I got an email a couple months ago from Carleton College psychology professor Neil Lutsky inviting me to speak to his fall class, Measured Thinking: Reasoning with Numbers about World Events, Health, Science, and Social Issues, about the bike helmet issue that I’ve raised here on LoGro this year. (See all my bicycle helmet-related blog posts here.
His idea was to have his students take a close look at the relevant research that’s been cited to support or oppose my contention that the promotion of helmet wearing for around-town bicycling is bad for public health.
The class is divided into four groups investigating the questions listed below. They will have reports addressing these ready at the end of the term. That’s where things stand at the moment.
By the way, if you have any suggestions for the question list (which the students are also modifying as they get into their research), please feel free to share those.
I suggested to Neil that I post the four groups of questions here on LoGro and invite suggestions and discussion from interested citizens.
1. Bicycle accident overview
- What is the overall risk of injury in cycling?
- Who is injured? Where or under what conditions are injuries more or less likely to occur?
- How does this risk and injuries sustained in accidents vary as a function of helmet wearing?
- Is correct helmet use related to injury outcome?
- Do helmets make injuries worse (considering rotational head injuries vs. concussions and
- What are these accident numbers like in cross-national comparisons?
2. Helmet use promotion
- What laws and programs exist to promote helmet use?
- How much helmet use is there? Do people wear helmets correctly?
- Do government policies have an effect on helmet use?
- What evidence suggests the suggestion or imperative to wear a helmet inhibits cycling?
- What are common attitudes toward helmet wearing?
3. Helmet wearing and rider and driver safety
- Is the density of ridership related to cyclist safety?
- Do cyclists wearing helmets behave in a riskier fashion? Is this due to helmet use?
- Are drivers less cautious when encountering cyclists with helmets? If so, why?
4. Health and inactivity
- What are the health consequences of inactivity?
- What are the health benefits of cycling?
- Does cycling make a difference to physical health and the health of the environment?
- If people weren’t cycling, what would they do? What alternative forms of exercise and transportation are there?