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Should the UK embrace mandatory bike helmet laws?

The bare-headed cycling movement has recently stirred from hibernation in the United Kingdom. Freedom to ride with the wind in their hair remains, but perhaps not for very much longer. The British Medical…

The UK could be next in line to make cycling helmets mandatory. Tejvan Pettinger

The bare-headed cycling movement has recently stirred from hibernation in the United Kingdom. Freedom to ride with the wind in their hair remains, but perhaps not for very much longer.

The British Medical Association has thrown its weight behind mandatory bicycle helmet laws, and some fear this is the penultimate falling domino before Brits succumb to lidded cycling.

Australians have undergone the helmet experiment for two decades now, so who better to set the record straight for our Northern brethren? Rest assured, there’s nothing to fear and everything to gain from the humble helmet.

Good or bad?

First, some myth busting: cycle helmets don’t really work, do they? In fact, the only time a helmet is useless is when it’s hanging from your handlebars.

Robust studies show helmets reduce head injury risk by up to 74%. Recently, Sydney researchers found cyclists who crashed without helmets were five times more likely to sustain severe head injuries.

This is serious trauma - 70% of people in this injury category end up on ventilators in intensive care.

People familiar with the laws of physics won’t be surprised. When the head hits the tarmac (or a car bonnet) the result is a shattering release of energy. Helmets dissipate that force by deforming, thus sparing the same fate for skull and brain below.

Arm injuries are common in bike crashes so they’re a good indicator of total rider numbers. all these numbers/Flickr

A British review found a helmeted head could fall four times the distance of a bare pate for the same risk of injury.

But how likely is your head to come to grief in a bike crash? A study I led with Alfred Health and Monash University found nearly half of riders who ended up in the emergency department hit their heads. And the risk of head injury went up threefold when riding over 20 kilometres per hour, which is a pretty conservative commuter speed.

Yes, but…

What about the study that showed bike helmet laws only limit head injuries by dissuading people from riding? That chestnut has been cracked by researchers who compared head and arm injuries in hospitalised riders.

Arm injuries are common in bike crashes so they’re a good indicator of total rider numbers. Relative to arm injuries, head injuries dropped by over 50% between 1991, when helmet laws came in, and 2010. That’s good evidence helmets rather than cycling refusal stemmed the flow of injured heads.

But don’t drivers endanger helmeted cyclists by overtaking closer because they see them as less vulnerable? Yes, but the solution isn’t to ditch the only protection a cyclist has. Better to retain helmets, and educate drivers to keep their distance.

Interestingly this “risk compensation” research also shows some cyclists take more risks themselves when wearing a helmet. Conceded, but antilock brakes saw car drivers following closer and braking later, and few think we should drop this safety feature. Instead we rely on education and enforcement to make tailgating history.

Ethical considerations

Okay, helmets work. But who needs micromanagement from the nanny state? Is riding with wind on scalp a non-trivial right best left untrammelled?

Philosopher John Stuart Mill built a strong case that competent adults should be free to make their own choices. Wikimedia Commons

Granted, John Stuart Mill, the architect of liberalism, built a strong case that competent adults should be free to make their own choices. But his caveat was that freedom ends when harm to others begins; the affliction of head injury, catastrophic as it can be, extends beyond the victim.

Access Economics estimates each case of moderate brain injury costs A$2.5 million. In severe injury, the figure rockets to A$4.8 million. Much of this cost is met by the public purse for emergency medical care.

As the popularity of cycling soars, this expense may demand limiting other services. As a guide, recent UK government cuts included nursing coverage on general wards, birthing centres and obesity treatment.

What of smoking, alcohol and fast food, which also generate medical burden, yet escape veto? In fact, Australia now outlaws smoking in many public places including restaurants, pubs and playgrounds.

Public consumption of alcohol is also widely regulated. And the obesity epidemic has seen calls for tighter control of junk food advertising.

Isn’t this the thin end of the wedge? Next, we’ll be calling for pedestrians to wear helmets. Certainly, falls in the elderly and the ever-present threat of cars account for many pedestrian head injuries.

But head-injury risk increases with speed and exposure to motor vehicles. Cyclists are at greater risk on both counts, and therefore belong in a separate category.

So, kinsmen across the waves, fret not. To wed oneself with a helmet is to begin a lifelong romance. Like all newly betrothed, however, there will be a few pre-nuptial jitters. But they will pass and a perfect union could soon be realised.

Join the conversation

286 Comments sorted by

  1. Matthew Thredgold

    Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

    This article has annoyed me more than any other ever published on the Conversation.

    Mandatory helmets do suppress cycling rates. It makes bicycling appear to be more dangerous that it really is. It has been put in place in Australia and New Zealand instead of putting in safe cycling infrastructure. It is a sop to motorists, and really shows their relative political power against cyclist's lack of political power. And helmets would probably be just as advantageous for motorists as they would be…

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    1. Georg Antony

      analyst

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      The article is certainly cherrypicking impacts and resorts to superficial parallels with other issues subject to regulation instead of rigorous analysis. While the avoided cost of brain injuries seems sound enough, there are no adverse impacts quantified and no attempt is made to assess the full trade-off.

      As Matthew points out, helmet laws reduce bicycle use. This has adverse implications for general fitness and health, with its own medical costs. In addition, the alternative modes of transport used instead of cycling tend to have higher social and environmental costs - these are also unquantified.

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    2. Julie Leslie

      GIS Coordinator

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Except in mountain biking where helment compliance is around 85% in the States (and anecdotally close to 100% in Australia). Mountain biking is a increasingly popular sport.

      Interesting that people have no problems whatsoever wearing a helmet while MTBing but all sort of silly ideas while riding on the roads. You are less likely to have a serious injury MTBing - you go slower (generally less than 20km/h - often a lot slower) and there are no cars - as compared to riding on the road.

      Seriously…

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    3. Jon Hunt

      Medical Practitioner

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      "Mandatory helmets do suppress cycling rates" Well, according to the article it doesn't when you use arm fractures as a marker of bicycle use. Have you any evidence that this is incorrect, if so perhaps inform us. Riding a bike is dangerous; ask anyone who rides one. The more protection the better.

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    4. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      Using arms as a *relative* marker. They're not measuring cycle use at all - they're obtaining the ratio of head injuries to arm injuries.

      Now woop di doo, the head injuries are down by 50% relative to arm injuries. What if cycle rates in Australia have dropped by a factor of 10? Suddenly makes the slight improvement in ratio of head injuries to arm injuries look like a 5x step backwards, does it not (again, a bit of a number fudge here - I don't know what the rates of cycling vs arm injuries…

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Tim Connors

      'Using arms as a *relative* marker. They're not measuring cycle use at all - they're obtaining the ratio of head injuries to arm injuries.'

      Absolutely you are correct. This figure shows that helmets reduced head injury rates after 1991. It should not have been used to infer that cycling participation stayed the same. Cycling participation appeared to reduce post-1991, whether this was completely the result of MHLs is open to endless (and I mean endless) debate. It seems reasonable to assume…

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    6. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Julie Leslie

      "... riding on cycle paths would probably be fine without a helmet ..."

      The only cycling accident with injury I have have ever witnessed was of a cyclist travelling at about 10 kph in a university car park. He was looking the other way when a car reversed into his path at about 5-7 kph. The cyclist was propelled over the boot of the car and landed with the top of his head skidding along the abrasive road surface. He instantly lost all hair in about a 10 cm patch from the top of his head and there was a lot of blood. His skull was not damaged, but it occurred to me at the time that a firmly-fastened helmet would have enabled him to have escaped with no more than shock.

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    7. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      I've ridden on plenty of bike paths and seen hundreds of non accidents... Whose anecdote wins?

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    8. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Cycling deaths did fall when the law was introduced, but most observers think that cycling participation fell by more than the death rate, so cycling actually became more dangerous.

      Participation undoubtedly fell due to the law; if you are continually told that something is incredibly dangerous, it is much less likely that you'll do it. In fact, cycling is safe in the accepted sense of the word, and has similar risk levels to walking.

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    9. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Hi Richard,
      Who are these 'most observers' of which you speak? The article above points to the studies involving arm injury head injury ratio to conclude the opposite of what you write. Regardless, that was 22 years ago.... Of what pertinence is it now?
      Let me guess.... Your next line is: any gain in head injury protection is created by improvements in road design around hat time.
      Helmets are th ultimate special pleading..... You can suspend any logic so long as your argument has the word helmet in it. Look at the physics, if you wan to protect an egg you put it in a deformable container, if you want to protect a brain you put it in a.... Oh, nevermind. I forgot, helmets cause DAI, unless you look at th evidence,but 'most observers' don't seem too.

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    10. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus, the fall in the number of cyclists after the implementation of the law is well documented, by many independent observers, and the article's use of head/arm injury ratio does not measure bicycle use.

      Thanks for putting words in my mouth, but perhaps you'll allow me to make my own comments rather than pretending that you are prescient? If there was any improvement to the safety of cyclists, and that remains questionable, then it was not due to improvements in road layouts, as that takes…

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    11. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      1. Pedestrian safety is largely a matter of intersection safety and road crossing safety. Cycling safety is completely diffrent as cyclists inhabit the edge of the road and suffer collisions often remotely from intersections (although it's true that intersections such as roundabouts are sites of cyclist injury) my point is that you can't extrapolate data from pedestrian safety directly to cyclist safety.
      2. Where is the evidence that bicycle helmets 'cause' DAI; that is, result in a greater proportion…

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    12. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      "Pedestrian safety is largely a matter of intersection safety and road crossing safety. Cycling safety is completely diffrent as cyclists inhabit the edge of the road and suffer collisions often remotely from intersection."

      The vast majority of cyclist collisions occur at junctions, so far from being completely different, cycling safety is almost exactly the same as pedestrian safety.

      " I've looked, hard,....." Not that hard http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1182.html

      "risk compensation... another badly misapplied study that appears to have little day to day relevance to cycling except that if one is used to wearing a helmet than you will slow down without wearing a helmet." You say that risk compensation is badly misapplied then admit that it applies. I'll leave you to work out exactly what is wrong with your argument.

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    13. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      I've looked, hard,....." Not that hard'

      I should be more precise-I've looked hard, independently at the evidence not at sites which reinforce my pre-existing prejudices.

      '...cycling safety is almost exactly the same as pedestrian safety.'

      are there many pedsestrians running clockwise around roundabouts in your neck of the woods?

      ' I'll leave you to work out exactly what is wrong with your argument.'

      take a look at the papers involving risjk compensation... you'll see what i mean. tear your eyes away from crag.asn and helmetfreedom.org for a change. Unless of course you believe that helmeted ridersa suddenly start playing chicken with trucks.

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    14. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Please provide citations for 'most observers'.

      You appear to have overlooked the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie, showing that any reduction in (overall) cycling would have been negligible (and short-lived), and that reductions in cyclist head injuries vastly outweighed any reductions in other road user injuries, and cyclist non-head injuries.

      A (NZ) study by Tin Tin et al. found that (per hour spent travelling) cyclists were more than 6 times more likely than pedestrians to sustain an AIS>2 injury.

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    15. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Please provide citations for 'many independent observers . . . '.

      You appear to have overlooked the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie, which all shows that any reduction in (overall) cycling would have been negligible (and short-lived), and that reductions in cyclist head injuries vastly outweighed any reductions in other road user injuries, and cyclist non-head injuries.

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    16. delbified

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Connors

      Is there any evidence that UK schools are filled with 300 bikes today?

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    17. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      What a bizarre comment, Richard. What cover? I have made comments consistently in favour of removing MHLs for adults. Does this sound like someone tasked to 'counter opposition'.

      Conspiracy theorising again?

      If I worked for bell or giro I don't think I'd be drawing a paycheque for long...

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    18. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      'Cover'? What are you on about? If I was some sort of patsy for 'big helma' don't you think I would be supporting adult MHLs not arguing against them?

      Don't you sometimes wish you could unwrite some comments, Richard?

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    19. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus,

      It is quite obvious from your misinformed comments and ridiculous analogies that you are either playing devil's advocate or deliberately seeking to counter the anti-MHL by being disputatious and raising irrelevancies.

      Personally, I consider the latter to be more likely. Why else would someone spend so much time denying what is clearly true, using arguments which any well-read person knows are wrong?

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    20. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      'misinformed' 'ridiculous'

      =ad hominem

      'Why else would someone spend so much time denying what is clearly true...'

      =loaded question fallacy
      '...using arguments which any well-read person knows are wrong'

      ='no true scotsman/bandwagon fallacy'

      Richard: long on fallacious argumentation-short on substance.

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  2. John Clark

    Manager

    Paul, Do you have statistics for the efficacy of helmets in respect of car crashes?

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    1. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to John Clark

      This study, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=bambach+helmet, of 6745 cyclist collisions with motor vehicles in NSW between 2001 and 2009 where helmet use was known, found that 'Helmet use was associated with reduced risk of head injury in bicycle collisions with motor vehicles of up to 74%, and the more severe the injury considered, the greater the reduction.'

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    2. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Linda Ward

      It was my understanding that John may be asking how well helmets would protect against head injury of car occupants. Ie, should helmets be mandated for all car occupants because presumably they'd be even more effective for them than they are for bicycle riders. And yet they're not mandated. Why is that? Presumably there are some statistics out there somewhere which would show why governments and medical researchers aren't pushing for such mandatory helmet laws.

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    3. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Tim Connors

      Seat belts (which prevent heads from smashing against windscreens, steering wheels, etc) are mandated for car passengers.

      Air bags also provide considerable protection against head (an other) injuries.

      And there is also that big metal thing (car body) that offers a 3rd protective measure for car occupants.

      Helmets would 'presumably' be even more effective for car occupants than bike riders? Oh dear.

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    4. Nigel Perry

      Computer Scientist at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Linda Ward

      I generally keep out of this mire, the whole argument over MHLs is asking the wrong question - a classic example of misdirection. However I just happened across this thread following some link from somewhere or other, and scrolling down watching the whole mess degenerate rapidly I came across this "Oh Dear".

      What Linda Ward forgot to inform readers before ending in apparent exasperation was that her own Government published a report years ago that stated that if seat belted car occupants also…

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Nigel Perry

      Nigel,
      Ever heard of a thing called the strawman argument?

