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Posts from the helmets Category


More Evidence That Helmet Laws Don’t Work

There was a correlation between living in an area with high cycling rates and low levels of hospitalization. Graph: University of British Columbia

Living in an area with high cycling rates is linked to lower levels of hospitalization for bicyclists. There is no similar link for helmet laws. Graph: University of British Columbia

If you want to increase cycling safety in your city, drop the helmet law and focus on getting more people– particularly women — on bikes, with street designs that offer separation from vehicle traffic.

That’s the finding of a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia [PDF] evaluating safety outcomes for cyclists across Canadian provinces and territories.

Lead author Kay Teschke and a team of researchers looked at cyclist injuries requiring hospitalization in 10 Canadian provinces and three territories between 2006 and 2012. They checked to see if hospitalization rates were linked in any way to helmet laws and cycling rates, and they checked for variations in hospitalization rates by sex and age.

Helmet laws were found to have no relationship to hospitalization rates. That was true even though self-reported helmet use is higher in areas of Canada that mandate it (67 percent) than in areas that don’t (39 percent).

But having a higher rate of cycling in one’s community does seem to have an impact on safety. Using Canadian government data on cycling activity, researchers found that men and woman were both less likely to be injured while biking in communities where more people bike.

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Study: What Puts Cyclists at Greatest Risk? It’s Not What You Wear

When a cyclist is killed or seriously injured, the responses you hear often pin the blame squarely on the victim. “Why wasn’t she wearing a helmet?” Or, “Why was he wearing dark clothing? “


Going without bright, reflective gear did not have an impact on cyclist injury severity, according to a new study. Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr

But according to a new study [PDF] by a team of Canadian university researchers, those factors don’t seem to have much impact on the overall severity of injury when cyclists are hurt in collisions.

The report looked at injury severity among about 700 adults in Toronto and Vancouver who were hospitalized after a bike collision or fall. Researchers teased out which factors had the biggest impact on the extent of people’s injuries.

Here’s what they found.

What DID Put Cyclists at Greater Risk? 

Being hit by car

Duh, of course! But this point is worth reiterating. The cyclists who were injured in collisions with cars, or by falling to avoid a car collision, were more severely injured than people who just fell, or were involved in a collision with another cyclist or pedestrian.

Riding on sidewalks or shared use paths

Researchers found that people who were injured while riding on sidewalks or shared-use paths tended to sustain worse injuries, even compared to cyclists riding on major roads with no bike infrastructure. These counterintuitive results suggest that riding in places with potential conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians can be more dangerous than people assume. An earlier study by the same research team found people riding on sidewalks and multi-use paths were also more likely overall to be involved in a collision or crash.

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WaPo Is Wrong: Head Injuries Are Down, Not Up, in Bike-Share Cities

Image: Washington Post headline, at 1:39 p.m. Friday, showed a headline that said, incorrectly, that bike sharing cities saw an increase in head injuries. Image: Washington Post

The Washington Post ran a headline today erroneously claiming that cyclist head injuries increased in bike-share cities, when in fact head injuries declined more in bike-share cities than in cities without bike-share.

A Washington Post headline proclaimed today that cyclist head injuries have increased in cities with bike-share systems, based on a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But University of British Columbia public health professor Kay Ann Teschke is challenging that conclusion, pointing out that the data cited by the WaPo actually leads to the opposite conclusion: In cities with bike-share systems, head injuries and injuries of all kinds have gone down.

“The message that bike-share is increasing head injuries is not true,” Teschke told Streetsblog. “The tone of the article suggests that head injuries go up. Really what is happening is that head injuries went down, non-head injuries went down — but non-head injuries went down more.”

The study was based on injury data from trauma center databases and registries in American and Canadian cities, collected over the same time period from both bike-share cities and control cities. A press release for the study said the “risk of head injury among cyclists increased 14 percent after implementation of bike-share programs in several major cities.” But to put the finding in plainer language, what the researchers actually show is that head injuries as a proportion of overall cyclist injuries rose from 42 percent to 50 percent in five cities after the implementation of bike-share.

As for the overall safety of cyclists following the introduction of bike-share, Teschke says the data in the article actually show that total head injuries fell more in the five cities that implemented bike-share than in the control group. Head injuries just didn’t fall as much as total injuries.

The AJPH article’s authors make cautious assertions that their research might build the case for helmet requirements with bike-share. The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein, meanwhile, wasn’t cautious at all:

A few weeks ago, in honor of annual Bike to Work day, I asked a simple question about why those terrific bike share programs don’t provide helmets to riders. There were a lot of understandable reasons — hygiene, cost, liability — but one thing all the cities I checked seem to argue is that bike share programs are very safe, much safer than, say, cruising around on your own bicycle. Their evidence was anecdotal, based on the tiny number of reports of injuries to cyclists who have taken millions of bike share trips nationwide.

Well, it looks like they are wrong.

A look at the raw data doesn’t support Bernstein’s gloating at all.

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