Cycling UK » safety Cycling info - advice and tips Tue, 17 Dec 2013 18:15:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Reasons to Wear a Cycle Helmet Sat, 12 Nov 2011 22:21:22 +0000 Cycling helmets can prevent serious head injuries. Sometimes the benefits are exaggerated, but, in some cases a good cycling helmet can make a significant reduction in the impact of a collision.

cycle helmets

Due to the perceived safety benefits of Cycling helmets, they have now been made compulsory in UCI professional cycling races. The decision to make helmets compulsory was taken after Fabio Casartelli died during a stage of the Tour de France. He crashed into a wall on an alpine descent; many doctors suggested he might have lived, if he had been wearing a helmet.

It is difficult to know how many lives would be saved from compulsory helmet wearing. It would probably be very small, because the number of cycling deaths resulting from head injuries is quite small. Also there is no guarantee that wearing a helmet would prevent all head injuries.

Studies Supporting the benefits of wearing a cycle helmet

1. Cochrane Review

A Cochrane review of five case-control studies found that helmets reduce the risk of head injury in a collision by 63-88% and injury to the upper and mid face by 65%. Thompson, Diane C; Rivara, Fred; Thompson, Robert (1999). “Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists”. In Rivara, Fred. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

2. Dorsch et al.

Dorsch et al. Accident Analysis and Prevention Vol 19:3 pp183-90, 1987. (pdf)

Predicts 90% saving in fatalities through use of hard-shell helmets. * not sure how this conclusion is reached

3. Department of Transport in London

The Transport Research Laboratory (for Department for Transport (DfT) looked at over 100 police forensic reports into cycling fatalities. They claim that between 10 and 16 per cent of those fatalities would have been avoided had the victim been wearing an “appropriate cycle helmet” – ie: a helmet that is in good condition, of good quality and fits properly. (Times link)

4. 10% of Cycle accidents – head related

A study of cycle accidents in English hospitals found 10 per cent had suffered “injuries of a type and to a part of the head that a cycle helmet may have mitigated or prevented”.

5. Head injuries

“Head Injuries in Pedal Cyclists: How Much Will Protection Help?” J Worrel, Injury No. 18, 1987

A study of 100 consecutive head injuries in cyclists admitted to the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth found that 70% of the cyclists’ heads hit the road first, and 17% hit a flat, yielding surface, like a car body panel. It is estimated 50% of impacts would have been surrounded by a helmet.

6. Head injuries in US.

A Rider-Based Study of Helmet Use and Effectiveness”, Wasserman et al American Journal of Public Health, Vol 78,

In the USA 1,000 deaths and 50,000 emergency room visits result from bicycle accidents. Head injuries account for about 85% of the deaths and two-thirds of bicycle related hospital admissions.

Can Cycle helmets cause neck injuries from ill-fitting straps?

Some have suggested that helmets can actually cause injury, though there is little evidence to back this up.

Do cycling helmets cause overheating?

Not really. A modern well designed helmet has excellent designed ventilation. The weight of the helmet is quite low. They are worn in all stages of the Tour de France, even when temperatures reach up to 40 degrees.

Importance of Correct Fitting

Not all helmets are equal. If you do use a helmet.

  1. Make sure it is the right size
  2. Make sure it is correctly fitted – how to fit a bike helmet


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Improving Safety of Cycling Mon, 27 Apr 2009 10:08:19 +0000 safety

Many people, especially women, site safety as the biggest issue which puts them off cycling.

To some extent our safety cycling is at the mercy of other road users. Of course, there is always a hope the standard of driving will improve; e.g. government policies may make a difference. But, there’s not really much we can do about other road users. However, there are various things we can do to make cycling a safer activity. This is what I think makes a big difference to making cycling safer.

Always Expect the Unexpected.

Never anticipate other road users – cars and pedestrians will follow all the rules of the road.  Unexpected manoeuvres can be dangerous when for example a car is signalling left but keeps going straight. This is quite common, I’d rather wait to see their direction rather than relying only on their signal. So often when cycling along Cowley Road, car users will often pull out making you slow down and brake sharply. They are used to doing it to other cars; you really have to be very alert for unexpected manoeuvres

Be very wary of underpassing large vehicles.

Cycling on the inside of large vehicles buses, lorries e.t.c. is very dangerous. Even at stationary traffic lights it is important to make sure there is no chance the vehicle could start moving when you are out of sight from the driver.  Many fatalities are caused by this.

Paying Attention

A simple lapse of concentration can be fatal. This is probably the most important advice – to always be fully focused on the road and avoiding potential collisions. It becomes more difficult when you are racing or training hard because you have other focuses and  become tired. But, unfortunately, fatalities have occured in races / training because people weren’t looking where they were going. Not all accidents are the fault of motorists / road layouts. Often they due to the mistake / lack of focus of the person cycling.