      Any discussion about driver safety (ie the protective efect of driver helmets) is an argument for driver safety, not for or against MHLs. Given the evidence for the efficacy of driving helmets I presume you will be advocating for MHLs for drivers insteading of advocating against MHLs for cyclists.

      I think it is you that is asking 'wrong question - a classic example of misdirection'. The biggest question is why you'd deliberately obfuscate the argument.

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    6. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Nigel Perry

      Even though you have stated that you will probably ignore my reply, I feel I obliged to reply . . .

      In asking whether it could be shown that the helmet laws had saved A$350M/yr over the the last 20 years, you seem to have forgotten 2 things. The first is that the number of cyclists is tiny compared to the number of motorists.

      In the 1986 census, about 5% of trips to work were by bicycle, and about 80% are by car. A 1998 ABS 'Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation' report estimated…

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    7. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Citizen SG

      It seems that Nigel acually believes the all those BHRF representations about the helmet laws causing more harm than good. My reply to Nigel described the BHRF's (gross) misrepresentions with respect to the Carr and Elvik studies, here are a few more examples . . .

      According to the BHRF: 'No surveys to track cycle use were carried out to monitor the effect of the helmet law. However, the New Zealand Household Travel Survey (LTSA, 1993-7) shows that cycling decreased by approx 22% between 1993…

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    8. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Linda Ward

      oops, that should have been 'all those BHRF MISrespresentations about how the helmet laws did more harm than good'

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    9. Nigel Perry

      Computer Scientist at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Nigel Perry

      I was alerted to a response to the item I'm replying to when I logged into The Conversation to contribute on Prof Rissel's recent article "Politics trumps hard-headed reason on bicycle helmets" (and if you are at all interested in my contribution go there to find it). I knew I shouldn't have posted the item, but the behaviour I was remarking on just irked, and sometimes when one is irked the (little) wisdom one has deserts... my apologies to all.

      Tim Connors had commented on helmets for car occupants…

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    10. Joe Gartner

      Tilter

      In reply to Nigel Perry

      Nigel,
      One year ago you wrote:
      '...helmets are only specified for speeds up to 20km/h (they're for falling off not getting hit by cars).'

      https://theconversation.com/australian-cycling-boom-nope-its-a-myth-8020

      I find it interesting that you doubt the worthiness of helmets for bikes and, especially given the disparity in collision speeds and kinetic energy, that you accept the worthiness of bike helmets for car occupants, presumably based upon this study:

      http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/atsb160.pdf

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    11. Nigel Perry

      Computer Scientist at University of Canterbury

      In reply to Joe Gartner

      I noticed Linda Ward's "I rather liked your recent comments to Nigel Perry" (https://theconversation.com/politics-trumps-hard-headed-reason-on-bicycle-helmets-20973) and curiosity got the better of me...

      I'm afraid you are tilting and the wrong windmill here. (Assuming as a Tilter that's what you tilt at of course!)

      In calling out Ward's disingenuous remarks I was doing just that. I was not making arguments about the relative merits of plastic helmets for car occupants, bicyclists, pedestrians…

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    12. John Harland

      bicycle technician

      In reply to Nigel Perry

      That brings back a long-forgotten memory.

      When I was doing a lot of driving, before helmets were much used by bicycle riders, I did consider wearing a helmet in the car.

      However I chose not to because I felt that it made the road seem too much like a racetrack and was likely to incite totally inappropriate responses in other people: racing.

      I see a similar problem with bicycle helmets.

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  3. Kieran Nelson

    logged in via LinkedIn

    I have seen many times people involved in cycling incidents where they have not sought any medical attention in any way what-so-ever. The article also does not mention where these accidents were taking place. Where they on cyclepaths away from vehicles, on lightly trafficked roads or on arterial roads? Which countries have the highest level of serious cycling injuries per capita? Those with helmet laws, or those without? Those with high quality cycling infrastructure or those without?

    I wonder if we need to investigate where helmets should be required and where they shouldn't be? Maybe a deliniation of helmets must be required where the speed limit is 60km/h or greater?

    To be honest, those regular commuter cyclist travelling at high speeds are likely to be wearing helmets anyway, taking much of the sting out of the figures.

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    1. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Kieran Nelson

      It is of great interest to me that most people think that cycle helmets offer much greater protection than they actually do, and 60kph is so far outside their design parameters that they are effectively useless.

      Helmets are designed and tested for simple falls from a standing position, at about 20kph (12mph). Since the energy of a collision increases as a square of the speed, so any protection rapidly becomes irrelevant, with the forces involved many times that of the helmet's capacity…

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      The physics of cycle helmet design is not that they have no effect over 20 km/h, its that they reduce the force of impact at every speed. The proportional efect at gretaer collision speeds is less, but they still offer protection.
      It is completely true that the protective effect diminshes rapidly at vbery high cycling speeds (in terms of an impact that results in a rapid speed retardation). Thay still offer significant protection in a sliding impact.

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    3. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      At twice the design speed, the energy involved is four times greater than the design parameters of a helmet, and any protection is likely to be insignificant.

      Regarding protection in sliding situations, it is also likely that rotational injuries will be increased, which are much more dangerous than direct impacts.

      If helmets do offer significant levels of protection, why is it that nowhere with a massive rise in helmet wearing, whether due to laws or propaganda campaigns, can show any reduction in risk to cyclists?

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    4. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      ' it is also likely that rotational injuries will be increased,'

      Never more than a hypothesis and the evidence is against this spurious claim.

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    5. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Please provide references to support your assertions that 'Since the energy of a collision increases as a square of the speed, so any protection rapidly becomes irrelevant, with the forces involved many times that of the helmet's capacity' and 'the helmet might make some difference on the path, but are extremely unlikely to make any difference on a road'.

      You appear to have overlooked the studies by Carr and Bamach, which both showed that helmet offer a high level of protection in collisions…

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    6. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      You appear to have overlooked the studies by Bambach and McIntosh, which completely discredit the helmet-DAI myth.

      You also appear to have overlooked the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie, which all shows that any reduction in (overall) cycling would have been negligible (and short-lived), and that reductions in cyclist head injuries vastly outweighed any reductions in other road user injuries, and cyclist non-head injuries.

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  4. Comment removed by moderator.

  5. Andreas Olsen

    Strategic Planner

    What a one sided argument of a very complex matter! Absolutely, bicycle helmets have been proven to limit the head trauma when accidents occur and many people will continue to wear one, even if the mandatory helmet laws are repealed in Australia. People riding long journeys at high speed are likely to continue to use helmets and parents will require their kids to wear one. If not, that can be addressed by a campaign instead of a mandatory requirement. A holistic analysis of the pros and cons must…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to nik dow

      You'll be surprised, Nik, that cycling participation rates in the UK are currently low (<5%) and similarly belgium is also low. Both countries do not have MHLs and have a similar climate to the Netherlands (in fact Belgium is contiguous).
      MHLs are not the biggest determinent of cycling participation.
      Cycling participation rates in Fitzroy and port Melbourne are nearly as great as the netherlands, despite MHLs....

      The elephant in the room that no-one sees because of helmet fixation is infrastructural, cultural and legislative.

      Should Britain adopt MHLs? probably not, I don't think that MHLs should exist in Australia (for adults) either; but on libertarian grounds not becaus ethey are ineffective or affect cycling rates. But nor do I care greatly - because the rela argument in cycling safety and participation is not about helmets.

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    2. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to nik dow

      Hi Nik,

      Instead of trying to repeal the MHL laws, try convincing the constabulary to not enforce them, as is the case in Finland.

      I love riding my bikes in Finland! The bike paths here are fantastic - they are nearly everywhere (just not down very quiet country roads and short, dead-end, local streets), over 2m wide and separated from the road by some obstacle like a kerb or a row of trees (not a line of paint as in Brisbane)!

      When I ride my bikes in Finland I sometimes wear my helmet…

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    3. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Citizen SG

      "... I don't think that MHLs should exist in Australia (for adults) either; but on libertarian grounds ..."

      That's one sort of libertarian perspective - an individualistic one. A more social perspective might regard the young children of a cycling parent as having some interest in their parent's continuing well-being - even life. Do libertarians give the kids a say? Or do they just assume that cyclists don't have any "loved ones"?

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    4. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      You could make a similar argument about any inherently risky activity: bushwalking, rock climbing, driving, motorcycling, leaving the house.... This is not an argument for MHLs , it is an argument for risk appreciation and what we ought to do.

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    5. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to nik dow

      You might find the article here rather interesting http://www.bikebiz.com/news/read/bma-votes-for-cycle-helmet-compulsion/01826

      The BMA used to have a sensible helmet policy, agreed in open debate with the whole membership, but a secret committee was set up, which looked at a very small selection of evidence, it changed the policy and this was confirmed at a meeting reminiscent of a Stalin show trial.

      BMA = trade union for a bunch of ex-medical students.

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    6. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Keith Thomas

      That would be true if there were any demostrable benefit from mass helmet wearing, but all the reliable evidence shows that there is none, and the only proven effects are negative, with reduced levels of exercise causing many times the deaths of cyclists.

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    7. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      You could make that argument about risky activities, but since cycling is safe by any objective measure, with about the same risk as walking, your point is not valid.

      Given the massive overall benefits of cycling, about which one eminent researcher said "if the benefits of cycling could be bottled, it would be the most popular medicine in the world" and the low level of risk, why are so many people so adamant that helmets must be worn for it? More people die falling down stairs, falling over…

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    8. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      It's true that if walking was as dangerous as cycling that we ought to wear helmets. The times when being a pedestrian is dangerous is when crossing roads and at intersections, in which case it is significantly hazardous. Every other aspect of pedestrianism is less dangerous than cycling.

      In respect of protection for other methods of death, these deaths are not predictable. There are people who wear helmets when engaging in such activities (getting out of bed etc) they are people with epilepsy who have a predictable chance of falling.

      Thgere are also other safety device for those with a predictable risk of slipping: rails in the shower, non-slip mats etc. Ther are many in the community who are at risk of falling and require aids to prevent it. Your objection to helmets on the grounds of falls risk for non-cyclists is a bizarrely non-pertinent argument.

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    9. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      "The times when being a pedestrian is dangerous is when crossing roads and at intersections, in which case it is significantly hazardous."

      Significant numbers of pedestrians suffer severe injury and death in simple trips and falls, without being near a road.

      "Your objection to helmets on the grounds of falls risk for non-cyclists is a bizarrely non-pertinent argument."

      I don't understand your argument here. Surely if helmets are not being propoposed for activities which have the same or greater risk than cycling it is relevant to discuss why cycling is singled out? Especially when the evidence shows no benefit from mass cycle helmet wearing and the only proven effects are very large and very negative.

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    10. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      'Significant numbers of pedestrians suffer severe injury and death in simple trips and falls, without being near a road'

      Evidence? and is this controlled for risk factors such as age and morbidity. How many suffer head injury compared to thoise struck by a car? I

      '...the only proven effects are very large and very negative'
      Evidence?

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    11. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus, you have said several times that you have read widely on the subject of cycle helmets and risk, but with every post, you make it abundantly clear that you haven't.

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    12. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Hi richard,
      That's called an Ad Hominem and it doesn't advance your argument.

      I'd search the forums on theconversation and look at the evidence that I have presented... you'll see that I have read and quoted widely. I'm not particularly interested in taking the bait of trolls, as fun as it can be.

      The problem (for you) is that every poorly researched and glib pronouncement you make about helmets reterds the progress of MHL rescindment. Cogitate on that.

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    13. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Please provide citations for 'all the reliable evidence . . . '.

      You appear to have overlooked the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie, which all shows that any reduction in (overall) cycling would have been negligible (and short-lived), and that reductions in cyclist head injuries vastly outweighed any reductions in other road user injuries, and cyclist non-head injuries.

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    14. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      A (NZ) study by Tin Tin et al. found that (per hour spent travelling) cyclists were more than 6 times more likely than pedestrians to sustain an AIS>2 injury.

      Please provide a reference to support your assertion the cycling is about as risky as walking.

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    15. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Tin Tin et al. found that (per hour spent travelling), cyclists are almost 6 times more likely than pedestrians to sustain an AIS>2 injury. They also found that (per hour spent travelling) cyclists are almost 8 times more likely than car occupants to sustain an AIS2>2 injury.

      Data published by the UK Department for Transport Statistics shows that in 2011, the risk of death or serious injury per kilometre travelled in the UK was about 7 times higher for cyclists than for car occupants.

      The evidence in Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie studies shows that mass helmet wearing has a large positive effect.

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    16. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      It seems abundantly clear that if anybody has not read widely on the subject of cycle helmets and risk, then it is NOT Seamus.

      In other TheConversation helmet discussions, Seamus has provided abundant references (which have improved my knowledge of the topic) containing evidence to support his statements (eg. more obesity in Germany than Australia - thanks Seamus!).

      One of the aims of TheConversation is to provide 'a better quality of public discourse and conversations'. Making unsubstantiated claims (and ad hominen attacks) is not quality discourse.

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    17. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Linda Ward

      I think Linda the problem with unsubstantiated claims probably arose in this instance with the original article, which, while providing some "references" of mixed quality does appear in its recommendations to be little more than an opinion piece. I refer you particularly to its closing paragraph, which borders on the fetishistic in its ode to helmets.

      I note you keep returning to Carr, Williams, Marshall and Hendrie. A link to these would have been helpful. From memory, none of them were particularly…

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    18. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Hi Linda,
      Thanks for the comment but in 2013 Australians are more obese than Germans.... It seems that bratwurst and weissbier is less fattening than pies and VB!

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    19. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda,

      You made me feel incredibly uncomfortable about cycling talking about cyclists being 7 or 8 times more likely to suffer death or serious injury than car occupants. Luckily I remembered my introductory stats courses; 7 times a very low number is still a very low number.

      I hope that you have not been deterred from the health giving benefits of commuting by bike in Australia by reading all those awfully scary papers.

      Even though I personally would like to see MHL rescinded or quietly not enforced in Australia (at least for those cyclists not engaging in traffic) I agree that wearing a helmet while cycling is a sensible thing to do in Australia right now. Maybe, in the future, when cycling infrastructure in Australia has caught up to the standard in in many continental European countries, you may also want to enjoy a slow, leisurely and helmet less cycle to your local coffee shop.

