Promotion of cycling and healthBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5405 (Published 18 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5405
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I do not believe that cyclists are much in danger of hurting
themselves; they are more likely to hurt slow pedestrians as they (the
cyclists) hurtle along on pavements.
True it is that this is just a belief, neither supported,nor
In passing I would mention that my suggestion (JRSM, 2005) that the
benefits of the turbans worn by Sikh motor cyclists be investigated) has
not been taken up. But then it has not been dismissed either.
In the Second World War, a Punjabee Sikh officer serving in the RAF
was allowed to fly wearing a turban instead of a helmet. He carried a
spare turban, just in case the one on his head became dirty. He was shot
down once or twice but his turbanned skull survived unscathed.
Competing interests: Advancing years
Mutrie and Crawford canter through some of the barriers to getting
people cycling more (1). By far the largest barriers are cyclists status
as an 'out' group (2) and the cultural myth that that cycling is high risk
Sophisticated risk assessment shows cycling is about as risky as
walking or travelling by car (5,6). One American comparison (7) found
that, per hour, the risk of cycling is about equal to that for gardening
and four times safer than swimming. You would never think this from some
of the literature published about the matter. (8, 9, 10) This tends to
portray cycling as a high-risk activity, suitable only for those kitted
out in day glo and helmets. The BMA and some Royal Colleges think cycling
so dangerous helmet less cycling should be banned. But few will take up
cycling, or will be allowed to by their parents when the 'safety' issues
are emphasized so disproportionally
If we are ever to see mass cycling in Britain, on a similar level to
Denmark and Netherlands, or even the eight fold increase envisaged by the
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) we will have to stop this 'dangerising' of
cycling. Trying to dress up all cyclists in pseudo spaceman clothing has
never been compatible with increasing participation rates and it doesn't
make us safer either. Use of such kit is inversely related to cyclists'
safety and to levels of cycling. (11) In particular the mandating of
helmet use in Australia and New Zealand has been a disaster not only for
cycling levels but safety too (12, 13).
Normalising cycling involves allowing ordinary people to do it as
part of their usual daily routines, placing greater responsibility on
those providing risk on the road to mind out and dispensing with our
current obsession with helmets and daft clothing campaigns. (14)
1. BMJ 2010; 341:c5405 doi: 10.1136/bmj.c5405
2. Drivers Perceptions of Cyclists, TRL549, Transport Research
3. Cycling for a Healthier Nation, TRL Transport Research Laboratory,
4. Scottish Government, 2006, Sharing Road Space
5. Assessing the actual risks faced by cyclists, Wardlaw, M, Traffic
Engineering and Control, Dec 2002 p352-356.
6. Cycling: The way ahead for towns and cities, Office for Official
Publications of the European Communities, 1999.
7. Data from Failure Analysis Associates, Inc (now Exponent Inc),
Design News, 10 April 1993. http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1026.html
8. Safekids factsheet http://www.safekids.org/our-work/research/fact-
9. Evening Standard http://lydall.standard.co.uk/2010/10/cycle-in-
12. Evidence from countries that have enforced the wearing of helmets
D L Robinson BMJ 2006;332:722 doi:10.1136/bmj.332.7543.722-a
13. The effects of bicycle helmet legislation on cycling-related
The ratio of head to arm injuries over time - by A Voukelatos and C Rissel
Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, Aug 2010, vol 21, no.
14. John Pucher, J , Buehler, R. Transport Reviews, Vol. 28, No. 4,
Competing interests: A Board member of the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation, who uses his bike as a way of getting around.