Sunday, 28 August 2011

Splashing About in the so called Summer

One could be forgiven for wondering what month we are in. It is still August (just) but the weather has been decidedly unstable of late, and I have had several unplanned swims (whilst on two wheels) this week.  This afternoon provided some welcome respite, although time spent on the tennis court was by no means guaranteed. Better still, I swam outdoors today - it was somewhat bracing, but terrifically exhilarating. Whilst still in a swimming pool, I believe I can identify what it is that open water swimmers get off on. Swimming anywhere you are able to see the sky is a truly magnificent experience. I haven't swum al fresco for a while, and this afternoon was a wonderful reminder of the many happy hours I have spent in swimming pools on holidays in warmer climes. Indoor pools will always occupy a special place in my heart (provided they be a minimum of 25m) but there is nothing quite like the liberation to be felt whilst recreating in a lido. The weather and temperature may shortly become rather less accommodating, but whilst the sun continues to make even occasional experiences, there is much to be said for keeping it in the day and taking full advantage every bright day as we move towards the close of our so-called 'summer'.

Outdoor / Open Water / Wild Swimming pages

Other guides to UK Outdoor Swimming Pools

The Time Out Guide to Lidos and Outdoor Swimming Pools in London

Holidays I have yet to plan to pools that look worth the journey...

Close enough for a day trip, the Thermae baths have been rejuvenating swimmers for over 2,000 years (Bath)
The magnificent pool at Gellert (Budapest) is one I have already visited and would happily return to

Wellness in the moutains at The Cambrian, Abeldoben (Switzerland)

Ok, so it's not technically a swimming pool but it looks awesome
Blue Lagoon Geothermal Resort at Grindavik (Iceland)
Take a deep breath
Nemo 33 (Belgium) is the world's deepest pool at 33m / 105ft

The sky's the limit
The SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands (Singapore) boasts spectacular views of the skyline 200m above street level

A truly infinite experience at the Hotel Villa Mahal Infinity Pool (Turkey)
A beautiful pool I am unlikely to see (let alone swim in) during this life time at Hearst Castle (California, USA)

The pool on the 23rd floor of the Habour Plaza Hotel (Hong Kong)
Another view of the skyline from the Intercontinental (Hong Kong)
The uber-cool Badeschiff or 'Bathing Ship' is an old container that has been converted into an outdoor pool on the River Spree (Berlin)

I think the overhanging pool on the 10th floor of the Joule Hotel which was designed by Adam D. Tihany in 1927 probably wins the prize for my most coveted swimming experience (Dallas, USA)

Bigger really is better at San Alfonso del Mar the world's largest pool (Chile).  It's dimensions are impressive all by themself: 1,013m (3,324ft) long, 19.77 acres of water pumped from the Pacific

The 3 tiered pool at the Amankila Resort is set into a cliffside overlooking the Lombok Strait. 
I'd take to this 41m pool like a fish to water (Bali)



Friday, 26 August 2011

Riotous Rituals

I was reminded recently of the importance of ritual and the role that it can play in remembering.  This caused me to think some more about what it is that we do in remembering, and our desire to reminisce and reconnect with earlier experience. 

Most of us have performs rituals at different times.  Some of these may be more formal, and conscious than others but, as human beings, I believe we like what rituals offer us.

"Ritual is necessary for us to know anything."
Ken Kesey

A ritual is a set of actions, which are performed mainly for their symbolic value.  A ritual may be performed on specific occasions, or at the discretion of individuals, or communities.  We may come from families that observe occasions or achievements in particular ways.  How are birthdays celebrated, for instance? 

We may have observed communities other than our own engage in rituals that are unfamiliar and therefore intriguing to us.  Have you been on holiday and found yourself noticing how the locals do something that seems vastly different to what goes on back home?

Rituals may be performed by individuals, groups, or entire communities.  They can happen in arbitrary places, or in places especially reserved for this purpose; either in public, in private, or before specific people.  A ritual may be restricted to a certain subset of the community, and may enable or underscore the passage between religious or social states.

"Ritual is the passage way of the soul into the Infinite."
Algernon Blackwood, 'Sand'.