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    20. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Hi Alan,
      Agree with much of what you say except that helmet laws strongly correlate with cycling participation. Te following information negates the contention that cycling participation strongly correlates with mandatory helmet laws. The Czech Republic, Ireland, France and the UK and Italy have cycling participation rates of 5% or less... 5 times less than the Netherlands. The Netherlands itself has cycling participation rates 50% less an it did in 1950.

      Australia has cycling participation…

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    21. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Lydia, you have to compare like with like to make sense of this. Apologies to those who want references for everything (can't lay my hands on them right now), but broadly, per unit distance travelled, driving is safer than cycling, and cycling is safer than walking, and passenger jet travel is safer than all three. But generally you walk much shorter distances than you (progressively) cycle, drive or fly. If you take the time spent in the activity, the risk is reversed (though I haven't seen figures…

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    22. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Hi Seamus,
      You might have misunderstood some of what I said. I don't claim that helmet laws "strongly correlate" with participation (though I did suggest a strong correlation between cyclist safety and a culture of little or no helmet wearing). Remember that helmet laws are the minority position world wide, and in terms of national all age application, only really exist in Australia, New Zealand and the UAR, really a statistical blip on the world stage. What is pretty undeniable is that when…

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    23. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Very well put Alan-I'll have to remember this argument for when somebody tries to tell me how dangerous cycling is.

      Luckily for me Linda's stats haven't deterred me from cycling as I love being fit while hating to exercise. The only way I have managed to stay relatively fit is to commute by bicycle everywhere. I have found this to be incredibly pleasurable in Finland where I enjoy grade separated cycle ways and the most cyclist-aware motorists I have ever come across (though I must admit I have not been to the Netherlands yet).

      I do dream of the day that Australia builds Euro-style cycle paths everywhere, and that motorists are automatically held responsible for crashes with cyclists and pedestrians, like it is in many European countries. I also hope that the UK focusses on the biggest causes of cyclists' injuries and deaths: namely high traffic speeds and a lack of cycling infrastructure, and encourages helmet wearing amongst cyclists but does not mandate it.

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    24. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Hi Alan,
      This is incorrect, unfortunately, cycling is less safe than driving by both Km's travelled and time travelled. I have posted a study that describes this somewhere on this page among my many comments. The study was from nz but probably correlates roughly with Australia.
      Tis is not a statistic that I particularly like, as I spend more time on a bike than in a car, nevertheless it remains quite plausible that you're safer driving than cycling ( unless you're a 20 year old male on a Saturday night.. Agin you'll have to trust me that I have this statistic from a credible source).

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    25. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Hi Alan,
      I agree with most of what you've said except I would reverse your comment about MHLs significantly effecting cycling rates. I'm referring to commuting here, cycling rates have not changed greatly since 1976. It's gone from a low bas to a slightly higher low base.

      As a proportion of the Netherlands cycling participation Australia's cycling participation rate in the last 40 years is laughable. I blame the car culture, not MHLs it appears that I am alone on this.

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    26. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Its most likely my findings were from a European source.

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    27. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Carr - http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/muarc076.pdf

      Williams - http://www.bicycleinfo.nsw.gov.au/downloads/cycle_research/evaluation_of_nsw_introduction_of_compulsory_bicycle_helmet_legislation.pdf

      Marshall - http://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/media/vanilla/file/SA%20Helmet%20eval%201994%20SA%20Marshall.pdf (Bicycle Network Victoria is Australis largest bike riding organisiation, with about 50,000 members. It notes that 'A recently unearthed study into the impact of helmet legislation…

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    28. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Robinson's 2006 'review' included references to Carr, Marshall and Hendrie studies, but failed to note the existence of any of the above evidence, citing only 'evidence' that could be used to support the 'helmet laws are bad' argument.

      With respect to the Carr study
      - Robinson claimed that 'Non-head injuries fell by almost as much as head injuries, suggesting the main mechanism was reduced cycling, with perhaps some benefit from reduced speeding and drink-driving', and that 'the authors could…

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    29. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Alan Todd

      The claim that any reductions in overall cycling would have been negliglible and short lived is not 'pure speculation', it is supported by evidence in the Carr, Marshall, Williams and Walter studies.

      The participation data in the Marshall study shows that in SA, compared to 18 months before the helmet law, 18 months after the law, there was no difference in the level of (overall) cycling be (p<0.05). This is consistent with the NSW adult cyclist counts, the Finch findings re level of adult cycling…

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    30. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Re the 'places that are safest to cycle, and that their populations do not generally wear helmets' . . .

      The places that are the safest to cycle are that places that have cycling environments that are much safer than having to ride in 'car' lanes (or really poorly designed infrastructure that sometimes seems even more dangerous than cycling in a 'car' lane), as we too often have to do in Australia. Yilmaz found that cyclists admitted a trauma centre in the Netherlands suffered from more serious…

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    31. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      The above paper does provide support for helmet use or legislation but some care may be advised as it does not cover a number of issues.

      It provides survey information on the percentage wearing helmets without disclosing actual numbers counted. It does not provide actual counts of cyclists by age group or data on km cycled.

      For QLD about 75% of cycle accidents occurred to the under 20 age group. Teenagers formed a good proportion of cases. In Victoria they had a reduction in teenagers cycling…

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    32. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      Thanks Richard.

      It is interesting to note that King and Fraine found that the introduction of the law in Qld 'reduced severe cyclist head injuries by 26% more than would have been expected if they were following the sme trend as other injury types', and that 'Less severe head injuries decreased by 15% more than other injury types'.

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    33. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Colin has yet again cited a drop in cycling among teenagers from 1 study (presumably Finch), and failed to cite copious evidence from 4 other studies (Marshall, Carr, Williams and Walter) which shows that the reduction in overall cycling would have been small (closer to 4% than the 40% claimed), and short-lived, ie. the level of cycling was the same 18 months after the helmet law/s as it was 18 months before the law/s.

      He mentions the data in King and Fraine table 4, and states that 'road safety…

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    34. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda, again with lots of questionable claims.

      King and Fraine reported “The penalty and enforcement system took effect from the 1 January 1993”, therefore comparing census data 1991 to 1996 was reasonable. http://cyclehelmets.org/1194.html , details for QLD a reduction in the proportion cycling to work, 1991 to 1996, 2.56% to 1.84%, down by 28%.

      The law was introduced 1 January 1991 but strangely only enforced 2 years later in 1993.

      Linda says
      “Colin has yet again cited a drop in cycling…

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    35. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      The only this that is 'questionable' is your mental capacity with respect to comprehending that, as described http://www.plosone.org/annotation/listThread.action?root=73061, given the level of correlation between cyclist head and non-head injuries, a big (eg. 40%) drop in cycling would have been reflected in a big drop in non-head injuries (and clearly there was no such drop).

      After I pointed out to you that 'In the NSW data from the Walter study, the correlation coefficient for cyclist head vs…

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    36. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Setting aside the condescending personal comments and addressing the issues.

      Many issues occur with regards to helmet laws and methods to assess their effects. Probably the lack of regular full surveys adds to the problems. Governments legislating and then not properly monitoring the full effects and even when presented with a petition, no real accountability provided via Parliament. In the UK if petitions obtain certain levels of support a reply is provided or Parliament will debate the issue…

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    37. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      You state that 'Linda, your lack of understanding of the issues and how they relate, results in misleading claims and spreading false claims. Having been trained as an engineer I appreciate the value of figures and can see when they are being misused', then accuse me of 'condescending personal comments'? (ROFL!)

      After I introduced those 2 ACRS papers to you with 'The 2 (peer-reviewed) papers at the links shown below document, with respect to your NZ article . . .' you reply that 'It is unclear…

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  6. Martin Quirke

    Architect (UK Registered), PhD Candidate

    As you mention, motor vehicles and therefore drivers are almost always involved cases of serious cyclist of injury. That is helmets are sometimes present, sometimes not, but the one constant which cannot be denied is involvement of the ton weight (or ten) of metal which it's operator, the driver has failed to control. The elephant in the room therefore is our failure to acknowledge who is truly responsible.

    I get the impression you believe cost (the 'liberal' bit about individual actions impacting…

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  7. Michael Glass

    Teacher

    Matthew Thredgold has asserted that the customary helmet laws suppress bike riding. Where is the hard evidence to back up this assertion?

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    1. Andreas Olsen

      Strategic Planner

      In reply to Michael Glass

      Robinson, D. L. 2005, Safety in numbers in Australia: more walkers and cyclists, safer walking and cycling

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  8. Paul Biegler

    Adjunct Research Fellow in Bioethics at Monash University

    Thanks for the comments thus far. I'd direct readers to a fuller defence of mandatory helmet laws that Marilyn Johnson and I recently published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, which can be found at:

    http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2013/06/10/medethics-2013-101476.abstract

    VicRoads provides further data (in addition to the cited study by Olivier and colleagues) suggesting that MHL do not deter cycling - bicycle numbers nearly doubled at suburban locations in Melbourne between 2005 and 2012…

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    1. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Paul Biegler

      Cherry picking the years between 2005 and 2012 to gauge the effect of regulations that came in in 1990 seems a bit odd.

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    2. Georg Antony

      analyst

      In reply to Paul Biegler

      "MHL do not deter cycling - bicycle numbers nearly doubled at suburban locations in Melbourne between 2005 and 2012". "Evidence" at the level of a high-school essay, uncorrected for all sorts of changes including population growth, infrastructure, etc.

      What needs to be established is what levels of bicycle use would be there now without MHL vs. what is there now with MHL.

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    3. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Paul Biegler

      <blockquote>
      VicRoads provides further data (in addition to the cited study by Olivier and colleagues) suggesting that MHL do not deter cycling - bicycle numbers nearly doubled at suburban locations in Melbourne between 2005 and 2012. See:
      </blockquote>

      So you're comparing the numbers post-helmet-laws with post-helmet-laws and saying that helmet laws make no difference in numbers? Seriously? I must be misreading you.

      <blockquote>
      In relation to the point that car drivers might wear helmets…

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    4. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Paul Biegler

      Paul,
      I was aware of the study you led which was published last year. The stand out feature that stuck in my mind was the correlation between speed of the cyclist and the risk of head injury.

      From p.41 "Only a single factor, cyclist speed before the crash, proved to be a significant predictor of
      head injury risk from the modelling exercise. A cyclist travelling at 30kph or over prior to
      the crash was estimated to have nearly 5 times the odds of sustaining a head injury in the
      crash…

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Luke Mancell

      You are confusing cycle safety with motoring safety.

      If you have found evidence for motor vehicle drivers head injury rates being substantially reduced in non racing circumstances please provide a link. If such evidence exists, and can be shown to produce a substantial effect, it builds a stronger case for making helmets compulsory for motor vehicles. Unfortunately it does not have an effect on the argument for cycle helmets- which must be argued on its own merits.

      The logical fallacy you have fallen into is a variation of the strawman fallacy, I believe.

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  9. Michael Brown

    Professional, academic, company director

    "And the risk of head injury went up threefold when riding over 20 kilometres per hour, which is a pretty conservative commuter speed."
    So an obvious safety initiative here is to introduce speed limits for cyclists.

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    1. Jon Hunt

      Medical Practitioner

      In reply to Michael Brown

      Making accurate speedos on bikes compulsory. I don't think so. They don't exist.

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    2. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      Of course accurate bike speedos exist. If adjusted correctly (and they are easily user adjustable, unlike motorvehicle speedos), they're really quite accurate.

      What would be incredibly stupid though, would be to introduce unrealistically low speed limits for that one mode of transport. Last time I was hospitalised, I was traveling at 10km/h before landing heavily on an arm that didn't eventually turn out to be broken (blame the Swanston st tram stupor stops safety initiative for that one…

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    3. Jon Hunt

      Medical Practitioner

      In reply to Tim Connors

      OK, they're accurate when set correctly. But they are not calibrated and not standardised. Anyone can fiddle the settings to whatever speed they want, unintentionally or not. Not to mention how unlikely it is for police to be radaring/lasering the odd bicycle on a path when there are bigger fish to catch.

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  10. Richard Bean

    logged in via Facebook

    This article is very one-sided and desperately lacking in perspective - it's motor vehicles driven at high speed which impose the safety problem on cyclists; it's not an intrinsically unsafe activity. I strongly recommend the chapter on Cycling Safety by Jacobsen and Rutter in the 2012 book "City Cycling" (edited by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler) for an international academic perspective on these matters.
    "Helmets do not create safety; only a safe environment, free from the dangers created by motorized…

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  11. Matthew Thredgold

    Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

    I think this article shows that it's really about time the Australian states and New Zealand review their mandatory cycle helmet laws, with a view of abolishing them and looking at better methods to improve cyclist safety that actually lead to higher cycling rates.

    20 years on and in plenty of ways mandatory helmet laws have proven to be a failure.

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    1. Jon Hunt

      Medical Practitioner

      In reply to Matthew Thredgold

      Just wondering if there is anyone here who actually rides a bike? Because I do and I fully appreciate that it is a completely hazardous way to travel. There is no good reason not to wear a helmet. They will do you no harm. You can argue that they prevent people from riding but I think that you could just as easily argue the opposite just as effectively.

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    2. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      I ride and I wear a helmet. But there are times when it is unnecessary such as when riding on a cycle path which is a nice way of spending a sunny day. I am always more frightened about traffic hitting me than falling off and injuring myself. MHL are a sideshow (and cyclists are getting picked on and put in cotton wool to assuage motorist guilt, rather than looking at the real danger to cyclists which is motor vehicles) More emphasis should be made on safe places to ride. Road funding gets billions. Pedestrian and cyclists get peanuts. That's the real scandal.

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    3. Tim Connors

      System Administrator

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      > that you could just as easily argue the opposite just as effectively.

      Well, you could argue that, but it'd be a non-sequitor that didn't make sense.

      For many of us, wearing a helmet most of the time is no problem, and parts of the world have demonstrated you can get better than 80% usage rates even without a helmet law.

      But there are situations where I would be incredibly annoyed to be pulled over and slapped with some form of compliance order. Going down my local street to the cafe, for instance. I've taken to not wearing my helmet recently, and sorry, but I just do not care - a helmet in that case is not worth the effort, as easy as it is. I'll wear it when my risk is increased beyond that base level. I'll wear it when it makes sense. In the meantime, I'll just rely on the fact that I've never seen a police officer ever in Canterbury Vic, and especially not on the local 40km/h road where 85% of the drivers are doing 50km/h or more.

