03 April 2006

Debate over benefits and hazards of cycling

It's good to see The Advertiser publishing a story about cycling even if it's one which debunks some research published by statistician Dorothy Robinson in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ to to uninitiated).

Ms Robinson's conclusions are challenged by public spirited Citizen Cain (aka president of the local AMA branch) , who doesn't disclose how much cycling he's done since he's been in long pants but, as the 'Tiser reports:

"AMA state president, Dr Christopher Cain, yesterday said helmets, which have been compulsory in SA since 1991, were "absolutely beneficial".

"If there are two cyclists in the one accident and there is one with a helmet and one without, the helmet reduces the incidence of head injuries," he said.

Dr Cain said Dr Robertson's theories had "no scientific basis".

"It is an irrational assumption," he said.

Dr Cain said other factors were responsible for her findings, including traffic density, exposure to pollution and the speed at which traffic was moving.

Fast-paced modern living also meant cycling was not always the best transport option, Dr Cain said."

OK, if "traffic density, exposure to pollution and the speed at which traffic was moving" have "no scientific basis" and are "irrational assumptions" is it any wonder that Dr Robinson's research cuts no ice with the SA AMA? Of course we may well ask how many of his members are cyclists, or would it perhaps just be betterto throw in the towel (or dismount) and concede that Dr Cain is right to say "cycling was not always the best transport option for Adelaide".

I'm a cyclist, but don't want to see cars banned from or levied heavily to enter the miniscule Adelaide CBD. Last year I cycled in central Londonand can confirm that doing so is generally safer there than in central Adelaide. Why? Because, apart from the GBP8/$AU 20 congestion charge in London which discourages cars, bikes in London are allowed to travel in bus lanes, which makes for a much less stressful ride than one along, say, North terrace or Pulteney Street. See one of the photos here for an illustration of this in practice in London (and how a phrygian cap might be an effective alternative to a bike helmet).

ISN'T HAT BORIS: March 30 He's back and Anna looks on smiling as Boris wheels his bike from her flat on Thursday at 7.15pm. He stayed for nearly three hours before leaving seconds ahead of her

BYE BYE: Boris waves fond farewell to secret love Anna after cycling alongside her cab

Not that every cycling story in the global media is this serious: see here for this and other April fool stories (assuming the News of the World one
was not intended to be another):

"Sweden's leading daily newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, scared thousands of bicyclists by claiming that Stockholm's city government would impose speed limits on bicycles in the inner city - to 20 kilometres an hour."

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