Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bicycles, fear, helmets & whatnot

The steel horse fills a gap in modern life. It is an answer not only to its needs but also its aspirations. It's quite certainly here to stay.
As with most good quotes, the relevance of this one has stood the test of time. It could have been written yesterday or 50 years ago. In fact, it was penned in 1869.

Mikael Colville-Anderson is an "urban mobility expert" (read "bicycle transport promoter") and the man behind the excellent bicycle blog, Copenhagenize.com. In the TEDx talk below, he discusses the culture of fear that many believe is coming to rule our lives.

He touches on the emotive issue of helmets and their associated laws. He goes some way to explaining why certain people see the idea of helmet laws as abhorrent while others are equally appalled by the idea of not wearing a helmet.

While scientists are split on the benefits of helmets, there is no doubt that cycling, with or without a helmet, is good for your health. And while it's hard to quantify these health benefits, it's no surprise that people have gone and tried. Apparently, Denmark has seen a 30% drop in cycling levels since 1990. If those lost numbers still cycled, 1,500 lives would be saved each year. Why? Because the health benefits of cycling are twenty times greater than any risk involved.

Now, I'm always wary about these sorts of numbers. What does twenty times greater actually mean? Why would we save 1,500 lives per year and not 500 or 5,000? Where do these numbers come from? While they're certainly not arbitrary, I think it's safe to say that someone with a different agenda could present some very different figures.

Nonetheless, it's certain that cycling is good for one's health. And while I'm not a scientist, I would contend that the benefits of cycling do indeed outweigh the risks. I would be hesitant to put a number on it but it seems to be a view held by those who know better.

Anyhoo, check out Mikael's talk and make up your own mind.

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