Is the lack of a bike helmet the "underlying cause" of cycling fatalities?
In what they call Canada's National Newspaper, the Globe and Mail, Emile Therien writes an op-ed titled Not just for kids: Bike helmets should be the law for adults . It starts:
The tragic death of a cyclist in Ottawa on July 30 will almost certainly raise further concerns about safe cycling. First off, no one should jump to any conclusions about what happened leading to the death of that woman. More often than not, quick fixes sacrifice long-term progress for short term actions, without doing anything to address the underlying causes.
It then goes off onto the usual stuff, cherry-picking studies, demanding that cyclists wear helmets, get licences, insurance, take mandatory training and "assume the same responsibilities for using public roads as other users do." Let's ignore all that, and concentrate on his first paragraph because it is significant. Let's address, as Therien suggests, at the "underlying causes."
Google Maps/Screen capture
The cyclist killed in Ottawa, a 56 year old woman, was riding on Bank Street, a busy road with bike lanes that end a few hundred feet before the intersection. She got the right hook from a cement mixer; that's where the truck is turning right without seeing the cyclist who is going straight, and the cyclist is drawn under the rear wheels and crushed.
In the video, everyone notes that the infrastructure here is lousy, the road is full of potholes, the bike lanes are not properly resolved and that the whole mess is due for a makeover in a few years. They go on to say how scared cyclists are on this stretch of road.
Then there is the truck which squished her, which doesn't have side guards. These are mandatory in Europe, but in Canada the Federal and Provincial Ministers responsible refuse to do anything about it.
The real underlying causes
So, Mr. Therien, what are the underlying causes here? My rowing buddy Hubert was killed this way. Jenna Morrison was killed this way. They were both wearing helmets. The underlying causes are lousy infrastructure and the lack of side-guards on trucks, not whether there was a piece of foam on their heads. This has nothing to do with helmets, and when you talk about "sharing the road", tell it to the cement truck drivers.