We perform rituals for a wide variety of reasons.  For some, rituals comprise an aspect of religious obligation.  For many more of us, I would suggest we perform rituals in order to satisfy our spiritual or emotional needs.  Rituals serve important purposes in this way.  They strengthen social bonds, and can entail social and moral education.  The performance of a ritual may include a demonstration of respect or submission.  It may be a statement of one's affiliation and therefore represent an aspect of identity.  Through ritual, we may obtain social acceptance or approval for some event.  Sometimes we employ ritual simply for its own sake - and the enjoyment we derive from it.

Rituals have featured in almost all known human societies.  Alongside worship and sacramental purposes, rituals have been used to acknowledge and celebrate the rites of passage of certain societies.  Rituals continue to be used at every stage of human existence, and many activities that are ostensibly performed for concrete purposes, are loaded with purely symbolic actions prescribed by regulations or tradition, and thus partly ritualistic in nature.

Rituals do not necessarily involve anything mystical. We all of us most likely have rituals - things we do to prepare ourselves for occasions... Ways in which we like to mark particular events, or achievements...  We perform rituals without even knowing it.  Everyday common actions, like shaking hands or saying hello may be termed as rituals. 

A few years ago I undertook the Hoffman Process.*  It was a recent reunion that prompted me to think back to the many rituals that feature as part of this 8 day residential program.  Meeting other graduates in the context of a formal reunion entailed a powerful reminder of the powerful process that we had all, at different times, been guided through.  I was aware of a tremendous sense of belonging, reminded of my membership by the presence of ritual that was familiar to everyone there present.

In this way, rituals are more than habits.  They are conscious attempts we make, often in our quest for a sense of belonging, or identity.  We may at different times engage in rituals to define or differentiate ourselves. 

Rituals help us feel safe.  The give us an opportunity to create constants amidst the inevitability of change.  They remind us of the past, and provide us something to hold on to while the world around us is in flux.  They aid us by giving us a sense of the things we do in fact have some control over.  In this way, ritual can provide both comfort and containment. 

"We seek to find peace of mind in the world in the word, the formula, the ritual. The hope is illusion."
Benjamin Cardozo

The Hoffman Process is an eight-day intensive residential course of personal discovery and development.  Held in a secluded country retreat in the UK, Ireland and abroad, the Process allows you to examine and better understand your life and reveals why you behave the way you do.  Published scientific research has also demonstrated the long-term positive effects that the Hoffman Process has had on relieving depression and anxiety.  To date, more than 70,000 people around the world have used the tried and tested Hoffman techniques to improve their quality of life and restore their relationships with friends and family.

Information evenings are held monthly for anyone interested in finding out more about the Process:

"You Can Change Your Life: A Future Different from Your Past with the Hoffman Process", Tim Laurence (2004).

In 1969 Bob Hoffman developed the principles of the process that bears his name.  In 1972 he put them into practice.  Initially a thirteen week program, in 1985 these principals became an intensive eight day residential seminar known as the Hoffman (Quadrinity) Process.  The process explains why you behave the way you do and will help you gain control of your own life. The four major components of the process are as follows:  (1) awareness (2) expression (3) forgiveness and (4) new behavior.

Hoffman believed that the blocks in our lives (which stifle creativity and success) could not be cast aside merely by talking out our problems to a therapist, but must involve the four essentials of his process.  He realized that people must heal emotionally and that this involves compassion for ourselves and our pasts.  The Hoffman Process offers psychospiritual transformation and helps a person develop (perhaps for the first time) a sense of self that does not rely on others.

Underpinning the Process is the premise that most of our behavioural patterns emerge due to our early childhood experience, and our relationships with our parents or caregivers.  If old hurts are still limiting our lives, it is because old reactions stick around unless we do something to rid ourselves of them.  The idea is that by emotionally revisiting and reliving these difficult times we can release blocked energy that has maybe been held in as fear, anger or depression.

Step 1 - Awareness - This initial step in the Hoffman Quadrinity Process is about recognising where we are now versus where we want to be.  Participants are guided through a process to uncover their (unhelpful) habitual patterns, and identify the roles they may have adopted which may be holding them back. 
These patterns are viewed and regarded as strategies we've adopted in order to cope.  They are the masks we've been wearing.  They are not inherently bad, and are not indicative of any failing or weakness.  They may not be useful or skillful to us today:  if we act a role all the time, it may become a prison. 

