Letter to The Washington Post
On an article attacking bicycle helmets
Summary: Our June 9, 2008 letter to The Washington Post protesting their article titled Taking More Risks Because You Feel Safe.
Shankar Vedantam's article about risk and bicycle helmets degrades the credibility of every other article in your newspaper today.
Minimal research on the web would have revealed that Dr Ian Walker's measurements back in 2006 showed that under some conditions British drivers leave 3.3 inches more passing distance if the cyclist is not wearing a helmet, and another 2.2 inches if the cyclist is bearded and wearing a wig. But the average passing clearance for all cases was more than four feet. Urban cyclists in the US would feel safe with that. When riding one meter from the curb, there was no difference at all in passing distances. All measurements were taken on a single street in England.
The poison-pen approach to airbags--the biggest life saving intervention on our highways in decades, was equally ludicrous.
Use of pseudo-science to support your sensational article mimics the New York Times article on Dr. Walker's research of February 2007. In either case, attacking a successful injury prevention measure to support failing readership indicates the desperation of a declining newspaper.
Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute