The primary purpose of COST Action TU1101 was to stimulate collaboration and networking amongst European scientists working in the field of bicycle helmet safety and improvement. By gathering together in a single, collective Action, researchers can improve the collection and dissemination of data from across Europe, thereby stimulating and accelerating knowledge.
The Action researchers, Helmet OPtimization in Europe (HOPE), divided into four distinct Working Groups, each addressing the issue from a different perspective, for a period of four years. HOPE explored the various aspects of helmets and wearer behaviour by way of:
- In-depth accident observations and injury statistics;
- Traffic psychology;
- Impact engineering; and
- Ergonomics of thermal effects.
Although the COST Action’s primary objective was to encourage cross-European cooperation, HOPE was also able to produce concrete, tangible results, which can already have an impact on regulations and helmet design and manufacturing. These results include:
- Establishment of a Europe-wide database for bicycle accident reporting;
- Development of an international survey on bicycling behaviours, accidents and use of helmets, with more than 8,000 responses to date;
- Proposal of a new bicycle helmet test method, which integrates more realistic impact conditions and pass/fail criteria;
- Specification of design and manufacturing improvements that can significantly reduce discomfort, and thereby increase helmet usage.
In addition, numerous scientific papers and presentations were produced, and – perhaps most importantly – HOPE members received invitations to continue the research in other studies and collaborations.
There is a clear interest in continuing the work started by HOPE, and in continuing to collect and disseminate data amongst researchers throughout Europe. The COST Action was a starting point that created – beyond the actual results – a strong network of experts that will remain active after the lifetime of this COST Action. The network will remain connected through the research projects that already have been granted, and new future projects, for which our members will always find the right experts amongst the members of the COST Action.
The objectives of this COST Action were undoubtedly achieved. Nearly 60 researchers from 21 countries came together and shared knowledge, information and expertise in order to accelerate progress in effective helmet manufacturing and legislation. For perhaps the first time, the issue of bicycle helmets was addressed from an international perspective.
In addition to the tangible results that each Working Group was able to attain, HOPE researchers have also uncovered a variety of additional questions, conditions, theories and variables. These must all be explored further in order to obtain a clear, overall view of this topic from a European perspective.
In short, the topic of bicycle helmet manufacturing and usage is far from being exhausted. Only through further collaboration, investigation and discovery can true solutions be uncovered. And only through real cooperation amongst researchers can the various factors that influence helmet usage all be addressed simultaneously.
Safety is far from the only deciding factor as to whether or not a cyclist wears a helmet. Issues of comfort, culture, perception, convenience and quality must all be taken into account in order to find solutions that are acceptable to potential users. And it is only through further collaboration that those solutions can be found