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Thread: Time to glue a wig to my helmet?

  1. #1
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    May 2014
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    Default Time to glue a wig to my helmet?
    Drivers Give Riders With Helmets Less Space
    By ​Selene Yeager
    5-7 minutes
    Single black male in his 30s cycling past car with helmet

    Getty ImagesNicolasMcComber

    Maybe it’s because you look more vulnerable with an exposed noggin. Or perhaps you appear more robotic beneath a helmet and glasses.

    Whatever the reason, the gear you choose on the bike can affect how the drivers on the road treat you: A recently published paper in Accident Analysis & Prevention shows that motorists drive closer to riders wearing helmets, and give wider berth to those pedaling without head protection.

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    This finding is just the latest on a complex and contested topic. In the most recent paper, researchers revisited previously published data from a similar driver behavior study published in 2007. Then, another group of researchers rebutted that in 2013. And now, the original findings are being reaffirmed. (Yes, researchers debate the relative risks and merits of helmet use as much as cyclists themselves.)

    In the original study British psychologist Ian Walker, D.Phil., conducted his own unique experiment, riding a bicycle outfitted with a concealed video camera and ultrasonic sensor. He rode the same stretches of road with and without a helmet, and with and without a wig to make him look like a woman. Over the course of the study, he racked up 2,355 observations over 200 miles of riding.

    His findings: Cars consistently passed closer to him when he was wearing a helmet than when his head was bare, and drivers gave him the most room when they thought he was a woman.

    Six years later, a pair of researchers from the University of New South Wales re-analyzed Walker’s data and concluded that “bicycle helmet wearing is not associated with close motor vehicle passing.”

    Their argument was that the average passing distances in Walker’s study were greater than one meter, or just over three feet—a distance that by many laws and general safety recommendations does not constitute a “close pass.” (Though it’s worth noting that some states have pushed for 4-feet passing laws, because more room is better.)

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    Here’s the rub on that rebuttal: Walker never sought to define “close” in his original study. His point was simply cars give you less room—passing, on average, about 3.5 inches closer—when you’re wearing a helmet, perhaps because they see you as less vulnerable. And whenever cars come closer, the risk of collisions increases.

    The new paper from Walker also re-affirms that wearing a helmet was indeed associated with more “close” passes when you take into consideration that in some places, the law dictates more than one meter of room.
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    What’s the take-home message here? In Walker’s world, it’s that we should reconsider helmets as a panacea for health protection.

    “If the sight of a helmet encourages motorists to encroach up to, say, the one-meter point and no closer, this would still be a serious problem if such close passes discouraged people from bicycling,” he concluded in his most recent paper. “The number of premature deaths from physical inactivity outweighs the number of deaths from bicycling collisions by several orders of magnitude.”

    [Find 52 weeks of tips and motivation, with space to fill in your mileage and favorite routes, with the Bicycling Training Journal.]

    Is this the final word? Not by a long shot. But it’s another important part of a conversation about a complex topic. Helmets are mandatory in races where the chances of going over your bars and landing head first are elevated given the group dynamics, speed, and level of risk taking.

    Should they be mandatory when you’re commuting or tooling through town headed to the library, where your odds of such a mishap are considerably lower—though, according to this study, could be slightly elevated by cars coming too close? That’s a debate that’s likely to continue for many years to come.
    ​Selene Yeager “The Fit Chick” Selene Yeager is a top-selling professional health and fitness writer who lives what she writes as a NASM certified personal trainer, USA Cycling certified coach, pro licensed mountain bike racer, and All-American Ironman triathlete.

  2. #2
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    May 2014
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    Link to the actual science:


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