We can become aware of these patterns and traits by identifying situations in which we give our power to other people.  Through this process, we can learn to respond to situations rather than react to them.  Throughout the Process great emphasis is placed on deciding how we'd really like our lives to be and how we feel when we visualise our ideal.  Free writing and visualisation are both used to assist in the process of enhancing awareness.  Participants are encouraged and supported to pretend we are where we want to be, and to begin acting 'as if'.  When we see only negatives in ourselves and our lives, our energy resources are easily depleted.  Practising the opposite, enhances self belief and propels us towards what it is that we most desire.  The Process works from the inside out, and invites participants to summon their spiritual side, in order to treat it like a new friend, with whom you might want to spend time each day. 

Step 2 - Expression - To reclaim our power, it is necessary to express our old hurts and resentments. What we repress emotionally for too long eventually shows up in our bodies as dis-ease.  During the Process, you are guided back to your formative experiences, and supported to relive the hurtful parts of it.  All of this is done in a very safe environment, in the presence of extremely skillful facilitators who hold the group process.  Painful old negative feelings are amplified, in order to see very clearly that these are learned, rather than things we were born with. 

The next stage in the Process involves a dedicated opportunity to vent one's anger.  Anger is to be regarded as a friend, and a very useful emotion.  Through the Process I came to learn the benefits of releasing anger appropriately, and thoroughly.  Participants are asked to commit to do whatever it takes to mobilise their anger, before expressing it.  Rituals feature prominently, as the transition from past, into the present, and looking ahead to the future is highlighted.  The roots of old patterns are seen more clearly, and psychological, behavioural, emotional and spiritual liberation is both possible and realistic.  Boundaries are built, distinguishing ourselves from our generational inheritance, and the walls from which these are constructed are cemented with compassion.  The product is the freedom to be one's true self.

Step 3 - Forgiveness.  Moving on is the ultimate goal.  Part of this is made possible through the realisation that one's parents were probably doing the best they could, in the circumstances and with their resources at the time.  Even if this were not the case, it is possible for us to make an emotional investment by forgiving ourselves at a deep level, allowing ourselves to feel a source of inner strength.  Resentment is best cleared through expression.  The Process entails walking in to and through pain, until it doesn't feel as potent.  Next, we need to learn to feel love where we previously felt only anger or sadness.  A radical shift is possible that quite literally has the power to transform us from inside out.  The healing is profound, yet the process subtle.  Mind, body and spirit are regarded as integrally connected, and tears are used as another way of cleansing the heart: tears can help clear the blocked emotions that have prevented love from entering our lives.  Again, the mourning process is assisted and enhanced through ritual.  This allows participants to put to rest the past they no longer wish to relive.  Ritual is an excellent way to let the seen and unseen worlds come closer, integrating our conscious and unconscious.

Self forgiveness is a crucial component of the work.  Only be forgiving ourselves for our past mistakes and foibles can we start afresh.  Through the Process, individuals come to recognise the lifelong differences between our emotional and intellectual aspects (our thinking and our feeling).  Ultimately, to live more harmoniously, we must balance the needs of our emotional side with those of our rational side.  These two internal aspects of ourselves compete with one another and cause us inner conflict.  It is this conflict that gives rise to the familiar voices we're programmed into and which give us doubt, self criticism and other injurious and distorted beliefs.  The Process is designed to help individuals change themselves and bridge this gap by connecting to their inner intuitive wisdom.

Step 4 - New Behaviour - To live life fully it is necessary to feel.  Changing our belief systems can ensure that we don't repeat our past history.  Old fears can be transformed into courage and our shame can become self-respect.  When we really feel, we are able to experience the "big five" emotions - joy, anger, fear, grief and love.

The Process is about first changing yourself and how you perceive things to be.  Once you do that, it is possible for you to change your life.  Instead of rejecting present experiences as bad or unnecessary (guilt, anxiety, anger), we are taught to accept them and learn from them.  Along the journey, you work with kindred spirits and there is mutual support in abundance.  By coming to recognise the ghosts of our past, we are better able to avoid self-sabotage driven by fear.  You are given tools which make it far less likely that old patterns of behavior dictate your present and future.  The greatest assets we have are our intellect, and our emotions which can provide us with valuable warnings, if we permit them to.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Swimming with the Big Boys

It was quite a shock: there I was swimming along minding my own business, enjoying the freedom of a lane to myself, making rather satisfying progress without straining myself and, before I knew it, I felt a sudden change - I had arrived later than usual, and had swum into rush hour.  The lane immediately felt crowded.  I was joined by three other swimmers, all of who'd come straight from work.  They got into the pool, and pushed off, bringing with them the stress and strain of their day and their journeys and, what had been a peaceful swim, suddenly felt like an open water challenge. 

