/ Motoring

Should cyclists be legally required to wear helmets?

In the latest Which? magazine, we produced a full test lab report on adult and children’s bike helmets. While we recommend wearing a good quality helmet, there’s never been a law to make it mandatory. Until now…

A new EU report has proposed cycle helmets should be made mandatory for children up to the age of 13, as well as adding cycle safety training to the curriculum for all seven and eight year olds.

Reports from the Irish Independent newspaper also suggest that parents who allow their children to ride a bike without a helmet will face charges under new rules proposed by the Road Safety Authority. These rules could come into force in Ireland by 2016 if the government approves them.

But Ireland won’t be the first to impose a bike helmet law; bicycle helmets have already been made mandatory in 13 European countries, as well as New Zealand and Australia.

Cycle safety sanctions

There have been plenty of reports to support the use of cycle helmets spanning the last two decades. But an international review of the evidence gathered by the UK Department for Transport in 2009 concluded there was no reliable evidence that helmets resulted in a lower risk of head injury for cyclists.

While not mandatory, we think bike helmets are worth wearing when in the saddle – if you buy a good one. However, our testing found a few helmets that seriously underperformed.

For example, we awarded the Met Camaleonte Executive adult bike helmet our Don’t Buy status, having failed to meet the European Standard in our tests. We’ve even asked Met to recall the helmet. But do you think it’s better to wear a low-quality helmet than to not wear one at all?

But helmets aren’t ’cool’!

These new laws raise the question – can parents really be held responsible for the actions of their children to this degree?

For children heading to secondary school aged 11 and up, the potential for rebellion is greater (if my memory serves me correctly). I suspect the reality is that many kids will cycle round the corner, whip the helmet off and continue on their way.

And is it reasonable to have an age limit on wearing a bike helmet? Should it not be universally applicable? I’m also intrigued to discover how big the fines will be for parents of children who don’t wear helmets, and exactly who will be enforcing these laws.

In some countries, it’s illegal not to wear a helmet when cycling – but would you welcome these laws in the UK?

Should cyclists be legally required to wear helmets?

No - cyclists shouldn't be legally required to wear helmets (58%, 780 Votes)

Yes - all cyclists should be legally required to wear helmets (32%, 431 Votes)

Yes - but only under 13s should be legally required to wear helmets (6%, 77 Votes)

I'm not sure - I'm not convinced either way (5%, 68 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,359

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Comments
Guest
Peter Robinson says:
22 July 2012

In the countries with the highest cycle use, Denmark, Netherlands and Scandinavia cycle helmets are not worn except for racing. If all the money that has been spent on helmets in Britain had been spent on improving conditions for cyclists we would be in a better place. We should make it safe for ordnary people to cycle in residential areas without special protection, rather than seeking to blame the victim. I wear a helmet for more adventurous cycling but it should remain a choice for the individual to weigh the risks. The tiny risk of an injury that could be reduced by a helmet does not match the huge public health benefit of getting more people cycling.

Guest
Steve says:
25 July 2012

I agree. Read all about it at : http://cyclehelmets.org/ where you will see that there are also risks in wearing helmets.

Guest

Totally agree. I was nocked down by a car two years ago. (I had bright jacket, helmet, ride nicely on road, etc) My head was nowhere near the ground although I had a knee op as a result. Car driver simply did not see me exist. Road safty for cycles are more important.

And forcing helmet just add more cost to low income people.

Guest
Chris Wells says:
22 May 2014

I am in complete favour of cycle head protection. Your most precious organ is your brain and allowing it to wobble around at high speed , unprotected in modern traffic is pure folly. I have just returned to cycling after a long period away from it. It is fantastic, but in todays high volume traffic and the obvious tension between road users, it seems prudent to wear such protection. I have felt for many years that all cyclists should have annual taxation or at least third party insurance to give them some right to be on the road. I know this would improve their perception with motorists. Sorry to go off subject, but I know how emotive the whole subject of cycling and traffic is.

Guest
gavanvan says:
13 October 2014

does anyone out there not think that big business is involved in this propaganda involvig cycle helmets, there must be the potencial for millions of pounds worth of sales and you can bet theres an mp somewhere in the background promoting a law. id liken it to that ridiculous law the french brought out of carrying a breath test kit in your vehicle. they have a shelf life of 6 months, there are plenty of people who have never touched alcohol in there lives; what a scam and an ongoing one at that.

Guest
Andrew says:
23 July 2012

“There have been plenty of reports to support the use of cycle helmets spanning the last two decades.” Really? References please – those published or funded by helmet manufacturers don’t count).

Profile photo of Rob Hull
Guest

Andrew,

You can find a few example reports here: http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/digest/helmet_research.html but I also referenced reports that came out against helmets:

‘But an international review of the evidence gathered by the UK Department for Transport in 2009 concluded there was no reliable evidence that helmets resulted in a lower risk of head injury for cyclists.’

Rob

Guest
Theo Zeegers says:
23 July 2012

Yes, there are laws in Australia and so on and no, they don’t work.
Please read the recent superbig meta-analysis by Rune Elvik:
the effect of bicycle helmets in reducing the number of victims is close to zero, if positive.
the effect of helmets in reducing cycling is enormous (typically minus 25 – 35 %)

Also recent publications by de Jong (Australia ) are relevant.

All references to be found here

http://www.fietsersbond.nl/de-feiten/verkeer-en-veiligheid/fietshelmen

What is going on in UK and Ireland, is scaring people, not convincing them.

Guest
Alasdair Massie says:
23 July 2012

Absolutely not. “Compulsion” isn’t about making roads safer for cycling, it is about putting blame on victims and finding new ways to persecute people who go about their lives doing no harm, but doing it in a way that is “different” from the majority.

Is anybody pressing for helmets to be mandatory when we drive or walk down the pavement ? No, even though large numbers of people suffer head injuries while walking or jogging or travelling in motor vehicles. It is just discrimination. Well meaning sometimes, but still discrimination.

Guest
Anna says:
23 July 2012

Mandatory helmet laws are like introducing a bull to a china shop, and then blaming the china for getting broken when the inevitable happens.

