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to think that the focus on bicycle helmets, rather than safe riding, is actively dangerous

(86 Posts)
AgaPanthers Mon 19-May-14 12:20:57

There seems to be this mantra that cycle helmets are the first and last thing with bicycle safety. Lots of schools won't let you ride to school if you don't wear a helmet. They don't give a shit if the bike has functioning brakes, or the fork is the wrong way round (both pretty common faults), but they'll go crazy if a child comes in with no helmet.

Here's a video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIepAOgk-jE

Young boy, nearly gets killed by a lorry. He obviously has no idea about safe riding. His parents have bought him a helmet, he's wearing it even, and it looks like reflectors on his trousers as well. So they obviously are concerned about his safety on his bike.

But his riding style is incredibly dangerous. And this kind of riding is pretty common.

If you get run over by a lorry, a helmet will do fuck all for you.

There is a regular stream of teenagers who get killed riding on roads.

AIBU to think that the idea that you just buy your child a helmet and it's off he goes, is actively dangerous, and that the first priority should not be 'are you wearing a helmet?' but 'Can you ride safely?' (which in this case would either be a shoulder check and hand signal, or simply crossing the road on foot at a gap in the traffic.)

trufflesnout Mon 19-May-14 12:23:01

YANBU! Jesus I can't believe that lorry stopped in time

EnglishRose1320 Mon 19-May-14 12:25:12

I have always made my children wear helmets and I think starting with helmets when they are small and still only ride on pavements and paths is very important but yes when they get old enough to ride on the road they def need to know a lot more about safety than just putting a helmet on, both the school my son use to go to and the one he now attends give the children lessons in bike safety when they reach yr5/6, they can only do the lesson if the bike they have is deemed road worthy- working breaks etc so I have been quite lucky in having schools that seem to get the whole picture

AgaPanthers Mon 19-May-14 12:25:47

Good brakes + no load I guess.

GooseyLoosey Mon 19-May-14 12:26:44

Wearing a helmet is just one part of being safe on a bike. Children need to learn all the ways to be safe. However, as a starting point, I would not let my children on a bike without a helmet.

Latara Mon 19-May-14 12:27:30

I think a helmet is important because I've known people who've been protected from serious injury or worse by their cycle helmets.

But I also think children (and certain adults!) should be made to do their Cycling Proficiency test before being allowed independently on a bike.
I did it as a child and it was a really good idea because I was always careful.

I see too many cyclists (many adults I'm afraid) taking stupid risks as well as cycling on busy pavements, weaving in and out of traffic and on and off pavements without looking or signalling.
In fact no cyclists seem to signal these days.

Btw I'm a pedestrian - I can't cycle or drive due to epilepsy so I've got no agenda.

trufflesnout Mon 19-May-14 12:28:58

I have a question actually - related to safety - lots of people get (rightly) really pissed off when people cycle on pavements because it's dangerous.

But it's common place for kids to be riding on pavements and taught there. Why? It's not safe either - little kids can swerve into the road or injure people and are hard to predict from a pedestrian POV.

Surely we should be teaching kids in places other than roads & pavements if they can't ride safely yet?

trufflesnout Mon 19-May-14 12:28:58

I have a question actually - related to safety - lots of people get (rightly) really pissed off when people cycle on pavements because it's dangerous.

But it's common place for kids to be riding on pavements and taught there. Why? It's not safe either - little kids can swerve into the road or injure people and are hard to predict from a pedestrian POV.

Surely we should be teaching kids in places other than roads & pavements if they can't ride safely yet?

ICanSeeTheSun Mon 19-May-14 12:30:35

Perhaps the PCOS police could go into schools to teach the Highway Code.

I agree that every road user should be using the roads safely

SirChenjin Mon 19-May-14 12:31:00

Where is the evidence that shows that people simply focus on wearing helmets, rather than riding safely? confused. Surely wearing a helmet is just one part of cycling safely?

Fwiw, my cousin was killed as a result of head injuries caused when he hit the ground when he was knocked off his bike aged 17 by a woman who didn't look when pulling out of a junction in her car. A helmet would probably have saved his life, given that he was actually riding his bicycle appropriately and safely. For that reason, none of us ride without helmets.

