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A Helmet saved his life?

Since Ben Goldacre has blogged on the thorny subject of bicycle helmets  I am  going to tell my Helmet saved his life story.

Many years ago when cycling through the Alps we were descending the Foscagno Pass when one of my travelling companions had the misfortune to hit a hole in the road or some gravel, loose control of his bike and crash. Since we were young and foolish this happened at speed probably somewhere between 35 and 40 mph possibly more. Not having speed computers back then it’s hard to tell for sure.

They were carried off the mountain by some locals in a white Fiat, at great speed waving a white handkerchief out of the window, while their bikes were taken away by a man in a van and delivered later to the hospital where the white Fiat was taking them. The kindness of strangers is a wonderful thing.

The result of this crash was my friend ended up in Hospital in Bormio with 10 stitches in his head and a very snazzy net covering his head. He was lucky.

His bike was not.

Dead Bike

The remains of a Falcon.

Dead Bike

Before the crash the bike had four panniers.


The force of the crash had destroyed the front wheel, forks and frame along with other more minor damage.

Since I was in front when the crash happened I missed all of this and so got to ride to Bormio.

The good news was that he was able to continue the trip after one day out and get over the mighty  Stelvio Pass the next day, once we found a bike and converted it from being an Italian racing bike into a going to ride around Europe Touring bike. He took it much slower on the descent.

Me on my own at the top of Stelvio 10th August 1985

Me  at the top of Stelvio 10th August 1985

Did his helmet save his life?  No. He was not wearing one. This was 1985 when helmets really did not exist for most cyclists. However if he had been wearing one and survived I would, to this day, be telling everyone that it had saved his life. I would believe it.

Could a helmet have prevented his head injuries? May be. Could it have broken his neck again may be. We will never know but I know it would not have saved his life.

This is my first hand anecdote that makes me distrust helmet saved his/her/my life anecdotes more than anything else.

I realise this post is close to trolling, since any post on bicycle helmets is close to trolling, so if you are going to comment please keep it civil.

Walton on Thames cycle path consultation

Surrey are consulting on what they describe as “continuous, safe, high quality cycle paths”.

Given this description I was hoping for something that would benefit all cyclists. However the reality is that most of the scheme is really permission to cycle on the pavement.
You then have to give way at every junction, where on the road you would have priority. Due to the sight lines this means coming to a complete halt looking behind you for motorists turning left into the road and ahead for those turning right and to your left for motorists in the side road. All for a junction where you have priority if you stay on the road.
For most of the path it is 2.5m wide, some as narrow as 2m, which cyclists share with pedestrians. Now pedestrians perfectly rightly don’t always stay to one side this will reduce cycling speed to walking speed while at the same time intimidating pedestrians. Even if you can cope with all of that if you wish to travel though Walton the towards the bridge you have to cross the main road onto a path on the wrong side, then cross back at or after the Bridge. This makes these parts of the path not only shared use but two way!
There is a reason that Dutch no longer use shared use facilities. They are dangerous and disliked by cyclists and pedestrians.

The people at the consultation were polite but seemed confused about the purpose of the scheme. The stated reason it casualty reduction on what is a high casualty section of road. However they also say the paths are not intended for existing cyclists. So unless the existing cyclist go away the casualty reduction will not materialise.
There are parts of the scheme that are not complete terrible. The cycle path north of the river on Gaston Road from Shepperton to the roundabout would be nice. Though again why it is shared use when there is no pavement there now is beyond me. Even this though does nothing for experienced cyclists at the junction. Rather than just giving way to people on the roundabout cyclists have to give way to everyone.
Like the shared cycle path over the New Walton Bridge this looks like a huge missed opportunity. On balance I hope it does not happen.

Prepare for the fuel crisis. Panic Buy A triplet

When there is no petrol this will be the ideal way to travel.

If you are worried about how you can transport your children during the fuel crisis or just looking for a cheap way to travel. Look no further.

One Me’n’u2 triplet for sale. (forth seat no longer attached).

The Times campaign to save cyclists

I am pretty sure I should feel very happy about The Times campaign to make cycling safe. However they seem to have forgotten their own hand in the problems for cyclists. So here is what I wrote on their campaign site:

First start would be to look inside The Times.  Jeremy Clarkson and Matthew Parris have both called for cyclists to be maimed for no other reason that being cyclists.

This attitude needs challenging and having powerful figures in the media presenting stupid and dangerous views needs to end. Time for Matthew “Piano Wire” Parris to write a real apology and get onside to change attitudes & Jeremy Clarkson to grow up and realise that cyclists are not the problem and his childish threats have real consequences when acted out by others.

