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  1. #1
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Training or safety equipment

    Seeing as there is a lot of helmet talk going on, I would like to explore a question. Between training and safety equipment, what should the balance be as far as cycling advocacy and safety is concerned? For instance, if we were to legislate or promote something to lower the death rate of cyclists (besides actions against car drivers, those laws are already in the books, though enforcement is an issue.) which, training or equipment, should take priority?

    It is a good question because many people on this forum have differing opinions about which is more effective in reducing cycling injuries. I am curious about how these opinions are founded.

    As fodder, my opinion is that training is the most effective and most resources of cycling advocacy should be aimed at making effective training available, especially to lower income people. I think that all attention given to helmets and other safety equipment raises the barrier keeping people from commuting by bicycle. It gives the impression that cycling is more dangerous than my experience has shown me.

    It also gives a weapon to car drivers who are involved in car - bicycle collisions or car induced bicycle accidents as far as injury liability is concerned. Regardless of what the laws say and how the driver had acted.

    I would like to see more studies on what actually happens in a variety of bicycle accidents with regard to the safety equipment and the behaviour of the cyclist. Finding out just how well helmets in particular work for different types of accidents would be nice. Unfortunately, the emotion that surrounds the helmet issue prevents such things. The helmet companies will not publish these studies for fear of their bottom line and/or their reputation. Nobody else seems willing to as well, or if they are, they are run out of town.

    So in short, I believe that training is most important to prevent cycling accidents and injuries, and cycling advocates should lend most of their resources to this.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
    "If you’re new enough [to racing] that you would ask such question, then i would hazard a guess that if you just made up a workout that sounded hard to do, and did it, you’d probably get faster." --the tiniest sprinter

  2. #2
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    I definitely vote for training (of bicyclists, motorists, and even pedestrians). No protective equipment can prevent all injuries. Every road user must take the attitude, "I am responsible for my own actions. I am vulnerable, as are others around me. I need to be alert, predictable, defensive, and assertively courteous."

    My biggest concern regarding safety equipment is risk compensation -- the idiots who feel that they can cycle or drive carelessly because their helmet/seat belts/air bags/top-heavy SUV/etc. will render them invincible.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  3. #3
    Senior Member knobbymojo's Avatar
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    Obviously the greatest benefit will be with both good equipment and good training. But if I had to pick I would definetly say that training is more important. After all, a helmet will protect your head in a crash, but stupidity will get you into that crash in the first place.
    I have gone looking for myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait for myself.

  4. #4
    Year-round cyclist
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    Brian Ratliff wrote:
    Seeing as there is a lot of helmet talk going on, I would like to explore a question. Between training and safety equipment, what should the balance be as far as cycling advocacy and safety is concerned? ......
    My day job is precisely safety and health engineering.

    What do we want, reduce accidents or reduce injuries? The media (and many people) put a lot of emphasis on injuries, especially when there is a lot of blood around. However, the real critical aspect is accident prevention.

    Reducing accidents means reducing chances for bad encounters, be it by better driving -- speed isn't an issue in absolute term, but driving beyond one's abilities is --, better signalling, better and more predictable cycling, good roads with wide enough lanes, decent pavement, etc.

    In other words, the real solution is to prevent close encounters from taking place.

    Helmets, gloves, knee pads, etc. have a role to play, but only a secondary one. A good cyclist should almost never have to use his equipment, and likewise, good drivers should not put the cyclist's equipment to use.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  5. #5
    We drive on the left. Dutchy's Avatar
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    Like the above posts have already stated training is obviously very important to anyone using any kind of transport device. However training can only go so far and accidents WILL happen so safety has to also come from protective devices such as helmets (bikes), set belts (cars) etc.

    The way I see it. Someone like Michael Shumacher might be the best racing car driver in the world, and almost never crashes, but even he wears a helmet with other safety clothing, just in case something happens. What good is a helmet if he hits a wall at 300kph? or barrel rolls through a gravel trap? The helmet might not do much but I will guarantee he wouldn't drive without it.

    If training is so important why does someone as skilled as him need any other protection than just his skills?

    Training and safety equipment are equal in the role of helping someone survive an accident.

    This will probably turn into another helmet/no helmet debate.

    CHEERS.

    Mark
    Last edited by Dutchy; 09-30-02 at 11:15 PM.
    I'd rather be riding.

  6. #6
    hehe...He said "member" ChipRGW's Avatar
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    No question the most important safety issue is training. Training for motorists and cyclists alike. Safety equipment is important as well, because even the best trained and prepared person is subject to accident.
    Legislate? Other than some things I feel should be mandatory for children, I HATE the idea of legislation to mandate things like this. However, if you must, then...

