Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

For all discussions about this "lively" subject. All topics that are substantially about helmet usage will be moved here.
mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 2:54pm

In the words of Socrates.

"A thing is itself.

A law about a thing is not the thing."

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pjclinch
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby pjclinch » 13 Jul 2020, 2:54pm

mikeymo wrote:
Vorpal wrote:
reohn2 wrote: however, as I do think that focus on the topic has harmed cycle campaigning.


It seems to me that "focus on the topic" originates from those whose opinion is that helmets haven't been proved to save lives, in "whole population studies".

I don't think most helmet wearers are at all "focussed" on it. They put a helmet on, then cycle somewhere.


I disagree quite significantly.

If the only people focused on helmet use are the likes of me, why would a driver overtaking my teenage daughter on an otherwise empty road as she rode home from a Girl Guide meeting feel the need to wind down their window and shout "Get yourself a f___ing helmet!" at her? Why would aPE specialist at her primary school, noting she rode to school without a helmet, go out of her way to berate her in front of her peers and tell her she should be wearing one, "no question"? Why would a cabbie, seeing me guiding my children through city traffic feel the need to stride in to the road shouting at me I was being "irresponsible"? How come some of the feedback to me giving up a lot of my own time for free to teach primary children Bikeability Scotland was anonymous parental complaints that in not wearing a helmet that I "set a bad example"? Why do the comments on any portrayal of cyclists without helmets in social media attract considerable censure for showing a "bad example"?

The obsession with helmets is significant, widespread and includes many who do and many who don't cycle.

Pete.
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Jdsk
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby Jdsk » 13 Jul 2020, 3:04pm

mikeymo wrote:In the words of Socrates.

"A thing is itself.

A law about a thing is not the thing."

Where's that from, please?

(Sounds more like Kant.)

Jonathan

mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 3:04pm

pjclinch wrote:
mikeymo wrote:
Vorpal wrote:


It seems to me that "focus on the topic" originates from those whose opinion is that helmets haven't been proved to save lives, in "whole population studies".

I don't think most helmet wearers are at all "focussed" on it. They put a helmet on, then cycle somewhere.


I disagree quite significantly.

If the only people focused on helmet use are the likes of me, why would a driver overtaking my teenage daughter on an otherwise empty road as she rode home from a Girl Guide meeting feel the need to wind down their window and shout "Get yourself a f___ing helmet!" at her? Why would aPE specialist at her primary school, noting she rode to school without a helmet, go out of her way to berate her in front of her peers and tell her she should be wearing one, "no question"? Why would a cabbie, seeing me guiding my children through city traffic feel the need to stride in to the road shouting at me I was being "irresponsible"? How come some of the feedback to me giving up a lot of my own time for free to teach primary children Bikeability Scotland was anonymous parental complaints that in not wearing a helmet that I "set a bad example"? Why do the comments on any portrayal of cyclists without helmets in social media attract considerable censure for showing a "bad example"?

The obsession with helmets is significant, widespread and includes many who do and many who don't cycle.

Pete.


Well, you've given examples from your experience. Most of whom, as far as I can see, seem to be non-cyclists.

My experience of other cyclists is that they don't "focus" on it. I think that was what I said, wasn't it? I was talking about cyclists really. But I get your point, you're talking about all road users.

Though obviously as we're striving towards some sort of scientific conclusion I suppose we should both treat our experience with caution - "the plural of anecdote is not data", as they say.
Last edited by mikeymo on 13 Jul 2020, 3:08pm, edited 1 time in total.

mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 3:07pm

Jdsk wrote:
mikeymo wrote:In the words of Socrates.

"A thing is itself.

A law about a thing is not the thing."

Where's that from, please?

(Sounds more like Kant.)

Jonathan


Sorry, it was Genghis Khan.

It's from my forthcoming book - "Made Up Quotes With False Attribution", subtitle, "How To Make Your Internet Postings Sound More Better".

Mike Sales
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby Mike Sales » 13 Jul 2020, 3:13pm

mikeymo wrote:Well, you've given examples from your experience. Most of whom, as far as I can see, seem to be non-cyclists.

My experience of other cyclists is that they don't "focus" on it. I think that was what I said, wasn't it?

Though obviously as we're striving towards some sort of scientific conclusion I suppose we should both treat our experience with caution - "the plural of anecdote is not data", as they say.



