Use Your Head: Wear A Helmet

We’re all here, in Oxford, because of what’s in our heads and how we use them – it’s the one thing we all have in common. If we were to lose that, where would we be I wonder, and indeed, who would we be?

Huge numbers of us cycle on a daily basis, between our various colleges and departments, it’s great way to get around cheaply to wherever you want, whenever you want, but it is not without a degree of associated risk. And yet, despite this, very few of us in fact protect our most valuable asset, our heads!

Cycle safety may make you yawn and criticise me for sounding like your mother, but my awareness of head injuries and their consequences is now unfortunately part of my daily life.  Not that it happened to me on the roads, but instead about two years ago in a freak accident during the rowing regatta Torpids.  The impact itself wasn’t that severe, but has changed my life ever since. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, as well as various cognitive deficits in memory, the time it takes for me to process information and even in my ability to control my emotions, are all part and parcel of the ever uncertain world of having a brain injury.

Although head injuries, as well as all sorts of other accidents, can happen at any time, in any place, when we cycle we increase our exposure to this risk. 

You may have heard of James Cracknell, double Olympic gold medallist and rowing champion. Since retiring from competitive racing in 2004, he’s undertaken various physical challenges pushing his body to the limit. He’s rowed across the Atlantic with Ben Fogle and completed the gruelling Marathon Des Sables, running seven marathons in six days.  In July 2010 whilst attempting to cycle, run, row and swim across America, James, cycling, was hit from behind by a truck at 70mph. Seriously injured, James was in a coma and when eventually came to, found that his whole life had changed. From being invincible, he had a severely altered personality and had to re-learn how to do even the simplest of tasks. He was, however, alive.

James owes his life to his helmet, which was split down the middle.  He is now a spokesperson for the brain injury charity Headway, the charity that gave me help during a period of medical leave after my accident. Headway have long been campaigning for cycle helmets to be made compulsory for children cycling on roads, and are always trying to raise awareness of the potential consequences of a brain injury to try and all encourage cyclists to wear them.

James Cracknell has recently produced an appeal video in association with Headway with the title – ‘Use your head. Use your helmet’. “I used to be James Cracknell”, he says, “now I’m nearly James Cracknell”, showing how much this incident has changed his entire life, including his personality.  He urges cyclists to wear helmets, “I was lucky…some cyclists will never ride again”. The shock tactic may sound dramatic, but these are real accidents, happening to real people, and if it encourages just one person to wear a helmet, that may just save their life.

So how much of a help is a helmet exactly? Well the Cochrane Foundation Review have investigated this very question. The report found that wearing a helmet reduced the risk of head or brain injury by approximately two-thirds, regardless of whether the incident involves a motor vehicle or not. It was stated that: “Helmets provide a 63-88% reduction in the risk of head, brain and severe brain injury for all ages of bicyclists. Helmets provide equal levels of protection for crashes involving motor vehicles (69%) and crashes from all other causes (68%). Injuries to the upper and mid facial areas are reduced 65%”[1].  It was also noted that head injuries make up for around three quarters of deaths among bicyclists involved in crashes.

Whilst deaths on the roads are decreasing year on year, the number of cyclists killed or seriously injured has risen for the last three years. Headway estimates that there are around 190,000 cycling accidents each year in the UK alone. The rising evidence showing the undeniable effectiveness of helmets, and the increasing number of people involved in accidents has encouraged many countries and states to make them compulsory, especially for under-18s. For example, in Victoria, Australia there has been a 41% decline in the number of cycling related head injuries since the change in the law. Jersey followed suit in 2010 and is already seeing the benefits of having done so.

A common excuse for not wearing a helmet, particularly among students, is the expense. But fear not, recent studies by the Bicycle Safety Institute have shown that there’s no need to buy an expensive helmet, a cheaper model will work just as effectively. Their report states that, “We submitted samples of six helmet models to a leading U.S. test lab: three in the $150+ range and three under $20. The impact test results were virtually identical. There were very few differences in performance among the helmets. Our conclusion: when you pay more for a helmet you may get an easier fit, more vents and snazzier graphics. But the basic impact protection of the cheap helmets we tested equalled the expensive ones.” Their advice is to just look for a helmet that fits you well and is comfortable.

But enough of statistics and numbers, what about the cost to the individual? The charity Headway helps people who’ve suffered brain injuries and their families on ground level; they see how it has changed people’s lives. A spokesperson for the charity says, “Here at Headway, we know the devastating effects a brain injury can have and how easy it can be to damage the brain. A number of Headway service users sustained their injuries through cycling accidents and now face spending the rest of their lives wishing they’d chosen to wear a helmet. To those people, statistics are meaningless; of far greater value is the common sense notion that wearing a helmet will help protect one’s fragile skull.”

In the last term alone, several of my close friends have had accidents or near misses cycling in Oxford; whether it’s being cut up by taxis, swerving buses or falling foul of those pedestrians who think they can just walk out across oncoming traffic without looking. And I’ve seen a few more; a couple of people turning a corner on a road wet from raining, who came flying off, and most notably my support worker from the Disability Advisory Service who was hit by a steel girder falling from a construction site on George Street fracturing her skull.  If she’d been wearing a helmet, would it have been less serious?  We’ll never know.

I think because there are so many cyclists in Oxford, and that the motorists are relatively tolerant of us, we are complacent about the potential dangers of cycling on the streets. But we shouldn’t have to wait for occasions like these to persuade us that it’s a good idea to wear a helmet, and, even after these experiences there are many who just brush themselves off and carry on as they did before.

You never know if or when something may happen to you – but you should take every precaution to make sure that you protect the most important part of yourself. Broken bones will mend, bruises and grazes will heal, but hurt your head, even in a minor way and you might never come back fully from that. Brain injuries are a funny thing, you could have a serious impact and recover fully in weeks or months, or have a relatively minor impact that leaves you changed forever. Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: “There is a general misconception that only a major impact will lead to death or disability from a head injury. However, the truth of the matter is that sometimes even minor bangs to the head can have serious consequences”

So why take that chance? And forget long-term consequences of a brain injury, if you have a really bad accident – a helmet might just save your life.  With my injury there was nothing I could have done differently to prevent it, but if something happens to you on a bike after reading this, and you didn’t take the advice, you would regret it. Please, take it from someone who knows what this could do to your life: Use your head. Wear a helmet.

The appeal video from James Cracknell can be found on – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu4QzAIayTU


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68 Responses to "Use Your Head: Wear A Helmet"

  1. Kate  21/01/2012 at 09:53

    Great article touching on an issue very relevant to Oxford students – I wish more people would think about the potential consequences of not wearing a helmet.

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  2. Richard Burton  21/01/2012 at 18:07

    Oh, dear, another “don’t ride a bike you’ll die” article. But don’t worry, you’ll be perfectly safe if you wear a helmet. Complete and utter twaddle. Just because the author had an accident rowing, we should all wear a cycle helmet – not really all that logical Harriet. I do wish people would do the most basic research into the subject before writing such complete nonsense.

    But she is right about one thing; you’re at Oxford because of what’s in your heads, so use it and do some research – try cyclehelmets.org first.

    For Harriet’s information, nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing because of propaganda like this can show any reduction in risk to cyclists. The only effect of helmet laws and propaganda is to reduce the number of cyclists, and since cycling confers such huge health benefits, the overall effect is very large and very negative.

    Use your heads, don’t believe the propaganda!

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  3. Richard Burton  21/01/2012 at 18:18

    Wrong about James Cracknell too “In July 2010 whilst attempting to cycle, run, row and swim across America, James, cycling, was hit from behind by a truck at 70mph. Seriously injured, James was in a coma and when eventually came to, found that his whole life had changed.” He was still concious after the collision, and was only in a coma because the doctors put him in one.

    “James owes his life to his helmet, which was split down the middle.” This is extremely unlikely, and there is a possibility that he wouldn’t even have been hit if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

    “Headway have long been campaigning for cycle helmets to be made compulsory for children cycling on roads, and are always trying to raise awareness of the potential consequences of a brain injury to try and all encourage cyclists to wear them.” Headway adopt the “blame the victim” approach, which has never worked anywhere it’s been tried. Rather than campaign for reducing the danger by controlling the biggest threat to pedestrians, cyclists and all other road users, bad driving, they tell cyclists to wear a flimsy plastic hat.