Kewcumber Mon 19-May-14 12:31:40

A cycling helmet can safe your life if you get hit by a lorry. Absolutely it can.

But I don;t know any schools around here that don;t do cycling proficiency in year 5 or 6 (I think it might be called something different now) which very much focuses on safe cycling including having working brakes and how to check your tyres, making yourself visisble etc. Wearing a helmet is one way you can make yourself safer and I don;t know any cycling programmes that don't cover all aspects.

Individual paretns might not if they aren't cyclists themselves but I don't know any schools that don;t teach bike safety properly.

Kewcumber Mon 19-May-14 12:34:05

I think there is a parent on MN whose child died after being hit (on his bike) by a lorry. She beleives (from memory for pretty good reasons) that a helmet would have saved his life and says so to try to convince people to wear helmets and make their kids wear helmets.

EnglishRose1320 Mon 19-May-14 12:37:17

trufflesnout I agree with you, my children can only ride on pavements when they know how to safely and only empty pavements, they are not allowed to ride through town but can ride on the pavement outside our house which is very quiet. We were lucky to have several areas near us- like parks with paths and an old airfield where they could learn safely without getting in anyone's way

stinkingbishop Mon 19-May-14 12:44:44

I completely agree that kids need to learn safe riding. When I was little we all had to do a cycling proficiency at school, for example.

However helmets are so so SO important. I'm currently retraining as a Neuropsychologist, and most of my work will be helping people with brain injuries adjust to a completely altered life. The bulk of the injuries are as a result of road accidents, and most of the victims are youngsters who've barely started out on life's journey before it all gets turned upside down.

You can be the best cyclist in the world but if there's some numpty hairing round a bend without due care, or an out of control drunk driver, the helmet really is your only chance of preventing severe brain injury, or worse. Look at Wiggo - he was knocked over at a bloomin' petrol station and I think he's an OK cyclist!

AgaPanthers Mon 19-May-14 12:44:57

I don't think riding on pavements is necessarily safe (although in this video I think it would have been better).

I try to encourage my children to ride in the road. Quiet pavements tend to adjoin driveways, and because car movements are much lower, that can reduce driver awareness and make it more dangerous than riding on a busy pavement where people expect it.

AgaPanthers Mon 19-May-14 12:50:15

I don't think helmets should be imputed with magical powers. They aren't subject to particularly stringent safety standards, they are not as effective as motorbike helmets, for example, from what I can see the main marketing points as you go up in price are:

* how many holes they have in (for ventilation)
* how aerodynamic they are (for racing)

Safety doesn't really come into it, from what I've seen.

Pro cycling deaths increased after they made helmets mandatory, although I'm not sure if it's statistically significant, but there's reason to believe that they do make people take more risks.

WaywardOn3 Mon 19-May-14 12:56:06

We had a cycling proficiency style afternoon at our primary school when we were little. Everyone brought their bikes/borrowed one and the school field was marked like a road with zebra crossings etc and an obstacle course at the end. We all learned how to ride safely on the road, to actively look for cars, what to wear to keep safe and which hand signals to use and when to use them. Sadly I don't think this happens as much as it used to :-(

I wouldn't ever ride in a city as I feel it's far too busy for bikes nor would I ride on an A road, as again I think they're too busy and too fast for bikes. That doesn't stop others from doing it and I try to give them as much space as I can

5Foot5 Mon 19-May-14 13:16:47

There is a regular stream of teenagers who get killed riding on roads.

It wouldn't surprise me if they are the group most at risk because they are at the age where they are so damn cocky and think they know everything, but they are not drivers yet so they don't realise the dangers of what they are doing and how they are making themselves vulnerable in traffic.

There was a teenage boy killed in our town recently on a bike and the inquest just reported last week that there was nothing the motorist could have done as he rode straight out without looking.

The day after reading that I saw another teenage boy behaving in exactly the same way. He was trying to avoid a busy roundabout by going round the corner on the pavement. However, in order to get on the pavement he rode right between the cars in a slow moving queue - scared the life out of me. Then round the corner I saw him do exactly the same thing again to cross the road.

EnglishRose1320 Mon 19-May-14 13:22:49

When my children ride on quiet pavements it is the same as quiet roads, they check each driveway to make sure a car isn't about to pull out, they have to learn somehow once you have taught them to ride safely they need to put it into practise.

