Surprisingly, there is a vast difference in cyclist helmet use across the City of London Ontario. Equally surprising is the lack of concern or recognition demonstrated by official entities such as the City of London, Police and organized cycling groups.
These findings stem from recent cyclist observations by Gorski Consulting. The observations are summarized from the 2021 through to 2023. They are comprised of documentations of cyclists riding along streets throughout London, from observations along multi-use paths such as the Thames Valley Parkway (TVP) and from observations from specific sites where traffic studies have been conducted, such as Colborne Street at St James Street.
The observational data from across the City from 2022 shows that, of 1030 cyclists who were observed, 64.4 percent were not using helmets. We also selected the more specific population of cyclists who were observed riding on sidewalks in 2022, a total of 365 riders, and found that 76.7 percent were not using helmets.
Even less cyclists wore helmets in specific neighbourhoods such as along Hamilton Road in south-east London. Observations were made along Hamilton Road between Highbury Ave and Adelaide Street through 2021 up to the first quarter of 2023. This revealed that, out of 64 cyclists, 56 were not wearing helmets, resulting in a non-use rate of 87.5 percent. These numbers demonstrate the lack of basic safety precautions used by some cyclists, many who still do not believe that helmets improve their chances of reducing the severity of their injuries.
In contrast we also looked at cyclist helmet use at three locations along the Thames Valley Parkway. This 2021 data from 452 observations showed that just 27.2 percent of riders were not wearing helmets. Given the numbers involved this cannot be a statistical glitch, but suggests a real difference exists.
Even more remarkable is the data recently obtained from the specific site of Colborne Street at St James. This is the site where substantial traffic documentations have been conducted in 2022 and 2023. Our interest at this site was to understand how the painting of a new cycling lane on Colborne would change the lateral travel paths of motor vehicles and cyclists. While conducting these observations we recognized the large percentage of cyclists who were wearing helmets and we decided to examine this more closely. We found that, out of 54 observations of northbound cyclists on Colborne just 13.0 percent were observed not to be wearing helmets.
Why do such stark differences exist in various neighbourhoods of London? Hamilton Road has experienced several fatal cyclist collisions yet there has been no information revealed about how those collisions occurred and whether helmet use was a factor. Differences in road widths also play a role. Colborne Street, where almost everyone wears a helmet, has much wider lanes than Hamilton Road. The involvement of such factors need further study. As the population of cyclists increases in London the probability that more cyclist collisions will occur is inevitable. Yet no one is conducting cyclist safety studies in London except Gorski Consulting.