Sunday, July 7, 2019

Images with Sport Clothing and Helmets Deter People from Cycling

A study presented at the Velo-city conference in Dublin last month reveals that people from varied backgrounds connect bike helmets and sport clothing to higher danger in cycling. Shown pictures of cyclists with and without helmets, the majority set the helmeted cyclist out as in greater danger than the cyclist riding without a helmet.

This finding is very important to programs aiming to increase bicycling because it shows the negative effect of using images of cyclists decked out in safety gear. If we expect to make cycling a normal means of moving around our communities, we must choose images of cyclists wearing regular clothing, without helmets.

Here is the abstract from the study:

“In Road Safety Authority Ireland print and video artefacts, cyclists are as a rule depicted in high visibility clothing also suitable for sport, and a helmet. Four studies relevant to the Irish context identify fear as a primary barrier to cycling uptake, including the conviction cycling is socially unacceptable. Cycling advocates argue the depiction of cyclists as described reinforces these fears. To investigate whether their concern is valid, I conducted interviews and a card sorting exercise. The results indicate that depicting cyclists as described reinforces the perception that cycling is dangerous and socially unacceptable. Responses were consistent across gender groups, and two age groups (under thirty and over thirty). Depiction of cyclists in clothing currently the norm in road safety multimedia reinforces barriers to cycling uptake. Alternative clothing, which still comply with safety recommendations, should be considered.”

Read the entire study here.

Watch a video of the presentation here.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Aggressive Drivers See Cyclists as ‘Less than Human’ Especially with Helmets

This recent article summarizing a new study reveals disturbing attitudes toward cyclists. Many people in the study actually saw cyclists as less than human, which justified their aggressive driving behavior. Sometimes they justified their behavior to the point of doing harming to cyclists.

Comments during the study so often referred to cyclists as insects that the researchers had to create a new evolution chart using insects so that subjects could point to where they believed cyclists fell.

The final paragraph of the article reveals a disturbing link to bicycle helmets:

"The research team did not make specific recommendations about how to improve public attitudes toward cyclists. But they did speculate that Australia’s mandatory helmet law may contribute to the problem by obscuring riders heads and faces. Riding “uniforms,” kits and Spandex, may further contribute to the “othering” of cyclists."

Read the article here:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Motoring Helmets Don’t Sell, So Why the Bike Helmet Hysteria?

The data are clear. People in motorized vehicles suffer far more head injuries then bicyclists. Find just a few of the charts available here. Over my many years of pushing back against overzealous bike helmet promotions, I’ve enjoyed suggestions by level-headed people that car occupants should wear helmets before any more bike helmet promotions or laws are allowed. That was always an amusing and soothing concept for me. But I had no idea that motoring helmets were ever actually manufactured.

This recent article in Forbes by Carlton Reid, a very level-headed author and bike advocate, reveals the stunning attempt by an entrepreneurial car parts manufacturer to sell motorists on the safety of wearing their helmet while in a motorized vehicle. Over three years, they sold a paltry 500 helmets. Carlton actually found one of those 500 and bought it on eBay.

Every selling point they made matches the points used by bike helmet pushers. And they had so much more evidence backing their claims. So why has our society worldwide, with rare exceptions like the Netherlands, bought into the bike helmet hysteria so blindly? My thought while reading the article was that the car industry was never silly enough to push motoring helmets. Come on, why would they make their product seem dangerous? Duh. But wait, the bike industry readily pushes bike helmets. Doh!

Carlton’s article is a great read for many other reasons beyond the motoring helmets. Enjoy. But really, someone actually made a motoring helmet? And it did not sell. That is a whole new data point for me. Thanks Carlton.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Why Forcing Cyclists to Wear Helmets Will Not Save Lives

Over the years, there have been noteworthy attempts by journalists and media channels to capture the problem with bicycle helmets. Most will fixate on one particular element of the problem such as scaring people away from cycling or police harassment. Others will make a gallant effort to touch on all the concerns, usually in list form. Unfortunately, the one thing that most of these articles, news clips, and videos have in common is a concluding plea for cyclists to always wear a helmet, as if they hadn’t paid attention to what they had just presented.