MissBetseyTrotwood Mon 19-May-14 13:26:55

The primary school my DCs used to go to provided on road cycle training for all the Y6s.

It was brilliant.

We live rurally now and there's no provision for it. Yesterday, driving to the beach down a winding lane, I nearly collided with 3 young men doing their very own 'road race'. These were lycra'd up, helmeted cyclists cycling very, very fast on the wrong side of the road . Luckily I know those roads and was only doing about 30mph so I could stop. It was an emergency stop though, that threw both DCs forward in their car seats in the back seat.

I realise this thread may not have been the time and place for that rant but I had to get it off my chest. I was shaken and angry afterwards.

CrohnicallyHungry Mon 19-May-14 13:33:02

Like many other schools, we do cycling proficiency in year 5/6.

However, I do think parents need to take more responsibility for ensuring their children can ride safely before they get to that age. Children should not be cycling unsupervised, whether that's in a park or pavement or road, until they can not only ride their bike but follow road rules and show consideration for others.

I live in a cul de sac and there are a group of children that regularly ride around. I'd guess they are junior age, maybe year 3/4. They make me so nervous if I am driving down the road as they ride up on the pavements and off again, across the road, leap off their bikes and let them fall over, or pull skids. So even though I slow right down, I'm actually worried one of them will ride into my car! Even if they were on the park I would be worried about them bumping into pedestrians.

It seems like parents think once they can physically ride without stabilisers, job done and they can go off and ride. I was taught to ride safely along multi use paths and on the local country park (which has roads running through but very little traffic and cyclists/pedestrians have right of way), and I plan on doing the same with my DD.

babybarrister Mon 19-May-14 13:33:39

I do not believe for one minute that helmets make cycling more dangerous - people need to wear them to protect themselves against the risks of head injuries which I am absolutely sure are much more common than deaths on the roads.

Whilst I entirely accept that a helmet is not going to help in some situations, it certainly does in the majority of accidents. My DH had a very nasty cycling accident with a helmet on - without it he would be dead or horrifically disabled.

This sort of debate where people are seemingly being encouraged to prioritise safe cycling over wearing helmets is irresponsible - people need to do both

GooseyLoosey Mon 19-May-14 13:43:52

Aga - I agree that helmets do not prevent all injuries so in that sense, they are not a panacea. However, I think there is documented evidence that in the case of children, helmets do significantly reduce head injury. There are a number of factors which make them more effective for children than, say, pro-cyclists - children do not fall as fast or hit the ground with the same velocity as adults and they are much more likely to be involved in accidents that do not involve another vehicle.

My own son fell off his bike aged 6. I was waiting for him to scream. The silence when he remained unmoving is, without doubt, the loudest sound I have ever heard in my life. When the ambulance arrived, they refused to take him as they said he needed immediate transfer to a specialist head trauma unit. He was airlifted to a hospital miles away where he spent days in a coma. He was wearing a helmet and it was completely crushed above his right ear. The consultant neurologist was absolutely clear that if his skull had sustained the impact sustained by the helmet, he would have died when he hit the ground. As it is, he is now a healthy, happy 11 year old and I buy very expensive helmets.

Helmets are not the whole story in relation to cycling safety but, particularly for children, they are a good start.

AgaPanthers Mon 19-May-14 13:47:05

I'm not particularly trying to start a debate about the efficacy of bicycle helmets, but as I understand it the countries with the best cycle safety/usage (Holland and Denmark) have the lowest rates of helmet wearing, well under 5%, and most people do ride bikes in Holland, unlike the UK where it is a minority pursuit.

The Dutch are not really renowned for their recklessness, and in fact they spend many billions each year on cycle safety. There's a blog here showing some of their infrastructure. www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com

It isn't possible to state what a helmet would have done in a given accident. It just isn't.

SirChenjin Mon 19-May-14 13:53:47

Review of the evidence here www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/sites/brighton-hove.gov.uk/files/downloads/transport/Dft_-_Cycle_helmut_report.pdf - although they don't prevent all fatalities, there are cases where they do. I prefer to increase my chances of survival by wearing one.

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