The splashing was incredible, transforming the environment into something quite unrecognisable.  The first thing to go in such circumstances is my breathing, and I felt myself thrown out of sync, gasping at inopportune moments, and inhaling lungs full of water.  Having been gliding along, inwardly rather pleased with my efficiency, I now felt as though I was swimming through a storm, with waves and tidal drag to contend with...  As we ploughed up and down, I tried to regain my composure, and as they threw themselves up from one end of the pool to the other, pausing for breath every couple of lengths, I held my own and tried to re-establish something of a rhythm, but it wasn't to be...  Along came an individual sporting a T shirt with the word 'Coach' and two A-board signs with the words 'Lessons in Progress'.  I felt a lesson was well underway but I was not yet sure of my curriculum.  The screaming started.  I felt as though I was swimming in testosterone.  Was this a lesson in tolerance?  Was it an opportunity to practice patience?  About 40 minutes in, having probably swum about 2k I decided it was time to call it a night.  Sometimes there's virtue in knowing when it's time to get out.  The pool will be there tomorrow...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Yoga: a good reminder of the importance of keeping the focus on ourselves

Attending a yoga class described as 'Intermediate/Advanced' was always going to pose a challenge.  I had no idea what this would look like until, 4 rounds of Surya Namaskara (Sun Salutations) into the practice, and I felt as though I'd visited the steam room on the way to the studio.  I was dripping.  My arms were shaking, and my hands were sliding all over the place. 

My energy levels were good, and I decided to give the practice my best shot, concentrating on my breath and attempting to regulate it, in spite of the exertions.  The class was pretty full, but bringing the focus onto my mat helped, keeping the focus on myself, and trying not to compare myself.  Yoga is, after all, not a competition, against myself or anyone else. 

I did what I could, mindful of aspiring towards progress, rather than perfection, and listening to the wisdom of my body, as I did my best to adapt certain postures, and surrendering when it came to forearm balances and handstands.
My body is unlikely to ever boast enormous flexibility.  The upward bow, or wheel pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) is probably unlikely.  But who knows, with practice and persistence, in theory anything is possible.  Having been attending more regularly over recent months, my practice has evolved to an extent that, while not yet beyond my wildest dreams, certainly beyond my expectations. 

Just goes to show, there's much to be said for showing up, and trusting the process.  Commitment is a prerequisite, not just in terms of attendance, but in each aspect of my practice, I renew my commitment, and try my best.  There are good days and bad days, on and off my mat, but when I remember to keep it simple, my body has the ability to surprise me. 

Sun Salutation

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Funny Business

"...When was the last time you laughed out loud?"

I have been known to ask this of a new client.  It prompts some funny looks, and it's not uncommon that I'm asked what it is that I mean.

Which confirms how important an assessment question this might be.  I see laughter as medicinal.  It's a well known fact that is perhaps too little remembered.  Laughter is a powerful antidote to stress, pain, and conflict. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hopes, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. 

"Laughter is by definition healthy."
Doris Lessing

The biophysiology of a good giggle
Laughter can trigger healthy physical changes in the body.  The physical convulsions we experience when we laugh move lymph fluid around the body, which strengthens our immune system.  Laughing boosts our energy levels, diminishes pain, and can protect you from the damaging effects of stress. Best of all, this medicine is priceless, and relatively accessible. 

With its considerable power to heal and renew, the ability to laugh easily and frequently is a tremendous resource for surmounting problems, enhancing relationships, and supporting both physical and emotional health.

"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter."
E. E. Cummings

A laugh a day, can keep the doctor away...
When we laugh we gulp in air, creating mini hyperventilation sessions which increases the oxygenation of our bodies, at both the cellular and organ level.  Laughter relaxes the whole body, relieving physical tension and stress. 

Laughter boosts our circulation and immune system, decreasing stress hormones whilst increasing immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving resistance to disease.


"Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects."
Arnold Glasow

"I'm thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose."
Woody Allen

The mind altering effects of laughing
Laughter triggers the release of all-important endorphins, the body’s natural 'feel-good' chemicals.  Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart, by improving the functioning of blood vessels and increasing blood flow, which can help protect against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.  The chemicals released when we laugh have extraordinary postive effects on our body and mind and can alleviate depression and stress. 