    Mandatory helmets for children under xx years old.
    Cycling safety classes for anyone who rides a bicycle on public streets.
    Increased Cyclist awareness as part of driver's education and licensing.

    Just a few thoughts...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hants Commuter's Avatar
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    I would say it has to be training ( or perhaps education is a more accurate description ) that is most important but the education must include the purpose and correct use of safety equipment. If you learn and understand the risks they are much easier to mitigate against by defensive riding.

    Having said that Safety equipment should be used as training can't cover every eventuality, for example losing control on a diesel spill (See the thread about RainmanP accident , hope your better RainmanP ).

  8. #8
    Zzzzzzzzzzz earleybird's Avatar
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    Originally posted by John E
    Every road user must take the attitude, "I am responsible for my own actions. I am vulnerable, as are others around me. I need to be alert, predictable, defensive, and assertively courteous."

    For me Jonh E you have hit the nail on the head so to speak.

    Personally I think we tend to look too much at helmets and training for a solution and not look closely enough at the root cause of the problem

    My perception is that none of us are courteous enough If we were we would take responsibility for ourselves and each other I am talking about car drivers,and bikers here.

    As drivers we don't use our indicators or rear view mirrors for overtaking parked vehicles let alone overtaking bikers.As Bikers we pull out round parked cars without looking behind and shoot through red lights, ride pavements etc

    I think its a modern culture thing. Too busy looking out for No 1 and f*** the rest of the world. I fear no amount of training is going to make people more considerate and courteous I'm afraid
    I'm ready for something , but I don't know what!!..

  9. #9
    mousse de chocolat Moose's Avatar
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    I'm against having any legislation regarding training or safety equipment for bicycles.

    Any legitimate training program instructing bicyclists on safe riding practices should include both rules of the road and the use of proper safety equipment. There should be no seperation.

    Strapping on a helmet is such a simple thing to do, and it cannot hurt. Anyone claiming to advocate safe cycling should not dismiss the use of helmets.

    There will always be accidents and injuries, training or no training, helemets or no helmets, laws or no laws. A good piece of advice to all cyclists is: Always be alert and wary of your surroundings...expect the unexepected.

  10. #10
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    Both are important--but how to teach safe riding to a couple of populations? These are: Teenagers (BMX has done TONS to undermine the ideas of safe and vehicular bicycle use!) adult racers--funny how, the day after you get your USCF license you forget what those funny octagonal red signs mean--and adults who are cyclists by non-choice; poverty and/or drivers' license suspension? These groups are and will probably remain the hardest to reach, although racers usually get religion after enough near-misses.

  11. #11
    Huachuca Rider webist's Avatar
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    Training is indeed the key. However, I would expect the training to include the topic of a helmet and its proper design, fit and use.
    Just Peddlin' Around

  12. #12
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    I am against any legislation in this area. Aside from bicycling all my life, I have also been a motorcycle rider, and there is little difference when it comes to sharing space with any cage. I don't believe a driver of any motorized vehicle should have to go through "extra" training because of our choice to be a bicyclists or motorcycle rider. It's "my choice" of transportation and I know I am vulnerable when sharing space with a motorized vehicle.

    We have to highten our senses when it comes to sharing the road... Helmets protect our head and no one elses, and cycling is a personal choice.

    I chose a helmet, because I have a wife, and a 10yr old son that lives by example, and they rely on me to stay alive. I also enjoy the responsibity of being adult, using common sense, doing dudigence and doing my duty to protect myself and those in my charge while enjoying our chosen activities.

    I don't believe in making laws to protect me from my choices in life. I can and want do that... Those that can't should stay at home under their parents guidence until they can!
    Last edited by Guest; 10-01-02 at 01:28 PM.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Hants Commuter's Avatar
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    I don't advocate a law that states you must wear a helmet but if anyone every asked me I would strongly advise them to wear one.

    I think we are concentrating too much on the idea of formal training. We should be educating people by different means, posters and TV campaigns for example. I remember one in the UK a long long time ago where it highlighted to car drivers how you should pass a cyclist giving enough space etc etc.

  14. #14
    Year-round cyclist
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    Originally posted by Garbear
    I am against any legislation in this area. .... I don't believe a driver of any motorized vehicle should have to go through "extra" training because of our choice to be a bicyclists or motorcycle rider. It's "my choice" of transportation and I know I am vulnerable when sharing space with a motorized vehicle.

