... bicycle helmet laws are bad for my health - & yours too!
The London Hire Bikes - unjustly called "Boris Bikes" though it was in fact his predecessor Ken Livingstone who originated the scheme - are a Grade-A argument to stop the mouths of helmet compulsionists everywhere. When the scheme started operating in mid-2010 there were lip-licking predictions from the Health & Safety wonks and the "Real Cyclists" that having inexperienced riders wobbling helmetless all over the roads would produce carnage on the scale of the Third Battle of Ypres and the London hospitals would be renting freezer-containers to use as makeshift mortuaries. But in the event the hire bikes turned out to be not only as safe as privately-owned bicycles in London traffic, but about two-thirds more so. Up-to-date injury figures are hard to come by, but when I last looked it was one death, one serious injury and 143 lesser injuries, all but twelve of them classed as "trivial". Head injuries totalled at 12, all but one of them slight.With its habitual mendacity, the Daily Mail newspaper, Britain's most vociferous advocate of compulsory helmeting, reported during the early weeks of the scheme that two cyclists had suffered serious head injuries on hire bikes. It transpired that they had been taken into A & E with general contusions and had been given brain scans just in case.The reason for the excellent safety record of these bicycles is that they're continental-European standard machines rather than the usual UK pseudo-sport product: so slow that you're not tempted to try any Vehicular Cycling on them, and so stable that even if you do come off you fall off sideways not forwards. But still the Real Cyclists insist, what happens if you take a dive over the handlebars? The answer to that is, how do you change the spark plugs on a diesel tractor?
Brilliant, John! Thank you for your erudite thoughts and comments - completely concur with everything you wrote (interesting re 'Boris' bikes actually being 'Kenny' bikes ... must remember that in future!!!
It's "Ken", not "Kenny". And the Boris-Bikes sobriquet seems to have stuck - probably because of the alliteration - and will be used (I suspect) long after people have forgotten who Boris was, like Mr. Hoover and the Mr. Hansom who invented the Hansom cabs Sherlock Holmes went around in.Though his record as London mayor was chequered and his relationship with the Labour Party very bad troubled, everyone liked Ken for his intelligence and his kindly, sauntering wit. Years ago I remember him live on the radio, commenting on a London Tory politician standing for election who had been revealed as having once been a member of the Neo-Nazi National Front party, and was now trying like mad to explain it away. "Yeah," Ken said in his easy Sahf Lunn'on accent, "my time running a gas chamber at Treblinka was a youthful extravagance which I now deeply regret."He is also one of the world's leading experts on newts.
Again thank you for all that, John! Every bit interesting including the revelation about 'Ken's' global newt status.Great stuff!
c) Sept 2010 Letter to NSW Minister for Roads
d) Submission to Parliamentary Inquiry into Vulnerable Road Users 2010