Laughter makes you feel good. And the good feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even after the laughter subsides. Humor helps you keep a positive, optimistic outlook through difficult situations, disappointments, and loss. 
More than just a respite from sadness and pain, laughter gives you the courage and strength to find new sources of meaning and hope. Even in the most difficult of times, a laugh - or even simply a smile - can go a long way toward making you feel better. And laughter really is contagious - just hearing laughter primes your brain and readies you to smile and join in on the fun.

Laughing with others is more powerful than laughing alone
Humor and playful communication strengthen our relationships by triggering positive feelings and fostering emotional connection. When we laugh with one another, a positive bond is created. This bond can act as a strong buffer against stress, disagreements, and disappointment.
"Laughter is the shortest distance between two people."
Victor Borge

Shared laughter is one of the most effective tools for keeping relationships fresh and exciting. All emotional sharing builds strong and lasting relationship bonds, but sharing laughter and play adds joy, vitality, and resilience. Humor is a powerful and effective way to heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts. Laughter unites people during difficult times.

"At the height of laughter, the universe is thrown into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities."
Jean Houston

 Humour allows us to be more spontaneous, getting us out of our heads, and away from our troubles and ruminations. When we laugh, we let go of our defensiveness, helping us to forget our judgments, criticisms and doubts. Humour releases inhibitions; when we laugh, we are able to let go of our fears and express ourselves more freely and truly. 

Laughter can dissolve distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing. Humour helps us relax and recharge, reducing stress and increasing energy, enabling us to stay focused and accomplish more. Humour shifts perspective, and allows us to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. This creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

...Don't you think it's time you had a laugh?

"A good time to laugh is any time you can."
Linda Ellerbee


Saturday, 20 August 2011

That 'Friday' feeling

Working a 5 day week, Monday to Friday, has its upsides, or so I'm told...  Over time, I've come to realise that I actually prefer spacing my commitments out, which means I quite often work across 6 days of my week.  For me, this is 'smart working', as it provides a rhythm and pace that I am attuned to, and feel most productive within. 

What this arrangement doesn't entail is a very clear 'week-end'.  Whereas others maybe finish their working week on a Friday afternoon, mine usually continues until the middle of Saturday afternoon.  It wasn't always thus, but this is how it is right now, and I've made a conscious decision to structure my time in this way.

Rhythm is important, it helps us sustain momentum, and I know that I work best when I there is a quality of 'flow'.  In terms of my working week, it is important that I create spaces, in order to sustain myself, and my replenish my energy levels, whilst reviewing my progress and acknowledging my achievements, in light of the sometimes seemingly endless to-do list.

Having a vantage point in any given week from which we can look both forwards, at what is to come, and backwards, reflecting on what's gone before comprises an important ingredient of the work-life balance our well being rests upon. 

Taking 'inventory' in this way allows us to chart our progress, and observe the direction in which we are travelling.  Unless there is a point at which we can stop climbing and survey the view, there's little point in ascending the mountain. 

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity, but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony."
Thomas Merton (American author, 1915-1968)

Taking a moment at the end of the week, before moving into the next, allows us an opportunity to recognise how much we do in any given week.  Reflecting on what how we've spent our time, and what we've produced as a result is a good way to check that we're doing what we want to do, rather than just what we need to, which is another important aspect of self care.

In any week, we need to have spent time doing things we enjoy, and things that we know we do well.  These activities allow us to connect with our sense of pleasure, and also the important sense of mastery.  Building this mini check-in into our weeks can be very helpful in the long term, as we are apt not to notice the passage of time, until we realise we've 'lost' it, or sense we may have 'wasted' it. 

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving."
Albert Einstein

Finding the balance is a very personal thing.  We are all built differently, and may have varied preferences as to our pace of life, and routine.  We all need breaks, that much is well documented.  For myself, I know I thrive on variety.  My own weekly set-up is, to my mind, a luxury for which I am grateful for (most weeks, at least).  It was not always an option.  Whilst it works for me right now, I am conscious that it may not at some point in the future, at which point I will be able to review it.  The important thing is to create the space to reflect on that which is within all of our control - how are we spending our free time, are we doing things we enjoy, and things we are good at? 