    We have to highten our senses when it comes to sharing the road...
    Agreed in principle. But the faults of our training, and especially the faults of car driver's training shows more accutely when a cager drives into a cyclist.

    Strictly speaking, however, the problem is either insufficient training, or more precisely the fact that driving isn't taken seriously by many people. People driving while phoning, eating and writing -- all at the same time -- show disregard for basic safety principles. I think the training was good, because these safety principles are thought at driving school; I think, however, that the North American culture doesn't put enough emphasis on keeping these safety principles active in our mind.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  15. #15
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Garbear
    I am against any legislation in this area. ... I don't believe a driver of any motorized vehicle should have to go through "extra" training because of our choice to be a bicyclist or motorcycle rider.
    To receive a driver's license, a motorist undergoes training to learn how to share the road safely and effectively with other motorists, and presumably with pedestrians and bicyclists, as well. However, because a significant number of motorists do not fully recognize the rights of bicyclists on public roads, some "extra" training is unfortunately very much in order.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  16. #16
    It's in my blood Pete Clark's Avatar
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    The helmet issue centers around mandatory usage.

    Training would include proper helmet usage. Helmet usage, to a trained cyclist, would not require legislation.

    And yet, a helmet does not give one special powers. Would you substitute seatbelt usage for a driver's test? But seatbelt usage is part of drivers' training.
    Next in line

  17. #17
    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    Like mgagnonlv, I too am a Environmental Health and Safety Engineer. There are many models upon which safety concepts are based. The discussion here has to do with whether we protect against "unsafe acts" or "unsafe conditions." Over the years, I have grown to dislike this entire concept, as it is too simple to explain the complex events surrounding an accident.

    There are newer models, including a theory of multiple causation (Dan Peterson), and a human factors model (David DeJoy). But perhaps my favorite is one given by a diving physician named Dr. Standley Miles in his book, Underwater Medicine.

    Dr. Miles stated that diving accidents were the results of complex interactions, and that preventing them could be summed up by a "formula" (engineers will love this one). Here's his formula for accident prevention:

    An Accident = CE(prf/tms)

    Where:
    C = Chance
    E = Environment

    p = Accident Proness
    r = Risk acceptance
    f = physical factors

    t = Training
    m = Maturity
    S = Safety Measures

    Notice that the numerator of the equation tends to cause an accident, and the denominator tends to prevent the accident. In other words, you can accept very high risks if you have the training, maturity and safety measures to counter-act them, are in good health (remember the physicals that the astronauts go through), and are not "prone" to having an accident.

    If you look at accidents, whether in scuba diving (which is specifically what Dr. Miles was addressing) or bicycling, you can see that each of these points has a role to play in accident prevention. To look at only training, or the one safety measure of wearing helmets, does not begin to address the complex interactions of environmental factors, the maturity level of the individual, physical factors (how about older drivers who are physically impared, or a bicyclist who in going into an insulin shock/hypoglycemia situation?).

    Dr. Miles was an advocate of diver training, understanding the complex relationships of diving physiology and diving diseases, along with the safety measures of, say, a buddy system. Do we address bicycling physiology at all? I don't think so, not on a routine basis even in training classes that are conducted.

    So I think that bicycling accident prevention is much more than simply a discussion of training verses helmet usage. What are your thoughts?

    John
    Last edited by John C. Ratliff; 10-01-02 at 11:54 PM.
    John Ratliff

  18. #18
    Senior Member Brian Ratliff's Avatar
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    Originally posted by John C. Ratliff
    ....But perhaps my favorite is one given by a diving physician named Dr. Standley Miles in his book, Underwater Medicine.

    Dr. Miles stated that diving accidents were the results of complex interactions, and that preventing them could be summed up by a "formula" (engineers will love this one). Here's his formula for accident prevention:

    An Accident = CE(prf/tms)

    Where:
    C = Chance
    E = Environment

    p = Accident Proness
    r = Risk acceptance
    f = physical factors

    t = Training
    m = Maturity
    S = Safety Measures

    It is nice to have an mathmatical relationship of factors causing an accident, but there are only a few variables we can work with directly or even quantify. The strictly proportional or inverse relationship is questionable as well.

    Certainly "chance(C)" cannot be worked with. "p", "r", "f" are all things that a person must deal with personally, but they can be shown how to identify and at least qualify the factors. Again, quantifying is hard as those factors are deeply personal and very relative.

    Maturity(m) can only be assumed after a person reaches a certain age. Otherwise, it is also personal and therefore relative.