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    4. Etienne de Briquenel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      I ride a bike Jon. In fact I've been using a bike for transport for over two decades because (a) it's cheap and convenient, and (b) I have a fear of driving that has prevented me from using a car. The majority of my bike trips are short hops around the neighbourhood to shop, visit friends, go to the cinema, etc. I also use a front-box cargo bike to transport my son to kindergarten and pick up the groceries.

      I must exist in an opposite universe to you because I've always felt comfortable on a bike and would never describe riding as a "completely hazardous way to travel". The helmet law has unfairly targeted the more risk-averse utility riders who are placed in the same risk category as roadies on Beach Road. As such the demographics of transport cycling in Australia has shifted more towards a sports-orientated fitness regime for (predominantly) male riders. If the UK wants to go down this same path then so be it.

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    5. Jon Hunt

      Medical Practitioner

      In reply to Etienne de Briquenel

      Yes, you must live in an opposite universe!
      I was on holidays in Melbourne for a weekend, and on the first day someone was 'looking at a coke can on the road' instead of at me, the second day someone turned left suddenly whilst braking in front of me and I was only just able to get out of the way. My brother has had a fractured arm due to riding a bicycle. If you only ride to the shops, fair enough, and if you are able to avoid risk, fair enough. But if you want to commute with a bike, and I think anyone can choose to do that, you may need to ride on the edge of the road with semis travelling only a metre away. You should feel apprehensive. It is hazardous, unless you are able to avoid busy roads and sometimes that's not possible or practical. You have no protection, apart from a helmet should you wear one.

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    6. Etienne de Briquenel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      From my personal observations the vast majority of work commuters wear a helmet in Melbourne. (I think the last bike count recorded a compliance rate of up to 99%.)

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    7. The Warrior Factor

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      Helmets encourage people to ride? I don't think so. You try wearing one on a hot day, even a warm day. These are foam. They insulated the head. It's the point of intolerable. Because of that, I gave up riding outside winter when the state govt in cahoots with the Helmet Nazis Victoria (aka Bicycle Network Victoria) tripled the fines. That turned the police into rabies-riddled attack dogs.

      The stats don't like. Helmet-mandatory regions have vastly lower cyclists and infrastructure than helmet-choice regions. Those differences are huge.

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    8. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to The Warrior Factor

      Really?
      'Holland – 27% of trips, 848 km per person per year
      Denmark – 19%, 936 km pp/year
      Germany – 10%, 291 km pp/year
      UK – 2%, 75 km pp/year
      All these countries have 'helmet choice'. The UK has cycling participation rates barely greater than Australia's . What could account for this? Perhaps the greatest determinant of cycling participation is not MHLs.
      http://cyclinginfo.co.uk/blog/2636/cycling/stats-uk/

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    9. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Yes you're right, Seamus; MHL aren't the major factor keeping people off their bikes - its the abysmal cycling infrastructure that is the main cause of that. However, the MHL doesn't help people get on their bikes either, especially not the non-sports/serious commuter style cyclist. Repealing/ignoring the enforcement of MHL would be a small step in the direction of improving cycling rates in Australia. At least then Australia might be able to get to the UK's cycling rates of 2% - its a significant improvement on the 1.3% we have now (ww.cycle-helmets.com/helmet_statistics.html).

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    10. nik dow

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Whatever "the major factor" means in a the complex of issues to determine whether a given trip is taken by bicycle or not, helmet laws are one factor. The number sits around 1 in 5 Australians that cite helmet law as the single biggest factor, and it would be a secondary factor in an unknown number of other people. I base this on 3 surveys, one by the CPF, one by Chris Rissel et al and the third is the most recent, study of reasons why people don't use Melbourne Bike Share. It's not credible to maintain that helmet laws have no effect on cycling numbers. It's not credible to ignore the lost health benefits due to helmet law.

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    11. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to nik dow

      Reasons why people don't cycle:
      Now back to 2012....

      reasons people don't cycle for transport:

      unsafe riding conditions speed /volume of traffic: 40-60 % of respondents (grouped as either non-riders of active riders)

      speed /volume of traffic: 40-50 % of respondents (grouped as either non-riders of active riders)

      lack of bike lanes: 30-50%

      destination too far away (approx 30%)

      don't own a bike (approx 22%)

      don't like wearing a helmet: (approx 18%)

      there are other criteria…

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    12. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      I have no issues with rescinding MHLs in Australia. But I also don't pretend that it will create a cycling nirvana, nor that it won't result in greater amount and proportion of head injuries.

      Unfortunately for anti-MHL activists helmets appear to work to mitigate against injury and MHLs appear to have reduced the proportion of head injuries. To argue against MHLs means creating a strong case that the laws inhibit cycling. The experience in other countries, such as Britain, us , Belgium Ireland…

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    13. Ashley Hooper

      Farm worker

      In reply to Citizen SG

      And yet approximately one quarter of morning peak hour road traffic in London now consists of bicycles - I presume you heard that piece of news?

      The rest of the UK is probably dragging London's excellent progress down somewhat.

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    14. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Ashley Hooper

      Yes, I hav heard of recent improvements in cycling participation, that is most welcome. How did this come about I wonder? It seems that to improve cycling participation you first put in strategies to improve cycling access.
      You may have missed the research that describes greater incidence of cycling death and injury in the UK from cycling accidents but I can't expect you to read everything.
      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/27/uk-road-deaths
      Like I said, I'm happy for MHLs to b rescinded in Australia, so long as everyone acknowledges that head injuries are likely to rise if more people rid helmetless.

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    15. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to nik dow

      Nik,
      You wrote: 'The number sits around 1 in 5 Australians that cite helmet law as the single biggest factor'.
      Do you mean 1 in 5 of ALL Australians or 1 in 5 of those who currently don't ride? The distinction is important.

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    16. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      "Just wondering if there is anyone here who actually rides a bike? Because I do and I fully appreciate that it is a completely hazardous way to travel."

      Then perhaps you need to check a few facts: regular cyclists, those most exposed to the risks, live longer and are fitter, healthier and slimmer than general, so it is more dangerous not to ride a bike than to ride one.

      I ride a bike every day, and I was one of the first people where I live to wear a helmet, then someone suggested that I check the data, and I haven't worn one since. Cycle helmets at best make no difference to cycling safety, and at worst increase risk. The largest ever research project about cycle helmets found a small but significant increase in risk with helmet wearing. Helmeted cyclists have a 14% increase in risk of collision.

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    17. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      MHLs probably have some effect on cycling levels, but what really does have an effect is the propaganda campaigns used to get support for those laws. These campaigns grossly exaggerate the risks of cycling and the protective effects of helmets. You might notice that the helmet manufacturers make almost no claims about any improved safety, other than that the helmet has passed some irrelevant laboratory test, preferring to concentrate on style and aerodynamics, presumably because their advertisements…

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    18. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      That's interesting. I have read most of the evidence that I could find on helmets. I started out (definitely) pro-MHL. Here are my conclusions:

      1. On libertarian grounds helmets should be optional for adults.

      2. helmets are effective for mitigating against the effects of cycling collisions upon the brain. There is plenty of evidence to suggest this protective effect. There is very little evidence to suggest no effect or that helmets make injuriy more likely.

      3. Helmets should be encouraged…

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    19. Luke Mancell

      Equities trader

      In reply to Jon Hunt

      I ride daily for incidental exercise transport. I wear a helmet because I get fined if I don't. When I'm overseas I never wear a helmet. If I was not forced to wear a helmet in Australia I would not.

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    20. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      You appear to have overlooked the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie, showing that any reduction in (overall) cycling would have been negligible (and short-lived), and that reductions in cyclist head injuries vastly outweighed any reductions in other road user injuries, and cyclist non-head injuries.

      Please provide references for the many claims you have made to the contrary, without providing any supporting evidence.

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    21. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Have you examined the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie?

      Please provide some references to support your assertion that helmet proponents grossly exagerate the protective effect.

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    22. nik dow

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Sorry for late reply. I'm basing my figure on 3 surveys, one of which was asking people what put them off using Melbourne bike share (about 20% not want to wear helmet, with another 35% couldn't be bothered to go and find a helmet), a NSW survey and another by the Cycle Promotion Fund. From memory, the surveys didn't exclude people who do ride a bike, since whether you ride or not there are still things that put you off riding.

      In any case so few people use bikes for transport it would make much difference.

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    23. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to nik dow

      Hi Nik,
      No problem. You stated:
      . "The number sits around 1 in 5 Australians that cite helmet law as the single biggest factor...(to whether a) given trip is taken by bicycle or not..."

      That makes little sense... do you mean that some people with bikes and helmets chose not cycle 20% of the time because of helmet law? My recollection of Rissell's survey was that 20% of respondents who did not cycle at all cited the helmet law as A reason (they may well have had other reasons as well). This is different to saying that 20% of exisitng riders do not a given trip because of the helmet law. It is also different to stating that if MHLs were rescinded this would immediately translate to a 20% increase in commuter cycling: the reason being that the main reasons that people don't cycle is not helmet laws, something that you have ommitted in your explanation of people's cycling commuter choices; but is entirely germane to any discussion on commuter cycling.

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  12. Gerard Dean

    Managing Director

    My two cents worth goes back to an excellent ABC Foreign Correspondent program on bicycle use in Copenhagen (From memory). The Danish authorities did consider the helmet law but found that it would reduce bicycle use, especially among professional women who felt the helmet would harm their hair style and teenagers who considered them uncool.

    The authorities reasoned that, on balance, the health benefits of keeping teenagers and adults cycling were greater than the health cost due to the occasional head injury.

    Interesting!

    Gerard Dean

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    1. Graham Dawson

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Gerard Dean

      Good two cent's worth. From a public health perspective, the MHL just trades head injuries for cardio-vascular disease.

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  13. Mitchell Lawlor

    Honorary Associate at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law and Medicine at University of Sydney

    The problem with much evidence in this area is that it necessarily homogenises all types of cycling.

    I regularly ride a Boris bike (London bike-share) to work, I never get above 20km/h, and am invariably on low speed, low traffic density roads. This is quite different from other cyclists who cycle longer distances and at much higher speeds.

    Surely the latter have more to gain from helmets, and compulsory legislation would impede bike share schemes (who carries a helmet everywhere with them?)

    By all means try education about helmet use, but compulsory legislation robs individuals of the opportunity to make their own context specific decision.

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    1. Luke Mancell

      Equities trader

      In reply to Mitchell Lawlor

      This is backed up by Darwin, NT's experience of helmets. They don't require helmets for low speed cycle path cycling. This is generally done on an upright bike. Were are the figures that show NT utility cyclists are clogging up emergency wards with their $2,500,000 injuries?

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Luke Mancell

      Except for two years, the rates of hospitalisation per 100000 people in the NT exceeded every other state or territory in the decade from 2000-2009. In those two years of exception the rates of hospitalisation were about average with other Australian states and territories.

      Just thought you might like to know.

      http://www.aihw.gov.au/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=10737421990

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Clearly I meant the rates of hospitalisation from cycling accidents.

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  14. Citizen SG

    Citizen

    The headline asks: 'Should the UK embrace mandatory bike helmet laws?'. I think, no.

    Not because helmets are ineffective (they aren't), nor because cycling participation rates will fall (they may not fall by much at all), nor because helmets make injuries worse (they don't), nor because it makes cycling 'more dangerous' (!!) nor because it makes cycling 'fear generating' (again: !!).

    Helmets should not be compulsory because an adult should be reasonably allowed to judge risk for themselves…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Chris Gillham

      I only looked at the first reference which confuses recreational cycling participation rates with modal transport rates and misinterprets the steady decline of cycling single mode journey from 1986-1991 as somehow disconnected from the same decline from 1991 to 1996.

      Moreover, it fails to account for the statistic that single mode journeys by bicycle to work has increased from 1976 to 2013.

      Should I bother reading the other two links?

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  15. Jane McNab

    mature age PhD student

    As an Australian who cycles a lot in the city with over 500,000 cyclists per day... helmets are a MUST. It doesn't STOP people cycling. It has NOT been used as a replacement for safe cycling infrastructure. Not in Australia anyway - maybe that's what goes on in the UK. Helmets prevents head injury, in the same way ski helmets prevent injury. Please do not mistake 'nanny state' for reasonable policy. Have you had, or do you know anyone who has had, an acquired brain injury? For a useful opinion, they could be asked....

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    1. The Warrior Factor

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Jane McNab

      Which city is that? I'm in Melbourne, a city of 4mil, and there's definately not 1 in 8 people riding a bike. More like 1 in 800. The helmet law has stopped cycling numbers grow. We are 2% of all trips compare to 40% in some parts of Europe. Infrastructure is appalling as the percentages. The only spot it's any decent is near the CBD, and this just to create a tourist vista. Get 5 minutes out of the CBD and it's into the hell.

      Remember, the helmet law is not about helmet wearing. Anyone can do…

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    2. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to Jane McNab

      Jane when I cycled to and from work in Brisbane I felt like you do - helmets are essential. I cycled too fast, the traffic was too fast and the road conditions often made me fear for my life.

      Since moving to Finland I have changed my opinion regarding MHL; there are situations where wearing a helmet should not be compulsory such as riding a bike on a footpath (legal in Queensland) to a nearby location. Many more Australian teenagers might engage in this kind of activity (like I did pre-MHL…

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  16. The Warrior Factor

    logged in via Twitter

    Talk about being discriminatory with facts. As incidentally helmet laws are themselves. You only need compare some parts of Europe where 40% of all trips are by bike whereas Aus is 2%. Cycling rates have not even grown with population. The key reason is the helmet law. First, it portrays cycling as dangerous. Second, govts don't act with better infrastructure.

    To clear some things up...