Guest
Peter Clinch says:
23 July 2012

“Reports from the Irish Independent newspaper also suggest that parents who allow their children to ride a bike without a helmet will face charges”

Could be entertaining if this became law… This chap letting his son ride in just a cotton cap, would be asking for trouble! 😉

Guest
Bikecat says:
23 July 2012

Yes let’s arrest Wiggy for not wearing a helmet or letting his son ride without one! :-))

Profile photo of DaveH
Guest

Precisely, if people who ride bikes for a living see no problem with riding without a helmet, and having their children do likewise, then clearly it is a metter of choice. After all Messrs Hamilton & Button find it OK to put on flame-proof suits and helmets to drive their racing cars, but would hardly consider doing this to drive on a motorway, despite the far higher risk of a crash.

Guest
CJ says:
23 July 2012

It is estimated that in the Netherlands, helmetted cyclists account for less than 1% of the cycle traffic. But they account for 13% of cyclists admitted to Dutch hospitals!

The reason for this startling statistic is that in the Netherlands only sporting cyclists wear helmets – and riding a bicycle as fast as you possibly can really is that dangerous.

That’s why you don’t need to wear a helmet when using a bike for travel and transport, even though they are required for cycle racing. It is in fact, exactly the same as comparing ordinary motoring with motor racing.

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Guest

‘That’s why you don’t need to wear a helmet when using a bike for travel and transport, even though they are required for cycle racing. It is in fact, exactly the same as comparing ordinary motoring with motor racing.’

Motorcycle racing falls under the bracket of ‘motor racing’, so it’s not exactly comparable.

Guest
Paul of leytonstone says:
23 July 2012

Not only should they be required by law to wear helmets they should also be banned form using mobile phones whilst cycling or wearing headphones. Helmets save lives, using mobile phones is against the law for drivers of motor vehicles it shoull equally apply to cyclists for exactly the same reasons. Using headphone is also unsafe as many listen to very loud music and can’t hear sirens etc.

Guest
Bikecat says:
23 July 2012

Neither can motorists when they have loud music on in their cars. Or can they? Most cars are pretty well soundproofed nowadays. A cyclist is therefore OK as long as they are prepared to look around and behind a lot more often, especially before changing speed or road position. And of course one can hear sirens even with headphones on, they don’t on the whole stop outside noise coming in.
On mob phones, again the speed of a cyclist is so much lower than a car that although I personally think it’s silly to use a phone, the damage that can be done to others is minimal compared with cars and lorries and buses, all of whose drivers I have witnessed on the phone.

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Guest

Helmets save lives? Australia and NZ mandated cycle helmets. The result was a reduction in both head injuries and cyclists in absolute terms of about 30%. i.e., it made no difference to safety but dropped the number by cyclists on the road. A net negative effect. If you think helmets save lives show your evidence.

I agree the cyclists should be banned from using mobile phones but I should point out that whilst is illegal for motorists to do so it hasn’t in any way stopped the practice.

Guest
Bikecat says:
23 July 2012

And using the same logic, would you ban deaf drivers and cyclists??

Guest
Alan Jones says:
23 July 2012

I hope not! I’m Deaf and I drive and Cycle. Cycling from the age of 11 driving both Motorcyccle and car since 1972 I rarely wear a cycle Hemet, even when timetrialling, Only 2 years age I won the VTTA north Midlands group Best all Rounder title which Covers racing from 10 miles to 100 miles and a 12 hour event where I covered 235 miles in the alocated time. I am now 62 years old and I am still alive without a damned helmet. and yeas I have crashed once coming off at 35 mph slid along the road on my unhelmeted shaved head and all it did was take a load of skin off. The need to wear a cycle helmet is well over exagerated.

Guest
Rich Boese says:
24 July 2012

I’m seeing mostly the same arguments that motorcyclists had back in the 1970s when crash helmets were made compulsory. Basically, “it’s my head and therefore my choice”. Only people are generally too dim or lazy to make informed choices about such things so we need Nanny to decide for us. I always were a helmet.
In the last 25 years I’ve come off my bicycle loads of times and never even touched my head. Knees, elbows and hands always, but never my head, until this year when I was hit by a car and bashed my head on the edge of the windscreen. Got a small cut on my face, not concussion or a fractured skull which is what I would have got if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet. So the helmet helped. What it also did was ensure the Police, Ambulance and Doctors at hospital were a lot more sympathetic to me and recognised that I had done all I could to stay safe and reduce injuriry. They treated me like a serious and experienced cyclist, not some prat arsing about on a bike. It made prosecuting the driver and getting compensation easier.

Guest
Bikecat says:
24 July 2012

Actually you have no idea ‘what you would have got’. It’s just not possible to know with any certainty. It’s much more accurate to say ‘what I might have got’ .

Guest
Steve says:
26 July 2012

“They treated me like a serious and experienced cyclist, not some prat arsing about on a bike.”

I suspect you would have been taken just as seriously by the police and medical profession without a helmet, as no doubt would any other casualty without a helmet – pedestrian, motorist, ice skater, someone falling down the stairs, the list goes on. Ever stand up and knock your head against an open cupboard in the kitchen? My sister did and suffered concussion for a week. Helmets mandatory in the kitchen, climbing the stairs, out for a walk (especially under trees)? Some people swallow wasps or bees and get dangerously stung in the mouth or throat – Darth Vader helmets and masks for all?

A low incidence/risk event, although having a great psychological impact on the victim, does not create a case for unilateral panic protection measures, especially when as with cycle helmets the protection given is of dubious, even negative benefit. See http://cyclehelmets.org/

Guest
gavanvan says:
13 October 2014

if you have fallen off that many times do you not think you should find a different mode of transport. ive been cycling for nearly 60 years and fallen off once when i went from free to fixed wheel. never had a cycling related head injury never worn a helmet and never would. i stopped using a motor cycle because i couldnt stand the things on my head. i can honestly say i hate them with a passion, and i think they are dangerous things to rely on.