    Environment(E) variable is something we lobby for, but for this thread, we need to assume that this variable does not change much, as lobbying works very slowely.

    What that leaves us with are training(t) and safety measures(s) to promote or develope in cyclists as cycling advocates. The question presented here with this thread is whether training and safety measures equally affect the equation.
    Cat 2 Track, Cat 3 Road.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member John C. Ratliff's Avatar
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    But perhaps my favorite is one given by a diving physician named Dr. Standley Miles...(engineers will love this one). Here's his formula for accident prevention:

    An Accident = CE(prf/tms)
    I must apologize, as this was a kind of bait situation. First, Dr. Miles is not a recognized safety expert outside of the diving community. Second, I knew that analytical people (Brian is an engineer) would be able to dismantle his "formula" as it is not one numbers can be put to. The concepts Dr. Miles was putting forth, however, do apply to many situations. I gave a seminar to Oregon OSHA (then the Accident Prevention Division) in the 1970's about this "formula," and how it could apply to workplaces.

    I will use this "formula" now to discuss the debate on this thread, and then I will exit this thread, as I don't want this to become a father/son debate. The topic is too vital, and too many people believe that one or the other is a better way to address the safety of bicyclists, to "hog" the debate.

    Let's look at our "environment." This factor in diving (I have over 40 years of diving experience, so the analogies will come from here and be applied directly to bicycling) related to weather conditions, tide, currents, water temperature, visibility, and the other environmental conditions divers had to contend with. Bicyclists also must contend with environmental conditions on a daily basis. These include weather (cold, snow, ice, etc.), traffic, road conditions & accidents (there's a reason drivers listen to the radio), and traffic flow. Without paying attention to these, (and some don't), accidents will happen.

    I remember watching kids bicycling on the parking lot at Diamond Lake Lodge, in the Oregon Cascades. It was winter, and they were bicycling in the snow. One boy turned too sharply, skidded and fell, hitting his head on a large rock. The parents rushed to the child, who was bleeding from his head. I helped treat the kid, and admonished the parents (lightly) for allowing the kids to bicycle in the snow.

    Training is a main topic of the thread, and is vital to bicycling. But training is not consistently given to either children or adults. My wife and I have observed that children in our new neighborhood, which is more affluent, have kids bicycling with helmets, on good bicycles. In a neighborhood we were in recently before moving, the children were mostly without helmets, on bicycles which needed some maintenance. The difference was in the parents attention to their kids. It doesn't have to be an economic statement, as helmets are given away in some places in Portland (at Legacy Emmanuel hospital, for instance), but sometimes it turns out that way.

    Training, whether for divers or for bicyclists, should be an important part of the activity, but isn't. Bicycles are sold by department stores without even being put together correctly, much less having training offered with them. That doesn't happen much in scuba diving, as the diving industry (under heavy pressure from potential regulators in the 1960's) self-regulates by insisting that equipment be sold by reputable dealers (mostly, at least--it's beginning to break down with new outlets like E-Bay). But bicycling has no such self-regulating mechanism.

    Now, about safety measures. In safety, these can be engineering controls (design of a bicycle, for instance, or the engineering of a highway), administrative controls (you cannot bicycle on the sidewalk, in many areas, which is an administrative control), and personal protective equipment (PPE--helmets, gloves, bicycling shorts, shoes, etc.).

    If we look at PPE, helmets have received the main amount of attention, as they save lives by protecting the head in an accident (mine included). But the other types of PPE. Shoes, protect the feet from repetitive strain injury. Bicycling shorts protect some very sensitive areas of the body from chaffing. Sun glasses (I now use tinted safety lenses; they are cheaper, and more protective for impacts with objects) protect from ultraviolet light; UV exposure over a lifetime can produce cataracts. Is one more important than the others? Some riders think so, and wear bicycling shorts but no helmet; it shows what they really think is important to protect. It also shows that PPE which affects how we feel every day will win out over PPE for emergencies only.

    So to get back to Brian’s main question, if I had to choose between a helmet and training, training would win out every time. I have, for instance, parachuted from an airplane with no helmet (albeit into water). But, the personal protection of a helmet (being the last line of defense) is also important, precisely because it is the last line of defense.

    John
    Last edited by John C. Ratliff; 10-02-02 at 10:35 PM.
    John Ratliff

  20. #20
    It's in my blood Pete Clark's Avatar
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    I believe that by combining safety measures, I multiply my protection.

    It's not either-or, it's both-and.
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