Tuesday, 13 March 2012

DOWN TO THE DOCTOR’S: Helmet Hitlers hammered [updated]

_McGrath001This week, Dr Richard McGrath feels the wind in his hair.

An article in the 10 Feb, 2012, edition of the NZ Medical Journal is devastatingly bad news for cycle helmet zealots. Written by Colin Clarke, who has coached competitive cyclists, worked as a road safety instructor, and cycled more than 8000 km on New Zealand roads alone.  A mechanical engineer from York, in England, his thorough study suggests cyclists were safer without helmets. Which should surely expose 'helmet Hitlers' to the possibility of legal action for the deaths their law changes have caused.

So what does Colin say? It's quite shocking, really. First, cycling use has decreased by 51% since lid-wearing was made compulsory.

So half the number that were previously travelling by pushbike are now either walking, using hydrocarbon-guzzling enviro-raping earth-incinerating methods of travel such as trains, buses, motorcycles or cars, or they’re not not travelling at all but sitting at home on the couch.

Second, the injury rate for cyclists per hour travelled has risen by over 20%. Which means those remaining cyclists (the half of them who haven't chucked their bike in the shed and let the spiders spin cobwebs over them) are now statistically at higher risk of injury per unit time than they were before the lid laws were forced through.

Third and most damningly, the reluctance of people to cycle, and the associated morbidity associated with this decrease, has resulted in the premature deaths of 53 New Zealanders per year for the past 18 years (not to mention the morbidity and mortality caused by the emission-spewing motor vehicles that it could be assumed some of the ex-cyclists are now using). 

imageThe case against compulsory helmeting, on all counts from health to aesthetics, is now stronger than the case for criminalising non-wearers.

As an aside, the helmets that people are now forced to don use plastics and sometimes polystyrene, which I always thought were like poison to environmentalists. And, heaven forbid, some filthy capitalists will be making a profit producing said helmets in a Chinese perspiration factory and selling them at a vastly inflated price. Why the 'green' lobby isn't up in arms about it all, I can't understand. Perhaps it's the increase in premature deaths of humans that keeps the more extreme among them happy?

I can't do better than mention some quotes contained in Colin's article:

  • "The evidence from Australia and New Zealand suggests that the wearing of helmets might even make cycling more dangerous" (European Cycling Federation)
  • "The case for helmets is far from sound" (UK National Children's Bureau)
  • "Compulsion to wear a bike helmet is detrimental to public health" (W.J. Curnow)

imageNot to mention that cycling is now much less fun!

Colin Clarke makes a very good point, which the Molesworth St micro-managers would do well to keep in mind:

Where a reasonable doubt exists about any product providing a net benefit then the consumer should have the right not to use it. It is simply, but importantly, respecting human rights by allowing the individual to decide. Insufficient respect for human rights is shown across the world and unless the individual is allowed to exercise their rights then this opens the way for devaluing human rights in general.

Let’s face it, the law was never brought in on the evidence. But the evidence is now overwhelming for repeal.

I wonder if the governments who brought in the ill-conceived helmet laws—and those who failed to abolish—might now find themselves under scrutiny and being asked to justify the 53 extra New Zealanders who have died every year since 1994, and will continue to die until this absurd law is overturned?

See you next week!
Doc McGrath

PS: image

imagePPS: Pictures from the Australian website/blog Helmet Freedom. Plenty more good material there.  Follow them on Facebook.

UPDATE:  And plenty of good material too at the local “freedom to choose” website: http://www.cyclinghealth.org.nz/. “Cycling Health is not opposed to the use of helmets,” they declare, “but merely to the element of compulsion. Our position is that individuals should have the right to choose whether or not to use a helmet, without interference by Governments.”


Some nice pics too:













  1. Making kids ride on the road instead of the footpath is also a killer.

  2. Hal Incandenza13 Mar 2012, 20:18:00

    In libbo land, correlation is causation when the subsequent conclusions are what you so desperately want them to be. That's reason people! Also, comparing advocates of mandatory helmet laws to the murderer of 6 million people is perfectly reasonable and rational. It's also one (but by no means the only) reason why the Libertarianzah get 600 votes each election.

  3. Given Richards photo it might be more apt to say he will feel the wind on his head rather than the wind in his hair

  4. Yes, that was my little joke, I'm afraid.

    Not as risible as Hall himself, however, being congenitlally unable to actually address the issue in question.

  5. That law had the opposite effect on me, I bought a bike to ride to work helmetless specifically to spite the bastards. That law plus Lindsays radio show, there was no turning back.

    Nice one Richard for taking this subject on and thanks for the link to 'Helmet Freedom'.


  6. I could'nt have said it better. Thanks Richard this helmet law is an excellent example of Nanny state gone mad and misusing of facts and simple common sense. Can you put up a link to our site: cycling health.org.nz
    Graeme Trass

  7. Maybe we (they) should make people wear a helmet while they're on their couch. That way, the extra danger clearly posed by having a small light thing on their head, will result in more premature deaths and we won't have to pay for operations for fat people.