    The one most important "risk" ignored is the very chance of any crash, and especially one that hits your…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to The Warrior Factor

      Cycling participation rates in Port Philip (all ages): 35%
      Cycling participation rate 10-17 year olds in port Philip: 46%
      Cycling participation rates 10-17 year olds in Vic: 34%
      Cycling Participation rates in the netherlands: 29%

      http://cyclingresourcecentre.org.au/images/uploads/post/attachment/ALGCPS2012_Port_Phillip_Final.pdf

      What could possibly explain such a high participation rate in port Philip, despite helmet mandation?

      http://www.atrf.info/papers/2008/2008_Bauman_Rissel_Garrard_Ker_Spiedel_Fishman.pdf

      Whilst I support adult's right to make decisions about whether to wear a helmet or not it doesn't appear to be a large factor for bicycle participation

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    2. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus,

      The cycling participation rates that you quote aren't comparing apples with apples. The good residents of Port Phillip weren't asked how many times a week they used a bicycle: those impressive stats are for people who used a bike at least once a week.

      Conversely in the Netherlands 30% only travel by bike and car trips in Amsterdam decreased by 14% due to an increase in bicycle use. (http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6022) If only a major Australian city could have a 14% reduction in…

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    3. nik dow

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus, I can hear the laughter from here, and it's coming from the Netherlands. You seriously compare Port Philip with NL? Get a grip man.

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    4. Garry Baker

      researcher

      In reply to Citizen SG

      " What could possibly explain such a high participation rate in port Philip, despite helmet mandation? ""

      In a word, "Lycra. Riding a bike alone Beach Rd - or anywhere, is a non event without the body hugging armour.

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      I agree, the statistics I quoted are not directly comparable.

      I'm not sure that MHLs caused ( totally) the drop in cycling rates in the 90s, given that urban design and car ownership also ncreased a is time. I'm sure that MHLs turned many people off cycling but I'm also sure there are other factors at play.

      See below:

      http://www.melbourneinstitute.com/downloads/hilda/Bibliography/Working+Discussion+Research_Papers/2005/Flood_etal_Commuting_in_Australia.pdf

      Excerpt:
      In Sydney…

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    6. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Garry Baker

      Right..... So these cyclists aren't cyclists? Because I commute wearing Lycra I'm not a commuter? What would you prefer me to wear? Tweed?

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    7. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to nik dow

      Well, Nik what does compare to Copenhagen and NL?
      Certainly not rural spain, rural Italy, rural France, Britain, Ireland, the Czech Republic, malaysia and dozens of other countries without MHLs and with poor cycling rates.
      Sure, lets rescind MHLs but don't pretend that we'll all be pushing city bikes with tulips in them the day after.

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    8. Lydia Isokangas

      Australian in Finland

      In reply to Citizen SG

      The story of the drop in cycling in Australia is a long and sorry one. I agree with you that the main reasons that most people don't cycle is the lack of cycle friendly infrastructure and the long distances that people have to travel to get to their destinations. Having to wear a helmet is merely inconvenient and uncomfortable.

      My own experience of the introduction of MHL was slightly different to yours: I was still at school and I was riding my bike everyday to school, along with my two siblings…

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    9. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Lydia Isokangas

      Hi Lydia,
      There's nothing in what you have written that I disagree with except your first sentence. Depending on which statistic you read, cycling rates (at least for commuting) don't appear to have changed much since 1976. This was a surprise to me as well.
      We should have done what the Netherlands did in the 70s. We didn't. That's the problem. As far as I can see it.
      Cheers,
      Seamus.

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  17. Garry Baker

    researcher

    There's not a lot of depth to this article because its content seems to be confined to secondary safety, where crash proofing is the primary focus - Indeed, it's missing a few societal aspects entirely. Years ago some places in Britain mandated the wearing of helmets, and oddly enough, the local death soon tolls went up. Heart attacks mostly, along with some age related failures to exercise. Older folks simply gave riding altogether- they not wanting to look like a pox doctors clerk, or fiddle around with a skull cap when they pedaled down to the village for their daily needs. Instead they drove.

    Now try that one on - where folks have ridden all their lives without too much mishap, then a Nanny state(20 something year old safety boffin, or academic), decides to make laws for the good of its citizens.

    Translated into age old common sense, - it then becomes a new and improved formula for mandating Euthanasia

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  18. Tom Nockolds

    Project Manager

    Yet again, this article and associated comments have shown that there is no consensus among the academic community on the effect of mandatory helmet laws, nor on their suitability as a public health measure.

    Luckily, as individuals we don't need the scientists to agree before we can form an opinion. If you feel that the helmet laws in Australia should be repealed, there is a petition at http://www.freestylecyclists.org/

    The laws were brought in based on very little evidence and likewise they can be repealed without iron-clad proof that they harm us more than they protect us.

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  19. nik dow

    logged in via Twitter

    This article mainly operates by setting up the straw men and knocking them down with selective and cherry-picked studies and statistics. I'm sure the author managed to convince himself he was right.

    Interesting that the issue of helmets for car occupants was not raised in the article however. That could prove awkward.

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to nik dow

      I agree the article is very flawed and I don't agree with MHLs either. Yet helmets for drivers is also a strawman... Regard the beam in thy own eye before the mote in another's.

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  20. Richard Burton

    logged in via Facebook

    "Should the UK embrace mandatory bike helmet laws?"

    Only if we want the obesity levels of Australia. Sue Abbot has driven a coach and horses through the Australian helmet law and it is now impossible to enforce.

    Nowhere with a helmet law can demostrate any reduction in risk to cyclists, only a reduction in cyclists, which more than explains the fall in cyclists deaths.

    Regular cyclists, those most exposed to the risks, live longer and are fitter, healthier and slimmer than general, so it…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      I'd be interested to see some hard data on he projected numbers of cycling trips that would result from rescinding MHLs in 2013. If numbers of cycling trips increased markedly then you'd projections of increased population health might have some substance.

      I'd expect that given the recent surge in bicycle purchases ( outnumbering vehicles in recent years) that cycles in Australian homes must be nearing saturation. All these bikes must have helmets and riders. What wold bring them out onto th roads to use there bikes for commuting etc, I wonder, are they daunted by their helmets or something else?

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    2. The Warrior Factor

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Citizen SG

      In Australia, it's difficult to know, and the increase might be small given the the decades-long marginalisation of cycling as dangerous, the general hate against cyclists and the anti-cycling culture, not to mention the deplorable infrastructure. It could take a decade or two to unwind all that.

      All that you do know is that when the law came in, rates dropped 30%, for kids up to 80%, they've only recovered to match population growth, and we're one of the fattest countries in the world. You can…

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to The Warrior Factor

      really, anti-MHL predisposed researchers are far better off researching this cohort of people that actually would participate in more cycling (should MHLs be rescinded), rather than trying to prove that helmets don't work. Then this could be compared to existing epidimiological data to project 'savings' in public health (should such an efect be quantifiable) with increased activity/reduced driving. At the moment this is very unclear and tends to be projected from 1991 data.
      of course the alternative…

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    4. Mitchell Lawlor

      Honorary Associate at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law and Medicine at University of Sydney

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus - I don't see much strength in the argument (made by others here) that a significant % of people don't ride as they want to feel 'the wind in their hair'.

      For me the main issue is that MHL would decimate the cycle share schemes in certain cities. I have lived in Paris and London and observed a large volume of low speed short distance trips made without helmets using Velib/Boris bikes. These are likely low risk trips and the requirement to carry a helmet around all day would likely significantly diminish use of these systems. (I have seen the bike share stands in Melbourne but have rarely seen anyone using them - although this could be for reasons other than no helmet as well.)

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Mitchell Lawlor

      Yes, I agree.
      i am not particularly supportive of the bike share program in Melbourne, I have to say, but after using the programs in London and paris I have to agree they have it sorted there.

      Despite what you might infer from my posts I am not particularly worried if MHLs are rescinded in Australia. I would prefer from a public health perspective that a sufficient case could be made for this but don't particularly mind if MHLs are rescinded. I'm sure that i would not bother with a helmet…

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    6. Etienne de Briquenel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus. you raise a good point as to questioning why people don't want to wear a helmet when riding a bike. Given the endless sets of statistics surrounding this debate it's interesting that the various reasons for helmet aversion have not really been identified.

      I'm sure the libertarians out there would be against the mandation aspect of helmets but I'm sure for most people the likely reasons would be discomfort and inconvenience. This aversion may restrict the amount of riding they do or turn them off for good, which is why I think the law is bad for cycling. (I don't actually know of any people turned off driving due to seatbelts. Do you?)

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    7. Mitchell Lawlor

      Honorary Associate at the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law and Medicine at University of Sydney

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Regarding your final paragraph - from a global perspective the default position is no compulsory legislation and I think those who want to institute (UK) or perpetuate (Australia) MHL should justify why.

      I certainly take the libertarian position and the author of this article only presents one point against this: harm to others because of shared health care costs. This is a common public health argument and I often find it a stretch - does it mean that in countries like Switzerland and the US where mandatory private health insurance exists they would argue that MHL are less justifiable than in countries with national health insurance schemes?

      Taking and managing risk is an integral part of life and those with national health insurance systems subsidise all sorts of outcomes because of this. To use this as the sole argument against the libertarian position seems weak.

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    8. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Mitchell Lawlor

      As I've stated before i agree that the libertarian position of no MHLs (at least for adults) is probably correct in the case of bicycle helmets. My reason for getting there is different to yours.
      I think that helmets are insufficiently protective, and cycling not sufficiently dangerous in all circumstances, to justify the infringement of liberty. If all riding was on busy public roads then I might differ, but then i don't know that the epidemiology really justifies this either.

      i don't agree with you position that the default global position on a law should necessarily inform our legislation. We might never have legislated for women''s right to vote, abortion law etc if we took this as the arbiter for legislation.

      I don't think the world norm should inform public health policy, I think evidence should inform public health policy - with ethics as a framework, of course.

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    9. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Etienne de Briquenel

      Interesting question. I know of no cyclists, or ex-cyclists, who no longer ride due to helmet mandation. I remember when the law came in and i remember buying my first helmet.
      I can think of one woman in my youth who refused to wear a seatbelt when that law came in - although she still drove. I dimly remember seatbelt laws being controversial, but everyone seemed to get over it.
      perhaps driving has some special power over Australians - it certainly seems that way when our urban design is so auto-centric. Which is the problem for cycle activists, of course, people don't drive because they don't want to wear bike helmets, people drive because they live so far from work, shops schools etc.

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    10. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Germany does not have a helmet law, yet has a higher level of obesity than Australia.

      You appear to have overlooked the evidence in the studies by Carr (Vic), Williams (NSW), Marshall (SA) and Hendrie, showing that any reduction in (overall) cycling would have been negligible (and short-lived), and that reductions in cyclist head injuries vastly outweighed any reductions in other road user injuries, and cyclist non-head injuries.

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    11. Chris Gillham

      Journalist

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Coupled with your Tin Tin reference, those studies found nothing of the sort for cycling participation.
      _

      Tin Tin (NZ 2010) - http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/10/655

      "Compared to 1988-91, rates of traumatic brain injuries were lower in 1996-99 and 2003-07. In contrast, there was an increasing trend over time in rates of injuries to other body parts."

      "The "safety in numbers" phenomenon suggests that the risk profile of cyclists may improve if more people cycle. In New Zealand, the…

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    12. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Chris Gillham

      Thanks Chris, I knew all that but couldn't be bothered to dig out the references!

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    13. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Chris Gillham

      Re 'arm-head injury ratio reference is a fallacy that pretents arm injuries mirror participation. Try the ratio with legs' . . .

      Results from at least 2 studies published in international, peer-reviewed, scientific journals contain results that make it make it 'bleedingly obvious' that your fallacy claim is in fact the fallacy
      - the regression co-efficients (and p-values) in the 2011 Walter paper are almost identical (the numerically-challenged may find the pictures in figure 2 more comprehensible…

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    14. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Chris Gillham

      It seems that there may also have been an oversight (or calculation error) in the paper you co-authored with Prof Rissel, which claimed that there has been a big decline in per capita cycling (not an increase, as suggested by bike sales). In TheConversation article discussing the paper, Prof Rissel states that 'the Australian population aged nine years and over grew by 58.4% between 1986 and 2006'.

      When the article first appeared, I posted this reply:
      'Which ABS/Census document/s did you use…

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    15. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Chris Gillham

      It is an ecological fallacy that the helmet laws were responsible for big reductions in cycling to work (unless the helmet laws were also responsible for reductions in walking and bus travel to work).

      At the 1991 census, jurisdictions with helmets laws comprised about 70% of the Australian population.
      Between 1986 and 1991
      - cycle travel to work fell by 6.9%
      bus travel to work fell by 14%
      Between 1991 and 1996, when the remaining 30% of the population was also subject to helmet laws
      - cycle…

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    16. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Burton

      You have still not provided references for
      - ' most observers think that cycling participation fell by more than the death rate'
      - 'with reduced levels of exercise causing many times the deaths of cyclists'
      - 'since the energy of a collision increases as a square of the speed, so any protection rapidly becomes irrelevant, with the forces involved many times that of the helmet's capacity' and 'the helmet might make some difference on the path, but are extremely unlikely to make any difference on a road'
      - 'cycling is about as risky as walking'
      - 'cycle helmets at best make no difference to cycling safety, and at worst increase risk'
      - 'helmet proponents grossly exagerate the protective effect'
      - 'the fall in the number of cyclists after the implementation of the law is well documented, by many independent observers'

      TheConversation is not an anti-helmeg blog, if you can't be bothered to cite your 'evidence' then you should refrain from 'contributing' to the discussion.

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  21. Colin Clarke

    logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

    Should Australia scrap the mandatory bike helmet laws?

    There is an excellent case for removing the mandatory requirement, health benefits of more people cycling, civil liberty and human rights considerations, avoiding excessive and unnecessary fines, promoting city bike share schemes and focusing on further improvements to road and cycling safety without helmets.

    The UK has considered cycle helmet legislation proposals several times. It is not a sound proposal from both a health and safety perspective. If the Conversation allow a balanced approach I will write an article - Should Australia scrap the mandatory bike helmet laws? and detail the main points.

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Hi Colin,
      I imagine the push for MHLs in the UK is as a resul of this:
      http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/27/uk-road-deaths
      I actually think reducing cycling collisions makes more sense than introducing helmet laws. It's impossible not to concede, however, that helmets mitigate against head injury in a collision and should be promoted a part of any cycling safety strategy. Bu promotion does not equal legislation.

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Colin,
      There is an ethical case for mandatory helmets. It is the same ethical case that mandates vaccination, car seat belts, scuba diving flags, mandated brakes on bikes, should I go on?

