Monday, April 14, 2014

Ok Curly why no helmet?

(The locks that everyone bar me wants to contain)

A police car had to wait for me in my Newtown street last week because its very dimensions (the street's that is) dictate vehicles can only travel through it one by one.

I had to cycle over the stop line and through the junction before the policeman could make his move, and when I did finally draw up alongside him, he immediately motioned to me to pull over ...

... here's how our conversation went:

"Why do you think I've pulled you over?"

"Ummmm - ahhhhh - errrr."

"Come on, why do you think?"

"Ummm ... I rolled over the stop line?"

"Well no, but yes you did so thank you for pointing that out! Why else?

"Ummm ... "

"Come on ... something to do with your hair."

"Ahhh ... I'm not wearing a helmet!"

"Yes ... well done ... and why not."

From which point I proceeded to tell him a little bit about me and my campaign for helmet law revocation, and how I believed that helmet law had been more trouble than it was ever worth over the past 20 years.

Seemingly intrigued, he mentioned that he often noticed me cycling around Newtown and that he'd been meaning to stop me re my lack of helmet but to date he had been too busy (well hello, no surprises there - this is Newtown!).

But now he had, and magnificent as my hair was, the policeman told me that it needed to be helmeted otherwise he'd probably end up booking me sometime soon ...

... hmmmm, I haven't been to Newtown Court before ... and coffee breaks could be especially good with Black Star Pastry right opposite!


  1. Did you give him the URL to this blog, and to It would be good if the authorities did a little research into this whole issue, rather than wasting the time of the courts.

  2. Sue,
    In Sep 2013 you stated;
    'I also noted due to the fact that wearing a helmet increases the effective head circumference, it had the effect of amplifying rotational forces applied to the head in the event of a collision. '

    I take it that because of the increased circumference of your head due to your considerable quantity of hair you will be having a haircut. Or is the risk of 'increased rotational forces' somehow only an issue if it comes from a helmet?

    1. Oooh, look! A troll!

    2. 'Oooh, look! A troll!'

      Not at all - a contrary point is not trolling.
      I write extensively about bicycle helmets and the evidence base for and against. My point to Sue is that you cannot argue against helmets on one hand (they increase effective head diameter and theoretically increase rotational moment) and yet maintain an increased head circumference via an exceptional mass of hair without incongruency.

      Which is it to be? If increased head circumference via hair mass (and increased weight and drag on the road in the event of a fall) is not a problem why are helmets a problem?



    3. Now, Seamus...
      I'm no expert on the matter, but I'm almost certain that Sue's head of hair is not made of the same stuff as your run of the mill helmet. Again, no expert, but I think you would have a point if she were sporting locks of Styrofoam, not human hair.
      Though who knows... maybe those curls are harder than they appear!

    4. Seamus,

      Hair is attached to the scalp and the scalp is very loosely attached to one's skull - which is why it can slide quite a lot on the skull before causing any damage. It's evolved this way over several thousand years...

      When these forces are exceeded you end up losing hair or tearing the scalp (messy, but it's not going to do much serious harm) but not much else - if really bad you can lose all your scalp but that's exceedingly rare. The scalp is also quite thick and can absorb a decent impact.

      A bicycle helmet is attached firmly to one's skull (if fitted properly) and this is anchored with a neck strap. This not only transfers a point of contact to the *entire* head, rather than a small section of scalp, but also the neck. There have been quite a few high cervical fractures from helmet straps, etc. resulting in quadriplegia (recent case in Canberra).

      A helmet is certainly useful for spreading a point impact over a slightly larger area, thus reducing the risk of a scalp laceration. Forces high enough to fracture one's skull or damage the brain (ie. a concussion) are little modified by a few centimetres of dense, EPS in the form of most bicycle helmets that comply with our laws.

      Wear one by all means but don't ride as though you've suddenly gone from 'unsafe' to 'safe' simply by wearing a bicycle helmet. That's probably the most dangerous thing these laws have done...

      Paul Martin

    5. Also a large diameter of 'hair' (which is mostly air around hair fibres) is quite different from a solid object, strapped to your head, of the same diameter.

    6. Have you ever measured the weight of hair? Do that, included it in your model of the moment of intertia and realise that your number is the same because hair doesn't weigh very much.

  3. I would guess that Sue's mass of hair would provide greater protection than if it were shorn short.

    Roll on, Sue!

    1. Once I was a passenger in a car, leaving a party. Our driver was pregnant, so she had no alcoholic bevvies whatsoever, and it wasn't a wild drinking party in any event. She was driving as safely as one can. Another car swerved into hers, hitting the back pedestrian seat where I was seated. Fortunately I wasn't hurt, but the window was shattered, and my hair (which is similar to Sue's) was full of shards, which might have otherwise reached my eyes.

  4. I would have a word with that copper for dereliction of duty for not booking you for an illegal rolling stop!

  5. Well done Sue. Keep fighting the good fight! There's an ongoing police operation targeting helmets on the College street cycleway. A doctor's note got me out of one confrontation but the second sadly led to a ticket. They've been there at least one morning per week for the last 4 weeks. Such a waste of police resources. Fortunately, giving the cycleway a miss has solved the problem. Shame since its quite a nice cycleway.

  6. Given that the law states that you must wear a helmet and it must be properly secured, I wonder if anyone has ever been fined for not complying with the latter. From what I see every day I'd imagine the police could make an absolute killing on this.

  7. I often see people riding, wearing helmets with dangling straps. That strikes me as very dangerous indeed.

  8. How did you go at court?

  9. This almost never happens (at least to me) here in Montréal. Today it did.

    A taxi driver was watching me from across the street; I was poised by the curb, waiting for a safe moment to enter the traffic. He gazed at me for a bit; I was annoyed (both cabbie and I are in late middle-age). Said, "one thing, you need a helmet".

    The fellow was an anglophone, of course. No French-speaker would make such a comment, even if they were in full sportif kit. He was of South Asian origin, which is only relevant in terms he was wired into the Anglosphere, and perhaps, a patriarchal attitude towards women, even women his own age. I responded sternly "You aren't wearing one".

    He went on, some crap about my "health" and I said I was past accepting men commenting on what I was wearing. He said he'd been polite and I was rude. I did NOT swear at him, or call him a macho bastard. Of course I was angry, but I had said nothing rude, nor did I scream at him.