Guest
Ceri Woolsgrove says:
24 July 2012

On the effectiveness point; helmets are only supposed to have an effect on impacts up to 12 mph, and that is when they are worn perfectly. They are not built for impacts with motor vehicles, indeed the UK BS standard states that
“The level of protection offered is less than that given by helmets for motorcycle riders and is intended to give protection in the kind of accident in which the rider falls onto the road without other vehicles being involved.’

I think that many of the anti-legislation helmet-wearing arguments have been put forward here in the comments including the huge impact that legislation has on cycling numbers and the consequent impact on public health. But I was looking at the Hierarchy of Controlling Risk the other day (I don’t get out much) and it occurred to me how inefficient and ineffective helmets really are
Protective clothing is always the least effective measure, the least sustainable and the least preferred and is always the very last resort.

Can we apply this to cycling?

Guest
bugbear says:
24 July 2012

“But an international review of the evidence gathered by the UK Department for Transport in 2009 concluded there was no reliable evidence that helmets resulted in a lower risk of head injury for cyclists.”

Evidence, eh?

Profile photo of tim evans
Guest

Andrew: “References please”
Rob Hull: “You can find a few example reports here: http://www.cyclecraft.co.uk/digest/helmet_research.html

The most recent reference here is 2002, the earliest 1987. Only 13 of the 37 support helmets. 2 of those were predictions made in 1987 and 1990, which were not borne out by reality. Most of these 13 have critical comments attached by the list’s compiler (John Franklin) for their sample size and other flaws. Four of the other papers are neutral, 19 either do not support helmet use or come down against it.

One is not about cycle helmets at all: it concludes that helmets would protect car occupants better than airbags. See many previous comments.

So, Rob Hull, did you actually read this bibliography when you wrote your article: if so, why are you relying on a 10 year old source (albeit an excellent one, John Franklin), and why are you claiming that it supports recommending helmets? Or have you just grabbed it off the web in reply to Andrew’s challenge? Please give CURRENT references.

This, by the way, is from the abstract of the second item:
Rodgers 1988: “The most surprising finding is that the bicycle-related fatality rate is positively and significantly correlated with increased helmet use.”

Profile photo of Rob Hull
Guest

Hi Tim Evans,

It does say in the post above: ‘There have been plenty of reports to support the use of cycle helmets spanning the last two decades,’ with no suggestion any of this would be recent. And the sentence following then goes on to say that: ‘But an international review of the evidence gathered by the UK Department for Transport in 2009 concluded there was no reliable evidence that helmets resulted in a lower risk of head injury for cyclists.’ I’m in no way supporting any of this evidence, hence why the second sentence here nullifies the statement before it. Sorry if this wasn’t clear.

I was asked to give examples I was referring to over the past two decades, and as you point out, there are examples within that link. But as I’ve already stated, the DfT has said no evidence is reliable.

Thanks.

Rob

Profile photo of tim evans
Guest

Rob Hull: ” spanning the last two decades,’ with no suggestion any of this would be recent.”

Since the most recent report cited was a decade ago, the list you quoted does NOT span the last two decades: its spans the two decades up to 2002.

But you are trying to distract from the important point which is that the bibliography does not support your statement: ” plenty of reports to support the use of cycle helmets”. It lists plenty of reports NOT supporting the use of cycle helmets, and a few supporting the use, some disproved by later events and others methodologically flawed.

Please list the reports supporting the use of cycle helmets spanning the *second* of the ‘last two decades’, to which you are referring.

Profile photo of Rob Hull
Guest

Tim,

As you’ve already stated: ‘Only 13 of the 37 support helmets. 2 of those were predictions made in 1987 and 1990, which were not borne out by reality.’ As you have omitted two examples as they don’t fit within the (loosely implied) two decade bracket, are you not still suggesting 11 are in support of bike helmets reducing injury? It depends on how you define plenty, I guess.

Here’s three reports from the last three years claiming bicycle helmets can reduce injury anyway:

2011: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2011-06/uons-tio062211.php
STUDY CLAIM: Most comprehensive analysis yet reveals a decline of up to 29% in bicycle-related head injuries immediately after NSW mandated helmet use.

-2009: http://www.doh.state.fl.us/demo/InjuryPrevention/bicyclehelmet.html
STUDY CLAIM: In addition, from 2003–2009, the hospitalization rate for non-fatal traumatic brain injuries sustained in a bicycle crash was reduced by 32% among Florida residents ages 5–14 years old

2009: http://www.kdheks.gov/news/web_archives/2009/05142009a.htm
STUDY CLAIM: Bike Helmet Use Could Prevent 45,000 Head Injuries to Kids

As I have repeatedly stated, the 2009 DfT report says no evidence is conclusive to support that bicycle helmets will reduce injury. In no part am I supporting these studies, just raising awareness of why the EU report might be proposing the mandatory use of bicycle helmets for children, the topic this post is concerned with.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can help you with.

Rob

Guest
Ceri Woolsgrove says:
25 July 2012

The DfT have indeed said there is no evidence of helmets reducing head injuries. I can point you also to the European Commission working paper that looked into different measures to improve road safety and after looking through all the literature came to the same conclusion as the DfT.
“In conclusion, cycle helmets are likely to prevent minor wounds to the head, but
not serious, life threatening injuries. Moreover, helmet promotion has also been shown to
decrease cycle use (TRL, 1997): in all countries where helmet laws have been introduced and
enforced, there has been a substantial reduction in cycling. Instead, it seems that the greatest
influence on cycling safety is the number of people who cycle (Jacobsen, 2003; Robinson,
2005; Turner, Roozenburg, Francis, 2006).”

Guest
Roger says:
25 July 2012

If as is stated above in this conversation by Ceri Woolsgrove, the cycle helmet ‘standard’ applies only up to 12 mph and is not applicable in any accidents involving motor vehicles, then I suspect that this would come as something of a surprise to many people who have spent good money thinking they are more fully protecting themselves and their families..

In light of this, perhaps Which could consider that rather than appearing to support a push to promote the riding of helmets becoming law, the interests of the consumers they champion might be better served by a campaign to see all such cycle helmets sold with a prominent warning to ensure that potential buyers are aware of these obvious limitations-or perhaps with a warning that they are not to be ridden above 12 mph!

Guest
Stephen Taylor says:
26 July 2012

Though I do not personally support it, here is a case for *banning the use of cycle helmets on public highways*. (An exception should be made for organised road races.)

Where laws have made helmet-wearing mandatory for cyclists they have had two effects: reduced the number of head injuries and reduced the number of cyclists. The second effect is widely thought to result from a heightened perception of danger: cycling looks more dangerous when cyclists wear helmets. The first effect, once the lower number of cyclists is taken into account, is negligible. In other words, the only measurable result of requiring helmets is to reduce cycling. The outcome is a measurable harm.

Personally, I’m inclined to permit cyclists to wear helmets if they wish, but you can see the line of argument. Wearing a helmet deters others from using bikes to get about. There are always limits to how much we may harm others to improve our personal well-being. For example, although it would make me safer, I may not fit chariot blades to my car wheels. Cyclists who insist on wearing helmets on the public highway harm public health.

Hypothetical nonsense? I spent four hours on Monday cycling around central Paris. There were plenty of cyclists and most were women. No one was wearing Lycra and I saw only two cycle helmets the whole time – both on English tourists. Cycling fatalities last year: London 16, Paris 0.

Guest
Matt says:
26 July 2012

This should most definitely be an individual decision for many reasons.
The risks of cycling are not great you are about as likely to be killed in a mile of cycling as in a mile of walking so who is in favour of making pedestrians wear helmets?
The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks and experience in other countries has shown that helmet compulsion reduces the amount of cycling. The net effect on health of helmet compulsion would be negative.
Car drivers and passengers also suffer head injuries. Formula one style racing helmets for all car occupants would save more lives than any possible saving from cycle helmets so why not compulsory car helmets?
As a cyclist riding over 7000 miles a year I choose to wear a helmet and other special clothing when I go out for a days ride. I see no reason to wear special clothes and a special hat when I slip down to the local shop. In Holland where half the population cycle regularly hardly anyone wears a helmet and the idea of compulsory helmets would be laughed out of court.

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Guest

wear a helmet,u need more than that to keep u alive on roads today,ive heard of a few horror stories 1 man got killed in scotland a vans mirror hit him on the head without a helmet result killed instantly,many many more just google them

Guest
chrisD says:
2 August 2012

I drive to work or I ride to work. When I ride to work I wear a full light weight high Vis jacket. Dont even know its there. I put my helmet on. Can,t say i,m really like them because i feel they look a bit silly…mmm but I would look a little bit silly in a wheel chair or my brain being mashed. Which could lead to death or a life of misery because I am concerned of what other people think?? Just think of the cost to the NHS this causes for every serious indecent that occurs. and the pain of family’s involved. Perhaps if we cant agree on helmets, can we agree that all cyclists have to wear Hi vis Jackets so Vehicle drivers can see them and try and prevent accidents? And to ride a bike you should know the rules of the road to ride on them. Preventative Maintenance as I would call it. Oh out on my bike the other day and police car came by. We both stopped at traffic lights and the officer said its nice to see you stand out.!

Guest
Steve says:
2 August 2012

I would agree if your helmet would be likely to save your brain from a mashing, but in an accident bad enough to mash your brain it won’t. If you’re happier wearing a helmet, wear it. It’s no doubt a comforter and to some a fashion accessory. As protection it’s of doubtful value. As to high viz clothing – much more important. There’s nothing scarier for a driver than suddenly seeing a dark clad cyclist without lights appear in his dip beam against the dazzling lights of oncoming traffic.

Wear high viz, use lights and pedal reflectors. Bin the helmet.

Guest
Roger says:
3 August 2012

Agree fully that high vis makes sense, but as for the helmets, if it’s cost to the NHS you are concerned about, then there’s a stronger case for drivers wearing them.

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Guest

I will be wearing high-viz day and night now, following a nasty accident and shoulder injury. The driver said “I just did not see you”, it was midday and bright sunlight. Am still undecided about the helmet but I noticed that everyone involved (police, hospital, insurance etc) all made a pointed comment “I notice you were not wearing a helmet”!

Guest
Alan Jones says:
2 August 2012

WE fight wars to get rid of dictators, Keep Great Britain free, That’s why it is “Great” and let the rider decide.

Guest
gavanvan says:
13 October 2014

thank you. the shortest answers are always the best

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

We have had many comments that compulsory wearing of helmets discourages cycling. No-one doubts this, but why not address this problem rather than using it as an excuse not to wear protection?

Guest
John Stevenson says:
2 August 2012

wavechange – ‘Address the problem how? Re-education camps for helmet refuseniks? Massive, expensive and pointless advertising campaigns?

Pointless because helmets DO NOT SAVE LIVES. In all jurisdictions that have made them mandatory or where voluntary adoption has increased, thee has been no reduction in the number of cyclist deaths. None.

Pro-helmet jihadists, you have been fed a lie. Now please stop trying to foist it on those of us who’ve actually read the research and the stats.

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Guest

Cyclists always know best, John. I saw six on the road tonight and only one had lights, and all were wearing dark clothing. I had to avoid one who was weaving across the road. Another two cyclists were on the pavement.

Another excuse for not wearing helmets is that they are ineffective except at low speeds. I wonder why professional cyclists wear them.

I don’t think that I can be bothered to discuss this further.

Guest
John Stevenson says:
3 August 2012

Yes, we know best because understand the activity and the actual risks. But thanks for revealing your anti-cycling true colours with those red herrings. Like most pro-helmet jihadists what you want is us off the road. At least have the honesty not to pretend it’s for our own safety.

Profile photo of wavechange
Guest

I am not anti-cycling, John. In fact I promote cycling on a website, leaflets, etc.

I believe that I have been saved from serious head injury or worse by a motorcycle helmet. I was told this in hospital. I was riding slower than many cyclists and this was supported by police evidence. Thankfully, I escaped with concussion but the helmet was in a pretty poor state after the accident.

