Life Helmet? How About a Wig?
Dan got quite a Slog scolding for even suggesting that life might be more comfortable without a bike helmet on, but it turns out, at least according to this researcher at Bath University in England, that it might be safer not to wear a helmet.
In a study to be published soon in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, Dr. Ian Walker finds that:
Drivers pass closer when overtaking cyclists wearing helmets than when overtaking bare-headed cyclists, increasing the risk of a collision.
Dr. Walker was hit by a bus and a truck while conducting his study, which involved him riding around England on a bike equipped with an ultrasonic distance sensor, sometimes wearing a helmet and sometimes not (and sometimes wearing a wig).
He found that drivers were as much as twice as likely to get particularly close to the bicycle when he was wearing the helmet.
Across the board, drivers passed an average of 8.5 cm (3 1/3 inches) closer with the helmet than without.
He also found that large vehicles, such as buses and trucks (and, oddly, white vans in particular), pass closer to bikers than cars.
The average car passed 1.33 metres (4.4 feet) away from the bicycle, whereas the average truck got 19 centimetres (7.5 inches) closer and the average bus 23 centimetres (9 inches) closer.
However, there was no evidence of 4x4s (SUVs) getting any closer than ordinary cars.
Previously reported research from the project showed that drivers of white vans overtake cyclists an average 10 centimetres (4 inches) closer than car drivers.
But here’s the most interesting finding:
To test another theory, Dr Walker donned a long wig to see whether there was any difference in passing distance when drivers thought they were overtaking what appeared to be a female cyclist.
Whilst wearing the wig, drivers gave him an average of 14 centimetres (5.5 inches) more space when passing.
The moral of the story: If you fucking hate your helmet that much, Dan, you might consider riding in drag.