Sometimes we suffer from myopia and tend to always blame others when actually the fault was our own. This is just human nature. I’ve seen cars do bad manoeuvres and shout at cyclists; but, I’ve also seen it the other way around too.

Be Seen.

I think visibility is important for cyclists. If you drive frequently you soon notice how some cyclists can be hard to pick out.

Confidence in Manoeuvres.

There are important manoeuvres like looking over your shoulder before moving to the right or left. Which need to be practised and always used. These can help improve cycling safety significantly.

Avoiding Overconfidence.

It is a balance to strike. If you are regular cyclist you can become overconfident and try difficult manoeuvres. For example turning right on a fast road or two lane road may require stopping and crossing the road like a pedestrian. I don’t like doing this as I’m impatient and don’t like walking my bike. But, there are certain roads where the danger of turning right can be very high. Even the best cyclists may have to take the slow way of turning right.

Avoiding Dangerous moves

You sometimes see the way someone cycles or drives and think they are an accident waiting to happen. Like riding through red lights at a busy junction. Riding onto a road without looking e.t.c.

Wearing Helmet.

I put wearing a helmet low down on list of priorities. There are many conflicting opinions on the benefits of helmets. But, from what I can gather they can help reduce the impact of some head injuries, especially when the accident is at low speed. But, it is a danger to see a helmet as a panacea for cycling safety. If you have a collision with a bus, what is a helmet going to do? It is better to not wear a helmet and cycle safely than to wear a helmet and ride recklessly. But, of course, you can have the best of both worlds so I usually wear a helmet.

And I don’t think wearing a helmet makes you ride more recklessly (that’s my experience anyway)

Live in Holland

It seems cycling safety varies alot from country to country. cycle rates by country


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Furious Australian Driver Takes Down 50 Cyclists Mon, 26 May 2008 18:35:59 +0000 Shocking story from Australia. A motorist was so annoyed at being held up by a bunch of cyclists, that he overtook and then slammed on the brakes in front of the pack. The driver caused all 50 cyclists to crash. Luckily none was fatal, but, there were many serious injuries and broken bikes. Many of the riders were semi pros or top amateurs.

The driver is known to the police and is liable to face charges of dangerous driving and failing to stop at an accident.

Road rage is a real problem in many countries and cyclists are very vulnerable to drivers such as this.

Australian law requires cyclists to use a cycle path if there is one. Fortunately there wasn’t a cycle path on this road. Cycle paths are completely unsuitable for cyclists going fast. In the UK, the CTC campaigned against making cycle paths compulsory.  link at 

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How Dangerous is Cycling at Night? Thu, 29 Nov 2007 16:54:04 +0000 queens lane oxford night

I came across this thought provoking post at Commute by Bike. – Dangers of Cycling at Night

At the moment, in the UK, it starts to get darks from 3.30pm. Most of the time I am commuting in what could be termed ‘night’ or at least reduced visibility. There are a couple of reports which suggest how statistically dangerous night cycling is.

Nearly 60 per cent of all adult fatal bicycle accidents in Florida occur during twilight and night hours although less than three percent of bicycle use takes place at that time.

In many ways, it doesn’t surprise me. When I cycle or drive around Oxford, at least 60% of cyclists either have no lights or are very poorly lighted. Usually, they will be wearing dark clothes.

These are some of the worst mistakes that cyclists make, whilst cycling at night.

  • Assume that because you can see other cars – cars can see you.
  • Having no Lights
  • Having a very flimsy small LED light, often attached to a part of the body.
  • Lights covered by long coats (the cyclist is probably unaware his light is no good)
  • Wearing Dark Clothing.

When I was a student, I didn’t really think about the importance of visibility, but, as I see more accidents and many more near accidents. Cycling at night I feel like there are so many accidents waiting to happen.

The attitude of the police is disappointing. Occasionally (once or twice a year) they have spot checks and fine  cyclists £30. But, if you can produce a receipt for a new pair of lights you get your £30 back. Therefore, there is little to be feared from getting caught (from a financial point of view) The police say they can’t do it more often because they can’t afford to.

As an economist and cyclist I feel this is a mistake. The cost of not using lights is potentially very high (accidents, death e.t.c) Cyclists should be fined at least £80 for riding without lights. This would mean:

  1. At £80 there is a very strong incentive to make sure you always have lights.
  2. Students will say it is a lot of money. Maybe it is, but, how much would you pay not to die in cycling accident at night? If you always have lights, you never have to pay.
  3. Police would get sufficient revenue to justify the cost of mounting spot checks.
  4. There would be one less reason to bash ‘cyclists’ who break the laws of the road.


Photo by: Tejvan – Queens Lane, Oxford (All Soul’s College in the background) – Oxford is beautiful by night, especially on the small lanes where cars are banned.

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