      The case against MHLs lies in epidemiology. There is insufficient a case for MHLs for adults in Australia, I have no opinion about the UK.

      The problem, as I see it, about anti-MHL activists is that the word helmet leads to a suspension of logic. There is nothing wrong with the state mandating a reduction in liberty for a public health benefit, it's just that it probably isn't warranted in the case of bicycle helmets.

      To reiterate: I do not support MHLs for adults in Australia. There is a valid case for a restriction on personal liberty by the state . There is insufficient epidemiological evidence to support MHLs for adults (IMO). Tis could change if the evidence changes. That's where we appear to differ.

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    3. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG

      The ethical case for both children and adults would entail evaluating the merits of legislation in both cases. According to the research you access and the health implications assumed, plus other factors, in general some have tended to support legislation for children while giving adults freedom of choice.

      Clearing the intention could be considered moderate. In practice teenagers where discouraged more than other groups. Children's cycling levels reduced appreciably and many children who are overweight trend to develop medical problems. Most serious cycling accidents to children stem from not taking sufficient care. So the solution is better training, improved infrastructure, improved regulation to control road dangers that benefit all road users. The answer is not with helmets, fines, discouraging cycling and a higher accident rate that helmets foster. The Netherlands has proven what works in general terms and helps to give direction.

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    4. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      I tire of lecturing a helmet researcher on the research but here goes:

      you are incorrect on a number of points:

      1. In Australia the greatest disincentive for children cycling (at least to school) is not helmets but their parents - in particular stranger danger and road safety (being struck by a car).

      2. I forget the percentage but i think it is around 50% of serious injuries in childrens cycling involves off road use. Infrastructure improved regulation etc will not affect this cohort…

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Citizen SG

      I forgot one point:
      you state; 'Children's cycling levels reduced appreciably and many children who are overweight trend to develop medical problems'

      Again - children's choice to ride or not ride is influenced greatly by their parents. You also assume that cycling is the only activity that children can, or perhaps ought, to participate in.

      Do bicycle helmets prevent children from walking, running, playing football, netball, basketball, soccer, hockey, swimming, surfing, running, should I go…

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    6. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus,

      you say you tire of lecturing others who demonstrably know better, but if only it were so!

      Your first point is wrong, and it is not the parents who prevent their offspring from cycling, but the constant barrage of propaganda to which those parents have been subjected. Before the propaganda campaigns which deliberately exagerated the risks of cycling, parents were happy to let children ride bikes, and there was no epidemic of dead children as a result, and parents took some care that…

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    7. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Hi Richard,
      If you xamined the evidence you will find that my reply to colin was substantiated. Type 'bike helmets' into the conversation and read my posts.

      i will reply to two items. Your first, concerning parents making decisions about children's cycling particpation. I did not make any refernce to the cause of the parent's decision. Justthat it is the parent's decision. The child does not choose not to ride because of helmet dislike, they are prevented from riding by their parents. The motivation of the parents stranger danger and fear of their child being struck by a car, at least that's what the studies show - but make up your own reality if you don't like it.

      My second point is this, you stated:
      'I look forward to your ill-informed response.'

      As this has now descended into ad hominem and I don't feel that further debate with you is fruitful.

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    8. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      You reference a site that in its first line states:

      'CTC has long campaigned against helmet laws'

      Unless you are trying to convince a credulous audience I would expect that you would address the significant body of source evidence that puts a lie to your claims.

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    9. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG

      In 2002, deaths in the UK due to lack of exercise, obesity and heart
      disease were approximately 187,000 compared to
      129 deaths from cycling (Office for National
      Statistics, UK11). Per million population,
      approximately 2 cyclist deaths occur annually
      compared with 3000+ from circulatory diseases.

      http://www.ta.org.br/site/Banco/7manuais/colin_clarke_cycle_helmet.pdf

      It is true that the CTC has campaigned against helmet laws for a number of years.

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    10. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Colin,
      Quoting random epidimiological statistics without any evidence of causation is meaningless.
      The UK has no restrictions upon cycling and the rate of obesity in youth is greater than Australia's, the rate of death by coronary artery disease in Australia is 2000 per million...

      The UK has no restrictions on cycling and there are 1500 times as many people who die from cardiovascular disease as by cycling... what is your point exactly?

      The rate of death by CAD has dropped linearly in Australia since 1970. My point being that there are many other factors affecting the progression of chroinic disease than whether some people cycle.

      http://www.aihw.gov.au/chronic-diseases-mortality/

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    11. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG

      My point was relating health v accidents, cycling involves both.

      http://www.ta.org.br/site/Banco/7manuais/colin_clarke_cycle_helmet.pdf
      The link provided details the possible advantages and disadvantages of helmets and legislation.

      The paper states "These data suggest a basic test for
      legislation. If cycling is discouraged by 2.5% or
      more then it fails to meet the wider objective for the
      overall health of the nation. With cycling being
      discouraged by 36% and up to 90% in one case,
      helmet legislation completely fails the first test.
      Even if helmets could save lives, the ratio of 36% to
      2.5% is 14.4 to 1, and indicates that in health terms,
      helmet laws cause far greater harm than good."

      Australia has failed to provide a health and safety evaluation. The case for promoting helmets or legislation is unsound because both promotion and legislation can have a negative health impact.

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    12. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Colin,
      could you please explain what evidence there is anywhere in the world that would describe helmet promotion as a deterrent to cycling?

      Do you similarly object to brakes on a bike? Separate bicycle lanes? Driver education? Defensive riding skills?

      All these measures are also designed to make riding safer... do these also deter cycling?

      I htink you're so determined to hate helmets you'll cherrypick any data to sup[port your bias. This undermines the case for optional helmets, not supports it - something you seem blissfully ignorant of.

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    13. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG

      http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1139.html states

      "Cycle helmet promotion, outside the context of helmet laws, has also been shown to be a strong disincentive to cycle use. As well as deterring individuals, it deters institutional support for the promotion of cycling by creating concern about liability if people who are encouraged to cycle do not wear helmets."

      Helmet promotion in the UK at a school near Derby led to some children refusing to wear them and being expelled. Helmet promotion focuses…

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    14. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      That's curious, because I looked at cyclehelmets.org and I could not identify a paper that describes the effect that you mention. can you provide a link to an actual paper, or series of papers, that shows a link between helmet promotion and lowered cycling rates?
      What about increase in helmet wearing as a result? Does this mitigate for or against a decrease in head injury? Or is that not something you consider?

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    15. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      According to https://theconversation.com/au/who_we_are, 'Our team of professional editors work with university, CSIRO and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.'

      What qualifications do you have that make you an expert on this topic?

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    16. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Citizen SG

      If you think you are up to an overdose of claims of causation based on, at best, 'evidence' of only a temporal association, check this out http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/125-1349/5046/.

      Some 'highlights' (you seem to have the patience of a saint, you will need it to endure the whole article)
      - The Scuffham and Povey studies, which noted that there was no evidence that the helmet law reduced cycling in NZ, and that cycling was declining prior to the helmet law, are not mentioned.
      - Overall cyclist injuries from the Tin Tin study are cited to support the helmets-bad argument, yet more relevant results from the same study are not mentioned. These 'overlooked' results show (surprise, surprise) that in 1996-99 compared to 1988-91 (helmet law was 1994), there were huge reductions in cyclist TBI rates (per hour of cycling), but increases in other cyclist (non-head) injury rates.

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    17. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda stated
      “According to https://theconversation.com/au/who_we_are, 'Our team of professional editors work with university, CSIRO and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.'”
      In this particular article the focus is to ask ‘Should the UK embrace mandatory bike helmet laws?’ a political topic in another country. It is not clear that the ‘Conversation’ was intended to try and change legal requirements in other countries. The article itself appears to lack…

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    18. Matthew Thredgold

      Software Engineer/Secondary Teacher

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Colin, Velo City 2014 is in Adelaide. Rather than Australia telling the world what to do on cycle helmets, I think this is a time for the world to tell Australia that they have got it wrong.

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  22. Ashley Hooper

    Farm worker

    One of the most glaring omissions in this article for me was the lack of actual numbers to quantify the reduction in risk presented:

    "Robust studies show helmets reduce head injury risk by up to 74%. Recently, Sydney researchers found cyclists who crashed without helmets were five times more likely to sustain severe head injuries."

    I don't have any reason to doubt that this is so, but reducing a very, very, very small number by 74% only gives you another very, very, very small number.

    Surely mandatory helmets for skiiers, rock climbers and many other risky activities would be a better use of your time.

    And yes, the argument for mandatory helmets for motor vehicle drivers and passengers still stands - it would prevent a greater number of serious injuries and deaths than bicycle MHLs. For some reason the author of this piece shies away from what is a very legitimate comparison.

    Finally, I wonder how substantial the opportunity cost of all of that helmet law enforcement is.

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Ashley Hooper

      Your third paragraph is why ino longer support MHLs for adults. Your subsequent paragraphs demonstrate why I cannot bear the anti- MHL fanatics' position. Substituting logical fallacies for argumentation will never change MHLs.

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    2. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus, I'm very glad that you no longer support MHLs for adults. I believe you changed your position based on evidence, which is a rare virtue. But I'm not quite sure why Ashley Hooper has enraged you so. There's not really anything in his paragraphs four five and six that could be called a logical fallacy.

      But hoping to be constructive here, its clear that some anti MHL voices bother you. Leaving aside the endless arguments, can I just ask you to consider this (I'm sue you would have already…

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Hi Alan,
      Thank you for your comments. The logical fallacies were in paragraphs 4 and 5.

      My position is one of choice for adults. I have no issues with the State mandating certain behaviours of its citizens so long as the evidence supports the restriction of liberty. Tis is why I continue to support mandatory scuba diving flags, vaccination, brakes on bicycles, compulsory driving on the left, non-nudity on public streets etc.

      It seems that the word 'helmet' seems to inspire a suspension of logic on both sides of the debate. Your 'extreme position' would be a logical public health intervention if the epidemiology of cycling injuries was worse than what it is right now. If cycling head injuries were substantially worse then II would support MHLs, in the same way that i support seat belts in cars. I don't have an ideological position either way (any more). Do you?

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    4. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus,

      without wishing to labour the point, you say that there are "logical fallacies" (which seems to me to be tautology) in paragraphs 4 and 5, but don't explain what those fallacies, logical or otherwise, are. Perhaps you could elucidate?

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    5. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      So you can't answer the question then.

      Fine, I'm sure we all know what to make of someone who makes claims which they can't support.

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  23. Peter Robinson

    logged in via email @nex.net.au

    An opinionated article with many glaring oversights.
    This subject has taken over from the traditional sex, politics and religion as the subjcts to avoid in polite conversation as it raises the hackles like no other.
    The question for me is why does it do this.
    I wonder if it is as simple as that an adult really would like the right to work a few of these things out for himself.
    Paul Biegler says we are banning smoking but in fact we still allow anyone to kill themselves with it, just not others…

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  24. Roslyn Henry

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    My husband was knocked off his bicycle in a hit and run accident. He took the full force on his head. He was in a coma for several weeks, he nearly died! He didn't have any physical injuries on his body ie nothing broken. Just his head!! Two years later he still has no recollection of the accident, he doesn't know who he is, remember who is closest family are. He has no memory!! He can no longer dress himself! He has forgotten how to swim and he couldn't tell you that an apple was an apple if you showed one to him! he can no longer read and write... And on and on it goes. Of course I can't turn back time but i'm sure that if he had been wearing some kind of protective head gear his accident wouldn't have been so grave. That for me is plain to see. I find it an absolute nonsense that people have this crazy attitude that they don't want to wear helmets. What are they afraid of? Wearing a helmet can only be a positive thing - surely!?

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    1. Keith Thomas

      Retired

      In reply to Roslyn Henry

      There are three main issues here, Roslyn:
      1. Do bicycle helmets offer a greater degree of protection from injury than bare heads in certain cases if worn appropriately? Most posters here seem to agree with this proposition.
      2. Should the wearing of helmets be mandated by law (presumably backed up with an effective policing and a penalty regime)?
      3. Should governments intervene to control cycling in any way that might reduce the mass appeal of cycling (presumably for exercise and to reduce the…

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    2. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Roslyn Henry

      Sorry to hear about your husband. It could be helpful to know the direction of impact, say a rear impact. Did the local press cover the story and try to help find the driver?

      Robinson DL; Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws; Accid Anal Prev, 28, 4: p 463-475, 1996
      http://www.cycle-helmets.com/robinson-head-injuries.pdf

      Table 2 in the report. The equivalent number of injuries for pre-law number of cyclists increased from 1310 (384 head + 926 other injuries) in 1991 to 2083 (488 head + 1595 other injuries) in 1993.

      You say
      "Wearing a helmet can only be a positive thing - surely!? "
      Apart from thousand of children cycling less, the accident data suggests a negative outcome for safety. There are two question, is wearing helmets worthwhile and is legislation worthwhile. The above evidence suggest that neither are worthwhile.

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Hi Colin,
      You come onto an academic website and use 1paper from 1996 to support your claims while ignoring all subsequent evidence that refutes your claims....

      And you expect to be taken seriously?

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    4. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Hi Seamus
      It was just pointing to one paper so that Roslyn could start to see that the issue is not as simple as it may appear. The Robinson 1996 is good in that it relates to accidents and changes in the cycling levels. Many reports compare wearers to non-wearers and it is know that factors other than helmets can play a significant part.

      The NZ paper also relates to the accident rate.
      http://www.cycle-helmets.com/nz-clarke-2012.pdf
      Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association
      http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/125-1349/5046

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Get back onto google scholar, Colin. There is an abundance of evidence concerning the efficacy of helmets, there is an abundance of evidence showing correlation between helmet wearing (via laws or otherwise) and a reduction in head injury incidence and there is an abundance of evidence to show that the greatest determinant of cycling uptake is not helmet laws but infrastructure.

      Do you have some sort of filter on your computer to prevent you viewing it?

