"Don't forget to wear a helmet"

For all discussions about this "lively" subject. All topics that are substantially about helmet usage will be moved here.
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Wanlock Dod
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby Wanlock Dod » 13 Aug 2017, 7:33pm

My use of gps based cycle computers covers a period of time both before and after I decided to stop wearing a helmet (after wearing one simply because it was the done thing for a quarter of a century). The maximum speeds that I recorded with and without a helmet confirm that I, at least, risk compensate and will go faster (sometimes nearly 50 mph) with a helmet on than without (rarely much over 40 mph). It's way outside the design parameters of a helmet, and not only head injuries that could be serious at those speeds.

I wasn't doing much mountain biking at the time, but when I did go out the first few times I wore a helmet. It was when I found myself flying down a loose gravel trail in shorts and t-shirt that I realised my helmet would be no help if I came off. There weren't any more seriously fast sections on that ride, but these days the helmet stays at home for mountain biking too. Personally I'm not really after fast times, and my motto has always been "Never be too proud to get off and push".

drossall
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby drossall » 13 Aug 2017, 8:18pm

I'm not actually sure that going 25% faster is the kind of difference that risk compensation might typically produce. The general idea is usually that you don't notice the difference in your own behaviour. I think I'd notice 25% :lol:

jazzkat
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby jazzkat » 13 Aug 2017, 11:00pm

Cunobelin wrote:This is not a personal... so please do not take it as such

To me the effectiveness of helmets in a cycling context remains a red herring as it is narrow, corrupt and biased agendada

What is needed. is a wider ranging examination of the effectiveness of helmets ....across ALL at risk groups


However as you say there are vested interests that do not want this... imagine the problems that the pro helmet lobby would face if they were to be forced to recognise the reality that helmets would be more effective for pedestrians, drivers, passengers and above all those out for a night in the pub


I agree, but I think IF, and it's a big if, someone were to do any real testing as to the usefulness of helmets it would conclude what we anecdotally know, that helmets cause more issues than they solve and the window of protection is so small that they are effectively a token. No one in the whole helmet industry is going to go for that. As you say, the safety lobbyists would see the stupidity in their recommendations when they have scientific evidence that cycling without a helmet is probably less risky than a night in the pub.
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belgiangoth
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby belgiangoth » 13 Aug 2017, 11:21pm

I ran cycling at my old school. I would explain to students that helmets won't protect you from car collisions, but are useful while you learn, a great source of inquiry and discussion as to why tdf riders wear helmets, etc, follows. Nice to get them thinking.

I also got ina short argument about risk assessments for cycling activities, related to cycling not requiring a helmet...
If I had a baby elephant, it would point out that there is no evidence for planing. Then it would eat all my bananas.

drossall
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby drossall » 13 Aug 2017, 11:49pm

jazzkat wrote:I agree, but I think IF, and it's a big if, someone were to do any real testing as to the usefulness of helmets it would conclude what we anecdotally know, that helmets cause more issues than they solve and the window of protection is so small that they are effectively a token.

It's a lot more complex than that. There's any amount of research available. The problem is in interpreting it. It's not clear that more would help.

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Cunobelin
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby Cunobelin » 14 Aug 2017, 6:25am

drossall wrote:
jazzkat wrote:I agree, but I think IF, and it's a big if, someone were to do any real testing as to the usefulness of helmets it would conclude what we anecdotally know, that helmets cause more issues than they solve and the window of protection is so small that they are effectively a token.

It's a lot more complex than that. There's any amount of research available. The problem is in interpreting it. It's not clear that more would help.


Most of which shows that any benefit in an accident is in the range where pedestrians would be the appropriate wearers

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pjclinch
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby pjclinch » 14 Aug 2017, 9:43am

Wanlock Dod wrote:The maximum speeds that I recorded with and without a helmet confirm that I, at least, risk compensate and will go faster (sometimes nearly 50 mph) with a helmet on than without (rarely much over 40 mph). It's way outside the design parameters of a helmet


Up to a point, Lord Copper. There does seem to be a repeated misunderstanding that since the design spec of a lid is ~ 12 mph then if you're well above that speed they're useless. if the impact is constrained (e.g., you've gone straight in to a very substantial wall) then that's quite possibly fair comment, but a great many crashes are only constrained in the vertical direction (by the ground), and it's the acceleration die to gravity from roughly standing height that gets you your ~ 12 mph.

To illustrate how this changes matters swing your arm hard just off horizontal and hit a table with your hand with a glancing blow. Now try the same speed swing at the same table but straight down, vertically. Your hand will hurt a lot more in the second case despite having the same KE on impact, because in the first case it didn't actually lose much of the KE while in the second it loses all of it.

