Caution: Don’t wear that helmet

A traffic psychologist at Bath University has just concluded a study that determines cyclists wearing helmets are at greater risk than those who eschew headgear. Why? Because motorists were shown to drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets when overtaking them. This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave ...

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A traffic psychologist at Bath University has just concluded a study that determines cyclists wearing helmets are at greater risk than those who eschew headgear. Why? Because motorists were shown to drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets when overtaking them.

A traffic psychologist at Bath University has just concluded a study that determines cyclists wearing helmets are at greater risk than those who eschew headgear. Why? Because motorists were shown to drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets when overtaking them.

This study shows that when drivers overtake a cyclist, the margin for error they leave is affected by the cyclist’s appearance,” said Dr [Ian] Walker, from the University’s Department of Psychology.   

Armed with that conclusion, Dr. Walker then took the experiment one step further: He donned a long wig to see if motorists gave him even greater room if they thought he was a woman. And sure enough, drivers gave him inches more space on average. (I’m less enthused by Dr. Walker’s speculation that it may be because women are more erratic riders than men.) But since I, for one, hate wearing a bike helmet, this new study presents a sure-fire safety strategy for bike riders everywhere. Just attach a baby seat to the back of your bike. 

Carolyn O'Hara is a senior editor at Foreign Policy.

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