It’s easy to call for change in others but if you are not prepared to change as well those calls will have little impact.

First Imperial Century of 2012

Last week someone on a cycling forum posted a challenge for 2012 -

12 in 12

12 imperial centuries in 12 months, but the twist is you have to do 1 a month.

With the weather so good yesterday I embarked on the first century of the year with a friend. I planned the route electronically but since the demise of my bike GPS had to use paper maps for the bits I did not know. The “new” map/ were copyright in 1990, the old one from 1980!

Since it is not summer I did not ride this on my summer bike but instead on my commuter, with dynamo and saddle bag. On a normal Sunday ride on this I can keep up, a bit slow up the hills but not to much of a problem.

On a longer ride and one that seemed to have little flat riding after the first cafe, which itself was on the top of a hill, the road seemed to go up and down and up and down with each up the bike felt heavier and heavier.

We missed a turning in SouthWater that meant we had the pleasure of Horsham’s roads to deal with. Quite how a small town could build such unpleasant roads for cyclists is beyond me but we survived and more importantly it did not reduce the mileage. There would be nothing worse than going out to ride 100 miles only to get back and discoverer it was 99.99 miles.

Not long after Horsham we were in St Leonard’s Forest on a route I have cycled many times home so my spirits lifted a bit at least I knew when the hills were going to be.

Managed to get back and the final distance was 107 miles. The route is here.

I am now looking forward to February’s ride but pondering if one day in February could become an honorary summers day so I can ride a light bike!

London cyclist safety review

I should be pleased that TfL are at last talking about “Improving cycling safety” however reading their post I am left confused.

The blog points out that for the first time in 10 years we now have no bendy buses on the roads of London. These bendy buses were so dangerous for cyclists that the Mayor made a priority of scrapping them at considerable cost. Apparently improved training for the drivers was not an option.

The bit that confuses me is that the bendy buses have killed the grand total of 0 cyclists. In 10 years these buses, which are so dangerous that they must be scrapped, have not actually killed a single cyclist.

Yet at the same time, lorries have killed more than I can count and the Mayor’s solution for the dangers from lorries? Better training and some mirrors, both of which would be voluntary.

Now I’m the last person to want bendy buses back, from a cyclist’s point of view they were terrible but the solution is not removing the buses, not unless you are also removing the really dangerous vehicles: lorries.

The solution is real high quality cycling infrastructure separated from the lorries, the bendy buses, the Taxis, motorcycles and cars. Note I say high quality. Not a dash of blue paint that stops when it gets to a junction.

Is my new commute more dangerous?

Looking at my old and new commutes on the excellent Guardian Data Blog’s Road Casualty map it would appear  the chances of me being killed are about the same. Both routes have had 1 fatality in the last 11 years. My old commute’s fatality was on the road out of Ottershaw in 2005 a year when I would have ridden that road approximately 8 times a week.

Ottershaw Fatality

A road that should be pretty safe but occasionally terrified me as motorists overtook when there was oncoming traffic. Including overtaking when I was the oncoming traffic. Always nice to have a car coming straight at you at 50+mph.

The new commute’s fatality is in my home town. Walton-on-Thames:

Walton on Thames cyclist fatality

A 26 year old killed in 2002. Less than a mile from my start or end point. It looks like it is in the one way system around the old Library. This is not a cycle friendly place. The road surface is terrible and motorists seem to treat it as a bit of a race track when there is not much traffic or will squeeze past when there is.

Serious injuries tell a similar story the old commute scores 16 and the new 20 (average 19 on the route to work 21 on the return) on new commute, per mile that makes the new commuter a bit “safer”

Overall there is little you can learn from this.Without knowing how many cyclists are on the road this tells you nothing, roads that appear safe could just be so scary no cyclists use them equally roads that appear dangerous could just have more cyclists.

The bits that scare me almost certainly have very small numbers of cyclists. For example he A30 roundabout under the M25 at Runnymede at rush hour is such a place. I have no choice but to ride it but if you had a choice you would not. I’ve not seen a single other cyclist on it during my commute.

The total numbers are of course shocking and if compared with the numbers killed by terrorism in whose name we have been forced to give so much up even more so. I can’t get an exact figure for the numbers killed in terrorist incidents for the 11 years but what I have got suggest is is less than 100 and nearly all of those were in 7/7.

With 32,955 killed on the roads and less than 100 by terrorists. I think the government are fighting the wrong war.


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