Cycle helmets and ghostbikes

Apart from being a superstar and all round general hero gold medalist (and a mod), Bradley Wiggins has been in the news recently for advocating the use of helmets whilst cycling.

A super hero and a mod . . . not a rocker!

I was personally surprised at the back lash of retorts he got for trying to suggest folk wear cycling lids whilst on the road.  It seems that some of the arguements are based around allowing folk to have the choice to wear helmets and not forcing them to.

I’m a little devided on the matter . . .  I’m a strong advocate for free will but I believe there comes a point when, living in an over crowded society, choices need to be made on behalf of the general public’s safety, rather than letting things get out of hand.  So, I’m all for making helmet wearing compulsory.

But not just that either . . . Wiggins wanted to see a clamp down on the use of mobile phones and iPods too.  And compulsory lights . . . and again I have to agree.  It seems to me that London, in all its “go green and cylce” glory, is getting out of hand.  Too many cyclists are taking advantage of their freedom on the road, either by jumping red lights, cutting cars and other cyclists up, using their phones, no helmets, no lights, iPods or drunk . . . or all of them at once.  And believe me, we have seen it!

We go to cycle crashes/RTCs all the time – some are sadly fatal.  Now, don’t get me wrong, putting in these measures wouldn’t mean an end to injuries or death.  There would still be problems . . . cyclists are always going to be at the mercy of the vehicle driving past them.  By putting in these measures or laws however, maybe we could reduce some of the accidents and perhaps increase people’s awareness and responsibility . . . who knows.

Sometimes though, it can just be the cyclist’s fault.

Just the other day we attended two cycle incidents on the same night.  The first was to a young female who was found lying in the road with some of her teeth smashed in.  Our immediate thoughts were, “hit and run” as this tends to happen a lot.

The poor girl didn’t remember what had happened other than flying through the air.  After doing all the necessary procedures to procure her safety and comfort we noticed there were barely any scratches on her bike.  And, after talking with some eye witnesses it turns out she’d pulled her front brake too tightly and gone flying over the handle bars.  The young woman also admitted to several pints of beer and several glasses of wine.

The second incident was to a similar aged woman who was riding her bike at about 1mph.  Whilst trying to put her helmet on.  And had fallen off.  She too admitted to several vodkas and whiskeys along with several beers.  She had the tiniest cuts to her scalp . . . but like most scalp wounds, it had bled lots, leaving her hair and face matted in dried blood.  She was not a happy bunny and appeared to be taking all her frustrations out on her partner – even stamping her feet like a three year old whenever he would try and comfort her.

Whoever is at fault with RTCs involving cyclists, ultimately it’s the cyclist who comes off the worse.  Most of the time its cuts and bruises.  Sometimes a lot worse.  But, if you are unfortunate to collide with a car and hit the windscreen causing this . . .

This is what your head can do to the windscreen

. . . I reckon most would agree you stand better chance of walking away if you are wearing a cycle helmet.

No matter what happens with the law though, if you’re a cyclist, please pay heed and take responsibility for your own safety and please don’t end up having your grave stone being marked by one of these . . .

. . . there are already too many around London.


10 thoughts on “Cycle helmets and ghostbikes

  1. I have to say living where I do with very narrow winding country roads the majority of cyclists I come across are a danger to themselves and everyone else. They insist on riding 2 or sometimes 3 abreast, which in theory means drivers will wait for a straight bit of road to overtake them. In reality it means a lot of impatient drivers will try and scoot round them and you come round a corner and are faced with a bike and car overtaking half on your side of the road. We now have a cycle path alongside the main road from our town to the next village but they won’t use it as it is shared with pedestrians and therefore they can’t cycle fast enough !!! In short most cyclists are a bloody arrogant nuisance 🙁

    • Cycling 2 abreast on country roads is best practice on country roads according to both cyclecraft and the highway code but riders should single out when it is safe to allow vehicles to pass. This is becasue it makes your group the width of a small car and causes motorists to have to move further out into the road to overtake correctly. You are supposed to give cyclists 6 foot of space when you overtake them (as you would a small car). If you are unable to do so then you should wait until you have the correct space to overtake. The highway code states that cyclists should not ride more than 3 abreast not that they must not. All road users should know that you should not overtake on a bend or when going up a hill, its common sense when you cant see whats coming in the opposite direction!

