Once More Unto the Breach
November 28, 2013 6 Comments
I’ll bookend this post with two heavyweights of Western Civilization: Shakespeare and Paul of Tarsus (a.k.a. St. Paul). This must be an important issue!
Once more unto the breach dear friends! Like Shakespeare’s Harry, I’ll head into the fray and pick up the thread of a conversation that dominated this blog a week ago, when we were discussing a position statement on Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Legislation (MHL). Take a chance to look back at the entire blog, there have been several posts and over a hundred comments on the issue.
You’ll find two different polls in that series of posts. I tallied up the votes on November 20 (the ‘polls are still open,’ and so the numbers will keep adding up) and wanted to share them with you.
On the question of whether there should be mandatory bicycle helmet legislation, the respondents voted so: 245 no, 31 yes, 2 undecided.
The next poll asked the question: if you are opposed to MHL, what single issue most informs your opinion. The choices (and votes for) are:
73 voters thought that MHL put the focus on the wrong group for an intervention; bike safety begins with road and car driver safety.
48 thought that MHL sent an inappropriate message: that MHL indicated biking is risky behavior, when it is inherently safe.
29 were concerned that MHL negatively affected bicycle ridership (decreased rates of biking).
9 thought that MHL was an unjustified restriction of their civil liberties.
And 9 thought that MHL weren’t helpful in reducing what they are purported to do: reduce bicyle-related head trauma.
I put these vote results, from a decidedly non-scientific poll, in graphical form below. The vast majority of poll respondents oppose MHL, and a plurality are concerned that the focus on bike safety needs to be placed not on personal protective equipment for bicyclists, but on making roads safer and car drivers’ more cognizant of their responsibility to share the road.
I hope these posts, and the CJSM articles themselves, have contributed to the on-going debate about injury prevention in biking as an activity. As I indicated in my initial post, I find the balance of evidence in favor of supporting measures that contribute to increased use of bicycle helmet use. A great web site that was forwarded to me by one of the contributors does a fine job, I think, addressing some of the legitimate concerns of those who see a different message in the evidence. There is a scientific debate to be had about this issue in the world of public health and injury prevention.
I’d like to end with St. Paul, as I had mentioned at this post’s beginning. From his famous paean to ‘love’ (1 Corinthians 13): “Now we see through a glass darkly.” I promise I’m not proselytizing here! This phrase (which has been used multiple times in various art forms) for me and in this context connotes that idea that we can use research and scientific evidence to approximate ‘truth,’ but we must always allow for multiple issues (biases, limits to study design, etc.) that will frustrate our ability to be absolutely certain about an issue.
We see through a glass darkly.
This idea has been kicking around in my head especially since this dialogue on MHL has begun. I have appreciated hearing many comments, and I know the CJSM authors have as well. I have passed on to them these blog links so they can see the robust discussion that has ensued on the tail end of their articles. But at times, many of the contributors to the discussion have crossed a line: claiming an ability to see the problem clearly, while others remain in the dark.
I would ask when any one of us engage in this discussion on MHL that we focus on evidence, and we focus on remaining civil, and we avoid overt advocacy. We see through a glass darkly on this issue, and there are legitimate concerns and evidence to support those concerns on both sides of the issue. Demonizing the ‘other side’ I don’t think is helpful in a scientific forum.
I have been frankly unable to post several comments because of language used. Sadly, there have been too many ad hominem attacks as well. So please know at CJSM we always love hearing from you. We especially enjoy hearing about published studies in peer-reviewed journals, or websites that report scientific evidence on this issue. Overt advocacy posts are better suited for a list serv. And shouting more loudly doesn’t make anyone hear more clearly.
So, as ever, share with me your thoughts. Please know for this blog post specifically, I am moderating all comments and I will not be posting any unless they are written with the contributor’s full name and institutional affiliation. I will, as well, only post comments that focus on the evidence. And I will be unable to post anything I do not think contributes to a civil conversation about this important issue*.
Thanks to you all, and to those of you in the USA: Happy Thanksgiving!
*Comments close 10 days after initial posting