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Guest

John, please do not put other commenters in pigeon holes, and especially don’t use a potentially offensive description of them like ‘pro-helmet jihadists’. Everyone is entitled to their opinion – let’s keep the debate civil and stick to Which? Convo’s commenting guidelines: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

Guest
Richard Burton says:
10 August 2012

I’m sure John didn’t mean the term “pro-helmet jihadists” to be offensive, and anyway, it rather neatly sums up the fanatical belief some people have in cycle helmets. Their belief could indeed be described as religious, when all the data shows one thing but they believe the exact opposite as if it’s a matter of faith, not science.

If they ever make helmets compulsory, I’ll be starting a religion which will have a single belief: that we should not wear cycle helmets, and therefore it would be against my human rights to make me do so. I look forward to having plenty of converts, and I’ll try not to abuse the power. But not too hard.

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Guest

I agree that evidence (or at least the controversy surrounding the evidence) is ignored or selectively quoted by the cycle helmet proponents. Anecdotal evidence appears to underpin the majority of opinions.
A question of law? Lets say a law was to be passed mandating the use of helmets. If there was insufficient evidence supporting the safety efficacy of helmets (as is the status quo) surely anyone could claim that without any foundation in reason the law founded on religious grounds, and the courts have no more right to compel you to wear a helmet than they have to force you to attend church?

Guest
Richard Burton says:
10 August 2012

@skeptictan

I’m of the opinion that one of the reasons some people are so in favour of cycle helmet wearing and continually publish lurid stories and push for laws, whilst refusing to debate the issue, is that if this doesn’t succeed because of the evidence, the public might start to question other so called “safety” laws. Like motorcycle helmets and seat belts, both of which were brought in with no analysis of either the risk or the protective effect or any unintended consequences, and no post law analysis of their effect. Evidence that either of those laws has reduced risk is very much like that of cycle helmets, mostly anecdote, assumption and opinions of people not qualified to make a judgment.

The only such analysis as far as I know, was the Isles report, which examined the effects of seat belts in countries which already had them, before it was voted on here. It found that they did improve the safety of drivers, but increased the risk for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists, because of risk compensation by the drivers. Strangely, the report was never issued, but there is a copy on the web.

There is likewise evidence that motorcycle helmets haven’t reduced risk to motorcyclists.

Risk compensation is a fascinating subject and shows that if you don’t take into account people’s behaviour when introducing laws and rules, you can end up achieving the precise opposite of what you set out to do. Like cycle helmets.

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Guest

Hello all, with Bradley Wiggins coming out in favour of helmet wearing, we have put together a Conversation featuring some of your comments for and against compulsory helmets. See if your comment has been featured and then join the debate! https://conversation.which.co.uk/transport-travel/bradley-wiggins-compulsory-cycle-helmet-law-cycling-safety-olympic-park/

Guest
Alan Jones says:
3 August 2012

I don’t think that people who are against the helmet law are actually anti-helmet, I’m not trying to force anyone not to wear a helmet. So why do people who do wear a helmet all the time want to force there opinion onto everyone else. I am not anti-helmet I am in favour of wearing a helmet but I also enjoy riding with the wind flowing through my hair and do not want to be prosecuted for doing so. I am not hurting anyone. Keep the law to protect us from others not ourselves

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Guest

I’ve just closed the poll on compulsory helmets – here are the final results:

Should cyclists be legally required to wear helmets?

No – cyclists shouldn’t be legally required to wear helmets (57%, 780 Votes)
Yes – all cyclists should be legally required to wear helmets (32%, 431 Votes)
Yes – but only under 13s should be legally required to wear helmets (6%, 77 Votes)
I’m not sure – I’m not convinced either way (5%, 68 Votes)

Profile photo of m.
Guest

Only a total idiot, or someone seeking suicide would ride a bike up the inside of a lorry at a junction. Yet every year many cyclists do, and get seriously injured or killed. This is basic common sense, and the second thing I learned about cycle safety [the first was never, ever ride without lights at night as you are invisible to motorists].

Instead of avoiding this highly dangerous practise, cyclists demand that lorry drivers make allowances, so we spend money on special mirrors and training courses, to pander to the twits who believe it is their right to put themselves in danger this way, and everyone else’s responsibility if they come to harm.
From what I have read here, it is the same selfish anti helmet argument from the cycle lobby [I like to feel the wind in my hair????], they believe that only laws they agree with should be obeyed, others should be ignored for the most ridiculous reasons. Yet demand everyone else must obey laws they agree with.

If I were to refuse to stop for pedestrians on a zebra crossing because it would ‘slow my car down’ you would all think I am some crazy psycho, yet that is exactly the excuse I have heard cyclists use when they plough on across zebra crossings in use.

We need to ignore these selfish people, they give sensible law abiding cyclists a bad name, pass the cycle helmet law and prosecute those who ride without them. along with those who ride on pavements, without lights and through red lights.

If cyclists want to use the roads, do as everyone else does and obey the law, riding a bike does not make you special or place you above the law.

Guest
Steve says:
10 August 2012

Some of what is said here is true – ie be visible, especially at night, ride with an awareness of risk situations and try to anticipate the actions of other road users. However, the writer is perhaps not fully aware of the statistics relating to helmets, that decorative topping to the safety conscious, careful, visible cyclist.

Would a nanny state make us wear them? Not in the true definition of the term, since a nanny would form a reasoned judgement of our best interests and act accordingly. The state that would make us wear helmets based on personal prejudice and irrational personal judgements is another sort of state altogether, and I don’t think we want to go there.

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A nanny state made us wear seat belts, and saved thousands of lives in the process.
A nanny state made us wear motorcycle helmets and saved my life as well as hundreds of others.
A nanny state has banned smoking in work and enclosed public areas, and will save tens of thousands of lives.
To each of the above initiatives the arguments against mirror those being made the cycle lobby, and the statistics years later prove the nanny state was right.

If today’s helmets are not appropriate, then lets develop something that will do the job, and save lives and reduce the risk of serious injury, instead of manufacturing these ludicrous arguments.

