DfT helmets - wrong again

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Richard Burton

The following is cut directly from the CTC press release, so apologies to them, but I think this
deserves as wide an audience as possible. The DfT can't even get their own figures correct: still,
they are only a margin of 100% out, quite close for them really.



CTC - the UK's national cycling organisation

5th June 2003

Factual inaccuracies increase scare factor in new government helmet campaign.

CTC, the national cyclists' organisation, claims that the Government is using dubious statistics in
its newly-launched "teenage cycle safety" campaign, which greatly exaggerate the hazards involved in
cycling. This finding adds to the concerns of cycling organisations that the Government is more
interested in creating an impression of cycling as a "dangerous" activity, than promoting it for its
health and other benefits (see CTC press release of 27th May 2003 -
www.ctc.org.uk/about/pressArchive.aspx )

On a website aimed at young teenage cyclists, the Department for Transport claims that "nearly 3000
cyclists between the ages of 12-16 were killed or seriously injured on the roads during 2001". The
website has already attracted controversy for linking cycling with images of skull x-rays,
suggesting hospitalisation and death, when the Government itself has objectives to promote cycling
for its health and other benefits.

CTC believes that the real figure for the year, based on government's figures for 2001, is less than
half the claimed total for deaths and serious injuries. Full details of all figures and their
sources are listed in the notes below.

The website goes on to claim that "nearly 50% of injuries suffered by cyclists are to the head
and face."

The research literature includes a wide variety of statistics. Many of these are not directly
comparable because they use different definitions about what injury types are included in the
statistic. However, statistics which include injuries to parts of the body not protected by a helmet
are clearly not relevant to any discussion of their effectiveness. Estimates for head-only injuries
mainly lie in the range 20-34%.

Another point of dispute relates to the site's "Quick Quiz" section. In response to the question,
"When do most cycling accidents occur?", the answer given on the website is "When cyclists are
turning across traffic <http://www.cyclesense.net/training/04.htm> ." In fact, surveys show that the
overwhelming majority of collisions occur in situations where the cyclist is going straight ahead.

Estimates in different surveys put this in the 72-78% range, whereas just 12% of collisions involved
cyclists who were making turning movements.

Campaigns Co-ordinator Roger Geffen is clear about what CTC feel the government is trying to achieve
with the 'skulls' helmet promotion campaign:

"These inflated figures and misleading statements make it clear that road safety officials want
people to view cycling is a "dangerous" pastime. Yet this Government is supposed to be promoting
cycling as a healthy and enjoyable option for transport and leisure, to be encouraged for its
health, social and environmental benefits. There is a serious lack of joined up thinking here."

Three "skull x-rays and helmets" images will appear in several teen orientated lifestyle and leisure
magazines from June onwards. They are also available on a Government website - www.cyclesense.net
<http://www.cyclesense.net> - and on A4 posters being distributed to schools.

A fully referenced paper and a one-page summary briefing are available on the CTC website -
www.ctc.org.uk <http://www.ctc.org.uk> - setting out why CTC believes helmet promotion campaigns are
counter-productive to any strategy to promote increased cycle use and improved cycle safety, in
accordance with Government policy.


For more information contact:

David Harmon (CTC acting Media Officer) - 07884 002786 Roger Geffen (CTC Campaigns & Policy Manager)
- 07775 595998
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