This last couple of weeks in London have been horrific. 5 people killed, and of course who knows how many injured. Year on year figures show that whilst deaths themselves have not gone over last year's levels yet, include serious injury, and figures are up 18%.
So Andrew Gilligan is quoted in Road.cc as saying that cycle safety gear (and I'm paraphrasing here, but...) makes almost no difference and people potentially shouldn't bother.
....and breathe out. Now. There are a whole bunch of different debates all conflated in to one in this line of thinking.
1) He's talking about personal experience, not hard data
2) Copenhagen and Amsterdam always end up getting dragged in to these debates, particularly when it comes to cycle helmets but listen, everyone you have to sweep those two places out of your minds when discussing because guess what - segregated bike lanes! You could wear clown suits and it would make no discernible difference to safety data in these exemplary, cycle friendly cities. Our debate revolves around a medieval city with tiny roads, a bloody great river which funnels all the traffic over it into only partially adapted major arterial roads thronging with lorries
3) Wearing a helmet is extremely important in reducing brain injuries in serious injury crashes (or below). The stats on this are very difficult to find but you can state some truisms fairly solidly: Firstly, when one is killed, one's helmet is going to be almost entirely ineffective given that deaths occur with body injuries - being dragged under vehicles, etc, so it is entirely right to suggest that helmets in no way prevent death or accidents themselves but it is also true to say that a helmet prevents concussion and in any injury where one's head is either itself in collision with eg: a truck mirror or similar, or indeed, the payment, having been pushed off your bike, then the helmet will do what it's designed to do. Reduce serious brain injury.
Those things in particular being true of helmets means to me that there is no debate. You are fundamentally an idiot if you don't wear a helmet. That does not mean you should be forced to wear one, however, but I suppose the argument against freedom of choice would be to flag car safety belts or something.
Anyway. To move on, one of the best things the LCC has done in recent times is hammer home the segregated cycling message. with segregated lanes, then suddenly injury rates plummet and as I say, you could cycle in the nuddy if you wanted to, in basic safety.
The important thing here is to try really hard to peel these conflated debates back to bare bones and find the truth in them, rather than the kneejerk reactions. My own kneejerk reaction to Andrew Gilligan is "Don't be such an arse, in what way is that statement helping, exactly?" given that nothing in what he said was actively useful.
Anyway, in case this gets Googled up, fundamentally the most important safety advice I would give to anyone is, take responsibility for everything you can, and that means buy whatever you want to, helmet, reflector, etc wise, obey the rules of the road and whatever do do, hang back behind lorries, even if it pisses off the boy racers behind you but also, practically, do this: get yourself a helmet cam. Please do this. Not only will it provide evidence if some bastard does drag you under (which I didn't have, hence the prosecution was dropped) but also, powerful anecdotal evidence suggests that, sod not wearing a helmet and people unconsciously potentially going round you a little bit wider - this is a flag that says 'Don't mess with me'. Drivers *consciously* recognising that you have what amounts to a defensive weapon means they actively seek to avoid you. If you will spend £70 on a hip, groovy cycling jacket then there is no excuse. No excuse at all.
(Hopefully this is a return to reasonably regular blog posts from me. trying to utilise Evernote, may the baby lord Jesus bless its servers, to kick off my thoughts when I have them instead of musing, then forgetting and not having the time).