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Bicycle safety is certainly on-topic. For example:

  • How to find a helmet that fits
  • Safety vests and visibility strategies
  • Lighting

But what about potentially inflammatory topics such as:

  • Should I wear a helmet?
  • Is it safe to listen to music while cycling?

I'd like to have something to point to when people ask why something is off-topic. If the community decides to allow helmet arguments, for example, I'm fine with it but we should have a way to address anything that turns into a flame war (which I don't think has happened yet). If we can find a way to debate these flame-worthy topics on this forum, it'd be great, but it would have to fit within the SE Q&A format.

I'll keep this updated with the consensus as to what's on topic and what isn't.

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The questions you cited as examples don't appear to be looking for an answer. If questions like that are inflammatory topics (I'll have to take your word on that), they are more likely looking to start a discussion and a debate — and an argumentative one at that.

Debates like that are better suited for a blog or a traditional, threaded forum; not a Q&A site. It's best to close them as:

subjective & argumentative — It's impossible to objectively answer this question; questions of this type are too open ended and usually lead to confrontation and argument.

  • I'm curious as to how you determined that none of those questions was looking for an answer? – Kara Marfia Sep 24 '10 at 11:38
  • @Kara Marfia: I didn't determine that. I took the word of the author that his examples were flame bait. And, in the general case, when obviously inflammatory questions are asked, the author usually isn't really interested in having the question answered. They are more interested in feeding the heat of the argument; not to resolve the issue, per se. – Robert Cartaino Sep 24 '10 at 14:12
  • That must be the helmet question. My question got lumped in with that one, and I'm thinking, "How did I give the impression I was trolling?" ;) – Kara Marfia Sep 30 '10 at 12:47
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Whilst it is possible to have a reasonable discussion of, say, the benefits of alternative medicine, it isn't likely on the internets. Direct discussion of whether helmets, headphones and blinking lights is likely to descend into emotional anecdotes rather than a reasoned exploration of mechanism and statistically-significant data. Narrow questions on specific areas might work (although that rather invites framing).

  • ( FWIW, my reasoned opinion for real cycling: blinking lights - I think so, with no real evidence; headphones - wtf?; helmets - don't be absurd - if I had to wear a helmet, I wouldn't cycle. ) – Tom Hawtin - tackline Sep 4 '10 at 14:50

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