Like Wear a Helmet Dude! You Sooo don’t Need a Hole in the Head!!!!

May 19, 2009

The wearing of bicycle helmets is compulsory for all ages in Australia, New Zealand and Spain. Fines for not wearing a bicycle helmet  range from $30 to $110 in Australia. Iceland and the Czech Republic have made bicycle helmets compulsory for under 15 year olds and Ontario Canada for under 18 year olds. Why wear a bike helmet?  The value of this legislation was hammered, possiblyelectric drill Correction drilled, home today by a report in The Australian. Nicholas Rossi, 12, injured his head after falling off his bike when not wearing a bicycle helmet. His life was saved only because Dr Rob Carson, a quick thinking GP from Maryborough, Victoria, used an electric drill to drill a hole in Nicholas’s head to relieve pressure on his brain.  (See ABC report)

Road Safety for cyclists, however, not only depends on cyclists but also depends on motorists. Unfortunately, motorists do not always drive safely around cyclists.

bike helmet My favourite research on Road Safety for Cyclists was conducted by Dr Walker, University of Bath,UK who  cycled around Bath with a sensor attached to his bike which measured the distance of passing  cars.  Dr Walker  wore a helmet, no helmet and – of all things – a long black wig. His results were very interesting especially for clowns.  Dr Walker found cars passed him on average 8.4 cm closer when he was wearing a helmet than when he was bare headed so close, in fact, he was hit TWICE; once by a bus and once by a truck.

Mathspig is very happy to say that Dr Walker survived to continue his studies. Next he ventured onto the roads of Bath in a long, black wig. Motorists kept well away from the wig -wearer. Dr Walker concluded that motorists assumed cyclists in helmets were Tour De France level pros who needed the least passing gap; bareheaded cyclists were wobbly amateurs who needed more room and odd-bods in wigs are so weird they need a really big gap. Motorists, obviously, were anxious to avoid hitting a clown on a bike!!!!! Further studies are needed.

Mathspigs you can conduct some original and worthwhile research on motorists driving habits. Ask as many adults as you can how much room they should leave when passing a cyclist in a car. Ask them to show you the distance using their hands. Measure this distance with a tape.  You can make a Bar Graph of this information by plotting how many people allowed 0 – 10 cm, 11-20cm, 21 – 30 cm etc. When you have completed your research send this information to: Bicycle NSW, who are active in engaging students in Bicycle safety projects.   

Meanwhile, here is a funny story about bicycle helmets. When bicycle helmets became compulsory  in the nineties in Australia one old bloke in mathspig’s home town decided he wasn’t going to pay for a helmet. He cut a watermelon to size and wore it tied onto his head with a white garbage bag. This left the local police really scratching their heads as they weren’t sure what to do.



  1. Interesting story. I like the under 18 compulsory angle myself, I have lived and ridden in countries where they don’t wear helmets and it seemed motorists were more careful of cyclists.

    • Here in Melbourne the bicycle share scheme has cost $5.5 million and had, up until recently, 600 bikes and only 70 trips recorded!!!!!!! Helmets are the issue. And I think your under 18 compulsory idea may be a solution. Thanks. Mathspig

  2. This is the best blog Im have a bloog too and I inspired by your entries

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