Since most of the population are not cyclists I think that the point about distracting attention away from measures that really do improve cycling safety is valid.
These drivers might possibly dislike cycling safety improvements which limit their freedoms, and focus on the helmets they are keen to see us wearing.

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RickH
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby RickH » 13 Jul 2020, 3:36pm

mikeymo wrote:
Vorpal wrote: however, as I do think that focus on the topic has harmed cycle campaigning.


It seems to me that "focus on the topic" originates from those whose opinion is that helmets haven't been proved to save lives, in "whole population studies".

I don't think most helmet wearers are at all "focussed" on it. They put a helmet on, then cycle somewhere.

Why is it then that on social media, whenever someone posts a cycling picture containing someone without a helmet, you can pretty much guarantee there will be "you/they should be wearing a helmet" within the first 5 comments. That's not the non-helmet wearers getting focused on the subject.

mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 3:48pm

Jdsk wrote:
mikeymo wrote:In the words of Socrates.

"A thing is itself.

A law about a thing is not the thing."

Where's that from, please?

(Sounds more like Kant.)

Jonathan


But seriously, folks. My point is that the frequently quoted studies that do "before and after" studies in places where cycle helmet laws are introduced might not be studying the thing some people think they are studying.

When a legal territory introduces a law mandating helmet wearing, the effects being measured are due to a law being introduced.

mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 3:53pm

RickH wrote:
mikeymo wrote:
Vorpal wrote: however, as I do think that focus on the topic has harmed cycle campaigning.


It seems to me that "focus on the topic" originates from those whose opinion is that helmets haven't been proved to save lives, in "whole population studies".

I don't think most helmet wearers are at all "focussed" on it. They put a helmet on, then cycle somewhere.

Why is it then that on social media, whenever someone posts a cycling picture containing someone without a helmet, you can pretty much guarantee there will be "you/they should be wearing a helmet" within the first 5 comments. That's not the non-helmet wearers getting focused on the subject.


I'll take your word for it. I must not spend enough time on social media where helmets are discussed. So are you saying these "should be wearing a helmet" comments are coming from helmet wearers? I must say on my local cycling forums where actual photos are posted I don't think I've read that comment even once.
Last edited by mikeymo on 13 Jul 2020, 3:56pm, edited 2 times in total.

Mike Sales
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby Mike Sales » 13 Jul 2020, 3:54pm

mikeymo wrote:
But seriously, folks. My point is that the frequently quoted studies that do "before and after" studies in places where cycle helmet laws are introduced might not be studying the thing some people think they are studying.

When a legal territory introduces a law mandating helmet wearing, the effects being measured are due to a law being introduced.


Would you like to analyse what you mean in more detail?

To be more than a platitude you must have in mind some less obvious problem. What distortions do you mean?

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pjclinch
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby pjclinch » 13 Jul 2020, 4:05pm

mikeymo wrote:
But seriously, folks. My point is that the frequently quoted studies that do "before and after" studies in places where cycle helmet laws are introduced might not be studying the thing some people think they are studying.

When a legal territory introduces a law mandating helmet wearing, the effects being measured are due to a law being introduced.


This is actually widely understood and is part of the problem.

Much science at detecting effects works by eliminating other effects from the study so you only get to see what you're looking for. This turns out to be very difficult with cycle helmets.

There is work that looks at the effects of gradual uptake through choice, rather than sudden legal requirement. I've already noted Hewson's work in the UK which works on the idea that since cycle and pedestrian casualties in the UK have always followed one another quite closely, if you start introducing a notionally effective benefit for one of the groups their relative performance should improve. Nothing significant showed up, but the author quite specifically noted the "ecological fallacy" of assuming that what goes for a notional Average Specimen will go for any given individual. There are other things which use other injuries as baselines, e.g. if the rate of lower limb injuries relative to head injuries was x back in the 1980s before helmets, have things improved for heads steadily as wearing rates rise, and so on. These are all welcome innovations but they tend to tick one box off at a time and leave another set of problems unsolved.
But you should get past the idea that the only work anyone quotes is before/after laws.

And also, if you have introduced a law because you've been assured that you'll have 85% fewer serious injuries to cyclists if they'd only wear these special hats, then you have the situation where the law and the thing are inter-dependent to some degree. The 85% figure from a 1989 study has underpinned a lot of helmet promotion and laws and comes from a study where there was no law.

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pjclinch
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby pjclinch » 13 Jul 2020, 4:11pm

mikeymo wrote:I'll take your word for it. I must not spend enough time on social media where helmets are discussed. So are you saying these "should be wearing a helmet" comments are coming from helmet wearers? I must say on my local cycling forums where actual photos are posted I don't think I've read that comment even once.


