Q&A: STAYING SAFE
Q: Many charity rides these days require entrants to wear a cycle helmet. It’s not compulsory by law in UK, so why do they insist? And are there any statistics about helmet use?
N. Oddie, email
A: Organisers who insist on helmets do so because they think it makes sense, even though the medical profession remains split over the claims made for helmets. An Australian statistician, Dorothy Robinson, has revived the debate by opposing helmet compulsion, saying it is “bad for full population health”.
And what’s more, she did this in an article published recently in the British Medical Journal, which last year reported on the British Medical Association’s call for compulsory helmet wearing for cyclists. This itself was a complete u-turn, as the BMA had previously opposed compulsion on the grounds that the health benefits outweighed the risks.
Robinson — who, by the way, does wear a helmet and is from Australia where helmets are
compulsory — is an expert in statistical modelling, “especially how biased and misleading results can be obtained from fitting incorrect or inappropriate models”. She studied data before and after helmet legislation in Australia and declares that helmet laws discourage cycling and produce no obvious response in the number of head injuries.
Keith Bingham is CW's chief newshound. The most experienced and respected cycling reporter has covered the lot, from the Tour de France to grass-roots issues