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    6. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG

      The Cyclehelmets.org web site provides comment on many reports, many are much weaker than they first appear. If you have a particular question about a particular report, I may be able to assist. The obvious questions are why has Australia or New Zealand not provided a full health and safety evaluation and why Australia did not provide census results for cycling levels in regional areas. Where is all the survey data on children's cycling levels. Vic Roads did annual surveys prior to legislation…

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    7. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      You pick two instances to discuss? With all the evidence available in the last two decades you pick two instances...

      i return to my original point, which you evaded:

      'There is an abundance of evidence concerning the efficacy of helmets, there is an abundance of evidence showing correlation between helmet wearing (via laws or otherwise) and a reduction in head injury incidence and there is an abundance of evidence to show that the greatest determinant of cycling uptake is not helmet laws but infrastructure. '

      Why do you continue to ingnore all the evidence but only comment on some of the evidence?

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    8. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus,

      there is a limit to how far you can play devil's advocate without appearing ridiculous, and I reckon you're there.

      As I've pointed out already, the research showing massive benefits from helmet wearing is rated lowest on international scales of reliability, and has been discredited on peer review.

      On the other hand, research showing no benefit is rated as much more reliable and has proven robust on peer review.

      Why do you believe the former rather than the latter?

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    9. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Hi Richard,
      I don't 'believe' any position. MHLs are a policy decision not a question of belief or ideology.
      The evidence is what it is - some is methodologically sound, some has a high degree of rigour and some don't achieve either of these aims. research on both 'sides' of the equation fall into these two camps.
      After viewing a substantial portion of the evidence it is inescapable to come to the conclusion that helmets are efective. This does not mean that we should have MHLs as this is a policy decision.

      That you continue to confuse evidence with dogma is no surprise to me but you really have nothing to contribute to the debate if this is your position.

      I presume that you have a list of highly rigorous studies which show no effect of helmet efficacy that are substantially differnet in methodology and rigour than the studies which do show helmet efficacy.
      Oh that's right... they're on your cherrypicking service: crag.asn and helmetfreedom.org.

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    10. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Sorry Seamus, when you said you'd read widely on the subject, I believed you, but perhaps I was being gullible and niave.

      Now I know better.

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    1. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      Er, the summary is far from excellent. The article fails to note that Rissel's article re helmet the helmet law and head injury rates in NSW was retracted more than 2 years ago http://www.safetylit.org/citations/index.php?fuseaction=citations.viewdetails&citationIds[]=citjournalarticle_302065_22, after numerous errors were identified (by various international peer-reviewers).

      Far from 'skewering' the Walter study, it is Rissel's 'rejoinder' that has been skewered.

      Walter et al.'s response…

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    2. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      Rissel's reply to Olivier's critique (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22730946) of Rissel's 2012 article contains further bloopers . . .

      Rissel claims that "For Olivier et al.2 to challenge that bicycle helmet legislation is a barrier to more people cycling is counter to all the available evidence. As stated in our article,1 when legislation was introduced in Australia cycling levels fell by 30-40%, and the same phenomenon was observed in New Zealand in 1994."

      The (Australian) data in the…

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  25. Luke Mancell

    Equities trader

    Watch out UK. The fun police are coming to bolster up their arguments at your expense.

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  26. Aaron Ball

    Cycling advocate

    "The bare-headed cycling movement has recently stirred from hibernation in the United Kingdom ... "

    This opening sentence sums up the credibility of this article nicely. It is belittling those that don't wear helmets as being an identifiable 'movement' in the UK, starting to become vocal. The reality is that in the UK, like everywhere else on the planet with the exception of Australia and NZ, normal people just ride bikes without wearing a form of sporting armour. There's no movement, it's just…

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  27. Harvey C

    Cyclist

    How ludicrous that an Australian academic tries to to lecture others on the bicycle helmet law, while ignoring its failure in Australia!

    Theoretical arguments like “helmets reduce up to x% of head injuries” are nonsense. They are based on statistics that can easily be distorted. This is what make people say “all stats are lies”. To suggest that a piece of styrofoam will do much more than what it is designed to do, which is to break apart in a serious accident, absorbing little of the impact, indicates…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Harvey C

      I see hat the only research that you agree with is the research that you agree with...

      Research that supports your presuppositions is 'independent' but research that doesn't support your presuppositions is desribed as 'all stats are lies'.

      If crag.asn told you that your underpants were magic would you believe that 'independent' advice too?

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    2. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Seamus,

      You appear unaware that the research showing massive benefits from helmet wearing is rated the lowest on international scales of reliability of research, and has been discredited on peer review. The most common type of this research is case control studies, which has been proved wrong many times, and which many scientists consider should not be relied on to form policy without other supporting evidence.

      On the contrary, the research showing no benefit is rated as much more reliable, and has proven robust on peer review.

      I'm continually intrigued as to why people believe the former rather than the latter.

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      Thanks Richard.
      Please provide me with the links that show;
      'the research showing no benefit is rated as much more reliable, and has proven robust on peer review'

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    4. Richard Burton

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Citizen SG

      But Seamus,

      You've told us many times that you've read very widely on the subject, so you must know already.

      Or you haven't and you don't.

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    5. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Burton

      I do know but you won't listen to anothe point of view so why would i be concerned about challenging your ideology?

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    6. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Citizen SG

      All that banging-on about 'well-read', when according to that rivard link 'Burton cites the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation and its website, cyclehelmets.org, which he calls the most comprehensive website on the subject. My reading of the site is that it would be more accurate to label it the Anti-Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation. All of its content appears to attack the helmet industry and any industry or independent researchers whose studies draw clear links to increased risk of head injuries…

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    7. Kathy Francis

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda, just a brief reminder. The topic here is helmet laws not the effectiveness of helmets in the event of an accident.

      The statistical debate between you and the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation is only about one aspect of this topic. Your attack on the credentials of the editorial board of the BHRF adds nothing constructive to this discussion.

      Any decision about the helmet laws themselves will rightly be based on a careful evaluation of the effectiveness of the laws and not the effectiveness of helmets.

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    8. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Kathy Francis

      A 'reminder that the topic here is helmet laws and not the effectiveness of helmet in the event of an accident . . . Any decision about the helmet laws themselves will rightly be based on a careful evaluation of the effectiveness of the laws and not the effectiveness of helmets'? In various posts, I have demonstrated the effectiveness of helmet laws (ie. at the population level), by citing abundant evidence in the Carr, Marshall, Williams, Hendrie and Tin Tin studies. In feeling the need to 'remind…

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    9. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Kathy Francis

      More BHRF misinformation, which alarmingly, is apparently used by some people to 'inform' their helmet-wearing decisions . . .

      In 'describing' the Elvik study, the site claims that 'Attewell et al influenced by publication and time-trend biases. When controlled for, the protective effects of helmets are smaller. Adding new studies, no overall benefit of helmets found.' As more fully described in one of my other posts, the difference between the 2 studies were quite small: fatal injury Attewell…

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  28. Luke Turner

    logged in via Twitter

    This article is a superficial analysis of the merits of mandatory helmet laws, and adds nothing to the debate at all.

    Firstly the author completely muddles up the two seperate questions: (1) do helmets offer protection and (2) do mandatory helmet laws benefit society as a whole. If the aim is to convince people that helmet laws work, then you need to consider the effects / benefits of the laws, which the author failed to do.

    If someone proposed a law designed to reduce skin cancer by making…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Luke Turner

      There's only debate about the effectiveness of helmets(and MHLs) by anti-MHL activists.

      Te rest of us can quietly get on with accepting that the helmets (and laws) have been effective at reducing head injury but that the laws are unnecessarily restrictive of the rights of adult citizens to make their own judgement about the risk of cycling.

      See, it IS possible to accommodate all the actual evidence regarding MHLs and still not want them.

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    2. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      Re 'There is no compelling evidence that helmet laws materially reduce cycling injury rates overall in the community. The is no evidence at that helmet laws are responsible for any reduction in cycling fatalities.' . . .

      It seems that you have not read (or have read, but not understood) the studies by Carr, Williams, Marshall, Tin Tin and Walter.

      And instead relied on Robinson's 'review' http://ipa.org.au/publications/2019/australia%27s-helmet-law-disaster.

      Robinson's 'review' contained…

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    3. Luke Turner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda,

      This article is a discussion about mandatory helmet laws, with a particular focus on the ethical aspects of compulsion.

      I see you have raised these points about the effectiveness of helmet use over and over. Why not make an intelligent contribution to the broader discussion? There is far more to this debate than a fixation with statistical analysis of injury data.

      However, to address your point: I am familiar with the Walter study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21819836

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    4. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Luke Turner

      Hi Luke,

      In regards to paragraph 4, I take it that you will no longer write for the IPA? Or is an organisation with Liberal Party affiliation, climate and passive smoking sceptic bias better than studies funded by a Health department... which bizarrely may be biased towards population health.

      From Luke Tuner:
      http://www.heraldsun.com.au/ipad/the-debate-do-helmet-laws-work/story-fn6bfkm6-1226361019856

      'Many arguments in favour of helmet laws come from interested parties -- state transport departments or researchers supported by them. Unfortunately these departments have shown little appetite for any objective evaluation of the law. To date they have been concerned only with defending the status quo, invariably quoting skewed accident statistics and often relying on emotive, fear-based arguments.'

      Glass houses... stones?

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    5. Luke Turner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Hi Seamus,

      What is your point? I'm not employed by the IPA - I wrote one article for their magazine.

      I laughed when I saw your comment because elsewhere you have been criticising other for ad hominem attacks - then here you provide us all with a textbook example of one.

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    6. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Luke Turner

      Hi Luke,
      There's nothing ad hominem in my comments. I am just accusing you of hypocrisy.

      An ad hominem comment would be something like: 'you are a hypocrite.'
      An accusatory statement is: 'you are a hypocrite because you also display bias in the content of your writing ,are published in a forum which has a known bias towards a political agenda or ideology and apparently are the very 'interested party' that you decry..'

      ie. the IPA is an 'interested party' and your writing is: " ...invariably…

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    7. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Citizen SG
    8. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Colin,
      Your statement is wrong. Instead of 'THE evidence suggests' it should read 'MY evidence suggests'.

      These ;references' you cite are notjhing but opinions gathered by you that conveniently ignores data that contradicts your opinion.

      At least have the decency to admit that your arguments are ideological and your data is cherrypicked.

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    9. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      You stated that 'The only measure of the success of a law is whether it actually succeeds in achieving what it is designed to do. There is no compelling evidence that helmet laws materially reduce cycling injury rates overall in the community. The is no evidence at that helmet laws are responsible for any reduction in cycling fatalities'.

      My various posts have documented much compelling evidence of considerable reductions in population-level cyclist (head) injury rates in the Carr, Williams, Marshall…

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    10. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      In just a few minutes on the Helmet Freedom site, I found numerous misrepresentations . . .

      The site gives the impression that helmet are only good for 'limiting linear deceleration from low speed impacts' and 'limiting some lacerations, abrasions and other surface injuries'. It claims that 'a helmet would offer little protection from a collision with a motor vehicle travelling from a collision with a motor vehicle at 60kph'. The Bambach study, of cyclist collisions with motor vehicles, completely…

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    11. Luke Turner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda, in response to my claim that there is no compelling evidence helmet laws reduce injury rates overall in the community, you wrote:

      "It seems that you have not read (or have read, but not understood) the studies by Carr, Williams, Marshall, Tin Tin and Walter."

      If you are now backing away from using Walter to support your case I am pleased, because it is very unconvincing evidence. My criticism of this study was my own and the graph I linked to was the data from the study itself.

      Do…

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    12. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      As noted in my previous post, I have never cited the results from the Walter study as evidence of a reduction in injury rates at the population level, only as evidence that a small drop in post-law cycling (in NSW) was short lived, and that head:arm and head:leg ratios are similar. Yet you are still fixated on the Walter study, and have made no attempt to explain why data Carr, Williams, Marshall and Tin Tin is NOT compelling evidence that the helmet laws reduced cyclist (head) injury rates at the…

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    13. Luke Turner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda,

      Have another look at the Walter study. The lowest p-value in the Walter study was for the PEDESTRIAN arm-head model, for the LAW factor, which estimates the change in overall injury rates when the helmet law was introduced. The INJURY*LAW term (which you referred to) relates to the change in the head-to-limb injury ratio. If you interpret both results consistently, we would have to conclude that the introduction of the helmet law reduced the overall number of pedestrian arm and head injuries…

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    14. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Luke Turner

      http://www.parliament.vic.gov.au/rsc/inquiries/article/2020

      http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SaferRiders/BikeRiders/WearingABicycleHelmet.htm
      In 2013 Vic Roads state;
      •Two years after the legislation was introduced, there was a 16% reduction in head injuries in metropolitan Melbourne and 23% reduction in head injuries throughout Victoria. There was also an immediate reduction in bike riders, however by 1992 the numbers of bike riders had approached pre-legislation levels…

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    15. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      Your claim that 'If you interpret both results consistently, we would have to conclude that the introduction of the helmet law reduced the overall number of pedestrian arm and head injuries' demonstrates a lack of understanding of loglinear model interpretation. It is 100% INCORRECT to interpret the LAW term as showing that the law reduced the overall number pedestrian of arm and head injuries (Robinson appeared to exhibit the same ignorance of log-linear model interpretation in a Wikipedia discussion…

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    16. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      If you believe that 20% is a 'conservative' estimate of the reduction in cycling, then you must have swallowed Robinson's fairy-tale, er I mean various 'reviews', hook, line and sinker . . .

      Despite citing injury data from the Marshall study, Robinson's 2006 'review' failed to note that the participation surveys showed that
      - compared to 18 months before the helmet law, 18 months after the law, there was no difference in the level of (overall) cycling (p<0.05)
      - a reduction in cycling to school…

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    17. Luke Turner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Re: Walter. Yes that is my point - there was a change in the total number of pedestrian arm and head injuries before and after the law change that was not a trend over time - it is a step down at the time of the law change (a downward trend would have been captured by the TIME term).

      The INJURYxLAW term indicates that in the 18 months after the law change, the head-to-limb injury ratio was lower than the the 18 months before. And this is taken to mean that the change in the law was the cause…

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    18. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      Your claims that the reduction in the total number of pedestrian arm injuries before and after the law change was 'not a trend over time', but was 'a step down at the time of the law' are both incorrect interpretations of the model.

