KTM690 wrote:An argument against is that it was suspected (as opposed to proved) that helmet use decreased cycling. ... Australia does have a hotter climate ... Northern Ireland is a bit colder....
Heat is an issue. However, I believe that the general point here is that you say "Wear a helmet" and people hear "Cycling is dangerous, and here's a reminder to wear on every trip", and stop doing it. That applies equally in the two places. That is part of the reason that a response is to ask about helmets for other activities; we are saying "Cycling is dangerous" when other things, about which we have few concerns, appear more so. By "dangerous" we normally mean "relative to comparable activities"; even lying at home in bed has some dangers (lots of people die there). Therefore, and since cycling does not appear to be the most dangerous thing we normally do without helmets, sceptics reply by asking whether the choice of cycling as a target for helmets is emotionally based.
The paper did find that the proportion of cyclists presenting with head injuries at hospital dropped following helmet law - that was with 75% compliance.
This kind of thing is worth serious and calm discussion if we want the truth - which I believe I do, even coming from a position of doubt (so I'm interested in genuine answers). I'm strongly influenced by the national statistics that seem to show little benefit.
To understand the above result, we'd have to ask what was meant by a head injury; almost anything on the head will help with abrasions, and these, I understand, are often recorded as head injuries, whereas most of us are more concerned with skull and brain damage. Hence, you could get a reduction in minor scrapes to kids falling off at low speeds in parks, accompanied by an increase in serious injuries to older riders where any negative effects are more serious.
Also, we'd have to understand the wearing rate before legislation; it's the change in wearing rates, not the actual compliance rate, that would affect injuries.
By the way, my understanding is that cycling injuries are sufficiently rare that studies in individual hospitals are unlikely to achieve statistically-significant cohorts.
This was in the context of other road safety measures being introduced - drink driving and speed control. Although these measures to address driver behaviour were introduced it does not mean that less drivers were drunk or that speeds slowed. The reduction of head injuries was in the proportion of attendances as opposed to number.
Yes, fair point, but pedestrian head-injury rates also fell, suggesting an effect from the other legislation enacted at the same time.
It was also argued that net health benefit was reduced due to decrease in cycling - what's to say the kids didn't take up some other exercise instead?
Only cycling and walking can be built into lifestyle in an integral way (getting to work, school and the shops). Everything else is a special, planned activity (except perhaps informal stuff, such as kicking a football around with friends in the park - but previously you'd probably have cycled there and
played football). Hence you would not expect cycling to be replaced in many former commuters' lives, for example, in the same way that, if you banned or discouraged football, a lot of people might switch to another sport.
Prove to me that it's better that a child's head hit's the floor at 20 mph without a lid as opposed to with one and I'll agree that helmet law is daft.
Well you can prove relatively easily that the benefit can only be marginal. It's particularly hard to understand the people who argue that a helmet is more important the faster you go and the more dangerous the circumstances. If you take the design parameters seriously, this is rather like arguing that a small fire blanket is even more important in dealing with a factory on fire than a chip pan.
As far as I can make it out, helmets are roughly designed to protect you if you faint when standing (i.e. your head goes straight down, unprotected). To hit the floor at 20mph vertically downward, they'd have to jump off a wall (or a BMX ramp). Otherwise, if doing 20mph on a bike, they wouldn't hit the floor at 20mph because that's a forward speed, not a vertical one. Instead, they'd bounce, twist and scrape. How do helmets perform in such circumstances?
On a bike, your head is roughly at the same height as when standing (so it will hit the ground at about the same vertical
speed if you faint when riding as if you were standing). This is one reason why questions about walking helmets are not entirely unreasonable...