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September 11, 2006

Do bike helmets increase your chances of being hit by a car?

photo by Hey Paul/flickr.com. Original at http://www.flickr.com/photos/heypaul/2027460/

Ian Walker, who studies traffic psychology at the University of Bath in the U.K., has just released a fascinating new study that shows that if you wear a helmet overtaking cars pass by you more closely than if you're not wearing a helmet. Walker equipped himself with an ultrasonic distance device, hopped on his bike, and recorded how close more than 2,500 vehicles were when they passed him on the streets and roads of Salisbury and Bristol. His conclusion...wear a helmet and the average car passes you at a distance of 1.33 meters (4 feet, 4 inches). Don't wear a helmet and cars give you three inches more room when they pass. Walker theorizes that wearing a helmet indicates to the driver that you are a more experienced cyclist, and are therefore less likely to make sudden turns or otherwise behave unpredictably. (Of course, that may not be true at all, since inexperienced cyclists are particularly urged to wear helmets).

There's an article about the study in today's Daily Mail newspaper.

P.S. Don't let this study trick you into doing something stupid. Of course you should always wear a helmet when cycling. There are lots of other ways to have a bike accident than by being swiped by an overtaking car.

[photo by Hey Paul/flickr.com]

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at September 11, 2006 12:14 PM