The AA Blunder!

On Friday the 15th of April the AA (Automobile Association) gave out 5,000 branded helmets and 5,000 branded high visibility vests to cyclists in London. The cycling community was outraged by this and watching the twitter comments was quite funny. Especially afterI had already tweeted this the following day to the AA President, Edmund King.

why is the @aapresident giving free helmets to cyclists? So drivers can drive more dangerously around us?

The AA President was kind enough to reply to me to let me know that the AA does give out free training for dangerous young & older drivers and campaigns against drink/drug drivers. Which is fantastic!

What I don’t get is why a motoring group is getting involved in handing out ‘safety’ equipment to cyclists. Are they trying to make the motorists think that cycling is dangerous? Or that motorists can drive around us in a more dangerous manner because we now have helmets to protect our heads.

The AA’s basis for this free advertising gift where 2 polls. Around 16,000 AA members were asked if they think cyclists should wear helmets. 97% think we should. And a spot check done by the AA suggested that only 5% of Barclays Cycle Hire users wear helmets.

The AA president, Edmund King, said

You see some people on Boris bikes who are not proper cyclists. They need a helmet more than most. They’re weaving all over the place.

The helmet is a hot topic among cyclists, at the end of the day they are designed to reduce acceleration to the head at low speeds. Wikipedia states

A typical helmet is designed to absorb the energy of a head falling from a bicycle, hence an impact speed of around 12 mph or 20 km/h. This will only reduce the energy of a 30 mph or 50 km/h impact to the equivalent of 27.5 mph or 45 km/h, and even this will be compromised if the helmet fails.

Basically the helmet is only designed to protect a cyclist that falls over by them selves. Anyone that has cycled for a reasonable amount of time can manage to balance and is unlikely to fall over. The addition of a cycle helmet in a crash with a vehicle is debatable. It may or may not help you.

Is weaving a bad thing? I and many other cyclists do a little wobble or weave as a vehicle is approaching us, it gives the driver the perception that we are not in control and they are more likely to give us the space we require.

High visibility vests are also a hot topic. My personal opinion is they are next to useless in the city environment. So many people wear hi-viz that it doesn’t have the same effect that it used to. Out in the suburbs and the country side it’s a different story. But in the city where you can’t see much further than the rear of the car in front of you, hi viz isn’t going to help.

The CTC’s response was fantastic.

We believe that far bigger road safety gains can be made by tackling instances of bad driving.

And that is how most cyclists felt about it. The CTC turned up at the same locations as the AA and handed out copies of the highway code to drivers.

The AA have said they will repeat this branded give way in other UK cities but I suspect that this may do more damage than good to them, especially with regards to the cycling community.

6 thoughts on “The AA Blunder!

  1. The AA’s basis for this free advertising gift where 2 polls. Around 16,000 AA members were asked if they think cyclists should wear helmets. 97% think we should

    Hypothetical – let’s say a cyclists’ organization conducted a poll in which 97% of respondents felt car drivers should wear helmets (this is not so absurd, given the likelihood of injury being caused to the head in the event of a motor vehicle crash). I wonder how motorists would feel if big yellow ‘free car driver helmets!’ were handed out at service stations along the M1, with the accompanying rhetoric that, in the interests of safety, you really should be wearing a helmet.

  2. You cannot underestimate the negetive effects of a cycling helmet law.

    In australia, the decline of 30% in cyclists after the law is just a drop in the ocean compared to the other effects:
    -It got into peoples head that cycling is dangerous. Even now people call commuting to work the ‘suicide’ run.
    -Cyclists have been pushed to the edge of society. Because people think its inherently dangerous, they think only idiots cycle. And therefore people give no weight to a cyclists right to occupy a lane, they assume every cyclists knows he is taking ridiculous risks, so they will pass as close as they can.
    -Not long after helmets became mandatory (ie. motorists realised they could get laws through that hurt cyclists) a law was passed making cyclists have to keep left as far as practical – which means its illegal to try and take primary position in a lane. If you are even say two feet from the left edge of the shoulder, they can fine you for blocking traffic. We have no law over how close you come to a cyclist when passing – so long as its ‘safe’, which I guess would have to be argued in court.

    You guys should fight against any such laws at every opportunity less you end up like us.

    1. I didn’t realise it was that bad out there. I’ve only heard about your mandatory cycle helmet laws, which by looking at the stats of the cycle hire in Melbourne, has failed horendously.

      I doubt that we will get a mandatory helmet law anytime soon. Ireland are currently going through implmenting it. If we do, then it will destroy the growth in cycling we are seeing which will harm the facilites which are being built for us. As they are only building for demand and in baby steps.

      Stay safe out there, it sounds like you have a hard time!

    2. That’s bad. And I thought Australia was pretty progressive. The keep left thing is absolutely crazy – we all need to adopt the primary position sometimes.

      Guess Oz is one place I can strike off my list of places I want to take the bike.

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