Today I was pleased to find an exception to this rule. This video from the Guardian does a good job of explaining a few of the main concerns about bicycle helmets. But most importantly, it ends with the very real point that car occupants suffer far more head injuries than cyclists. The final plea is not for cyclists to wear helmets, but for car occupants to clad their heads in Styrofoam instead. Well done!


Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Damage Done by America’s Bike Helmet Fixation

I’ve worked with bicycle advocates all around the world who are pushing back against rampant bike helmet promotions, most of which lead to threats for mandatory helmet laws. This blog touches on many of these cases with articles labelled Fraud & Deception. I take pride in all these efforts and yet I live in the most helmet-obsessed country in the world. That can be tough at times as I see too many horrific bike helmet promotions to even respond to, including the one pictured here from the nearby city of Phoenix. So embarrassing as an Arizonan and so horrific as a bike advocate to imagine the terror of bicycling this image caused in so many kids.

So, I was very pleased to find this recent article confronting America’s fixation on bike helmets, and it’s even an American blog. There’s hope! Here’s how the article starts:

In the United States, official bicycle safety messaging heavily emphasizes helmet use. In a way, it’s worked: American rates of helmet usage are high. But by almost any quantifiable safety metric, the helmet fixation has failed. People bike at low rates in the U.S. compared to international peers, and suffer higher injury and fatality rates per mile of cycling.

It’s not a coincidence that bicycling remains dangerous in our helmet-obsessed safety culture, according to University of Heidelberg professor Gregg Culver. Emphasizing helmets as a singular solution to bike safety — rather than designing streets for safer car speeds or better bike infrastructure — upholds a political structure that favors “unfettered automobility,” Culver argues...


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Malta Repealed Bike Helmet Law as Incentive for More Bicycling

Just two days ago, the transport ministry of Malta announced their repeal of their mandatory bicycle helmet law as part of a package of incentives to increase bicycling. This is fantastic news, not only because it adds Malta to the growing list of places repealing these harmful laws, but because Malta’s officials have recognized the harm their helmet law had caused. This makes Malta an excellent example for other places – cities, regions, and nations – also considering repealing their mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

Monday’s article from Times Malta highlights this helmet law repeal and lists other incentives the government is taking to increase bicycling. The article starts:

A series of initiatives to encourage the use of bicycles was announced on Monday by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Transport Minister Ian Borg. Listed among them is the removal of the obligation of using a bicycle helmet, especially when renting pedelecs.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sweden Is Moving Beyond Vision Zero and Helmets

I’ve never liked the concept of Vision Zero. This program, started in Sweden twenty years ago with the goal of preventing all deaths in traffic, seemed to me to set the stage for heavy handed safety initiatives. I could just hear the shouts justifying unjust laws, “If it saves one life, it will be worth it!” This is a common justification for mandatory helmet laws. And Vision Zero seems to create a perfect footing for it.

So you can imagine how impressed I was when I read about a new initiative coming from Sweden that not only recognizes such concerns about Vision Zero, but offers a far more effective approach, including steering away from mandating bicycle helmets. Here is the summary of their key points:

According to the Swedish Traffic Safety Council for Active and Sustainable Mobility the main tenet of Moving Beyond Zero is that the active element of cycling should be included within the road safety/public health discourse. This has these key elements:

  1. The socioeconomic models that dictate our infrastructure investments must begin to take into account illness prevention and increased life quality provided by active mobility.
  2. The Transport Agency must be tasked with increasing active mobility. It is unacceptable that the Swedish Vision Zero national plan for cycling begins and ends with helmet promotion and lacks national cycling goals. Cycling is currently not mentioned in the Transport Authority’s mission statement nor in the national transport plan.
  3. Sweden needs a Vision Zero that saves, improves, and lengthens lives. Modern environmentally sound and healthy transport planning has to create a vision for a more active and healthier population.
  4. The Council calls on the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth to develop a new goal for traffic and health that looks beyond Vision Zero. A new goal should lead to traffic that saves lives and improves quality of life in addition to reducing traffic fatalities and injuries by promoting active mobility in the form of cycling and walking.

Read the rest of the article here: Moving Beyond Zero.