    “James Cracknell has recently produced an appeal video in association with Headway with the title – ‘Use your head. Use your helmet’. “I used to be James Cracknell”, he says, “now I’m nearly James Cracknell”, showing how much this incident has changed his entire life, including his personality. He urges cyclists to wear helmets, “I was lucky…some cyclists will never ride again”. The shock tactic may sound dramatic, but these are real accidents, happening to real people, and if it encourages just one person to wear a helmet, that may just save their life.” And pigs might fly. If even 10% of the helmet saved my life stories were true, there would be a marked effect at a population level, but all the long term, large scale studies show either no effect or an increase in risk with helmet wearing.

    And James Cracknell is sponsored by the helmet company that his video advertises so well. I wonder how much their sales have gone up since it was published?

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  4. Becky  21/01/2012 at 21:18

    @ Richard Burton,

    I’m struggling to understand your opposition to this article. A few technical points you seem to take issue with have absolutely no bearing on your argument at all. So what if James Cracknell was put in a coma by doctors, rather than instantly succumbing to one due to his accident (which the article doesn’t even really suggest)? Either way, he sustained a head injury which has had a huge impact on his life. I’m not sure how he would have avoided being hit had he not been wearing a helmet, and it really doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened to his skull without a helmet.

    Yes, safer driving would definitely help to prevent accidents, but in no way is Harriet suggesting that wearing a helmet would have the same effect. What I get from this (well researched, in my opinion- or don’t the statistics that don’t support your argument count?) is that wearing a helmet is definitely wise, as if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, they are hugely important in reducing the risk of a severe head injury.

    It’s easy to scoff, but are you living with a permanent brain injury? I would say that brushing this aside as “propaganda” is far more damaging and dangerous than taking some extra care and wearing a helmet.

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  5. Marie-France  21/01/2012 at 21:31

    @Richard Burton

    It is absolutely beyond me why anyone would put this level of effort into criticising an article that has been written with the best of intentions – surely we can all agree that safety and good health are universally good things?

    Harriet herself makes it very clear in the article that in her own case there was nothing she could have done differently to prevent the accident, but the fact is that there are hundreds of students in Oxford who through the simple act of putting a helmet on their head could massively reduce the chances of brain injury should an accident occur. This seems to be a far more realistic way to combat the large amount of cycle-related injuries than your suggestion of targeting ‘bad drivers’. Ah good, we’ll just get rid of them then.
    Harriet’s own experience of what the reality of brain injury is means that this is a cause she obviously feels very passionate about, and all she is trying to do here is to illustrate what the choice between wearing or not wearing a helmet could mean to one of the hundreds of students who cycle in Oxford everyday.

    Your conspiracy theories about ‘propaganda’ and covert helmet advertising campaigns are absolutely preposterous. Oh yes, how ingenious of James Cracknell to engineer a life-threatening accident just so he could secure that sponsorship deal and swindle us all of out of £19.99 per helmet. Because, you know, being a double Olympic gold medallist, prior to that he certainly had no hope of any sort of lucrative career! Thank you for alerting us to the menace he is. Whatever next, helping old ladies to cross the road?

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  6. Emma  21/01/2012 at 21:39

    Very well-written Hattie! My Dad got hit by a taxi that thought it could run a red light just because it was 6 am and hardly anyone was around. His helmet was smashed to pieces but he only had a mark where the band of the helmet rubbed his forehead… seeing his helmet I immediately thought that it was how his head may have ended up, but you can’t buy a new head. We are too complacent in Oxford, even me sometimes when I’m in a rush, and push away the image of my Dad’s shattered helmet. I’m so sorry to hear about your accident, but good on you for writing this article. (Ignore the negative comments, they just don’t like to admit that safety tops looking cool.)

    Also, I don’t think any of us are suggesting helmets are going to save the world – they’re just the least you can do, whether the risk of something going wrong are small or large. And they may be larger than you think as even if you’re the best cyclist in the world Oxford drivers can be pretty appalling.

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  7. Charlotte  21/01/2012 at 21:49

    I think it would probably be better if we leave Richard alone in his idiocy, and give the world a fighting chance to rid itself of such utter rubbish.

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  8. Hannah  21/01/2012 at 23:06

    prop·a·gan·da/ˌpräpəˈgandə/
    Noun:
    Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
    The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.

    Harriet’s article is neither a ‘political strategy’, nor *her* ‘point of view’, but rather something logical, and quite objective. Great article.

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  9. Soothsayer  21/01/2012 at 23:28

    Slow news day, much?

    For anyone who is already too stupid not to concede that wearing a helmet reduces the chances of serious head injury or trauma in an accident, this article has probably come too late. In any case, a thousand-word nag isn’t likely to convince anyone.

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  10. Tom  21/01/2012 at 23:44

    This article has been a strong reminder to me of the importance of wearing a cycle helmet. It doesn’t pretend that wearing a helmet is a guarantee of protecting you during an accident but it draws attention to the fact that it could reduce the potential for or severity of injury if the worst should happen. Clearly the author has put a lot of thought, time and hard work into constructing this article and I think she should be commended for raising awareness of the potential harm that could be averted by wearing a helmet. It’s an issue that a lot of people try to ignore by thinking it’ll never happen to them, and I would count myself as one of those people, but in light of this article I’ll be making every effort to wear a cycle helmet in the future.

    Ask yourself Richard, if you knew the next time you were taking your bike out you were going to have an accident, and you were going to sustain a serious head injury and a helmet could offer even a chance of preventing that, would you wear one? Now read what you’ve said again and ask yourself, are you really the witty, enlightened, rational individual you clearly aspire to be with your comments? Or are your remarks the arrogant, petty, destructive ramblings of someone who is selfishly attempting to defile the hard work and honourable intentions of a person who is trying to raise awareness of an important issue. It’s fine for you to hold an opposing view, and to be critical of the points the author is trying to put across, but your mean spirited, rude, and flippant points come across as nothing more than childish. Perhaps in the future you’d gain more credit by saying nothing at all.

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  11. Rachel  22/01/2012 at 00:02

    Mmmm wear a helmet guys or you may be left with analytical skills on par with Richard Burton’s….

    One wonders if he has read the article: “Just because the author had an accident rowing, we should all wear a cycle helmet”.

    No. To lessen the risk of debilitating and life-altering injury, we should wear a cycle helmet – that is Harriet’s message. The method by which she herself sustained her injury is not directly relevant here; the impact it has had upon her life is. This impact would have been the same whether the injury had resulted from rowing, cycling, or indeed an unfortunate incident involving a coconut tree.

    Not having had personal experience of brain injury, it’s hard to fully grasp its consequences. It’s easy to disassociate oneself from the issue: “It won’t happen to me.” It may well not, but if it does, the effects could be devastating. In the face of the after-effects described by Harriet, taking a few perfectly manageable steps to reduce the risk of a similar injury (regardless of in which circumstances) would seem to be an intelligent choice.

    As a final stand in the interests of persuasive, intelligent writing and general self-awareness, I have to identify a few personal highlights of Burton’s commentary:
    “For Harriet’s information, nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing because of propaganda like this can show any reduction in risk to cyclists. The only effect of helmet laws and propaganda is to reduce the number of cyclists, and since cycling confers such huge health benefits, the overall effect is very large and very negative”
    “there is a possibility that he wouldn’t even have been hit if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.”
    “If even 10% of the helmet saved my life stories were true, there would be a marked effect at a population level.”
    This is really fascinating writing coming from someone supposedly in opposition to poorly-researched pieces. I’m reluctant to call it propaganda, because according to the definition above that accords it with the status of ‘information’, but the relationship these excerpts display to factuality speaks for itself.

