Why we need bike lanes more than bike helmets

Bicycle helmets have been mandatory in the Canadian province of British Columbia since 1996. Cycling advocates there have been complaining for years that it is hindering the growth of cycling in the Province, but have been getting nowhere. Vancouver Sun columnist Pete McMartin writes about how helmet laws are thought to discourage bike share programs, are a barrier to tourists, and in fact, just might be the wrong approach for bicycle safety.

In fact, one expert he spoke to considers that doctors promoting bike helmets are giving really bad advice. University of B.C. Prof. Kay Teschke makes the point that in public health, you are supposed to try and prevent injuries from happening in the first place, not just mitigate them.

Helmets aren't magic and won't save you when you are hit by a van. Why put it in the subhead?/Screen capture

It’s a complete abrogation of responsibility for preventing the injury from happening in the first place. That’s what we need to be doing, and it infuriates me that we’ve been focusing on something that in most public health professions we wouldn’t be doing. You know, we advocate smoking cessation: we don’t advocate treatment of lung cancer once you’ve got it. It’s just ridiculous.

Her answer: more bike lanes, preferably dedicated and separated.

Of course, the very first commenter complains that his daughter was saved by her helmet after getting doored, flying over the door and landing on the pavement. Which proves the point; with driver education, lots of cyclists on the road and properly designed separated bike lanes you don't get doored in the first place.

More in the Vancouver Sun.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | Vancouver

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