|Read Boardman's full statement "Why I didn't wear a helmet on BBC" |
on the British Cycling website.
The helmet flap has been brought back into the news because Boardman is about to release a bicycle safety film -- aimed not at cyclists, but at the drivers of cars. The short film, called Space, is meant to educate drivers about a British Highway Code section that requires drivers to give cyclists and horse riders as much room as a car, and reinforces the legal right of bicyclists to ride two abreast. I'm not exactly certain of the full contents of that particular section of their highway code, but it sounds like it's similar to the 3-foot passing laws that are making their way in some states here in the U.S. Boardman says (as all cyclists know) "Some motorists don't give cyclists sufficient space when overtaking, failing to take into account the wobble room a cyclist needs. Cyclists don't always ride in a straight line partly because they can spot potholes and other road imperfections that motorists can't."
Boardman points to cities in the Netherlands to show how the large number of cyclists on the roads, as well as well-thought-out bicycle infrastructure, make cycling safer - despite the fact that helmet use is less than 0.5%. He wants to make bicycling such a normal part of life that people don't fear it. He says, "We are drowning in data - economic, health, pollution, you pick any battleground you want and using cycling as a mode of transport for short journeys wins hands down."
The real issues to bicycling safety come from cars with inattentive drivers and poor road design -- not from the cyclists' attire, or their helmets. But the attitude of most legislators (and the people who leave asinine, psychotic comments on any bicycle-related story on the internet) is that bicycle safety is solely up to the cyclists themselves. Mandatory helmet laws are often the result of that kind of thinking. Boardman points out that countries that have brought in compulsory helmet laws - "such as Australia and New Zealand - have actually seen a 30 to 50% drop in the number of people cycling." He added, "When less than 2% of people in the UK cycle regularly, bringing in a law that would actually put more people off would be a serious step back."
"If cycling looks and feels normal, more people will cycle. The more people cycle, the safer they are," he says in his statement on British Cycling. He also goes on to point out how cycling can help reduce the numbers of people who suffer from obesity-related illnesses, and from pollution-related illnesses.
Boardman's attitude about helmets seems to be pretty similar to my own. When I'm suiting up for a long ride, a helmet is just part of my regular routine. There are other times, like riding through my neighborhood to pick up a few groceries, that I'll leave it behind. More importantly, I have no illusions that a helmet will do anything for me in a collision with a car. They simply are not designed or built to protect in that kind of impact (if you don't believe me, read about helmet testing HERE). Nobody should overestimate what a helmet will do for them, but unfortunately, to people who don't ride (like most legislators, I assume), helmets are everything.
It's good to see someone trying to re-direct attention onto the real issues that affect bicyclists' safety. Too bad that all people see is a guy who didn't wear a helmet on the BBC. I'll be interested to see the film that Boardman was working on with the British Cycling Federation. I'll probably post a link here on the blog when it gets released.