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  12. Ron Wild  22/01/2012 at 00:17

    Helmet, eye protection and gloves every time. I am against compulsory helmets solely on the grounds that helmet sellers would then put up the prices, as we would have no option but to have one. Other than that it is a well written article. I have been knocked off bikes by a bus on a roundabout, where the driver failed to spot my day-glo jacket. That helmet split when it hit the kerb edge. Also a taxi pulled out of a junction knocking me into a passing vehicle, a second earlier and I would have been under the vehicle, my head went through the front passenger window. In August this year my chain came off as I stood in the pedals to pull away from a roundabout causing me to fall forward with my hands pinned behind the brake levers I hit a manhole cover with my helmeted head at around 30mph and I return to work this coming Monday (Five months) and still have double vision, and personality change. So if you don’t care about protecting your head or you have nothing in it worth protecting, follow Mr Burton’s vitriolic criticism, however, if you want to carry on life without a carer, adult nappies and a wheelchair, as a cyclist I know of now does, get a helmet.It may not prevent it but it will massively reduce the risk. I hope you eventually repair Ms Jackson.

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  13. Daven  22/01/2012 at 00:59

    Not sure how setting a mob upon one goading commentator can be seen as a more mature response. Then again, that’s probably what ‘Richard Burton’ wanted. Good grief.

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  14. Alex  22/01/2012 at 13:13

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nu4QzAIayTU – Richard Burton you’re just plain wrong.

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  15. Alex  22/01/2012 at 13:14

    youtube…. /watch?v=nu4QzAIayTU – Richard Burton you’re just plain wrong.

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  16. Alex  22/01/2012 at 13:16

    *sorry about the duplicate

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  17. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 18:14

    @Becky

    “I’m struggling to understand your opposition to this article.” My opposition to this article is that it is misinformed, grossly exaggerates the risks of cycling and the protective effect of cycle helmets.

    “A few technical points you seem to take issue with have absolutely no bearing on your argument at all.” A few technical points? Like the fact that nowhere with a helmet law can show any reduction in risk to cyclists perhaps?

    “So what if James Cracknell was put in a coma by doctors, rather than instantly succumbing to one due to his accident (which the article doesn’t even really suggest)?” The article suggest that most strongly “In July 2010 whilst attempting to cycle, run, row and swim across America, James, cycling, was hit from behind by a truck at 70mph. Seriously injured, James was in a coma and when eventually came to, found that his whole life had changed.” Anyone reading that would come to the conclusion that he was rendered unconscious by the collision.

    “Either way, he sustained a head injury which has had a huge impact on his life.” Which his helmet failed to prevent – not exactly the recommendation I’d be looking for from a helmet.

    “I’m not sure how he would have avoided being hit had he not been wearing a helmet, and it really doesn’t bear thinking about what would have happened to his skull without a helmet.” It’s quite simple: a helmet significantly increases the size of the head it’s on, converting near misses into collisions, and this is one explanation of why there are so many false helmet saved my life stories. It is entirely feasible that the truck’s wing mirror would have missed Mr Cracknell’s head if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.

    “Yes, safer driving would definitely help to prevent accidents, but in no way is Harriet suggesting that wearing a helmet would have the same effect.” So which is better: prevention or cure? If we stop people driving dangerously, we’d all be better off. Making victims wear armour, ineffective, flimsy armour in this case, is unlikely to be effective.

    “What I get from this (well researched, in my opinion- or don’t the statistics that don’t support your argument count?) is that wearing a helmet is definitely wise, as if you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident, they are hugely important in reducing the risk of a severe head injury.” Well researched? It’s just a regurgitation of Headway’s propaganda, with no basis in fact. You have checked out cyclehelmets.org for a few facts rather than Headway’s fairy stories, haven’t you? If helmets are “hugely important in reducing the risk of a severe head injury.” why is that effect not observable in countries with a helmet law? In more than twenty years experience of such laws in Australia and New Zealand, the one observable effect has been a reduction in the number of cyclists which translates into a major cost to society. The Cochrane review referred to was so scientifically flawed and received so much criticism that another one had to be done very quickly. It didn’t follow the explicit guidelines necessary for Cochrane reviews, and was done by researchers who were committed helmet promoters. There is no reliable evidence that cycle helmets are effective at reducing the risk to cyclists. Again, check out cyclehelmets.org

    “It’s easy to scoff, but are you living with a permanent brain injury? I would say that brushing this aside as “propaganda” is far more damaging and dangerous than taking some extra care and wearing a helmet.” No I’m not living with permanent brain injury, but, according to many people I should be as I don’t wear a helmet, but I’ve actually looked at the evidence, not just swallowed, and I make no apologies for repeating, propaganda like this. If you think it’s damaging and dangerous to point out the truth, then that is your opinion, but your opinion is clearly not based on the facts. Personally, I feel it’s damaging not to examine the facts and come to a decision based on nothing more than anecdote.

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  18. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 18:56

    @Marie France

    “It is absolutely beyond me why anyone would put this level of effort into criticising an article that has been written with the best of intentions – surely we can all agree that safety and good health are universally good things?” It was no effort at all, my MSc dissertation was on the subject of cycle helmets. The best of intentions are one thing, but when the reality is that they would achieve the direct opposite of what was intended, then it’s really not sensible to proceed is it? Safety and good health are indeed laudable objectives, but the sole effect of helmet laws and propaganda is to scare people into believing that cycling is very risky so they give it up, thus losing the massive health benefits, with a consequent huge cost to society.

    “…. but the fact is that there are hundreds of students in Oxford who through the simple act of putting a helmet on their head could massively reduce the chances of brain injury should an accident occur.” And your evidence for claiming this? The Cochrane report by pro-helmet researchers which was so bad that another had to be done? All the long term, large scale reliable research shows either no reduction in risk to cyclists or an increase in risk with helmet wearing. All the research which shows massive benefits is small scale, short term and is mostly so bad that the results have been shown not to be reasonable on peer review.

    “This seems to be a far more realistic way to combat the large amount of cycle-related injuries than your suggestion of targeting ‘bad drivers’ Ah good, we’ll just get rid of them then.” What large amount of cycle-related injuries? Do you have any figures to show that cycling is especially dangerous or productive of head injuries? For your information, per mile travelled, cycling is about as dangerous, or safe, as walking. So if you’re in favour of cycle helmets, you must be in favour of walking helmets as well. Since it is quite clear that cycle helmets don’t reduce the risk to cyclists, and that reducing dangerous driving does improve the safety of cyclists, then yes, getting rid of bad drivers would significantly improve the safety of cyclists, and all other road users’. Unfortunately, society condones bad driving, and it is unlikely in the first place that dangerous drivers would be caught, and secondly that they will be prevented from driving dangerously again.

    “Harriet’s own experience of what the reality of brain injury is means that this is a cause she obviously feels very passionate about, and all she is trying to do here is to illustrate what the choice between wearing or not wearing a helmet could mean to one of the hundreds of students who cycle in Oxford everyday.” I’ve no doubt that Harriet feels as you suggest, but she hasn’t had the benefit of looking at the facts, only the propaganda produced by Headway. Since cycle helmets are not effective, the choice you state is a false one.

    “Your conspiracy theories about ‘propaganda’ and covert helmet advertising campaigns are absolutely preposterous.” I beg to differ. For instance, the BBC have been producing articles about cycle helmets for over twenty years, but have so far failed to produce anything which could vaguely be described as balanced, despite their Charter and Editorial Guidelines. For example, when the R4 programme “More or Less” (supposedly about de-bunking myths by examining the statistics and data behind them) looked at cycle helmets, for the only time in the programme’s history, it didn’t look at the statistics or data, and it only interviewed helmet proponents. Google for BBC and cycle helmets and try to find a webpage that doesn’t overtly promote helmets.

    “Oh yes, how ingenious of James Cracknell to engineer a life-threatening accident just so he could secure that sponsorship deal and swindle us all of out of £19.99 per helmet.” He was sponsored by the helmet company before his collision.

    “Because, you know, being a double Olympic gold medallist, prior to that he certainly had no hope of any sort of lucrative career! Thank you for alerting us to the menace he is.” There is no doubt that he has achieved a great deal and deserves respect for that, but he now earns his living making documentaries about himself undertaking tests of endurance. I’ve no idea what sort of career he followed before his Olympic medals, do you?

