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Helmets and helmet legislation

“Drive Your Bike, Don’t Just Ride It”

21 Aug, 15 | by Angy El-Khatib

Last week, I wrote a short blog highlighting a publication in this month’s issue of Injury Prevention which stressed the need to gather “better” data as a step towards improving future bicycle safety endeavors.

This week, I am absolutely delighted to introduce a guest blog by someone who is equally passionate and enthusiastic about data as he is about bicycle safety – my mentor and inspiration, Dr. Christiaan Abildso (follow him on Twitter at @walkbikemgw)! He is an assistant professor in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at WVU School of Public Health. His main areas of research include health promotion program evaluation and the social ecological determinants of physical activity, including policy and the built environment. Recently, he presented “The Burden of Pedestrian- and Cyclist-Motor Vehicle Crashes (PCMCVs) and Costs in West Virginia: 2000-06” as a part of the 2014 WVU Injury Control Research Center’s webinar series (you can watch it here).

Christiaan rode his bike to the 2015 MPH and PhD graduation ceremony while wearing his academic dress.

Christiaan rode his bike to the 2015 WVU MPH and PhD graduation ceremony while wearing his academic garb.

Christiaan has two very notorious and very utlized catchphrases; the first is “I love data!” and the second is “Change the world!” which he very well does by engaging in the community. He served as the Chairperson for the Morgantown Pedestrian Safety Board from 2008 to 2014, has been an Ex-officio Member of the Morgantown Municipal Bicycle Board since 2012, and is a current member of both the West Virginia Connecting Communities and the Morgantown Traffic Commission.

Since this month’s blogging topic was to be focused on bike safety, I asked Christiaan to write a guest blog about his own experience as he transitioned from a novice cyclist to a trained traffic rider.


 

“Drive Your Bike, Don’t Just Ride It”
By guest blogger: Christiaan Abildso

My first taste of freedom was experienced on a teal-green Peugeot in the mid-1980s in suburban Washington DC. With each passing summer and my super cool 5-speed, I was given more and more leeway by my parents to “ride to John’s house,” then to Tom’s house, then to the community pool and parks. As a young lad in pre-helmet days I had a great time riding on and off sidewalks, and on wide streets mostly of 25 mph speed limit. It was suburban America in a Levitt town in the summer. I was safe.

As I grew up I rode less or not at all until I got back into bicycle commuting about 6 years ago when I became a father, gas prices were high, and I didn’t have time to go to a gym. I began to experience that freedom yet again. However, I was now riding in a more urban environment with more traffic, narrower lanes, no bike lanes or separate infrastructure, and less kindness toward me as a cyclist – let’s face it, kids on bikes get more leeway to mess up than mid-thirties cyclists! One day, I moved from the end of 5 cars at a red light in the left lane in a three lane, one-way downtown road to the middle lane to be at the front of the traffic. I did this to jump the traffic and move back over in front of the left lane traffic to make a turn. As I jumped back to the left lane, a kind gentleman driving by leaned his Livestrong band covered left wrist and wagged a finger at me, saying “you should know better. You’re gonna get killed.”

This statement made me think, what did I do wrong? That moment began my evolution from thinking like a “bike rider” to thinking like a “bike driver.” I began seeking the opinion of Frank Gmeindl – a League of American Bicyclists certified League Cycling Instructor (LCI) in Morgantown, WV, and uber-experienced rider with tens of thousands of miles of experience. He offered to ride behind me one day giving only these instructions (as I recall them): 1) ride like a vehicle, 2) be predictable, 3) be seen, and 4) take the lane. Following the ride – during which, in retrospect, I did a bunch of things that put me in harm’s way (like riding as far to the edge of the road as possible) – Frank patiently offered these same four suggestions, then took the lead. His few suggestions have, without a doubt, saved my life.

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Christiaan playing the “hipster” and picking up his Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) on his bike.

I continued to seek out information, eventually taking the Safer City Cycling class offered by Frank and another local LCI. I have ridden thousands of miles over the past few years with the advice of Frank and others in my head. I now am confident enough in my abilities to ride in almost any condition on nearly any road without fear. Over the years I have evolved to be very calm in traffic and now help others when I see them riding in a way that puts them (or me as “one of those pesky bikers”) at risk of injury. I honed in on one statement I heard or read a few years back that summarizes how to operate a bicycle: “Drive your bike, don’t just ride it.” That neatly summarizes Frank’s four key lessons, and I often use that with others when they say I’m crazy for riding all the time and on almost any road. I also make an offer to them, as Frank did, to go for a ride to help.

To my fellow cyclists, when in traffic. Remember, we are traffic. We are adults. Vehicle drivers don’t want to hit us.

My advice when in traffic: Be seen. Be predictable. Take the lane. Drive your bike like you would a car…and, give a hand of thanks when a vehicle driver treats you well. It will make driving a bike safer for all of us.

 

 

Follow Dr. Christiaan Abildso at @walkbikemgw!

More background on our blogging team

19 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Blog 3: So today I wanted to share some more background on our blogging team. As an applied social psychologist, I find this information very interesting indeed!

What excites you about being part of the Injury Prevention social media editorial team?  

Sheree Bekker: The invaluable conversation that has sprung up around scholarly work through the collaborative power of social media and blogs inspires me to no end. I tend to find more relevant scholarly content through Twitter than through traditional platforms, and Injury Prevention has played a big part in that. As researchers, I believe that we should own our voice on social media, and constructively add value to this conversation.

David Bui: Through my studies in medical school I have seen the costs of injuries to society and individuals worldwide.  This is a great opportunity to harness the underutilised power of Social Media in health promotion and Injury Prevention, across multiple disciplines and multiple borders.

