It seems like the Daily Mail have done some digging, using the Freedom of Information Act to reveal that there have been 5 injuries since the scheme started. 5 injuries among 500,000 hires isn't a horrific rate, although there is the usual problem with under-reporting.
They quote road safety charity Brake as saying
"Schemes like the Barclays Cycle Hire project are great but some kind of helmet is surely imperative when users have to travel on such busy roads. It must be looked at. Wearing a helmet consequently can prevent some fatal or serious brain injuries."
However, it doesn't quote the same charity as saying "More than 16,000 people are killed or injured while cycling on Britain’s roads each year. Brake wants to encourage you, through this site, to help us campaign for increased awareness of the dangers faced by cyclists, safer facilities for cyclists, and slower traffic. You can make a difference and save lives!"
Of course it doesn't, because that would spoil the story that cyclists are to blame for their own misfortune for failing to protect themselves. Or at least the cycle hire scheme is to blame. Motorists aren't to blame, of course, and neither is the lack of safe cycle routes, although there are no details of how the 5 injuries were caused, except for the following very sloppy sentence:
"In two separate incidents, the cyclists, who were not wearing protective hear gear, were rushed to hospital where they received emergency brain scans after after crashing in a refuse truck and falling off the hire bikes."
What is 'hear gear'? Is it a hearing aid? What is 'after after'? How do you crash 'in a refuse truck' if you are on a bicycle? I imagine the cyclist wasn't in the refuse truck at the time, and crashed into the truck instead? And the other one fell off due to some unspecified cause? None of this explains the causes of the crashes, but even if it did, I don't think I'd trust the word of a journalist who manages to pack three grammatical errors into a single sentence.
(Note to self: must run this post through the spelling checker to avoid looking a total prat).
The Mail have also failed to think through the idea of TfL supplying helmets. How on earth would that work? Even if you could stop them getting stolen or damaged, I'm not sure I'd want a helmet that was previously worn by hundreds of other people and smelled like a wrestler's jockstrap.
It'll be interesting to see if the other papers pick up on the story: hopefully they'll make a better job of the English if not the politics. It's worth noting that 5 relatively minor injuries to cyclists would normally not even make the middle pages of a local paper. Getting cycling in the media spotlight is one of the effects I predicted the cycle hire scheme would have...