    “Whatever next, helping old ladies to cross the road?” How about telling them stories about other old ladies who were killed crossing the road, but then telling them that they’d be perfectly safe if they just wore a St Christopher? Which we would of course sell them at vast profit.

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  19. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 19:06

    @ Charlotte

    “I think it would probably be better if we leave Richard alone in his idiocy, and give the world a fighting chance to rid itself of such utter rubbish.”

    Thanks Charlotte, an incisive refutation of every point. You may consider it idiocy to present the facts, but I really can’t agree. However, you demonstrate beautifully the effects of twenty years of propaganda, condemning someone presenting facts as an idiot. Not sure what your second point about giving the world a fighting chance to rid itself of such utter rubbish could possibly mean though. Perhaps you could elucidate.

    You have of course checked out cyclehelmets.org and acquainted yourself with the facts?

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  20. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 19:16

    @ Hannah

    “prop•a•gan•da/ˌpräpəˈgandə/
    Noun: Information, esp. of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view. The dissemination of such information as a political strategy.” Almost all the information in the media about cycle helmets is biased and misleading e.g. have you ever read or seen anything in the media reflecting the fact that nowhere with a helmet law can show any reduction in risk to cyclists? As far as a political strategy goes, Headway have made it very clear that they want a helmet law, and are prepared to do just about anything to achieve that aim. There have already been three attempts in Parliament to pass such a law, there is one in Jersey, and the Northern Ireland Assembly also recently considered one. On each occasion, biased and misleading information has been supplied to gullible politicians by helmet proponents, and Headway have supported the proposal.

    “Harriet’s article is neither a ‘political strategy’, nor *her* ‘point of view’, but rather something logical, and quite objective. Great article.” Something logical and objective? So presumably, you believe the earth is flat? In The One Show article about cycle helmets last year, the chair of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, Angie Lee said “Just ignore the research, go with common sense.” You might like to ask yourself why someone so utterly committed to bringing in a helmet law would like everyone to ignore the evidence. You might consider it a great article, but I prefer something rather more factual and much less subjective.

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  21. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 19:19

    @Soothsayer

    “For anyone who is already too stupid not to concede that wearing a helmet reduces the chances of serious head injury or trauma in an accident, this article has probably come too late. In any case, a thousand-word nag isn’t likely to convince anyone.” So anyone who has actually done research and established the facts is stupid? Just look at cyclehelmets.org

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  22. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 19:46

    @Tom

    “This article has been a strong reminder to me of the importance of wearing a cycle helmet.” What importance? I’ll keep repeating this until it sinks in: nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing due to propaganda campaigns can show any reduction in risk to cyclists. They are totally irrelevant to the safety of cyclists.

    “It doesn’t pretend that wearing a helmet is a guarantee of protecting you during an accident but it draws attention to the fact that it could reduce the potential for or severity of injury if the worst should happen.” But since, in the real world, proved by over twenty years of real world experience, they don’t reduce anything, the point is mistaken.

    “Clearly the author has put a lot of thought, time and hard work into constructing this article and I think she should be commended for raising awareness of the potential harm that could be averted by wearing a helmet.” It is indeed possible that the author did a lot of work on this article, but given that it merely repeats the half-truths and exaggerations of Headway, it appears more likely that she is being used by them to make their point, a tactic used by helmet promoters many times before.

    “It’s an issue that a lot of people try to ignore by thinking it’ll never happen to them, and I would count myself as one of those people, but in light of this article I’ll be making every effort to wear a cycle helmet in the future.” And like all the other respondents to this article, can I urge you to find out the facts first? cyclehelmets.org

    “Ask yourself Richard, if you knew the next time you were taking your bike out you were going to have an accident, and you were going to sustain a serious head injury and a helmet could offer even a chance of preventing that, would you wear one?” I’ve examined the evidence and made a logical decision based on the likelihood of having a life-threatening collision and the protective effect of helmets, unlike everyone else on this thread. The BMA looked at the benefits of cycling versus the risks about twenty years ago, and found that the benefits outweighed the risks by at least twenty to one, likely to be much higher now, with reduced levels of exercise. They also found that regular cyclists, those most exposed to the risk, were likely to live two years longer, and suffer less from all forms of illness. How can something likely to make you live longer be described as dangerous?

    “Now read what you’ve said again and ask yourself, are you really the witty, enlightened, rational individual you clearly aspire to be with your comments?” As to being witty, I must let others decide, but enlightened and rational, certainly, as I’ve examined the data and come to a rational decision. Everyone else here seems to think that anecdote is data, it isn’t.

    “Or are your remarks the arrogant, petty, destructive ramblings of someone who is selfishly attempting to defile the hard work and honourable intentions of a person who is trying to raise awareness of an important issue.” Interesting that you accept without question anecdote, exaggeration and scientifically invalid research at face value, but call someone questioning them arrogant, petty, destructive and rambling. Can I point out that my MSc dissertation was on cycle helmets, and I’m confident of my facts? Perhaps you should acquaint yourself with the facts before dismissing someone who already has.

    “It’s fine for you to hold an opposing view, and to be critical of the points the author is trying to put across, but your mean spirited, rude, and flippant points come across as nothing more than childish.” Please give me a few examples of “mean spirited” and “rude” and “flippant” and “childish” I’d be genuinely interested to find out what I’ve said that you consider to be so.

    “Perhaps in the future you’d gain more credit by saying nothing at all.” And let such a gross misrepresentation of the facts go unchallenged? I think it would be extremely remiss of me not to challenge such misrepresentation and attempt to point out the facts as known to me.

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  23. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 20:06

    @Rachel

    Mmmm wear a helmet guys or you may be left with analytical skills on par with Richard Burton’s….” Since I’ve both a BSc and an MSc, my analytical skills are fine thank you, but, unlike everyone else here, I actually use them, I don’t just accept anecdote and rumour as fact.

    “One wonders if he has read the article: “Just because the author had an accident rowing, we should all wear a cycle helmet”. I certainly did read the article, and it merely regurgitates the misrepresentations of Headway, who would rather blame the victim than to take action that would actually improve everyone’s safety.

    “No. To lessen the risk of debilitating and life-altering injury, we should wear a cycle helmet – that is Harriet’s message.” I’m glad to see that you read it too, but that doesn’t change the fact that Harriet is mistaken. Cycle helmets do not reduce the risk to cyclists, but the myth that they do so is now so persistent and all pervasive that anyone saying the opposite is roundly criticised, even when the facts bear them out.

    “The method by which she herself sustained her injury is not directly relevant here; the impact it has had upon her life is. This impact would have been the same whether the injury had resulted from rowing, cycling, or indeed an unfortunate incident involving a coconut tree.” Indeed, and many more people die falling down the stairs than die in cycle accidents every year, and the risks of walking are about the same as cycling, and don’t even get me started about the risks of falling over in the shower and banging your head. Using your impeccable logic, helmets should be worn for all these activities, as they are all risky. Apart from walking, none of them provide the health benefits of cycling though, and it wouldn’t matter if people were deterred from doing them. The only effect of helmet promotion and laws is to deter cycling, so the effects at a population level are negative and large.

    “Not having had personal experience of brain injury, it’s hard to fully grasp its consequences. It’s easy to disassociate oneself from the issue: “It won’t happen to me.” It may well not, but if it does, the effects could be devastating. In the face of the after-effects described by Harriet, taking a few perfectly manageable steps to reduce the risk of a similar injury (regardless of in which circumstances) would seem to be an intelligent choice.” And despite your fatuous inference, I’ve not sustained a brain injury either, but I’ve looked at the evidence, and there is no association between helmet wearing and reduced risk.