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Steve says:
13 August 2012

Nanny state decisions:

Seat belts – probably good
Motorcycle helmets – maybe
Bicycle helmets – nope: just not proven, indeed the opposite if anything
Smoking in public etc – different thing: smokers thinking it’s ok to inflict their burnt offerings on non smokers: that’s simply inconsiderate in the extreme, and it’s a shame it needed legislation to stop it.
Living – very risky, especially for mountaineers, hang gliders, pot holers, base jumpers – the list goes on. We all make our choices and choose how safe we want to live. Main thing is we don’t jeapordise or annoy others, so apologies to anyone this has annoyed :).

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I thought that the imposition of motor cycle helmets was a bit of an imposition, but I got over it. Concussion following a minor accident made me very grateful that the government had decided we should all wear helmets. I’m glad that I didn’t have personal freedom on this and many other issues.

I appreciate that in a small percentage of cases, seat belts will do more harm than good. Let the government take its advice from those who have to deal with those cyclists that are unfortunate enough to suffer an accident and decide on the cycle helmet issue. Don’t forget that you can prove anything with statistics and pressure groups are remarkably good at doing this.

One of the main arguments against cycle helmets is that people would cycle less if they were required to wear a helmet. Sorry, but that is not a sensible argument, but might demonstrate a need for a good psychiatrist. 🙂

I think we are getting a bit carried away with personal freedom in this country. Let the experts advise the government on controversial issues and everyone else get on with it.

What is clear and non-controversial is that we need to spend more on making roads safer for cyclists.

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Richard Burton says:
14 August 2012

“A nanny state made us wear seat belts, and saved thousands of lives in the process.
A nanny state made us wear motorcycle helmets and saved my life as well as hundreds of others.
A nanny state has banned smoking in work and enclosed public areas, and will save tens of thousands of lives.
To each of the above initiatives the arguments against mirror those being made the cycle lobby, and the statistics years later prove the nanny state was right.”

As someone who has spent some time looking at the case for seat belts and motorcycle helmets, I’m intrigued by your assertion that statistics prove it was right to impose them. Could you post a few links to authoritative, peer reviewed research papers please?

As far as I’m aware, the data doesn’t show that either was effective.

The “ludicrous arguments” about cycle helmets don’t need to be manufactured as they are based on real world experience of those places with helmet laws, and that shows that the effects of such laws are large and negative, in health, pollution, sustainability, road danger and cost terms. The only positive is if you are a shareholder in the manufacturers.

The arguments for opposing a cycle helmet law do not mirror those of seat belts and motorcycle helmets, as neither driving nor motorcycling are health promoting, life increasing activities, rather the opposite in fact. Therefore it at worst would make no difference in health terms is participation in them dropped, and at best improve public health. Rather like cycle helmets though, there is vanishingly little evidence that either have improved road safety overall.

Your comparison with smoking is rather appropriate though, but in precisely the opposite way that you think. Regular cyclists live longer, are fitter healthier and fitter than the general public, so any logical public health policy would be completely committed to increasing it, especially as the risks are very low. Smoking is the complete opposite, and smokers live less long, are less healthy and less fit, with high risks of debilitating disease, therefore any logical public health policy would be committed to reducing it.

Since the only proven effect of helmet laws and promotion are to reduce the number of cyclists, it would be absurd to the point of insanity to promote helmets or propose a law.

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m
Couldn’t have put it better.

Now why should the motorist pay for improvements for cyclists?? In the UK the motorist pays for all roadways – not true in other EU countries. I think the cyclists should pay more on making roads safer for cyclists.

I propose the following conditions

1. All cyclists must show they can actually read and understand the UK highway code book – far too many completely ignore traffic signs and conditions or cannot read English.
2 All cyclists to pass a practical UK road test to gain a cycling license.
3 All cyclists to pay for a UK cycling license.
4 All cyclists of any age to pay an annual UK road tax of say £50 for road maintenance – why should other road users pay to give free road use to cyclists.
5 All cycles to have an Annual UK MOT say £10 to ensure all parts of cycle are in working conditions like lights brakes and tyres.
6 All cyclists to wear Hi Vis Jackets at all times and wear a suitable helmet.

I am convinced that too many cyclists do not know the highway code and/or blatantly ignore them.. A recent case (3 weeks ago) a local street is narrow and dense parking on both sides. A cyclist in dark clothing riding on pavement at night – decided without signalling in any way – to cross the road at speed between two parked cars directly in front of one car – causing one motorist to swerve to avoid him and swerve into an oncoming vehicle – the crash cost the motorists £1000’s for repairs. The cyclist did not stop. The “cyclist” was not injured – one motorist was very badly shocked. That is why cyclists should pay for the privilege of riding on our roads.

In addition I walk my three dogs in the same area – I am FORCED to walk into the road to avoid the irresponsible cyclists who completely ignore they should be riding on the road not the pavement.- nor do they slow down – so could easily scare my dogs very badly. One of my dogs cost £22,000 – repeat £22,000 as a pup.

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Richard Burton says:
14 August 2012

@ wavechange

“Let the government take its advice from those who have to deal with those cyclists that are unfortunate enough to suffer an accident and decide on the cycle helmet issue.”

That’s rather like basing lottery policy on the tiny number of winners, without bothering to consult the vastly larger group of losers. The people who see a tiny number of injured cyclists are not those who should be making decisions on road safety, as they have a very narrow view, and can’t see the wider picture, and often deny it. The benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by at least twenty to one, and probably by much more than that, so it is much more dangerous not to ride a bike than to ride one, and any reduction in the number of cyclists will negatively impact public health.

The only proven effect of helmet laws and propaganda is to reduce the number of cyclists, and therefore the effect is negative. Countries with helmet laws have demonstrated this clearly, so why should it be any different here?

“Don’t forget that you can prove anything with statistics and pressure groups are remarkably good at doing this.” But nowhere near as good as the helmet promoters! I always find it intriguing that the people who complain that helmet opponents misuse statistics don’t look at the much more serious and widespread abuse of statistics by helmet proponents, including claiming that all children admitted to hospital were there because of cycling, or to claim that helmets are 85% effective by comparing children wearing helmets cycling around parks with their parents to children without helmets cycling on roads by themselves. Totally dishonest, disproved, and immoral, but it’s still the most widely quoted statistic about cycle helmets.

