KIVILEV AND HELMET POLITICS
Much has been made in the cycling press of the tragic death of Kazakh professional cyclist
Andrei Kivilev in stage two of the Paris/Nice road race on March 11th. Kivilev crashed
while the bunch was travelling at 40 - 45km/h. He fell sideways and forward and struck
his forehead on the tarmac. He died during the night without regaining consciousness.
Not widely reported or discussed in the English language press was the role that Kivilev's
radio earpiece may have played. The rider was seen adjusting it immediately prior to the crash. Ex-French pros Laurent Fignon and Laurent Jalabert called for earpieces to be banned because of the distractions they cause to riders.
The press was full of articles and correspondence, much of it sanctimonious, calling for the mandating of helmets, suggesting, with little supporting evidence, that Kivilev would have survived had he been wearing a helmet. The reports of the Kivilev tragedy contrasts with lack of coverage of similar racing tragedies. On March 15th, only four days after Kivilev, Garrett Paul Lemire, 22, crashed and died during Saturday's (March 15) Tucson Bicycle Classic. He had swerved into the path of a car to avoid hitting other riders who had crashed ahead of him. Lemire crossed the center line and collided with the car which was travelling in the opposite direction. Helmet use is mandatory in US racing.
Just over one month later on May 17th, Japanese rider Haruko Fujinawa died after a crashing while practising for the first round of the NORBA series, the US's premier MTB race series.
Deaths of other helmeted riders in North American cycle racing include Canadian veteran cyclist Joe Hailey last year and world class US women's pro, Nicole Reinhart in 2000. Hailey crashed and died from head injuries in a race in March 2002 in Langley, British Columbia. He was among several riders who went down in a bunch sprint at the finish line of the Spring Series Road Race. Canadian racing authorities also require helmet use. Reinhart, a world class cyclist riding for Saturn, died September 2000 after crashing and striking a tree on the last lap of the Tour of Arlington. Helmeted cyclist deaths rarely, if ever, get much of a mention in the press. One can only speculate they don't sit well with the life-style ideology of helmet advocates.
CYCLING FATALITIES IN CANADA STILL TRACK PEDESTRIAN FATALITIES despite significant uptake in bicycle helmet use, the trend in Canadian cycling fatalities still remains no different from the trend in pedestrian fatalities according to an analysis of latest data from the Canadian government agency, Transport Canada. The updated trend chart now shows data for the 27 year period from 1975 to 2001. Similar findings have been detected in Tom Kunich's analysis of data published by the US National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
FLORIDA'S REPEAL OF MOTOR BIKE HELMET LAW HAS NO EFFECT A study* published in the US journal, Evaluation Review showed that the repeal of the mandatory helmet-use law in Florida which was effective July 1, 2001 did not increase serious injuries or fatalities that resulted from motorcycle crashes. The authors state "the notion that Florida’s repeal of its mandatory helmet-use law increased significantly serious injuries and fatalities resulting from motorcycle crashes has been assumed implicitly by policy makers and social scientists alike, but such a belief is not supported by this study." They go on to say "the effect of mandatory helmet-use laws on motorcycle crash injuries and fatalities is an important question that is raised frequently, with scant and often questionable empirical evidence on which to base definitive answers." They suggest that motorcycle safety might be better improved by a shift away from mandatory helmet-use laws to other more effective measures such as driver training and educational programs.
All of this may sound familiar to bicycle helmet skeptics who for years have been saying that helmet laws don't work.
* “BORN TO BE WILD” The Effect of the Repeal of Florida’s Mandatory
Motorcycle Helmet-Use Law on Serious Injury and Fatality Rates, Stolzenberg L.,D'Alessio S.J., Florida International University, Evaluation Review, Vol. 27 No. 2, April 2003 131-150
DECLINE IN CYCLING FOLLOWS NOVA
SCOTIA HELMET LAW - scrutiny of the underlying data in
an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal uncovers a 62% drop in cycling
the year immediately following the enforcement of the Province of Nova Scotia's helmet law.
Giving up cycling has been the reaction to helmet laws in many other jurisdictions, such as
Australia and New Zealand.
In his criticism
of the authors' findings (which unbelievably recommended such laws be adopted elsewhere in Canada)
British transportation analyst, Malcolm Wardlaw, revealed other facts overlooked by the
authors, namely, the rate of head injury per cyclist did not decline and the rate of other
injuries among remaining cyclists was higher than before the law.
BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL ARTICLE DRAWS CRITICISM - a June 10, 2002
article suggests that bicycle helmet use by children is more important than the benefits
children gain from cycling. Correspondence from readers questions the credibility of such claims.
US CITY REJECTS HELMET LAW - the Dallas
Morning News reports that the City of Richardson, Texas has rejected a proposal to mandate bicycle
STILL NO CHANGE IN US CYCLIST FATALITY TRENDS -
the trend in US cyclist fatalities remains no different from the trend in US pedestrian
fatalities according to latest National Highway Transportation Safety Administration data.
Tom Kunich has updated his trend chart with an additional four years of data. The period
analyzed now covers fifteen years. Similar findings have been detected from Transport Canada's
fatality data. See the analysis of Canadian fatality trends covering
the twenty five year period from 1975 to 1999.
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COMMENT on the New York Times Helmet Report
Links to web opinions have been added. HELMET BITES by De Clarke and FREEDOM FROM FEAR by Mighk Wilson of Florida Bicycle Association.