    “As a final stand in the interests of persuasive, intelligent writing and general self-awareness, I have to identify a few personal highlights of Burton’s commentary:
    “For Harriet’s information, nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing because of propaganda like this can show any reduction in risk to cyclists. The only effect of helmet laws and propaganda is to reduce the number of cyclists, and since cycling confers such huge health benefits, the overall effect is very large and very negative”
    “there is a possibility that he wouldn’t even have been hit if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.”
    “If even 10% of the helmet saved my life stories were true, there would be a marked effect at a population level.”
    This is really fascinating writing coming from someone supposedly in opposition to poorly-researched pieces. I’m reluctant to call it propaganda, because according to the definition above that accords it with the status of ‘information’, but the relationship these excerpts display to factuality speaks for itself.” I think you’re inferring that my statements you quote are not true, even if you don’t actually say so, but I’m glad you found them fascinating. Not fascinating enough to bother to do any research to find out if they were true though. As far as their relationship to factuality goes, they are a damn sight more factual than the anecdotes you seem to find so convincing.

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  24. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 20:15

    @ Daven
    “Not sure how setting a mob upon one goading commentator can be seen as a more mature response. Then again, that’s probably what ‘Richard Burton’ wanted. Good grief.”

    No, what I actually wanted was to bring whatever knowledge I have to bear on the issue. As previously stated, my MSc dissertation was about cycle helmets, and judging from the responses, I’m the only one here with any knowledge at all on the subject.

    Just after I’d finished my dissertation, I wrote an article for a transport magazine about helmets, putting over the evidence that they didn’t make any difference to the safety of cyclists. There were four responses, two from helmet proponents who were utterly convinced that helmets were highly beneficial, and two who supported my view. The first two admitted that they were entirely ignorant about helmets, but relied on common sense, and the second two were both highly knowledgeable and had done their own research. It would appear that anyone who has bothered to investigate the facts about helmets is extremely sceptical of their efficacy, and the people who are convinced of their efficacy are completely ignorant.

    As I’ve said many times before, check out the facts cyclehelmets.org
    And then make up your own minds.

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  25. Richard Burton  22/01/2012 at 20:20

    I have to say that I’m both saddened and depressed at the level of intelligence shown by most of the respondents here. Rather than do some research and argue from a position of knowledge, you all accept anecdote and exaggeration without once checking the facts.

    You’re supposed to be at university to learn how to think independently and how to question things, not just accept blindly what you are told, yet not one of you has bothered to do even the most basic checking.

    Never mind, I’ll look forward to all the apologies once you’ve checked the facts.

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  26. Jamie  23/01/2012 at 10:29

    A very well written article Harriet; summarising the effects of brain injuries 1st hand.

    Richard – I think you will find this particular FACT quite interesting from a study published, that wearing a cycle helmet reduces the risk of head and brain injury by 65 to 88 per cent, and injury to the upper and mid face by 65 per cent.

    And for your completely incorrect comment of “nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing because of propaganda like this can show any reduction in risk to cyclists”, maybe you should also look into a Canadian study (taken between 1991 & 2002) where it was made compulsory for under 16′s to wear helmets, where the death rate fell by 52%, and for those over the age of 16 (and therefore NOT having to wear a helmet), the death rate very slightly increase.
    Also, a report (published in 2009), commissioned by the Department for Transport, concludes that helmets ARE effective at preventing head and brain injuries.

    Your point about the health benefits of cycling however is very valid – there are huge benefits for your health, although surely wearing a helmet and continuing to cycle would be the best of both worlds??? I am 100% confident in saying that if you saw the effects of brain injury 1st hand (to the individual and their families), that your thoughts would be different. I just hope you don’t have to find out!

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  27. Mark Preval  23/01/2012 at 11:33

    I have a facebook page called the importance of weairng a helmet, Im not James Cracknell, I was knocked off my bike and the helmet/head after first hitting the bonnet then the tarmac was the difference between me sitting up in the road (wondering what the??as the lady said im sorry I did not see you)and at best me sitting up in a hospital bed or maybe not sitting up at all.

    I wear a helmet as I did before the accident simply because I feel I need to give myself every chance of survival (look im still here) if im involved in an accident at a higher speed then who knows, Ive been lucky you might say but I dont force people to wear helmet its a personal choice, if yours is not to wear a helmet then so be it and good luck.Im not going on about stats you can look at my page for that but Im trying to do something positive for road safety in my area, if people want to poo poo the positive then so be it As Cyclists in a World (Britain) dominated by the motor vehicle If I lived in Holland or Denmark would i choose to wear a helmet, probably because even though they are Cyclist friendly (larger number on the roads and Infrastructures are better even if I fall sidways and bang my head on the kerb I would like to protect my Head it doesnt have to be a big impact to damage my head or be involved with a motor vehicle….
    B Safe, B Seen, B Aware

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  28. Andrew  23/01/2012 at 12:27

    Richard, you don’t happen to work for cyclehelmets.org do you? For someone who seems to want everyone to understand the facts, you seem to be relying on one source rather heavily (and one which is ultimately one person’s compilation of studies, i.e. their choice of which ones to promote.)
    I also think you are misinterpreting Harriet’s article, I agree that there are many long term health benefits for those who choose to cycle more, and I understand that introducing a law making helmets compulsory is likely to stop some people cycling and thus causing them to loose these benefits. However, Harriet is clearly not stating there should be a helmet law, but saying to those people who already cycle in Oxford that a helmet could prevent or lessen serious damage were they involved in an accident.
    As for your comment “there is a possibility that he wouldn’t even have been hit if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.” I find this ridiculous, you are obviously refering to the marginal increase in size wearing a helmet causes, but if you are suggesting that the truck’s wing mirror only just caught James’s helmet (and so would have missed him had he not been wearing it) then how would it have split down the middle?
    Also, you seem to think that because wearing a helmet increases the area something could hit, it could increase a cyclist’s risk of an accident. If you are going to consider such marginal factors, you should also take into account that a helmet makes a cyclist more aerodynamic, so they will have a shorter journey time, thus decreasing their risk of being hit.

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  29. Richard Burton  23/01/2012 at 12:38

    @ Jamie

    “Richard – I think you will find this particular FACT quite interesting from a study published, that wearing a cycle helmet reduces the risk of head and brain injury by 65 to 88 per cent, and injury to the upper and mid face by 65 per cent.” I’m assuming that you mean the Thompson, Rivara and Thompson report that is the only source of these figures? Unfortunately, that particular piece of research has been absolutely trashed on peer review, with some people saying that it could be a very useful example to students of how not to do research. Even the authors no longer support their initial figures. They were convinced of the efficacy of cycle helmets and set up an experiment to prove it, not to find out if they worked, but to prove that they did. They compared small numbers of helmet-wearing children cycling around parks with their parents to non-helmet-wearing children cycling in the streets on their own, and attributed the difference entirely to helmets. Take a look at http://www.chapmancentral.co.uk/wiki/Thompson,_Rivara_and_Thompson_%281989%29 I think you’ll find that people who put FACT in capital letters do so because they aren’t sure it’s a fact, and this one certainly isn’t.

    “And for your completely incorrect comment of “nowhere with a helmet law or massive rise in helmet wearing because of propaganda like this can show any reduction in risk to cyclists”, maybe you should also look into a Canadian study (taken between 1991 & 2002) where it was made compulsory for under 16′s to wear helmets, where the death rate fell by 52%, and for those over the age of 16 (and therefore NOT having to wear a helmet), the death rate very slightly increase.” You don’t reference this but I’m assuming that you mean Trends in Pediatric and Adult Bicycling Deaths Before and After Passage of a Bicycle Helmet Law (Wesson D, Stephens D, Lam K, Parsons D, Spence L & Parkin P. Pediatrics. 2008;122:605-610.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t show what you claim, as helmet use by the children supposedly protected by helmets fell over the period of the study to pre-law levels, so whatever was reducing deaths to that group, it wasn’t helmets. Check out http://cyclehelmets.org/1202.html for a full critique. I am completely confident that my comment is correct.