    What can I say? Misuse of statistics irks me, no matter the source. Basically it's lying, and the clearest sign of someone without either the data, or the intellectual horsepower to make their case. Or: they're just wrong. I'm not sure what the actual case is here. Don't care particularly. All I know is: If you can't make your case without BS stats, you really need to try harder.

  8. Hal Incandenza14 Mar 2012, 21:22:00

    tspoon=STALIN!! Sound methodology is for Hitler!!

    A study has concluded bicycle helmets laws are bad m'kay? In libbo land that's all that's required for it to be sound and its conclusions logically impregnable. Even if it's utter bullshit. That's how you advocate freedom.

  9. LOL, Hal. You've clearly never heard of moral hazard.

  10. No Hal, I'm not saying association is causation, but shouldn't we be applying that same precautionary principle that suggests if we don't know the risks of compulsory lid-wearing then perhaps we should refrain from forcing cyclists into it?

  11. Hal Incandenza15 Mar 2012, 06:51:00

    "his thorough study suggests cyclists were safer without helmets. Which should surely expose 'helmet Hitlers' to the possibility of legal action for the deaths their law changes have caused."

    Sorry, are you suggesting a causal relationship or not? You seem confused.

  12. Hal, read the quote you used: "his study suggests..."

    Suggests, not proves. But raises serious questions.

    I note you didn't address my comment about the 'precautionary principle', a tactic used by statists and others to block change.

  13. Incandescent Hal, you seem terrified of living in 'libboland'.

    I am curious, what is it like where you live?
    Would you it were different?
    If so, how?

    As you appear to abhor the concept of people being left alone, why to you hover around here?

  14. Hal Incandenza15 Mar 2012, 19:34:00

    What weasly evasion. Rand would be appalled.

    Do you think there is a causal relationship or not? You want people to be tried for the deaths of innocent people on the basis of this "thorough study", and yet you're not brave enough to put your penny down. Odd.

    I like the way you deride the precautionary principle as a statist weapon (Hitler was in the process of developing one when the war ended apparently) and then suggest it be applied here. Do you agree with it or not?

  15. I would love to offer that lovely blonde lady in that red dress with no helmet my German helmet which is more enjoyable to ride with, than riding on a bike with no helmet. I'm sure that she'll love it.

  16. @Hal - for the record, I disagree with the precautionary principle. It unnecessarily slows down the march of technology and improvements in human lifestyle. I'm just slightly surprised the lefties didn't trot it out at the time this law came in. I also think you need context. Were there studies to demonstrate that this law would not cost extra lives, or that the lives saved (or whatever parameter is used) exceed the lives lost - in short a cost-benefit study. I am not aware of any.

    I would love to know whether the benefits of the lid law outweigh the risks. Do you happen to know if they do? My understanding is that a woman, whose child suffered a head injury after falling from a bike, agitated and got some pollies to believe that the laws would be a good idea.

    The author of that article in the NZMJ commented on the way the lid laws are another encroachment on personal choice and freedom. The libertarian objection to such Nanny State legislation, i.e. a desire for greater personal autonomy, is coupled with a desire for greater individual responsibility.

    Which means: the Libz Party would couple abolition of lid laws with deregulation of the health sector (and most other other government sectors) so that the cost of health care (and thus the incentives to choose healthy lifestyles) was sheeted back to individuals, families and co-operatives.

  17. Oh, and Hal, heaven forbid I should appall the ghost of Ayn Rand, so here goes:

    The study raises the not unreasonable hypothesis that excess deaths have resulted from the cycle helmet laws, probably via the observation that fewer people now seem to be cycling, but the facts presented are far from proof of cause and effect.

    There are a lot of variables that need to be taken into consideration, that clearly have not been accounted for in this study.

  18. Hal Incandenza16 Mar 2012, 18:23:00

    Is a "not unreasonable hypothesis" a reasonable hypothesis? You think it's reasonable to infer from that study that helmet laws caused the things the author claims it does, rather than just coincided? Why do you think that? Don't answer that question, I know the answer.

    Anyway you contradict yourself by saying "but the facts presented are far from proof of cause and effect." Which is it? A logical inference or not?

    When you do your privatisation of the entire health sector and abolition of bicycle helmet reforms will you also abolish seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws? What about drink driving? Speeding? Driver licensing? Traffic lights suck, and Hitler had them in Nazi Germany, so they've got to go.

    How much death and mayhem is acceptable in the struggle for sweet sweet liberty?

  19. Gee, I was just 'getting' this Liberty thing, why would there be mayhem?

  20. As with many sports (skiing springs to mind as I do a lot of that) wearing a helmet causes a large number of people to think they are invincible and go faster, more recklessly etc than they would if not wearing a helmet and feeling a false sense of safety.


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