- 39% higher mortality rate for non-bicycle commuters. Discouraging cycling kills people.

There is, further, the inconsistency of not proposing that children in cars also wear helmets, since automobile accidents (in this country, the US) are a major cause of head injuries in children. It's no trouble at all in a car -- no issues with sweat and heat, since you are not exercising, and the car itself is a natural place to store helmets when you are not using them.

Anonymous said...

A helmet law for kids were stopped in Norway, just few years ago.

I hope our danish neighbours do the same. Otherwise helmet law for all i Denmark will be next..

Jens Loft Rasmussen, Director, Danish Cyclists' Federation said...

We share Mikael Colville-Andersen’s efforts to brand Denmark as a nation of cyclists, but we are puzzled by his continuous and false allegations about the Danish Cyclists’ Federation’s work.

Since 1905, the Danish Cyclists’ Federation has watched over the interests of Danish cyclists. We have more than 25 people on staff, among them our Project and Research Consultant, Anette Jerup Jørgensen, who has a Ph.D. in traffic sociology. We base our views on the knowledge available. Among other things, we have noted that the Transport Accident Commission after thorough analysis of a number of accidents involving cyclists recommends helmet wear because it increases safety. “Bike helmets can reduce head injuries and in some cases make the difference between life and death,” the Danish Transport Accident Commission concludes.

In light of the statistics, the risk for young cyclists in Denmark is minimal, and therefore introducing helmet law will do more harm than good. Contrary to Mikael Colville-Andersen’s claim, we have issued a stern warning against criminalizing or scaring young people off the bicycle. And with over 100.000 participants, our campaign “Bike to School” contributes to the fact that in Denmark we have the dream scenario: namely numerous children and adolescents who cycle, and a high safety level.

We do not recognize ourselves in Michael Colville-Andersen’s interpretation.

Erik Sandblom said...

Jens, thanks for commenting here.

On your website you state that helmets are good but helmet laws are bad. Isn't that a bit contradictory? The parliament is obviously drawing the conclusion that if helmets are good, then so are helmet laws.

Looking at each individual accident, like the Transport Accident Commission did, is not the only approach. As you know, when more cyclists wear helmets, there is no reduction in head injuries among cyclists. This has been shown in two peer-reviewed journals. See links below.

When the science is so split, it's not a good idea to promote helmets.

No clear evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets. British Medical Journal av DL Robinson mars 2006

Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws. Accident Analysis & Prevention av DL Robinson juli 1996

Anonymous said...

Just to complement the comment "Anonymous said...
A helmet law for kids were stopped in Norway, just few years ago." it had its background in a study of the "Helmet-effect" of New-Zealand which concludes that by wearing a helmet the cyclists took greater risks when cycling than cyclists without helmets. That being said, Norway is at the moment not safe for cyclists. Designated cycling-lanes are occupied much of the times by cars, with the traffic-wardens and police without necessary force and/or will to clamp down on the practice.

Erdem said...

Share your ideas on how to make biking in Denmark more convenient here, let's get the government to see what they can do to improve bike use:

Tallycyclist said...

Jens, it's good to get your perspective on the helmet topic. However, there's one important aspect that the DCF needs to consider, and that is the longer-term consequences of helmet promotion. I'm speaking from a country (USA) where a cyclist will get absolutely all of the blame and lots of media attention and no sympathy if killed without wearing one, even if the cause of death was due to a crushed torso and the fault was entirely of the motorist. At some point it becomes expected that all 'responsible' cyclists should wear helmets, the way drivers are required by law to wear seatbelts.

I don't see this happening in Denmark anytime soon. But suppose one day when 50, 60 or 70% of the Danish population begin wearing helmets. Might the perception and expectations of the general populace towards cyclist not change? "Why are the minority cyclists not wearing one and being responsible. Maybe they should deserve less legal protection, etc."

It's very telling that in the number country for cycling, Holland, almost no one wears a helmet. Are the Dutch an impudent society, or do they just not care about safety? Or maybe cycling is inherently very safe and the infrastructure is most important. The safety statistics of Holland backs all this up. They have chosen to deal with the bull, the motor car, which is the real threat to cyclists, pedestrians, other motorists and the quality of life in a city.

dr2chase said...

Erik, Jens - it is possible to both be right. It is possible, perhaps even likely, that a helmet will protect your head in an accident. This says nothing about how the helmet might influence your behavior or that of the drivers around you, merely that, once you are committed to a head-impact crash, a helmet might well help.

HOWEVER, it is a simple 2-step deduction chain to see that helmet laws (and exuberant helmet promotion) kill people. Helmet laws lead to a reduction in cycling, and not cycling raises your risk of death. Both of these things come through loud and clear in statistics. To promote helmets is to kill people.

That the Danish legislators cannot tell the difference between what is good for society and individual incentives is very disappointing.

And, further, anyone promoting helmets for bicycles is doing everyone a disservice by not extending their promotion just as loudly to automobile drivers. It is MORE ridiculous to expect cyclists to wear helmets than it is to expect drivers to wear helmets; drivers don't sweat, and they need not worry so much about either helmet storage (in the car) or fashion (because they are somewhat private, in their car). Head injuries are a significant risk in auto crashes (in the US, auto crashes are the leading cause of serious head injuries). Helmets would help. There is also no public health harm in make driving less convenient; in this case, the individual safety and the social safety move in the same direction. Legislators who are truly safety-minded (and not just making noise) should be in favor of this.

If a bicycle helmet promoter feels that they would not be taken seriously or ridiculed if they proposed helmets for car drivers and occupants, then they should just shut up about helmets and safety, because they are NOT promoting safety, they are merely promoting social convention. I mean this very seriously. Look at the public health numbers for (not) cycling; look at what helmet laws do to cycling ride share; consider that drivers have fewer reasons to object to helmets than cyclists; consider the large number of head injuries caused by auto accidents. Unlike bicycle helmet laws, car helmet laws would lead to a net reduction in mortality, and drivers have less reason to object to helmets than cyclists do.

kfg said...

"I wonder where this will lead."

Learn to love the smell of the boot, brother.

"We are of the opinion that we must make our children as safe as possible when they are in the traffic".

"Most people would agree with that."

@Edward: Count me among those that would not. I would say that we should make every reasonable attempt to make children reasonably safe; and no safer.

"If it saves just one life" is the motto of the control freak sociopath who discounts the 10 lives lost to "save one life."

At least until it is time to grind the heel of the boot a bit, until, in time, we are all doomed in order to "save" us.

Expect the inquisition. That is the way of sociopathic, religious zealots.

lagatta à montréal said...

Dollo, sometimes political party names are historical and bear little relation to the current politics of the party concerned.

The farthest-left party in Danish Parliament is the Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten, or Unity List, in Danish).

The Radical Party is usually seen as towards the centre of the Danish political spectrum.

kfg, this is a prime example of the French saying, "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien". The public health impact would be disastrous, and not only in Denmark but in all countries that look to Denmark and the Netherlands as gold standards in cycling provision. It must be stopped in its tracks, and its proposers should become a laughing-stock.