    “Also, a report (published in 2009), commissioned by the Department for Transport, concludes that helmets ARE effective at preventing head and brain injuries.” You must mean the TRL report The potential for cycle helmets to prevent injury – A review of the evidence, but unfortunately, like the other research you mention, it doesn’t say what you think it does. Anyone familiar with such reports would immediately have realised that the conclusions were not based on fact, only assumption, because of the language used in it, which was universally conditional: “assuming that…” “would be expected to…” “predicted that…..” “could have…” “may have….” “would be expected…..” and nowhere does it say cycle helmets can be shown to reduce the risk to cyclists. Buried in the depths it does say “However, it should be remembered that there was no specific evidence to support these estimates”. Do you think putting things in CAPITALS makes them somehow more true?

    Perhaps you should read things thoroughly and check the critiques of them before posting.

    “Your point about the health benefits of cycling however is very valid – there are huge benefits for your health, although surely wearing a helmet and continuing to cycle would be the best of both worlds???” Possibly, but since there is no real world evidence of benefit from wearing a helmet, what would be the point? Unless you’re a shareholder in a helmet manufacturing company, in which case you’d be laughing all the way to the bank, because you’re selling a flimsy piece of plastic to the gullible public, and they can’t even take it back when it fails. You might like to cogitate on why the manufacturers don’t make any claims for the protective effect of their product, rather the opposite in fact, and many helmets come with a warning that they won’t protect you in many foreseeable collisions. I can only assume that if they tried to make claims for the protective effect, they would be in contravention of the Advertising Standards, but no such stricture applies to Headway or BHIT or the other helmet proponents, who can say what they like and invent figures, and they do.

    “I am 100% confident in saying that if you saw the effects of brain injury 1st hand (to the individual and their families), that your thoughts would be different. I just hope you don’t have to find out!” On the contrary, I’ve seen brain damaged people and I respect your wish not to join them, but the question is whether a cycle helmet will prevent such damage, and all the reliable evidence says that it won’t.

    I suppose I should be grateful – at least you made some attempt to do some research, even if you think CAPITALS somehow improve your arguments more valid.

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  30. Richard Burton  23/01/2012 at 13:15

    @Andrew

    “Richard, you don’t happen to work for cyclehelmets.org do you?” No I don’t, and I don’t think anyone else does either. As far as I understand it, cyclehelmets.org is just a collection of interested people, academics and road safety experts amongst others, and I don’t think anyone works for them, and their statements seem to show that:
    “cyclehelmets.org is administered by the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (BHRF), an incorporated body with an international membership, to undertake, encourage, and spread the scientific study of the use of bicycle helmets.
    The purpose of cyclehelmets.org is to provide a resource of best-available factual information to assist the understanding of a complex subject, and one where some of the reasoning may conflict with received opinion. In particular we seek to provide access to a wider range of information than is commonly made available by some governments and other bodies that take a strong helmet promotion stance. It is hoped that this will assist informed judgements about the pros and cons of cycle helmets.”

    There are plenty of other sites which question the validity of the helmet promotion argument, but cyclehelmets.org is more comprehensive and detailed. I certainly don’t work for them or have any connection with them other than as a supporter.

    “For someone who seems to want everyone to understand the facts, you seem to be relying on one source rather heavily (and one which is ultimately one person’s compilation of studies, i.e. their choice of which ones to promote.)” Not one person and much more comprehensive than you’ll find on any helmet promotion website.

    “I also think you are misinterpreting Harriet’s article, I agree that there are many long term health benefits for those who choose to cycle more, and I understand that introducing a law making helmets compulsory is likely to stop some people cycling and thus causing them to loose these benefits. However, Harriet is clearly not stating there should be a helmet law, but saying to those people who already cycle in Oxford that a helmet could prevent or lessen serious damage were they involved in an accident.” But there have been repeated attempts to bring in a law, all using exactly the same half-truths and misinformation repeated in that article, co-incidentally apparently provided by one of the main helmet promoters, Headway. The continued repetition of such misinformation does three things: it convinces people that cycling is dangerous, that they will be safe if they wear a helmet, and that there should be a helmet law. Given that people already have the option to wear a helmet if they want to, the main purpose of such articles is likely be to increase the demand for a helmet law. If the risks of walking are very similar to those of walking, why wasn’t Harriet warning all pedestrians to wear a helmet?

    “As for your comment “there is a possibility that he wouldn’t even have been hit if he hadn’t been wearing a helmet.” I find this ridiculous, you are obviously refering to the marginal increase in size wearing a helmet causes, but if you are suggesting that the truck’s wing mirror only just caught James’s helmet (and so would have missed him had he not been wearing it) then how would it have split down the middle?” The increase in size is not marginal, it is quite significant, just ask anyone who wears a helmet how many times they’ve hit their head when they’ve been just walking around. It is also highly likely that a glancing blow at 70mph would have split the helmet, as the energy involved would have been many times beyond the capacity of the helmet, which are essentially flimsy bits of plastic. By the way, a split helmet does not demonstrate that it has worked, but that it has catastrophically failed. Helmets are designed to work by compressing the foam layer, and if it splits before that compression has occurred, it has provided very little protection. Next time someone holds up a split helmet and tells you it saved their life, be a little sceptical.

    “Also, you seem to think that because wearing a helmet increases the area something could hit, it could increase a cyclist’s risk of an accident. If you are going to consider such marginal factors, you should also take into account that a helmet makes a cyclist more aerodynamic, so they will have a shorter journey time, thus decreasing their risk of being hit.” Possibly the silliest argument for helmets I’ve come across, and I thought I’d heard it all. The increase in size is not marginal, it is significant, and can not only lead to more head collisions, but can also increase the likelihood of the most dangerous type of injury, head rotation.

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  31. Mark Preval  23/01/2012 at 19:51

    WOW come on People, you are all wasting serious brain cells going over and over again, i still have my brain cells because I wore/wear a helmet as I have said earlier its a personal choice and we all have our own opinion say your bit (or in some cases 3 page essay) and move on dont keep spewing out the same stuff its pointless and boring.
    As cyclist in Britain we are at risk everyday we go out on the roads how you choose to act and dress while cycling is up to you Me personally believe helmet(white), gloves, bright colours(yellow lycra tops always very fetching) and being aware of what is going on around Me and obeying the rules of the road (the importance of wearing a helmet) how about we talk about the brain in the vat theory always a good one

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  32. Richard Burton  23/01/2012 at 22:28

    Mark Preval says:
    23/01/2012 at 19:51

    “WOW come on People, you are all wasting serious brain cells going over and over again, i still have my brain cells because I wore/wear a helmet as I have said earlier its a personal choice and we all have our own opinion say your bit (or in some cases 3 page essay) and move on dont keep spewing out the same stuff its pointless and boring.”

    Yes, but you have to keep repeating things for the hard of learning who just don’t understand that they’ve been fed pap for twenty years and are now completely brainwashed and incapable of independent thought. For a bunch of Oxford students you demonstrate a serious inability to challenge accepted norms, but perhaps you’re just student capitalists in training and don’t want to rock the boat. As to your still having your brain cells Mark, your standard of writing indicates otherwise.

    “As cyclist in Britain we are at risk everyday we go out on the roads…” As are pedestrians, shower users, staircase users, and everyone really; life has a 100% death rate, I’ve checked the figures and it’s true. 100%. Regular cyclists live longer, and are fitter and healthier than the general population, so exactly how much of a risk is it? Have you bothered to find out, or have you just unquestioningly swallowed the propaganda put out by the helmet proponents? No-one would wear a helmet if cycling wasn’t portrayed as incredibly risky, by those seeking to promote helmets. But all the data shows that cycling is, by any comparison to other normal activities, very safe, so why are you all so adamant about cycling, but not about other activities just as risky, like walking?

    “……how you choose to act and dress while cycling is up to you Me personally believe helmet(white), gloves, bright colours(yellow lycra tops always very fetching) and being aware of what is going on around Me and obeying the rules of the road (the importance of wearing a helmet) how about we talk about the brain in the vat theory always a good one”

    I’m not too sure what any of that means, but perhaps English isn’t your mother tongue.

    I think the point that Mark is trying to express but failing dismally to do so, is that you’ve been proved wrong, and that not one of you can construct a reasonable argument, so it’s time to throw in the towel and admit defeat. It would appear that no-one who’s posted here (apart from myself) is capable of doing the most basic research and I’m at a loss to understand why you’re at such a prestigious institution, or how you got there. If this is typical of the standard of Oxford students we might as well abandon the country to the dogs right now and save time. Not one of you even has the cojones to admit that you were wrong.