      You would not drive in that aggressive manner around a group of horse riders or pedestrians so why do you feel it is appropriate to do so around a different group of vulnerable road users? You need to have more consideration for others and more patience. A delay of a few seconds is better than killing or injuring someone just for you to get to your destination marginally quicker.

      Yes some cyclists are a pain or rude as are some motorists, but most will signal for you to go past them and single out and move over when it is safe for them and the motorist to do so.

  2. The reason for the back lash is that the use of cycling helmets doesnt actually help you where the collison speed is over 15mph, they will help you if you fell at low speed and bumped your noggin, they are completely useless in the example you gave with the windscreen smash. Its polystyrene foam and a very thin layer of plastic and covered in air vents, it is not a motorcycle helmet. There is also evidence that wearing a helmet increases the chances of obtaining a rotational head injury due to making your head that much bigger, also studies have shown that motorists give cyclists wearing helmets less room when they pass them and also drive at higher speeds when passing helmeted cyclists in comparrison with helmetless cyclists. In countries with enforced helmet laws the participation in cycling as both a leisure/sporting activity and as a mode of transport has dramatically fallen and the % of head injuries for cyclists who have fallen or been involved in an RTC is still the same and in some cases higher. Front and rear lights on pushbikes in the dark is compulsory already its just the police rarely seem to do anything about it (much like they dont do much about speeding motorists, motorists on their phone or driving and eating at the same time and motorists that jump red lights). Cycling whilst drunk is an offence and you can get points on your driving licence for doing it. Pedestrians are at much more risk of head injuries if they are hit by a car whilst crossing the road, motorists are also a high risk of head and neck injuries when they are involved in a collison yet you dont expect people to walk around with a helmet on or to drive with a helmet on do you.

    Having said all that I personally choose to wear one because you dont know when or why you are going to come off and if came off due to oil on the road or taking a corner too fast in the wet then a helmet could help.

    • Hiya Hels

      Thanks for the comments and thoughts. Lots to ponder on there but I believe, a little irrelevant. I think it a little foolish to believe a helmet is completely useless in the example and that a helmet doesn’t actually help above 15mph. So, I’m thinking you probably meant that the hat would not be as effective at higher speeds and possibly wouldn’t save your life with the example bulls-eye smash – rather than how you wrote it, which would sound a little less foolish – but still has little standing.

      One of my own crashes was at approx 25mph and I smashed my head on the rocky ground. Now admittedly this was downhill MTB, but, a head strike is a head strike, a helmet is a helmet and above 15mph is still above 15mph. That helmet was instantly retired as it was mangled. But it did save my life.

      Christ, even my trousers (that were ruined) stopped my legs being torn apart.

      My point is this. Most helmets on the market aren’t fantastic – but even they offer something. Even your shirt, your trousers, your knickers and your shoes offer something. The arguements against helmets seem hell bent on teaching people that there is absolutely no point in wearing one – so don’t. But that’s wrong. The arguements should be based around the other issues (some you mentioned) based around general safety. There really shouldn’t be an arguement over helmet safety – only the choice to wear one. Helmets will protect you – in some form or another.

      And studies showing folk veering past cyclists without helmets more that those with??? This is London Hels – you do remember don’t you? The psycotic city as we know it is not prejudice in its attempts to cause mass genocide to our cycle nation.

      However, thanks for the comments. Interesting points and lots to take on board and learn. Keep ’em coming, hope future blog entries will be equally interesting (albeit I might write something about fluffy bunnies next time).


  3. But Bradley Wiggins has denied that he ever said that helmets should be compulsory, probably because someone pointed out to him that they don’t improve the, already low, risks of cycling.

    Regular cyclists live longer and are fitter, healthier and slimmer than the general public, so it’s more dangerous not to ride a bike than to ride one. Helmets are just victim blaming by the drivers.

    Check out for the facts rather than assumption and anecdote.

    • Thanks for the web site link Richard. Some interesting topics and info . . . I especially like the way the site answers the question, “is cycling without a helmet dangerous”. Very direct and to the point – almost. It too makes a point of mentioning that if you do wear one then you’re more likely not to ride a bike and subsequently suffer the long term consequences of heart disease and diabetes . . . this is indeed shocking.

      So, after checking out for out-of-london based studies, not facts – I have assumed my position in continueing to write anecdotal blogs.

      However, thanks once again, interesting comments.

  4. I commute to work daily on a battered (but safely maintained!) Raleigh, and although I don’t profess a view on whether in the event of a crash a bike helmet is a significant benefit, I do get really quite irked by anyone suggesting that they should be made compulsory or that their use should be aggressively encouraged.