If you want to point out that that means the sort of blow helmets are designed to deal with are ones that will typically give you a nasty headache, as opposed to killing you or turning you in to a cabbage, go right ahead! The design parameters of a helmet are essentially a "better hairnet", a better chance of getting back on and finishing your race without losing too much time, as opposed to a better chance of survival. I don't personally find that very relevant to e.g. riding to work or the shops.

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Wanlock Dod
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby Wanlock Dod » 14 Aug 2017, 11:37am

drossall wrote:The general idea is usually that you don't notice the difference in your own behaviour.


And I don't notice the difference when I'm riding, but the recorded numbers don't lie. I've never heard of anybody else who has done such an experiment, so I simply don't believe anybody who claims to question whether or not risk compensation is relevant to them.

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mjr
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby mjr » 14 Aug 2017, 8:17pm

pjclinch wrote:Up to a point, Lord Copper. There does seem to be a repeated misunderstanding that since the design spec of a lid is ~ 12 mph then if you're well above that speed they're useless. if the impact is constrained (e.g., you've gone straight in to a very substantial wall) then that's quite possibly fair comment, but a great many crashes are only constrained in the vertical direction (by the ground), and it's the acceleration die to gravity from roughly standing height that gets you your ~ 12 mph.

Two things I'd challenge there: firstly, I think the drop test for EN1078 is from 1.5m height - is anyone here roughly 1.5m tall and never launched upwards in a crash? Secondly, our roads seem to have plenty of horizontal obstructions and boundaries including low ones like kerbs or other ones like roadside trees and posts so is it really true that many crashes are only constrained in the vertical direction?

Of course, Cunobelin is right in that the lower horizontal velocity component of walkers would suggest they'd benefit from helmets more than cyclists - but if you suggest that, apparently you're being silly!
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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pjclinch
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby pjclinch » 14 Aug 2017, 8:48pm

I wouldn't want to hazard any guess as to how often a sliding/tumbling rider will be stopped completely head first; my point was simply that travelling beyond 12 mph does not necessarily render a helmet useless, as seems to be widely assumed.

However, not being useless isn't necessarily the same as being worth having. For most cycling, most of the time, I'm not personally a fan.

Pete.
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drossall
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby drossall » 14 Aug 2017, 8:58pm

It's not so much that it's useless. Personally, if sliding along the road, I'd not object to some head protection. It's that it's probably not, as you rightly said, stopping any more than a headache. And that, set against that, there's the very complex mechanics of bouncing along a road.

From what I understand, serious head injuries are not so much about cracked skulls as about the brain bouncing around inside the skull (caused in turn by the rider bouncing along the ground, more than by direct impact). So, it's not in the least clear whether adding a helmet makes those better or worse. Which could go some way to explain the confusing statistics for helmet benefits; if you're really measuring prevention of abrasions, they probably do OK, but if you're measuring serious head injuries?

Perversely, of course, if you're trying to prevent abrasions, the old hair-nets begin to look a bit less daft than people now suggest. We knew they were only there to prevent abrasions on the first two bounces along the road, and then get dragged off. And they didn't make your head bigger to the same extent, so probably didn't increase the percentage of crashes in which your head makes contact with the ground, messing up the tuck and roll reflex in the process.

Wynne71
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby Wynne71 » 14 Aug 2017, 9:31pm

I'm a new user on here, so forgive me if I over step the mark or break any forum etiquette...

The idea of getting on a bike and NOT wearing a helmet is beyond my sphere of concept and imagination.
Having previously commuted across a busy city, Birmingham, the chance of being flung across a bonnet and then connecting with door, pillar, windscreen or other hard object was a daily risk. I class myself as a reasonably cautious rider, not taking overt risks, but the unknown risk it still there in such environments.
The routes I now take are mainly country lanes, but with some busy roads.
In 1991 I wasn't wearing a helmet, touring down Pembroke Dock high street at a reasonable rate, and was hit by a car pulling out of a parking space. I spent 48 hours unconscious, awoke in the local hospital on the Sunday evening with no idea what had happened. The doctor who treated me stated clearly that had I worn a helmet I would have walked away with some bad abrasions on my shoulder and arm. I still suffer with memory loss, today I called a pineapple a grenade....funny at the time, but naming items and people/streets etc is quite often difficult.
I bought a helmet the next weekend and got back on the bike. Wouldn't be without one on our roads.