“One of the main arguments against cycle helmets is that people would cycle less if they were required to wear a helmet. Sorry, but that is not a sensible argument, but might demonstrate a need for a good psychiatrist.”

Since a reduction in the number of cyclists is the only proven effect of cycle helmet laws, and it is firmly based on factual evidence, I’m assuming that you think the people demanding a helmet law require the psychiatrist. The only proven effects of helmet laws and propaganda are negative, so I can only agree that the people proposing such things are in need of some kind of therapy.

“Let the experts advise the government on controversial issues and everyone else get on with it.” And every expert who has looked at all the evidence has refused to endorse the call for helmet laws. The only people who do call for them are those with a very narrow viewpoint who refuse to look at the wider picture.

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Richard

I’m not promoting cycle helmets, but I am here because I am strongly opposed to silly arguments. If having to wear a helmet puts people off cycling, that’s the problem that has to be dealt with. Full stop.

I think we should agree to disagree.

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Richard Burton – the US CDC has recently published a study on motorcycle helmet use and claims that 79% of deaths in states without compulsory motorcycle helmet laws were riders without helmets, compared with 12% in those with laws. Overall, 42% of all US motorcycling fatalities involved those without a helmet. Link and citations at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6123a1.htm

Richard (just plain Richard) – as far as I can tell motorists do not exclusively fund roads through vehicle excise and fuel duties. I couldn’t find any references to motorists exclusively paying for roads, nor how you arrived at your cycling fee proposals or why cyclists should pay a road tax when cars don’t. Road tax it was abolished in 1937 and motorists now pay vehicle excise duty, which isn’t the same as funding is now through general taxation. In London, for example, TfL and councils maintain most roads, funded from my travelcard and taxes, amongst other income (congestion charge included, but again that is not paid by all motorists).

If it is a principle of opposing perceived ‘carriageway freeloaders’ than a more lucrative source may be overseas lorries that run heavily on our roads but don’t pay the same vehicle excise duties as native HGVs.

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Incidentally, Richard (Burton), I am equally opposed to those who use silly arguments to promote the wearing of helmets. Sometimes I think I should set up a pressure group against pressure groups. 🙂

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Thanks for the information, Jonathan. You point out that overseas lorries could be a source of additional funding. Perhaps some of the money used to fund projects to keep motorists and cyclists separate. Quite apart from the safety benefits it might help cut down bickering between them.

I’d like to point out that some motorists are paying little or nothing in VED, thanks to measures to encourage us to purchase more economical cars.

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Richard Burton says:
14 August 2012

@ wavechange

“I’m not promoting cycle helmets, but I am here because I am strongly opposed to silly arguments. If having to wear a helmet puts people off cycling, that’s the problem that has to be dealt with. Full stop.”

Please explain why you consider what is a clearly demonstrated phenomenon, and the only proven effect of helmet laws, is a “silly argument”? I’d really like to know.

I’d also really like to see your data to support your claims of motorcycle and seat belt effectiveness.

Guest
Richard Burton says:
14 August 2012

@ Jonathon Richardson

Thanks for the link, it does indeed reach the conclusions you say it does, but I would be very careful of accepting it at face value, especially when one of the papers they refer to includes one from the biggest liars about cycle helmets, Rivara.

There is also some research which looks at pretty much the same evidence and comes to rather different conclusions. I well remember a similar claim made about an area of Italy, which introduced a motorcycle helmet law, and it was proclaimed a success when deaths to motorcyclists fell by about 30%. It wasn’t until you got to the appendices that it was revealed that motorcycle registrations had fallen by over 40% and risk per motorcyclist had gone up, not down.

Also take a look at http://www.bikersrights.com/statistics/goldstein/goldstein.html

The figures for motorcycle helmet effectiveness in preventing death appear unlikely, given the relatively high speed of motorcycle collisions, the likelihood of other mortal injuries, and that even a motorcycle helmet doesn’t prevent catastrophic brain injury over about 16mph.

Like most people, I used to believe all the stuff told to us gullible public about safety, until I started researching cycle helmets, and found out that most of what we were told was assumption, or bad science done by biased researchers. Now I’m much more sceptical of such claims.

The BBC had a R4 programme last year, called something like “Where did it all go right” and one episode featured seat belts, which they claimed had been fantastically beneficial. To support this, they rolled in Barbara Castle, the Minister who introduced the law, and some academic that I’ve never heard of, but they didn’t produce any data to support that view. They very briefly interviewed John Adams who said that seat belts hadn’t saved any lives, and told them why, but his views were dismissed with barely concealed ridicule.

Risk and human reaction to it is a very complex subject, and simple things like putting helmets on people is unlikely to prove effective, and in the case of cycle helmets, would be completely counterproductive. I can really recommend “Risk” by John Adams.

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As John Ward suggests below, it might be a case of education to deal with the problem that a requirement to wear helmets discourages cycling.

As I have said above, I think we need to take expert advice over matters such as cycle helmets, motorcycle helmets and seat belts. I would start by seeking the opinions of those involved with dealing with injuries and post mortems. The situation with seat belts might be different now that cars have airbags. If we can segregate cyclists and motorists in cities, that could make a major difference to the safety of cycling.

My mind is not made up. Can you say the same, Richard?

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Richard Burton says:
14 August 2012

@ wavechange

“As John Ward suggests below, it might be a case of education to deal with the problem that a requirement to wear helmets discourages cycling.

As I have said above, I think we need to take expert advice over matters such as cycle helmets, motorcycle helmets and seat belts. I would start by seeking the opinions of those involved with dealing with injuries and post mortems. The situation with seat belts might be different now that cars have airbags. If we can segregate cyclists and motorists in cities, that could make a major difference to the safety of cycling.

My mind is not made up. Can you say the same, Richard?”

I can’t help thinking that quoting someone quite as misinformed as Mr Ward is really quite as conclusive as you think. He says a lot, but produces no data to support what are just his opinions.

Why do you think that the only experts consulted should be those who see the unrepresentative and incredibly rare instances of death and serious injury? Their viewpoint is coloured by their experiences and they likely to make invalid assumptions about the effectiveness of helmets, as they are not mechanical engineers and are unlikely to know much about the causes of collisions. It would be far better to get epidemiologists to examine the evidence and decide whether a course of action works at a population level.

