Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cyclists Rights Action Group (CRAG) Media Release

In the May 2011 edition of Accident Analysis and Prevention, Dr Rune Elvik, Chief Research Officer of the Institute of Transport Economics, Norway, reports biases in the 2001 study that Australian governments rely upon to support the compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets.

The 2001 study, by Attewell, Glase and McFadden for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, claimed in AA&P that helmets reduce the risk of death and injury to the head, brain and face, but Dr Elvik’s re-analysis of its data finds no effect of helmets on injuries to the head or face.

As regards brain injury, articles in AA&P by Bill Curnow discredited the 2001 study for ignoring the science of its main cause, rotation from oblique impulse. In fact, helmets are likely to aggravate rotation, and the risk of death by head injury in Australia did increase after helmet legislation.

But Attewell et al. disregarded the science and so have road safety authorities, who continue to advise governments that helmets protect brains and save lives.

Professor Chris Rissel at the University of Sydney School of Public Health commented that “the effectiveness of mandatory helmet legislation has been questioned since it was introduced in Australia, but now there is doubt whether modern soft-shell helmets protect heads at all.

“With rapidly rising rates of obesity and chronic diseases, we need to be doing everything we can to get more people cycling. Compulsion to wear helmets discourages casual and spontaneous cycle trips, particularly among non-regular riders.

“There should be a choice about wearing helmets," said Professor Rissel. "If people want to wear a bicycle helmet then they should go right ahead, but don’t force them on everyone.”


In response to CRAG's Media Release, The Age attempted to analyse the information. Unsurprisingly, the journalist did not find the information in the Media Release to be palatable, and allowed her own bias towards helmets dictate the timbre of her story. Consequently The Age’s report on the study’s findings muddied what had actually been revealed to them via the Media Release, and ought to have been revealed to the Australian public.

Everywhere else in the world they're worried about air pollution and the fact that the 'high concentration of many fine particles, largely due to emissions from diesel engines and heating systems, knocks almost two years off the average life expectancy'...

...but not here - we're preoccupied with bicycle helmets - and anyway they protect us from absolutely everythihg, don't they

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