    If you’re the future of the country, god help us.

    Think on this: if I’m right and you’ve been brainwashed into this belief in cycle helmets, just how gullible are you, and how many other lies have you swallowed hook, line and sinker?

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  33. Anon.  23/01/2012 at 22:59

    lol if you really do want to be taken seriously as an academic Richard you might want to reflect on what happens if people look you up and find this thread – the vitriolic tone of your comments hardly recommends you.

    However much research you may have done into the subject, perhaps it says something that no-one seems to have been persuaded to take your point of view seriously. A calm, well-thought out reply to the original article would have been far more compelling than several feet of rant.

    Awaiting your ill-tempered response.

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  34. Henry  23/01/2012 at 23:07

    Oh Richard, go back to UWE and stop being a sad old git commenting on a student article. It’s embarrassing that you have no link whatsoever to this article (other than presumably google-ing “cycle helmets” on a daily basis to make self-important and derogatory comments on articles). Get a job, a life and a real degree…

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  35. Mark Preval  23/01/2012 at 23:13

    Me Myself and I (you are so up your own Arse its brilliant and quite amazing that you even got past the age of 12 maybe you are 12?? “many friends Richard” no didnt think so, Im off to bed now up for work in the morning, you carry on in your little World of Richard carry this on tomorrow if you want cycling was the topic if you want to expand that feel free but not tonight, My personal choice is to wear one your is Not to wear one but then if you have stabilizers probably dont need one, (although 0<16s and 31yr + is major concern for KSI) could you even get one big enough to fit and would you fit blinkers? If you would like to expand the conversation please feel free but if you want to talk about cycling/helmets thats fine I choose to wear one and however you believe I got to that decision is really not that important so its over to you for the last word its important to you thats ok dont worry some day you will come down from your cuckoo clock and by the way native tongue oh that hurts or it would if we were in your playground, im tired been working all day and quite frankly im doing ok so far PS born n bred in Yorkshire so I await the slagging remark The Actor Richard Burton was a right Arse so they say…are you really at Oxford studying you seem very clever or do I mean Dim over to you Tim..

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  36. Marie-France  23/01/2012 at 23:14

    ‘If’ being the operative word there Richard.

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  37. Jamie  24/01/2012 at 00:42

    I WONDER WHAT THE RESULTS SHOWED FROM A STUDY ABOUT PEOPLE USING CAPITAL LETTERS IN ALL OF THEIR TEXT…..MMMMMMMMM INTRESTING!! IM SURE WE WILL ALL FIND OUT.
    ANYWAY, I ACTUALLY DISAGREE WITH MAKING PEOPLE WEAR HELMETS, AS I AM A TRUE BELIEVER IN FREEDOM OF CHOICE, BUT TO SAY THERE IS NO PROTECTION FROM A HELMET IS RIDICULOUS. IF THIS IS THE CASE, MAYBE MOTOR CYCLISTS ARE NOT PROTECTED BY HELMETS AND SHOULDNT WEAR THEM, CRICKETERS ALSO, MAYBE SOLDIERS IN THE FORCES SHOULDNT WEAR THEM DURING CONFLICT?
    MAYBE YOU COULD ANSWER WHY DURING A COURT SETTLEMENT AN INDIVIDUAL WOULD ONLY RECEIVE 75% OF POSSIBLE COMPENSATION BECAUSE THEY WERE NOT WEARING A HELMET (THE JUDGE SAYING THAT THEIR INJURY WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN AS SEVERE IF THEY WERE WEARING A HELMET).

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  38. Alex  24/01/2012 at 00:50

    @ Richard

    I haven’t read everything here as, frankly, life is too short, but a couple of things jump out here.

    Firstly, you have gone to the effort of writing a mini thesis in response to almost everyone here EXCEPT for the two people who completely smashed your argument, one by stating that they could well be brain damaged if it hadn’t been for his helmet (and who knows someone else that is after getting into an accident and not wearing a helmet) and the other who explained how, if it hadn’t been for a helmet, her dads head would have been smashed in an accident.

    Now, you argue that “all the long term, large scale reliable research shows either no reduction in risk to cyclists or an increase in risk with helmet wearing” and, whilst statistically it is probably true that you are just as likely to be in an accident with or without a helmet, I suspect the chances of coming out in a reasonable state, in certain situations, go up when wearing a helmet. Put another way, try hitting yourself over the head with two short planks twice, once with a helmet and once without, and then come back and tell us which one gave you the bigger headache.

    Secondly, whilst some of your points may well be valid, (though based on what I did read, and your reliance on one enthusiasts website, I doubt it) using a condescending tone with people is a guaranteed way to put them off listening to you. To be honest, you lost me when you started spouting the conspiracy theories about James Cracknell’s elaborate sponsorship scheme…no doubt the world is flat, the moon landings were a hoax and George Bush was behind 9/11 as well

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  39. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 19:10

    @Anon

    “lol if you really do want to be taken seriously as an academic Richard………”
    I’m not an academic and do not wish to be one, neither have I ever stated that I am. I must say, comprehension doesn’t seem to be a requirement of attending university these days.

    “However much research you may have done into the subject, perhaps it says something that no-one seems to have been persuaded to take your point of view seriously.” Which says a very great deal about how effective the propaganda campaign of the last twenty years has been, and how incapable of independent thought is the average student.

    “Awaiting your ill-tempered response.” Was this ill-tempered enough?

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  40. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 19:11

    @ Henry

    “Oh Richard, go back to UWE and stop being a sad old git commenting on a student article. It’s embarrassing that you have no link whatsoever to this article (other than presumably google-ing “cycle helmets” on a daily basis to make self-important and derogatory comments on articles). Get a job, a life and a real degree…” Is this what passes for humour at Oxford?

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  41. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 19:14

    @Marie-France

    “‘If’ being the operative word there Richard.” ?

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  42. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 19:16

    @Jamie

    “I WONDER WHAT THE RESULTS SHOWED FROM A STUDY ABOUT PEOPLE USING CAPITAL LETTERS IN ALL OF THEIR TEXT…..” The only possible explanation is that the shift key is stuck, but I couldn’t possibly comment on why.

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  43. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 19:36

    @ Alex

    “I haven’t read everything here as, frankly, life is too short, but a couple of things jump out here.

    Firstly, you have gone to the effort of writing a mini thesis in response to almost everyone here EXCEPT for the two people who completely smashed your argument, one by stating that they could well be brain damaged if it hadn’t been for his helmet (and who knows someone else that is after getting into an accident and not wearing a helmet) and the other who explained how, if it hadn’t been for a helmet, her dads head would have been smashed in an accident.” If only you’d taken the trouble to read a little more, you would have found out that anecdote is not data, and anecdote does not refute reliable research. In fact anecdote is highly unreliable, and far from smashing my argument, it’s irrelevant.

    “Now, you argue that “all the long term, large scale reliable research shows either no reduction in risk to cyclists or an increase in risk with helmet wearing” and, whilst statistically it is probably true that you are just as likely to be in an accident with or without a helmet, I suspect the chances of coming out in a reasonable state, in certain situations, go up when wearing a helmet.” But the evidence shows that you are more likely to be involved in a collision if you wear a helmet, almost certainly due to the phenomenon of risk compensation – have a look at “Risk” by John Adams. You are correct, there are situations where the outcome will be better if you wear a helmet, but there are also situations where the outcome could be worse e.g. rotational injuries. Since you don’t know what kind of situation any particular collision will be, and the evidence shows that, at best, a helmet makes no difference, why bother wearing one?

    “Put another way, try hitting yourself over the head with two short planks twice, once with a helmet and once without, and then come back and tell us which one gave you the bigger headache.” No thanks, and you’ve completely misunderstood why helmets don’t work. No-one would say that a helmet won’t help in any situation, just that all the reliable data shows they make no difference.