      As explained in my previous post, the LAW term represents the marginal totals (ie. the total number injuries in the 18 months after the law, compared to the total 18 months before the law), it does NOT represent 'a step down at the time of the law. If you wanted to…

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    19. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      You claim that the near-identical drops in Victorian pedestrian and cyclist non-head injuries does not 'disprove' that there was a drop in cycling, but have apparently overlooked the SA and NSW data also cited in my previous post/s . . .

      The participation data in the Marshall study showed that (in SA)
      - compared to 18 months before the helmet law, 18 months after the law, there was no difference in the level of (overall) cycling (p<0.05)
      - a reduction in cycling to school, which comprised 20…

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    20. Luke Turner

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda,

      Cyclist model: INJURY X LAW is negative which indicates that the head-to-limb ratio is lower in the 18 months after the law change than the 18 months prior (after adjusting for any background trends). This provided as evidence that helmet laws reduced head injury rates.

      Pedestrian model: LAW is negative which indicates that the overall rate of injuries is lower in the 18 months after the law change than the 18 months prior (after adjusting for any background trends). What was the cause of this reduction?

      In both cases there was "something" that caused a change in the overall injury rates for pedestrians, and in the head-to-limb ratios for cyclists at around the time helmet laws came in. How can you simply assume helmet laws were the cause of the change for cyclists, and just ignore the change in the pedestrian model?

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    21. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Luke Turner

      http://www.cycle-helmets.com/robinson-head-injuries.pdf
      Table 2 provides details of head and other injuries to children.

      Prior to the law the percentage 'head' to 'other' was 41% (384/926), after the law 30% (273/893). Based on a simple proportion it would seem beneficial but Table 2 details the equivalent number of injuries for pre law number of cyclists and it increases. This shows that using the simple ratio of injuries is unsound and can lead to the wrong conclusion.

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    22. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Luke Turner

      As already explained in 2 of my previous replies to you re the Walter model, the LAW term does NOT represent the 'change in overall injury rates . . . at around the time the helmet laws came in', it represents the difference between the 'overall injury rate' in THE WHOLE 18 MONTHS BEFORE the helmet law/s with the rate in the WHOLE 18 MONTHS after the law/s.

      The negative cyclist INURY x LAW coefficient does NOT indicate that 'the head-to-limb ratio is lower in the 18 months after the law change…

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    23. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Some months ago, in response to various Wikipedia "contributions" made by Colin, a (very experienced) editor (who had done some tertiary level statistics) observed that "it seems more and more likely that he may be working outside his capabilities when it comes to stats etc".

      Colin's claim that ". . . the proportion of 'head' to 'other' . . . using the simple ratio of injuries is unsound and can lead to the wrong conclusion" is yet more evidence that Colin is DEFINITELY "working outside his…

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    24. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      When I first noticed Robinson's 'unorthodox' method/s, I thought they were deliberate attempts to mislead. However, a number factual errors made by Robinson makes me think that lack of competence has contributed to Robinson's 'unorthodox' method/s and incorrect/misleading results.

      Robinson's 2006 article contains 2 (clearly) incorrect statements with respect to the Carr study: 'Non-head injuries fell by almost as much as head injuries', and 'the authors could not tell whether the main cause was…

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    25. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Linda Ward

      The proportion of injuries are affected by several factors, e.g. age related, type of accident, motor vehicle involvement etc. Impact speeds affect head injury severity and changes for cyclists compared to pedestrians are not the same? Robinson’s method relates to the change in cycling levels that was needed to be included in any analysis. Many head injuries to cyclist were/are minor and admissions for overnight observations could reduce due to say fewer children cycling or by reducing surface damage…

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    26. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Linda I have some concerns that your view is misguided in some respects.

      What you describe as "Robinson's 'unorthodox' method/s" were peer reviewed and designed to provide useful information, reflecting both accident data and survey information, so I would dismiss this part of your claim as lacking in merit.

      You refer to the 'Carr study'
      The study did not have exposure data making it a weak study for making claims. (Monash reports mainly referred to survey data from Melbourne).

      Carr…

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    27. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      A bit more information on the Carr et al report

      http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/muarc076.pdf

      I stated;
      “Fig 2.2 page 9 in the report illustrates the number of non-head and head injuries. Pre law the peak values were approximately 120 for non-head and 60 for head injuries. Post law peak values were about 90 for non-head and 40 for head injuries.”

      Looking again, the last 24 month period pre law, peak values about 115 -118 for non-head injuries and about 50 for head injuries. Post law about 90 and 40. Approximate ratio of head to non-head injuries, pre law 0.43, post law 0.44.

      'Non-head injuries fell by almost as much as head injuries' it looks like Robinson could be about right. If Carr had provided the data for cyclist non-head injuries in Table 2.2 precise figures could be calculated.

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    28. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      'My' approach, ie. using/comparing changes in head and non-head injuries, is the SAME approach that was used by Carr et al., Hendrie et al., Povey et al. and Walter et al. The Povey and Walter papers were both published in a peer-reviewed journal, so if you (who apparently has no stats qualifications) are so sure that this approach is 'invalid' then you should write to Accident Analysis and Prevention, explaining why/how their peer-reviewers got it wrong (not just once, but on 2 occasions…

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    29. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Despite the explanation in my reply to you a week or so ago, you still seemed not to have grasped the basic mathematical concept that an odds ratio is NOT the same as a proportion, and expressing head injuries as a proportion of total injuries will produce a biased result that understates the actual reduction (because the numerator is also in the denominator. (Given that, even after it has just been explained to you, you still seem to not understand that an odds ratio is not the same a proportion…

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    30. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      'Looks like Robinson could be about right'? Most certainly not, if she used pre- and post- law 'peaks' to conclude that 'non-head injuries fell almost as much as head injuries'. One the first thing taught in statistics courses is how 'outliers' (ie. your 'peaks') can really mess up your results. The statistical models used to analyse this type of data use averages, not 'peaks'.

      Re ' If Carr had provided the data for cyclist non-head injuries in Table 2.2 precise figures could be calculated…

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    31. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Re 'Robinson could be about right' re non-head injuries dropping by 'almost as much' as head injuries, in addition to getting this wrong injuries (20% vs 30%, ie, head injuries dropped by (30%-20%)/20%=50% more than non-head injuries); and making a huge factual error in claiming that Carr et al. could not tell whether the reduction was due to helmets; and claiming that Povey et al. had failed to take time-trends into account, when the authors had clearly and concisely explained how they had done…

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    32. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Your statement that the Carr study 'did not have exposure data making it a weak study for making claims' is factually incorrect. As has previously been brought to your attention on a number of occasions, as noted by Carr (1995) and Povey (1999), cyclist non-head injuries reflect changes in exposure due to changes in both the level of cycling and general safety of the cycling environment.

      Robinson's 2001 article also noted this 'approach', and did not criticise it (as being 'weak'). The Walter…

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    33. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Linda Ward

      Hi Linda.
      Posting 5 replies together makes for a heavy conversation and may not help in dealing with points you wish to address. I have selected some points you raise. If not addressed, I may wish to continue later.

      The ‘approach’ issue is one to address and discuss in a published paper.

      The head to other injuries and methods we probably agree about to some extent.

      'Impact speeds affect head injury severity and changes for cyclists compared to pedestrians are not the same' – Robinson 1996…

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    34. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Colin Clarke

      Correction
      Adults in NSW, Table 3.1 road intersections, 1991 – 5734, 1993 – 4251, reduction 26%.

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  29. Peter Robinson

    logged in via email @nex.net.au

    For the English reader who has the patience to read this far, the first helmet law was brought about by the state of Victoria, Australia, where I am. This law prevents riding of a bicycle on any space except private property without a helmet.
    I made enquiries of the Dept of Sustainable and Active transport and was told the following.
    It was a collaboration between four groups. The TAC (Transport accident commission), Vicroads, the Department of Justice and RACV (Royal Automobile club of Victoria…

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    1. Alan Todd

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Peter Robinson

      And with that, including Luke Turner's comment above, I think we can say QED and goodnight.
      Well put gentlemen.

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    2. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Peter Robinson

      Peter,
      That may well be true. But a grievance from 1991 in Victoria is hardly relevant to Britain now. It is the BMA who are the subject of this article.
      Ar e you stating that the BMA want to replace bikes with cars? That's not my impression from reading the source documentation.

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    3. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Alan Todd

      Hi Alan,
      In light of the evidence I believe this is even better put:

      We can quietly get on with accepting that the helmets (and laws) have been effective at reducing head injury but that the laws are unnecessarily restrictive of the rights of adult citizens to make their own judgement about the risk of cycling.

      See, it IS possible to accommodate all the actual evidence regarding MHLs and still not want them.

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    1. Colin Clarke

      logged in via email @vood.freeserve.co.uk

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      Accident data shows that for cycle accidents alone, such as could be expected from simple falls not involving motor vehicles, the average length of hospital stay is approximately half that of accidents involving motor vehicles. (ref Whately S, Bicycle Crashes in the Austrian Capital Territories, CR 35, FORS, 1985
      http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/publications/1985/pdf/Bic_Crash_1.pdf )

      Overweight and obesity is now the largest single contributing risk factor for premature death…

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  30. John Clark

    Manager

    There is an interesting parallel here in Australia. The Government agencies are moving inexorably towards mandating the wearing of lifejackets aboard recreational boats. Their jobs depend on coming up with new regulations. Each year there is a further restriction. While there is no doubt that in some particular instances lives could be saved, but they have to "boil the frog" to overcome the natural resistance. Injecting a bit of humour, several years ago my children were swimming in their birthday suits, and were picked up by patrol officers, who returned them to our boat saying they were not wearing jackets, without commenting on the absence of clothes.

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  31. Peter Robinson

    logged in via email @nex.net.au

    Polititians are never scientists as a scientist changes one variable and then tests. Polititians try to change many at once. Science is then nearly impossible.
    I just learned this morning that I have to believe that speed cameras, introduced here in 1990, halved the road deaths, which dropped 49% from 776 in 1989 to 396 in 1992.
    I have seen a mass of statistics to show how wonderful helmet laws were within a year of their introduction in 1991 but over that period there were at least 10 major changes that influenced the deaths on our roads.
    Any saving in death for cyclists simply must take this into account.

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  32. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    Data on benefits of mandation in Australia are strongly confounded.

    As Bruce Robinson pointed out in his 1996 paper, mandation was introduced concurrently with random blood-alcohol tests and considerable Blackspot funding. The effectiveness of those two other measures was clearly evident in reductions in deaths of pedestrians and car passengers.

    However the death rates for cyclists fell less than for these other groups, despite cyclists having had helmets mandated as well.

    A simplistic…

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    1. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to John Harland

      You claim that 'Data on benefits of mandation in Australia are strongly confounded', yet have cited only 1 (Australian) study, and have apparently overlooked evidence in at least 4 other (Australian) studies that disprove your various assertions.

      The (Bruce) Robinson article cites data from a 1996 Legge and Hendrie study, and claims on the basis of a graph of WA injury trend data, that '. . . no significant effect of the legislation can be observed. This is the most convincing evidence that helmet…

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  33. Citizen SG

    Citizen

    Of course, much of this dialogue is predicated on the assumption that any change to helmet laws will free up the vast quantity of citizens just itching to get on their bikes except of their aversion to helmet laws.

    Take a look at the graphs in this article:

    http://www.atrf11.unisa.edu.au/Assets/Papers/ATRF11_0030_final.pdf

    Figure 6 has some telling trends: since even before motor cars have been relatively affordable the motor vehicles has supplanted public transport, horse riding, walking…

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    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Citizen SG

      Citizen SG wrote; " Alternative transport modes will not be popular in Australia until motor vehicle travel is unsustainable" Interesting premise. Here we do have a bias toward motor vehicles.
      My point of difference in comment is saying; 'this is for as long as transnational corporations are allowed to promote their form of energy consumption'. Resulting in poor local development of our life conditions including cycling.
      The big picture goes beyond just transport.
      There is a bias toward efficiency…

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to Richard Hockey

      It seems every month reveals a new paper describing the protective effects of bicycle helmets in a collision. irrespective of one's attitudes towards wearing helmets they do mitigate against head injury in a bicycle collision. Not liking them, or MHLs, doesn't appear to change this evidence.

      This does not mean that helmets should be compulsory (in my view they ought not be compulsory for adults) but it is curious that the main argument from anti-MHL zealots is that helmets are ineffective.....

      Time for a new tack? Putting one's hands over one's ears and shouting 'helmets are bad' at the top of one's voice doesn't appear to be working.

      Perhaps stating that helmets are effective but the decision to wear one is a risk assessment that an adult should reasonably make for themself is more fruitful.

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  34. John Harland

    bicycle technician

    The lack of mandation to wear helmets when driving has repeatedly been dismissed on this thread as a "straw man argument".

    To the contrary, it is the guts of the issue because the decision was purely political and had nothing to do with safety.

    Voluntary wearing rates were very high in Victoria in 1990 and were still climbing. Strategies were in place to reach groups that were reluctant to wear helmets. All together, a far better path than mandation for increasing the use of what was seen as an aid to safety.

    Mandation should be the last resort in a democracy and there was no good reason for it in the case of helmet-wearing. Unless you count deterring people who were not "serious cyclists" and so keeping cycling exclusive to bourgeois elites and minimising demand for proper on-road provision for cycling. Mandation suited simultaneously the automotive clubs, the road authorities and the representatives of bourgeois cycling. Losers were those who just ride a bike as transport.

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    1. Citizen SG

      Citizen

      In reply to John Harland

      John,
      Your first statement is fallacious, the rest is the most convincing argument for the removal of MHLs that I have heard. You are the only person that I have heard make it but it is lost in the white noise that you, and other anti-MHL advocates, produce. It is time for this debate to move away from the endless stream of poor logic, obfuscation and cherrypicking. Perhaps you might even change a few minds if you stick to demonstrable facts and convincing arguments.

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    2. Linda Ward

      Biostatistician

      In reply to John Harland

      Er, when you claim that 'Voluntary wearing rates were very high in Victoria in 1990', the law took effect from 1 July, and according to http://www.monash.edu.au/miri/research/reports/muarc045.pdf, 'there has gene a significant post-law increase in helmet wearing rates in all age-groups'. Finch et al. also note that in 1990, prior to the law, the adult wearing rate was 36%, and the teenage rate was 21%. (Figure 2, on page 13 of the report, shows that adults and teenagers comprised about 90% of the…

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