Media Watch Segment “Helmet claims under fire”

Alan Todd of Freestyle Cyclists was recently interviewed for an upcoming piece on ABC Radio National. Much of Todd’s responses were the same misleading information he gives in all his interviews (see here and here, for examples). I sent an email to host Susan Carland detailing some of the misinformation given by Todd and received no response.

A colleague forwarded my email to ABC’s Media Watch. They ran a segment on last night’s show. You can read the transcripts or watch the video here. Note the website includes links to responses from Alan Todd, ABC Radio National Manager Deborah Leavitt, Professor Raphael Grzebieta and Dr Andrew McIntosh.

I found Todd’s conclusion quite curious which seems to be a common argument by anti-helmet advocates.

In conclusion, it is now twenty five years since Victoria become the first place in the world to mandate helmets for cyclists. Since then, only three countries have introduced nationally enforced all ages helmet laws for cyclists. If the evidence for the benefits of such laws was indeed overwhelming, why have the other one hundred and ninety three countries not followed suit?

In my own view, this is a self fulfilling prophesy. There are several anti-helmet advocacy groups that are very vocal like FreestyleCyclists, the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation and Cyclists Rights Action Group. They may seem like legitimate research organizations to the uninformed, but they are not comprised of experts from relevant fields like road safety, injury epidemiology, trauma surgery, biostatistics, etc. The ones who do have research backgrounds are from other disciplines like Dorothy Robinson (beef industry research) Nigel Perry (computer science) and John Adams (geography).

I don’t understand how it happened, but anti-helmet advocates have gained a foothold among some influential organizations including policy makers. This has likely stopped other jurisdictions from moving ahead with either helmet legislation or promotion.

To be clear, I’m not an advocate for helmet legislation in other jurisdictions. That is a decision the people of each country/state/city must make for themselves from an informed position. The problem is the spread of misinformation about helmets and helmet laws means that is unlikely to happen.

Note: The comments are full of the usual names like Colin Clarke and Chris Gillham. Neither are ever shy about promoting their anti-helmet views.

Update: Interesting Tweet from Wendy Carlisle who initially reported on the 2010 Voukelatos and Rissel paper that was later retracted.


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