    The reason: the single best way to drastically improve cycle safety is through making cycling a completely normal activity which huge numbers of people do. This would engender safety in numbers, and also force relevant policy-makers to consider cyclists’ interests in any scenario. Making a piece of specialist equipment such as a helmet compulsory would not be the way to do encourage more people to cycle.

    In countries where bicycle use is most common (Denmark and the Netherlands spring to mind), helmet-wearing almost unknown amongst commuter-type cyclists like me. They also have proportionately very low cyclist injury and fatality rates. This adds considerable weight to the argument that the best way to make cycling safer is through the safety in numbers approach.

    Also, if cycle safety schemes are to be promoted, “prevention is better than cure” would be my motto – they should be focused on preventing the collisions happening in the first place. Many cyclists don’t cycle safely around large vehicles, and many drivers of large vehicles don’t have good bicycle awareness. Train both groups to use the road better. Have advertising campaigns to encourage cyclists to engage in correct road positioning and good awareness. Ban the use of headphones while cycling before making helmets compulsory.

    In my view, the tide seems to be turning against making helmets compulsory. Australian states introduced laws in early 1990s, with legislators presumably believing that they were going to lead the world in making helmet use compulsory. Since then, however, virtually nowhere has introduced helmet laws for adults. Now that cycle hire schemes are becoming commonplace (Boris bikes in London, Velib in Paris, and incipient schemes in various other cities) it would become much more difficult to introduce helmet laws as there would be no practical way of providing helmets with the hire bikes – so effectively all these schemes would have to be discontinued (at great wasted cost, and much to the annoyance of people who use them) if helmet laws were introduced.

    • Hiya Alex

      Thanks for your comment – really good read. Sad you are condemned to ride an attempt at a real bike (Raleigh) . . . you should try a real bike – a mountain bike. But this is an ancient battle of wits of mine and one to be left by the way side . . . I digress.

      I apologise for irking you and to such end I have changed my opinion (see the below/next reply-comment) and hope this rectifies any future ailments.

      Yours is by far the best written and argued of the comments – and I salute you. All of what you have said is relevant and spot on . . . . . . . apart from the comparison to the netherlands etc. Not that they shouldn’t be used as good examples for cycle safety and efficiency, but because the outcomes shouldn’t be compared to cycling in London where sadly, us cyclists are still considered lesser mortals compared to the savage killer instinctive drivers that haunt the streets day in day out.

      I think a slightly different approach may be needed here . . . I don’t know what though. But I like what you’ve written and lots is taken on board.

      Thanks and hope you are liking some of the random rubbish that is written on here.


      • I know it’s ages since you replied, but I just thought to return to say that it’s great that you’ve taken people’s comments on board…. I never thought that it was possible to change anyone’s mind on the internet!

  5. Brilliant. I never realised anyone would take such an interest in my opinion. Thanks to all involved and keep them coming – it is after all, an interesting debate.

    However, I stand corrected on one point. And it is the most important of them all I believe . . . the issue of whether it should be mandatory to wear a helmet. As stated in my blog I was divided on the matter . . . and seeing as one of my base line rules for this blog was to never have and opinion (as I say, “the trouble with opinions is that people always want to attack them . . . but that’s still no reason not to have one”, I have decided to revert to my prior thoughts.

    We should be allowed to make the decision ourselves. Of course we should. It was silly of me to think otherwise. I mean, I’m not ever going to change my treatment of someone who comes of their bike or is hit soley on the fact that they chose not to wear one, so why should that make a difference.

    But, be warned people, whether you choose to wear a helmet or not – be sure that your decision is based on the right decision – one of personal thought. Not that of propaganda, arguement or whimsical study that will never be practical to compare with the cycling standards of London or the crazed lunatics that reside and drive/ride within.

    I choose to wear a helmet also. I have twice crashed and banged my head so hard that if I were not wearing one I would either of split my skull or had permanent scarring to prove it. I choose to wear a helmet because even the most useless centimetre of energy absorbing substance can be the difference between mass bleeding, scarring or (at worse) death to hopefully something a little less so. To me, no study or stat finding mission is necessary to prove that one. But that’s what I choose.

    So, I agree with everyone, we should have the right to choose to wear a helmet and I apologise for opinionating otherwise. But I repeat once again, choose wisely people . . . or else natural selection could make the choice for you.


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