    “Secondly, whilst some of your points may well be valid, (though based on what I did read, and your reliance on one enthusiasts website, I doubt it)….” You definitely should have read a bit more, as I’ve already pointed out that cyclehelmets.org isn’t the production of one person, rather many, including academics, medics, statisticians and others.

    “…… using a condescending tone with people is a guaranteed way to put them off listening to you.” Since they weren’t listening in the first place, I fail to see how they could be put off – Nowt so blind as those who will not see. If people are so blinkered that they can’t even appreciate that there may be another view to the one they’ve been spoon-fed, then they deserve all the condescension they get.

    “To be honest, you lost me when you started spouting the conspiracy theories about James Cracknell’s elaborate sponsorship scheme…” You really, really do need to read more before you post, as I’ve made no such claim, only that James Cracknell is sponsored by the helmet manufacturer.

    “………no doubt the world is flat, the moon landings were a hoax and George Bush was behind 9/11 as well” Ah, the old “exaggerate and associate” argument, somewhat tired, but useful in some circumstances. Not, however in this one. The only people denying the evidence are the helmet proponents, see the comment of the chair of BHIT who wants everyone to ignore the evidence. On that basis, helmet proponents would appear to be far more likely candidates for the views you suggest.

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  44. Mark Preval  24/01/2012 at 20:36

    Hello,

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  45. Alex B  24/01/2012 at 20:41

    Richard you talk a fair bit about helmets CAUSING accidents due to increasing the size of the wearer’s head. Well I’ve been on the website you keep ramming down everybody’s throat, and what they talk about is the 75mm thickness of a helmet, which apparently is enough, according to them, to turn near misses into hits. What I’d like to know, seeing as you ask us to question things, is how they came to this conclusion? Did they use motion and pressure sensors in real life situations to attempt to guage just how frequently people without helmets come within less than 75mm of a passing car or lorry? I highly doubt it. They reach this conclusion like so: “If you ‘shadow box’ at the wall but carefully stop your fist about 50 mm before it reaches the wall (be sure it’s limited by your arm’s length), no harm will come to your fist. If, without changing your position, you slip a 75 mm thick piece of styrofoam against the wall and repeat the punch, you’ll get compressed (and cracked) styrofoam and false ‘evidence’ that it saved you from harm. In other words, many impacts of helmets would be near misses with bare heads.” How is this evidence false? I’m pretty sure punching styrofoam is less likely to do you harm than punching bricks, and if they’re then using this to draw parallels with cycle helmets, this argument seems fundamentally flawed.

    tl;dr? Why does cyclehelmets.org have an article encouraging people to wear cycle helmets Richard? http://cyclehelmets.org/papers/c2023.pdf

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  46. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 21:55

    Ok, I admit it, I’m wrong.

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  47. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 22:00

    Burton.net.net.net

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  48. Richard Burton  24/01/2012 at 22:16

    @Alex

    Thank you, I’d begun to despair of getting any kind of intelligent response.

    “Richard you talk a fair bit about helmets CAUSING accidents due to increasing the size of the wearer’s head.” That isn’t what I said. What I said was that a helmet can turn a near miss into a collision, not that they cause accidents because they increase the size of the head. Sorry to be pedantic, but due to my training as a mechanical engineer, I’m extremely wedded to accuracy.

    “Well I’ve been on the website you keep ramming down everybody’s throat, and what they talk about is the 75mm thickness of a helmet, which apparently is enough, according to them, to turn near misses into hits.” Excellent, someone who’s actually done some research.
    “What I’d like to know, seeing as you ask us to question things, is how they came to this conclusion? Did they use motion and pressure sensors in real life situations to attempt to guage just how frequently people without helmets come within less than 75mm of a passing car or lorry? I highly doubt it.” Such research would be impractical and prove nothing, and it really doesn’t matter how close a passing vehicle comes to the helmet, since it would hit another part of the cyclist first. The proposal is that in any collision, given that the head is larger with a helmet, someone wearing a helmet is more likely to hit their head, which seems inarguable. Whether the vehicle hits the helmet or not doesn’t really matter, as almost all cyclists knocked off by a vehicle then strike the ground or the vehicle. If you’re wearing a helmet it’s much more likely that your head will hit the ground or the vehicle, and you will get the false impression that it saved your life, when, if you hadn’t been wearing it, you wouldn’t have hit your head at all. Given that the average head radius is approximately 90mm, increasing that by 75mm gives an 83% increase in radius, and must make hitting it more likely. As I pointed out in the James Cracknell case, it is entirely possible that the wing mirror would have missed him completely if he had not been wearing a helmet, and even though he was wearing a helmet, it didn’t save him from brain injury. Actually, the kind of brain injury he suffered was probably not ameliorated by the helmet, as it was caused by the brain being accelerated into the front of his skull.

    “They reach this conclusion like so: “If you ‘shadow box’ at the wall but carefully stop your fist about 50 mm before it reaches the wall (be sure it’s limited by your arm’s length), no harm will come to your fist. If, without changing your position, you slip a 75 mm thick piece of styrofoam against the wall and repeat the punch, you’ll get compressed (and cracked) styrofoam and false ‘evidence’ that it saved you from harm. In other words, many impacts of helmets would be near misses with bare heads.” How is this evidence false?” Because you weren’t going to hit the wall anyway, so the foam hasn’t saved you from anything, but it’s given you the false impression that it has.

    “I’m pretty sure punching styrofoam is less likely to do you harm than punching bricks, and if they’re then using this to draw parallels with cycle helmets, this argument seems fundamentally flawed.” I must say, I disagree, but I can’t quite work out why you think this is flawed, as it seems to be a pretty direct comparison. Without the foam you wouldn’t hit the wall, but with it you do, even if it is padded by the foam, but the foam didn’t save your fist as it didn’t need saving in the first place. If people weren’t wearing a helmet, they might not have hit their head, but they were wearing one and did hit their head and draw the false conclusion that it saved their life. I’d be interested to find out why you think this is flawed.

    “tl;dr? Why does cyclehelmets.org have an article encouraging people to wear cycle helmets Richard? http://cyclehelmets.org/papers/c2023.pdf” I’ve no idea, as I’m not connected with cyclehelmets.org, but I can’t find any statement in it that encourages the wearing of helmets, perhaps you could post what you think is encouragement? It does make clear the limitations of helmets, and it also points out that the same helmets might be beneficial for pedestrians. It makes very clear that it is an examination of what cycle helmets are designed to do, and specifically avoids talking about whether cycle helmets improve cyclists’ safety in real world situations. Even if it does encourage the wearing of helmets, I’m not surprised that it’s on the cyclehelmets website, as their selection of articles is much more comprehensive than any helmet promotion website, which always exclude any research that shows helmets aren’t effective, and never have critiques of the ones they do include. I remember criticising the article at the time for avoiding all mention of whether helmets worked in real life. After all, it’s irrelevant what something is designed to do, it’s what it actually does that matters.

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  49. John  24/01/2012 at 22:17

    This article is spot on.

    When I was laying in A&E following a cycle accident in 1997; the Doctor took one look at my split helmet and told me if I wasn’t wearing it I’d be dead.

    My friend was in a cycle accident in 2011. He was also told that if his smashed helmet had saved his life.

    If people choose not to wear helmets that’s fine by me but please do carry a donor card just in case… http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk

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  50. Lance Armstrong  24/01/2012 at 23:07

    Somewhere, far far away from Oxford, in a room whose walls I imagine are plastered with pictures of bicycle accidents, and whose surfaces I expect are stacked with stolen bicycle helmets and large amounts of prescribed psychiatric medications, is a little man typing furiously away at his lonesome computer. This room is distinguished by a notable absence of a bicycle helmet, this man by the distinct aura of petty obsession. He is undoubtedly enjoying the brief infamous moment that his inane comments have provoked – but perhaps, dear friends, we should let him. It is the brightest his star will ever shine. His comments have no doubt attracted an unprecedented and unexpected readership of his MSC – I imagine hits have increased from zero to something like three. So perhaps we should resign from this quarrel, and let him have his moment. For never again will anyone care about Richard Burton – or as I like to call him, Dick.

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