Monday, 29 September 2008

Safety and Scary Statistics

I came across a web site by a charity created to promote road safety in the UK. There is section on Cycling and the use of helmets. Of course it is an advocate of compulsory use of helmets and it gives stats from 2006. It strongest cases are from the Royal College of Medicine and the Royal College of Nursing who support the use of helmets in the minimisation of head injuries and death related to head injuries. This section also carries personal stories designed to scare you and it works, for five minutes.

But then I went to check out the details of the statistics and compare them to other road accidents.

I discover that as a woman who is over 20 I am least likely to suffer a fatal accident on a bike. A quarter occur to those under 20 and a fifth occur to men. I also discover that my risk as a driver is higher than if I was on my bike. (Nine people die on the road each day due to a car accident compared to one person, likely to be male, every other day on a bicycle.)

The charity makes the point that because drivers are not trained to see and account for cyclists this is greatest risk to safety. This tells me that we cyclists need to continue to change the culture in regards to cycling and sharing the roads. Any regular driver in the City at rush hour is now used to seeing packs of cyclists at junctions and in bus lanes. Changing the culture means getting on our bikes with, or like me without a helmet.

On my street I was the second commuter cyclist. (The people next door have mountain bikes but only use them off road so they don’t count.) I have now noticed that two more cyclists have joined the fold. One also has a folding bike and the other has a child seat for his toddler.

I accept that I do take a risk when I get on my bike without a helmet. But I also take a risk when I get in a car or walk the street. I still say that cycle training is a better protector for a cyclist than a helmet but if you are a child or a novice or lacking in confidence or fancy the look of them then wear a helmet.