Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: Bob's Top Five

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  • Nigel Perry,

    I don't know what the evidence is for the helmet hair thing but pretty much every woman I can think of cites it. ... It's a shame, because I enjoy riding. But not more than I enjoy looking professional in a professional environment.

    I can't say I have personally met many who see it as a big issue, but I can see for some it might be and it is a crime if this stops someone from bicycling. It is a fact that it is better to bicycle unhelmeted than to not bicycle at all, so if the law stops anybody the country has lost.

    It is certainly noticeable in Europe that many ladies ride in their finery - I've personally seen "middle aged" ladies in dress clothes looking like they're headed to the opera. It works for men as well, I can remember the great picture I witnessed outside Utrecht (Netherlands) when a group of suit wearing, briefcase carrying, gentlemen emerged out of the morning fog riding bicycles to work in the city. The "cycle chic" movement has reached NZ and I've noticed helmets are less common among its participants.

    Many years ago an elderly lady contacted me for help with a helmet exemption. She looked after her less able husband, lived in a semi-rural area, only had a bicycle for transport, and suffered headaches from the helmet. Her doctor had filled in an exemption application with her, this had been returned due to some error on the form. She returned to her doctor only to find he had left and been replaced, the new doctor refused to fill the form in correctly arguing it was better she did not ride and to ride without a helmet - the helmet law campaign had done its worse. The lady was at her wits end, concerned she wouldn't be able to care for her husband much longer if she had no transport to get to the shops etc.

    I tried to engage the doctor, tried the local MP, the Minister - all to no avail. All I could do was advise she ignore the law, something she was not keen on doing.

    I don't know what happened in the long run, but if she stopped bicycling not only did it likely impact her ability to care for her husband, she probably also died sooner.

    All for a law which has failed to reduce injury rates and instead produced a cost to society. A tragedy.

    Christchurch • Since Jun 2010 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Mrs Skin,

    My sentiments precisely. I like to ride partly because I can do it in the clothes I will wear all day, and even, potentially, the clothes I wear in the evening.

    What a frustrating story - that poor lady! What a ridiculous situation.

    I remember when the helmet law came in. I was at intermediate, I think, and the immediate effect was that I refused to bike to school anymore because I'd look like a dork.* These things matter terribly when you're 11.

    *Not helped, I must add, by my mother's purchase of the biggest, ugliest, dorkiest helmet available in Nelson. Even now, when I'm used to seeing helmets, it remains spectacularly ugly. It had these funny segments along its length that reminded me of nothing so much as a grass grub.

    the warmest room in the h… • Since Feb 2009 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Grace Dalley,

    Keep bicycling folks!

    And if you wear a helmet, always ride as though you don't.

    I don't think cyclists are in danger of feeling complacent on a road shared with cars, SUVs, buses and trucks! Helmet or no helmet, you're always the ant running with the elephants. The danger is that motorists see your helmet and think you're safe.

    Interesting stuff about seatbelts, though.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2008 • 138 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    I see the good Mr Slack has made the jump from PAS into the pages of the Aucklander - he's featured in a story on cycle helmets in today's edition.

    Doesn't seem to be online yet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1549 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F,

    ETA: Double post. Anyone found the link yet?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1549 posts Report Reply

  • jb,

    Not wearing a cycle helmet has positive outcomes for the public health system, because this results in more fatalities (no cost to the health system, but a negative outcome for costs to society in the form of increased welfare payments)

    Wearing a cycle helmet has negative outcomes for the public health system, because fixing something fixable costs money. But if the level of fixability is low, it also results in a negative outcome in costs to society in the form of increased welfare payments as well.

    I begin to realize that I am completely and utterly crap at explaining any of this. Sorry folks!

    a.small.town.in.germany • Since Jan 2007 • 77 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Not wearing a cycle helmet has positive outcomes for the public health system, because this results in more fatalities (no cost to the health system, but a negative outcome for costs to society in the form of increased welfare payments)

    I see we're slowly inching towards my plan of having most roads abruptly end in cliffs. It would solve most of society's problems. In the long term, it would solve society itself.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Welcome to Okarito Free Republic where all roads end in cliffs (or the deep sea)!

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    jb wrote:

    Not wearing a cycle helmet has positive outcomes for the public health system... I begin to realize that I am completely and utterly crap at explaining any of this. Sorry folks!

    Okay, I suppose I was asking for a whole bunch of sarcasm like that. Although, of course, I'd point out that your premise is completely wrong since it fails to take into account the potential economic productivity of the cyclists (but, yes, I know it's a joke).

    I have 17 other things I should be doing, but the re-emergence of this thread reminded me that I hadn't responded to Amy's question below (tried to do it on the radio but we ran out of time).

    Amy Gale wrote:

    On the subject of correlation vs causation, it occurs to me that the drop in cycling-as-transport could also be related to the introduction of Japanese used car imports, which happened at about the same time as the bike helmet legislation and the education campaigns that preceded it.

    The studies in NZ haven't looked at either Smeed's law or the health effects of people who've stopped cycling. The NZ work purely compares the cost of the cycle helmets with the cost of the injuries that might otherwise have occured (without helmets). Needless to say that there is a lot of debate about what could have been prevented, and how to figure in the existing trends for a decrease in injury rates. But I haven't found any papers claiming that the NZ law has had a cost benefit for adults, even under this simplistic comparison.

    Overseas studies have looked at Smeed's law and the rest. See the article I linked to previously.

    And here's a link to a Guardian article about (some) British schools banning cycling:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/sep/08/cycling-to-school

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 955 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    Here is online link to item mentioning David Slack in last week's edition of The Aucklander.

    The town of Black Hawk in Colorado USA currently has a ban on bikes in certain streets. (Item on website under press release). It would seem it is unsafe for bikes to be in the gambling area.

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 187 posts Report Reply

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