As a primary school teacher (several years ago) I always supported cycling training and always ensured that kids riding to school wore a helmet. Even on a sponsored ride around our tarmac sports area I made all participants wear a helmet. Possibly something to do with the risk factor of 4-11 year old children riding round under my care (as the HT) may have made me be a touch OCD with the health and safety rules....

Just my personal thoughts and being able to speak from the wrong end of experience I thought this may add something to this thread.
Please feel free to ignore...

drossall
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby drossall » 14 Aug 2017, 9:45pm

No, you're welcome to join in. And personal experience is a powerful motivation.

Obviously it's possible for someone to have two accidents, one with a bad outcome and the other much better, and helmet wearing not to be what made the difference. In fact, there will be people who have had bad outcomes with helmets, and good without. So, individual experiences aren't actually that reliable, and we want to know how much difference helmets really make. Which is the reason for stepping back and looking at the picture for national-level statistics. And there it gets complicated.

There are studies that show significant helmet benefits. There are those that don't. There are analyses that show helmets actually making things worse. What's difficult to find consistently is demonstrable evidence of the level of benefit that most people assume*.

For example, even you (if you don't mind my saying so) are making the classic error of associating helmets with protection from traffic. They were simply never designed for those kinds of forces. Rather, they are intended to help with the much smaller forces involved in falling off sideways and hitting one's head, even from a stationary position. That doesn't rule out benefit when you're hit by a car, but it does mean that it has to be marginal. But when benefits are marginal, it's not usual to call someone foolish for not using a safety measure.

If you are going to say that you can't imagine doing something without a safety aid that is likely to be of marginal benefit, you really should be consistent and say you won't do other things either - walking, especially on ice, for example, or maybe having a shower, where slipping and getting head injuries is quite common. These things aren't totally daft - there has been research on helmets for children walking, as well as for car occupants.

And in the meantime, helmets of marginal benefit can become a distraction from things that really do make life safer for cyclists. The single biggest seems to be having more cyclists, bluntly, because drivers get more practice at dealing with them and behave better. That's why cycling has increased massively in London in recent decades, without a corresponding increase in accidents (don't get me wrong, there are accidents, but not in proportion to the increase in numbers of cyclists).

So this isn't necessarily about folly, or hatred of having our heads covered. For some of us, it's about passionately wanting cycling to be safer, and to increase, and not wanting the whole thing to become about a measure of debatable value. Because, once they've legislated for helmets, politicians won't move on to more effective measures for cycling; they'll say, "Job done", and move on to something unrelated to bikes at all.

Worst of all, if you say, "You need a helmet", people aren't daft. They hear, "This is dangerous." But the medical profession agree that the health benefits of cycling, measured in terms of life expectancy, exceed the risks 20:1. So insisting on helmets is probably insisting people off riding the bikes that could extend their lives.

Chris Boardman famously said that helmets aren't even in the top 10 things you'd do to make cycling safer. And until you've done all those...

* A few studies have provided results such as 85% of head injuries prevented. But then things start getting silly. One of those was reanalysed a little more carefully, and also showed that helmets were 75% effective at preventing limb injuries. Because, of course, the crashes with helmets weren't as dangerous as the ones without. You have to be quite careful with this stuff if you really care about your bonce.

Wynne71
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby Wynne71 » 14 Aug 2017, 10:03pm

Interesting reading indeed.
Possibly I'm a generally risk adverse person, wanting to tick as many boxes as possible, particularly after a reasonably grim personal experience.
Everything we as humans do has a risk factor, sleeping, waking, walking, eating, etc. However, most of us take some care in these activities, and try to negate the risk involved.
100% agree about more cyclists making our roads safer. I worked in Oxford for 18 months and that really makes a driver think twice!
Maybe all drivers should have to spend at least 12 months as cyclists prior to driving, might make them think again before over taking with no gap, pulling out at junctions, not seeing cyclists at islands.....etc.
You can imagine the type of cyclist I am: lights flashing front and back, helmet, red or hi-viz tops....
Still, truly interesting reading the opinions and findings of others. Makes me think.

drossall
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Re: "Don't forget to wear a helmet"

Postby drossall » 14 Aug 2017, 10:09pm

That's been suggested (make drivers cycle). The converse, of course, is already true; the vast majority of adult cyclists are drivers (although the percentage may be falling, because fewer younger people especially seem to be able to afford to learn to drive).

There are different forms of risk aversion. Trying to focus on things that work, and avoid things that may have negative effects, seems pretty risk averse to me. Although I doubt that any negative effects of helmets are worth worrying about. The main risk seems to be distraction from measures that would work.