Angy El-Khatib: Being a part of the Injury Prevention social media editorial team is a great opportunity personally and collectively. By being a part of the social media editorial team, I am able to stay up to date on various topics within the realm of Injury Prevention while acquiring different perspectives from individuals from different backgrounds, disciplines, and locations. I’m also excited to be able to potentially increase readership and engage readers to create a conversation around the latest Injury Prevention research and ideas.

Klara Johansson: I am very interested to explore ways to share and disseminate knowledge and research results, outside the “old-school”, regular channels. I look forward to learning from my new co-editors, who all seem to be great communicators.

Joseph Magoola: The opportunity to work and collaborate with a variety of scholars on the injury prevention platform is nothing short of exciting. It also excites and inspires me to have an opportunity to represent Africa since low and medium income countries bear the brunt of the injury burden.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: It is really exciting to be part of this team and to have a space to communicate and express ideas on ways to improve injury prevention, and to discuss about new studies and topics relevant to this field. I am very motivated to learn more and continue growing as a researcher as I walk through this experience.

What are you passionate about?

Sheree Bekker: Intersectional issues drive my life’s work, and my aim is that my research is, and always will be, an extension of that.

David Bui: Passionate about bringing people and ideas together.

Angy El-Khatib: I am passionate about translating scientific evidence and research into public health action. My goal is to improve the health and wellbeing of myself as well as my community. Outside of my work, I am passionate about health, fitness, and wellness.

Klara Johansson: Open discussions and innovative research in collaborative teams with high scientific ambition + high levels of tolerance and kindness; I also enjoy making difficult subjects understandable to students and the general population. Passions on my free time: nature, gardening, books, movies, writing fiction, playing music (clarinet, harmonium, piano, accordion).

Joseph Magoola: Writing on my social media accounts (facebook, twitter and my blog) as a way of reaching out to the masses. I am also interested travelling a lot, especially by road and as such, ensuring road safety is part and parcel of my aims to contribute towards reducing the carnage of our roads.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: I am passionate about things that can make people have a better, healthier and happier life. I am inspired by ideas challenging previous knowledge, creative thinking finding answers from different angles, and the power of multidisciplinary groups. That is why I am passionate about public health research.

 

I hope you are looking forward to hearing from our bloggers, starting next month!

More background on our new blogging team

18 Jun, 15 | by Bridie Scott-Parker

Today I will share more about our blogging team members.

Blog 2: Explain your injury prevention research and interests.

Sheree Bekker: My research investigates safety promotion and injury prevention policy and practice within community sport in Australia. I have a particular interest in dissemination and social marketing. The overall purpose of my research is to allow people to be safe, as well as feel safe, whilst participating in sport or physical activity.

David Bui: Undertaking a number of different projects currently; my injury prevention research focuses on Hip fracture and Falls Prevention research, working with Neuroscience Research Australia. I am also looking into Social Media and its utility in healthcare and civilian settings, and I believe that it represents a powerful new medium in health promotion and injury prevention.

Angy El-Khatib: I am interested in integrating public health approaches with athletic training practice. Athletic training has traditionally focused on the individual but may be able to maximize the effectiveness of prevention efforts by using population-level approaches to improve health and wellness.

Klara Johansson: I am not currently doing research on injury/safety. But I am interested in social difference in injury risk – and also how perceived risk of injuries affects people’s daily lives, mobility, fears and physical activity; and how perceived and real injury risks interrelate with each other and with gender and socioeconomics. Main focus on adolescent safety; real and perceived. Also interested in open data and availability/accessibility of injury statistics globally.

Joseph Magoola: My research interests center around prevention of injury, especially through generation of data for evidence-based decision making and policy action. I am also interested in the use of media to disseminate research findings and for advocacy.

Julian Santaella-Tenorio: At the moment I conduct research on policy evaluation, specifically on policies that impact injury-related outcomes. I am interested in looking at substance use policies and firearm-related legislation and their effects on the health of populations.

Tomorrow: Learn about their passions!

Taking the good with the bad: bike helmet website

22 Oct, 14 | by Barry Pless

I recently came across a website that managed to be both impressive and depressing. The link is http://www.cycle-helmets.com/index.html

I have no idea how old it is or even, precisely, who is responsible for it. What is impressive is that it includes a massive amount of data on bicycling, bike helmet use, and helmet legislation for several countries, but principally for Australia. Some of the data are presented as graphs and others in tables. The amount of work that must have gone into assembling all this is staggering. I somehow suspect it has not been updated recently but it is still worth a visit if you are looking for any statistics related to these topics.

So why did I find it depressing? Simply because the commentary and text make it clear that all this effort is intended to discredit and oppose helmet legislation. Clearly, nothing I read convinces me that the data well support their opposition but to be fair, this is a far site better than the usual diatribes unsupported by anything remotely ‘scientific’.

For the record, I am not convinced helmet legislation discourages cycling or even if it does, the effect is short-lived. More importantly, as I have argued elsewhere and repeatedly, I am also not convinced that casual cycling, by children or adults, can do much to enhance cardiac fitness or reduce obesity. By casual cycling I mean trips of a few kilometres, by children or adults, to and from school or work, at a pace much slower than racers or couriers. In other words, the kind of recreational bicycling that is typical or average.

But even though I remain unhappy about the goals of this website, I must admit it is well done and exhaustive. And, for the most part, it seems that the data are accurate, even if they are consistently misinterpreted.

PS – At the very end I found this note: 

This website is maintained by Chris Gillham, a print/radio journalist and web designer based in the West Australian capital of Perth.
The site has been on the internet since 2000 and the accuracy of its data has never been challenged by relevant authorities. All information on the site is sourced to academic and government reports.

 

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