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The News Cycle: Coroner’s Report / Bike Helmet Edition

The News Cycle: Coroner’s Report / Bike Helmet EditionA couple weeks ago, the Chief Coroner released a report titled “Cycling Death Review: A Review of All Accidental Cycling Deaths in Ontario from January 1st, 2006 to December 31st, 2010″ and made recommendations to make our streets safer.  They were, among others:

  1. Adoption of a “complete streets” approach in community planning
  2. Development of an Ontario Cycling Plan to guide the development of cycling infrastructure
  3. A  cycling safety public awareness and education strategy
  4. Strategies to promote and support helmet use for cyclists of all ages.
  5. Implementation of mandatory helmet legislation for cyclists of all ages, within the context of an evaluation of the impact of this legislation on cycling activity.
  6. Establishment of a “one-meter” rule for vehicles when passing cyclists.
  7. Prioritizing the development of paved shoulders on provincial highways.
  8. Mandatory side-guards for heavy trucks.
These are all great recommendations, but of course the one that almost every media outlet glommed on to was the “mandatory helmet legislation” one, even though that was the most contentious among the report’s authors of any of the recommendations.  The recommendation also includes the stipulation that an evaluation of the impact of any such legislation should be done to ensure that it’s not detrimental to the adoption of cycling as a transportation choice.

 

Before I list most of the articles I found about the Coroner’s Report, I’ll lay out again my personal view about bike helmets… which will no doubt upset people on both sides of the issue.  I get lots of comments on the @bikingtoronto twitter account and the BikingToronto facebook page when I post anything the comes down on one side or the other.

 

Facts about Bike Helmets
  • Helmets are super important – they protect your brain if you hit your head
  • You will definitely be glad you have a helmet on if you fall over or get hit and hit your head on something hard
  • A helmet will not prevent a car from hurting your head if it runs over your head (helmets are just foam and plastic after all)
  • A helmet will not prevent you from breaking arms, legs, ribs, and many other body parts
  • A helmet will not prevent you from dying
Facts about Head Injuries
  • You are just as likely (if not more likely) to have a fatal head injury while driving or being a passenger in a motor vehicle, having a shower, or going up or down stairs as you are riding a bike.
  • Helmets are recommended/legislated for motor cycles
  • Helmets are not recommended/legislated for driving or riding in a car
  • Helmets are not recommended/legislated for showering
  • Helmets are not recommended/legislated for going up or down stairs
I’m not opposed to bike helmets (even making them mandatory), but I am opposed to the hysteria promoted by pro-helmet people.  Unless you promote helmet use for ALL activities during which someone can suffer a head injury, I do not want to hear why only cyclists should be mandated to wear them.

 

It is for these reasons that I wear a helmet, my wife wears a helmet, and my daughter wears a helmet… yet I do not find fault with anyone who chooses not to wear one.

 

  • Scanner

    The CSA specs used to “certify” bicycle helmets were promulgated in 1974. the helmet manufacturers, I’m sure, are happy to continue manufacturing helmets to this spec – they’re cheap to make in a giant factory in China and sell for many times their cost to helmet heads in Europe and North America. Surely they could be better designed and more resistant to impact than they are. I have even heard they can break if dropped from handlebar height on to concrete – a normal accident to a helmet. Think about this the next time you strap that bit of Styrofoam and plastic on your head. How much protection would that be against a brick wall striking you at 60 kph? In the old, bad days the Metros used to, aside from dragging a perp to Cherry Beach to drop him through the ice, shove a Toronto Phone Directory into the waist of his pants before hitting him with a billy club. Why? Transmitted the force of the blow but prevented surface bruising
    If the helmet heads are sincere about safety they will demand a better helmet before setting the law on us wind in the hair types. I don’t believe this is about safety at all though or they would be demanding a 30 kph speed limit for the murder machines on our roads, which are the true reason for almost 100% of the bicycle deaths.

  • Jack Momma

    I agree entirely and would go so far as to make the following claims:

    We simply cannot ignore statistics (read: science) in public policy decisions. Those decisions must be based on the actual consequences of policies, which is a function of the irrational preferences of people as well as the rational.

    As such, if mandating helmet use IN FACT decreases in the number of cyclists on the road and correlatives to an increase in brain injury to the population at large, then anyone who advocates mandatory helmet laws is (ipso facto) advocating a public policy which increases the incidence of brain injury in the population at large. And any advocacy of a public policy which does more harm than good is reprehensible.

  • Rico

    Nowhere in these “stats” does it say how much wearing a helmet, increases the possibility of an accident. I hate wearing a helmet for reasons that aren’t obvious to most, especially drivers.