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Bicycle Safety

U.K. Study Finds Wearing a Bike Helmet May be More Dangerous

11:44 AM EDT on September 14, 2006

ian_walker.jpgWe are certainly still going to be wearing our helmets when we ride bikes on New York City streets, but here is an interesting study by Dr. Ian Walker a "traffic psychologist" from Bath University in Great Britain. Walker found that motorists drove more safely and carefully when passing cyclists who were not wearing helmets. These findings are similar to some of the ideas put forward by David Engwicht in his book, "Mental Speed Bumps: The Smarter Way to Tame Traffic," a very interesting read if you haven't already picked it up.

As reported by the BBC on Monday:

Cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles, new research from Bath University suggests.

The study found drivers tend to pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than those who are bare-headed.

To carry out the research, Dr Walker used a bike fitted with a computer and an ultrasonic distance sensor to find drivers were twice as likely to get close to the bicycle, at an average of 8.5cm, when he wore a helmet.

The experiment, which recorded 2,500 overtaking motorists in Salisbury and Bristol, was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

"This study suggests wearing a helmet might make a collision more likely in the first place."

Dr Walker thinks the reason drivers give less room to cyclists wearing helmets is because they see them as "Lycra-clad street warriors" and believe they are more predictable than those without.

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