Rather than social media look at the comments on a cycling web site after a helmet story is posted.
Unless you think that the denizens of e.g. Cycling News and The Comic Online are non-cyclists, it soon becomes very apparent that there is a very vocal set of riders, particularly sports riders, who wear one, think everyone else should wear one, think anyone not wearing one is a moron, and aren't afraid to say so.

I've spent a lot of time trying to drag Cycling Scotland's training resources out of helmet promotion. CS are actually on my side (as is clear from the number of unhelmeted riders pictured in all of their campaign literature these days), but the problem is getting the idea past the training community, many/most of whom cannot countenance the idea of teaching kids to ride without a helmet.

Pete.
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mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 4:15pm

pjclinch wrote:But you should get past the idea that the only work anyone quotes is before/after laws.


You might well be right. Though the before/after law studies do seem to be the most frequently quoted, as supporting a "side", wouldn't you agree?

profpointy
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby profpointy » 13 Jul 2020, 4:25pm

mikeymo wrote:
pjclinch wrote:But you should get past the idea that the only work anyone quotes is before/after laws.


You might well be right. Though the before/after law studies do seem to be the most frequently quoted, as supporting a "side", wouldn't you agree?


That said, if the "before and after" numbers somehow don't show a huge, or at least very significant safety benefit it's hard not to be extremely skeptical of any other "research", some of which seems laughably poor or downright dishonest never mind poor

It was the Australia & Ontario before and after numbers cconvinced me to stop wearing on having been an early adopter, advocate even.

And yet each time a "new" bit of so called "research" appears it sounds plausible till you look at for 5 minutes then you say "hang on a minute". A recent, seemingly quite promising one appeared to show a step change in the rate of head vs non head injuries pre and post Australian compulsion. Mmm, maybe time for a rethink - then it emerged they'd chosen a different year entirely than the introduction of compulsion - it was pretty outrageous really

mikeymo
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Re: Evaluating the impact of cycle helmet use...

Postby mikeymo » 13 Jul 2020, 4:28pm

pjclinch wrote:
mikeymo wrote:I'll take your word for it. I must not spend enough time on social media where helmets are discussed. So are you saying these "should be wearing a helmet" comments are coming from helmet wearers? I must say on my local cycling forums where actual photos are posted I don't think I've read that comment even once.


Rather than social media look at the comments on a cycling web site after a helmet story is posted.
Unless you think that the denizens of e.g. Cycling News and The Comic Online are non-cyclists, it soon becomes very apparent that there is a very vocal set of riders, particularly sports riders, who wear one, think everyone else should wear one, think anyone not wearing one is a moron, and aren't afraid to say so.

I've spent a lot of time trying to drag Cycling Scotland's training resources out of helmet promotion. CS are actually on my side (as is clear from the number of unhelmeted riders pictured in all of their campaign literature these days), but the problem is getting the idea past the training community, many/most of whom cannot countenance the idea of teaching kids to ride without a helmet.

Pete.


I'll take your word for it. I'm not a "sports rider", I just mooch around Yorkshire and Scotland on a bike. And that's kind of my point. Amongst people that bought a bike, and now pedal places, helmets are a bit of a non-issue, I think. "People who post on forums" is actually not as big a group as one might think, for any given activity or interest. Here's an example - a friend of mine is a very keen fitness cyclist. He has always made his own bikes, does thousands of miles a year, is a ride leader for his local cycling club etc. etc. Most of my bikes up till recently had hub gears. Shimano Nexus/Alfine. When I was talking to him about one of them once it became clear that he thought there was only one hub gear system, the Rohloff, and it was unique. He just wasn't aware of any others. Why should he be? Unless he spent a lot of time on forums?

That's the point I'm making. That the interest in this, the "focus", as you put it, even amongst cyclists, is nothing like as universal as you might think. If you see a social media post and there are 10 posts, 9 of which say - "you should be wearing a helmet, you moron", that's just 9 people. For every one of those 9 people there could well be another 900 who aren't members of cycling forums, never post on the internet about bikes or helmets, who just lob a helmet on their bonce, get on their bike, and go somewhere. See what I mean?

EDIT - sorry, you said "rather than social media". I don't know if there's a strict definition of "social media", but I'd say "comments on a cycling web site" is a similar sort of thing.