Vehicles Pass Closer to Helmeted Cyclists


[Photo by Jason Rogers]

Here’s a subject close to my
heart: cycling. Not least because I’m a keen cyclist myself but also because
cycling is good in so many different ways – but I’m not going to bang on about
that now. This study, however, has some counter-intuitive findings (the best
kind!) about helmet wearing that seems to suggest cars pass closer if you’ve
got a lid on. Also, and in stark contrast to conventional wisdom among
experienced cyclists, riding further away from the curb does not cause road
users to leave more space when over-taking.
Here’s the suggested
explanation for the ‘helmet-effect’:
“Research suggests drivers
tend to believe helmeted cyclists are more serious and less likely to make
unexpected moves; the helmet effect seen here is likely a behavioural
manifestation of this belief.”
And on the riding position:
“The riding-position effect
suggests drivers simply do not change their overtaking paths very much as a
function of where a rider is: if a cyclist rides further into the road, they
will on average be closer to passing vehicles as a result. However, there are
also plenty of reasons why riders should not just stick to the road edge, e.g.,
debris, car doors, and drivers’ attention patterns at junctions.”
Oh, and when the experimenter
wore a wig, it seemed to have a repellent effect on other road users. That, I’m
less surprised about.

About the author

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD
is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from
University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about
scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book
“Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks.

Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.