Dec 13, 2006

Wearing helmets 'more dangerous'

Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests.
The study found drivers tend to pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than those who are bare-headed.
Dr Ian Walker was struck by a bus and a lorry during the experiment. He was wearing a helmet both times.
But the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said tests have shown helmets protect against injuries.
To carry out the research, Dr Walker used a bike fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to find drivers were twice as likely to get close to the bicycle, at an average of 8.5cm, when he wore a helmet.
The experiment, which recorded 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
Dr Walker, a traffic psychologist from the University's Department of Psychology, said: "This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave is affected by the cyclist's appearance.

This study suggests wearing a helmet might make a collision more likely
Dr Ian Walker
"By leaving the cyclist less room, drivers reduce the safety margin that cyclists need to deal with obstacles in the road, such as drain covers and potholes, as well as the margin for error in their own judgements.
"We know helmets are useful in low-speed falls, and so definitely good for children, but whether they offer any real protection to somebody struck by a car is very controversial.
"Either way, this study suggests wearing a helmet might make a collision more likely in the first place," he added.
Dr Walker thinks the reason drivers give less room to cyclists wearing helmets is because they see them as "Lycra-clad street warriors" and believe they are more predictable than those without.
He suggests different types of road users need to understand each other.
"Most adult cyclists know what it is like to drive a car, but relatively few motorists ride bicycles in traffic, and so don't know the issues cyclists face.
"There should definitely be more information on the needs of other road users when people learn to drive and practical experience would be even better."

this is all very i have never done any research into this idea myself but my own personal observations mirror what this fellow has observed. i have noticed exactly the same thing occasionally when riding sans casque.

what about you?


Reid Dalgleish said...

Personally, I don't believe drivers even notice the helmets or not. If they're assholes, they want to instill the fear of god in you. If they're normal, they want to give you way more room than you really need. It's more about personalities than the safety of the cyclist concerned.

Alie said...

I agree. I don't think drivers look to see whether you are wearing a helmet before they pass you.

Velodrome racer said...

I agree with Reid, It is sad though that most of the motorists are assholes. I don't think they realize that they are playing with someone's life by doing thier little brush by's.