"One has to find a balance between what people need from you and what you need for yourself."
Jessye Norman (American musician, b.1945)

Enjoy your weekend...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Risky business: Helmet-free cycling

Insanity is to be found all over the place, particularly on the streets of London.  Today's primary example:  cyclists who adorn their handlebars rather than their heads with their helmets.  Today's second example:  cyclists who ride at night without any lights, and in the absence of adequate reflectors, or hi vis clothing. 

Travelling for even the shortest distance, without a helmet, represents a tragic invitation.  Without a helmet, the skull of an unfortunate rider whom, for whatever reason, comes off his bike, doesn't stand much of a chance against the tarmac, let alone a car windscreen. 

Not wearing a helmet makes little sense to me.  The standard response, when I've discussed this with those who prefer to take the risk is, to my mind, rather perverse:  they believe that, by not wearing a helmet (and presumably the same might go for any lights etc.) they cause drivers to be more cautious when driving alongside them.

Whilst this not only makes the critical assumption that the drivers to whom they refer see them, it is also baffling in its narcissism - for which there is little room on the streets of our great city.  The vast majority of road users are not, yet at least, moving around the capital mindful of only their journey.  I too, concede that my mind tends to be only partly on the road ahead, and on my mirrors, as I'm more often than not, thinking about where I'm going, where I've just been, or my journey ahead.  Add to that the sounds of the radio, whilst speaking on the phone, which is how other drivers pass much of their time in the car - and not always with hands-free) and we have a recipe for disaster...

Every year 17,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents on British roads.  Of these, 2,500 are killed or seriously injured. 

And that's not the whole story:  these figures only include the numbers of cyclists killed or injured in road accidents that were reported to the police.  It is well established that many cyclist casualties are not reported to the police, even when the cyclist is inured badly enough to be taken to hospital.  There could in fact be two or three times as many seriously injured cyclists and double the number of slightly injured.
About one fifth of the cyclists killed and injured are children.  Cycling accidents increase as children grow older, with 10 to 15 year old riders being more at risk than other age groups, including adults until about the age of 60 years.  To some extent, this reflects increased cycling as children grow older followed by a switch to motorised transport from the late teens onwards.  It also coincides with the age when children attend secondary school, and may indicate riskier behaviour by this age group.
Research suggests that male cyclists are far more likely to be involved in accidents than females; four out of five cyclist casualties are male.  Most cycling accidents happen in urban areas.  Around 75% of fatal or serious cyclist accidents occur in urban areas.  Not surprisingly, the severity of injuries suffered by cyclists increases with the speed limit, meaning that riders are more likely to suffer serious or fatal injuries on higher speed roads.  It is for this reason that almost half of cyclist deaths occur on rural roads.  Around 80% of cycling accidents occur in daylight.  For child cyclists, 90% of their accidents occur during the day.  However, cycling accidents in the dark are more likely to be fatal.

Head injuries, ranging from fatal skull fractures and brain damage to minor concussion and cuts, are very common injuries to cyclists.  Hospital data shows that over 40% of cyclists, and 45% of child cyclists, suffer head injuries.  A study of 116 fatal cyclist accidents in London and rural areas found over 70% of the cyclist fatalities in London had moderate or serious head injuries in London, and over 80% of those killed in collisions on rural roads.

The stats are chilling.  One cyclist is killed every two and a half days on Britain’s roads (146 people every year).  Six cyclists are seriously injured every day.  These are cyclists sustaining injuries ranging from broken bones to brain injury or paralysis.  37 cyclists are slightly injured each day.  This means 16,196 people suffer injuries on Britain’s roads every year.

Wearing a helmet cannot prevent a crash from happening but it can save your life.  Chances are, having it dangling in front of you won't do the same job. 
A way of assessing the risk involved with cycling in the UK is to consider (based on the risk per hour of travelling) the length of time one would have to travel to have a one in a million chance of being killed.
By air – 4,300 hours
By car – 10 hours
By pedal cycle – 2 hours and 40 minutes!

I remain conscious of the importance of free choice.  Wearing cycle helmets remains non compulsory, and this is clearly as it should be; what I can't understand is why people would take the risk.  Worse still, is parents who allow their children to ride on the road without this basic, though by no means guaranteed, form of head protection. 

Get a life.  Get a helmet.  Stay alive by wearing it...?  I know James Cracknell would concur...


"Collisions Involving Cyclists on Britain's Roads: Establishing the Causes", TRL Report PPR 445, 2009
"Road Casualties Great Britain, 2009", Department for Transport, 2010