My mind is made up, but I’ve looked at all the publicly available evidence, so my opinion is based on as much factual evidence as I’ve been able to find. If evidence is presented which conclusively proves that cycle helmets are effective, I will change my mind. The chances of that happening appear to be somewhat unlikely when more than twenty years real world experience from countries with helmet laws haven’t been able to prove it, and all research which has looked at all the evidence has been unable to show it either. In any other case, the data would be accepted and there would be no further argument, but with cycle helmets, there are so many people convinced by 25 years of propaganda that they are effective, that they keep arguing, when all they have is anecdote, opinion and assumption.

I’d still like to see your statistics about motorcycle helmets and seat belts.

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@ Richard Burton. Well said.

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Richard Burton

Wearing seatbelts and motorcycle crash helmets is required by law, so I’m not going to question this. As I have said, there may be a case to review use of seatbelts now that cars are fitted with airbags, but I suspect that seatbelts protect front seat passengers from the airbags!

I’m a scientist and know that statistics are frequently misused, for example by disregarding relevant facts. Let the experts decide on important issues. Hopefully they are aware of the limitations in their understanding, unlike members of the public who are often very vocal but often poorly informed.

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Richard Burton says:
14 August 2012

@ wavechange

“I’m a scientist and know that statistics are frequently misused, for example by disregarding relevant facts. Let the experts decide on important issues. Hopefully they are aware of the limitations in their understanding, unlike members of the public who are often very vocal but often poorly informed.”

I’m sorry, I don’t quite understand: what kind of scientist ignores the evidence, and believes clearly wrong and manipulated statistics?

I’m also happy to let the experts decide on important issues, but I’d like to use experts who actually understand the whole problem, not those who see a tiny fraction of it. Would you be happy to have epidemiologists examine the evidence about cycle helmets and provide recommendations? Or just the experts who support your preconceived position?

I can only assume that your last phrase was self-irony of the most profound kind.

Still waiting with bated breath for your stats on seat belts and motorcycle helmets.

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I’m sorry if you don’t understand and I believe that further discussion would be worthless. That is a good reason to discontinue our dialogue – so no more comments directed at me, please.

To put my last point in perspective, I am happy to admit that I am not an expert. You have not given me any indication that you have any specialist knowledge either. However, I am open-minded on whether cycle helmets should be compulsory, providing the decision is made by experts who have the experience that most of us lack.

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Stephen Taylor says:
10 August 2012

Those who propose making helmets compulsory when cycling need to answer this question: May one remove the helmet after getting off the bike, and if so, why?

Answers need to take in to account the statistics that show more head injuries are suffered when walking or in a motor vehicle.

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Then why leave your house at all? as statistics show more people are killed outside of their house than within it.

I don’t know the ratio of those who die in bed to those who don’t, but very few people die in or are injured in wardrobes, so we could all live in one, ,and be comfortable safe.

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I’m not sure about the wardrobe, m. Don’t you remember the accident statistics published about ten years ago? They identified trousers and socks as frequent causes of accidents. From memory, they were not in the same league as tea cosy-related injuries.

Great things statistics, especially when used selectively by pressure groups.

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Wavechange.
And the wire coat hangers, the eye piercing, palm puncturing demon spawn of, baling wire and knitting needle.
Those are deadly and they live in wardrobes too….I am now scaring myself.l

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m.

Well, I used to have a dual-beam oscilloscope in a wardrobe, but never any baling wire. 🙂

I’m keen that we should do more to encourage certain colleagues to question statistics that they report on Which? Conversation. You have a more inventive mind than me.

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Mr R A Matthews says:
10 August 2012

Surely we had all this sort of objections when seat belts were first brought in, how many motorists are alive to day due to that law being brought in. As a cyclelist having had a bad accident going to work in the early 60’s with no helmit. It was pitch dark and a black cat decided to run across the road and threw me off my cycle. I was brought around in hospital having been conveyed there by ambulance, My injuries were a badly cut head requiring stitches and was very badly cuncused. The fact it was in the early sixties that I can now write this comment, If it was yesterday or today with the traffic we now have on the road I would have been surely run over due to my concussion and I am sure the helmets you can purchase to day would have prevented that possibility. Also even today if you have an accident with out a helmet you will possibly, receive less award against any one, due to the fact you would have contributed to your injuries for that very reason. As for yougsters flouting the law I should think that is quite easy, what we must all understand young & old it is a privelidge to ride and drive on the Queens highway, not a right and their cycles should be withdrawn form their ownership until they understand that privilidge. There is another big reason for helmetts the national health service requires all the assistance we can provide and I am sure that helmetts will keep injury’s to a minimum

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Steve says:
11 August 2012

I can go one better than a Ninja cat throwing you off your bike – some 30 years ago I had a deer stick its antlers in my front wheel, sending me over the handlebars. The bike then sailed over my head, something giving me a slight cut on the side of the head. I had to wrestle the bike back from the deer, his antlers still entangled in the spokes.

I lost a chunk of flesh out of my elbow, which had to be “darned” by a doctor, who said he could see into the joint.

If I had been wearing elbow protection I would have been saved injury. I didn’t knock my head so didn’t need a helmet. So based on my experience it’s elbow pads not helmets we need…

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Commenting on Stephen Taylor’s remarks above, a large percentage of the head injuries sustained in motor vehicles are because the head restraints have not been adjusted correctly as required by law. This is almost impossible to enforce, and therefore isn’t, so there is a huge cost in medical treatment and insurance claims. I am not personally in favour of a new law to compel the wearing of cycle helmets but if – in response to EU legislation – it comes into place [for <13's let's not forget] then at least it would be easy to enforce and would, ultimately, be self-enforcing so the demands on our traffic police would not be greatly extended – indeed, even PCSO's and parking enforcers could do it.

The financial impact of cyclists' head injuries is not transferred to the cycling community in the same way that motor vehicle injury compensation is transferred to car-owners through insurance premiums. I share a lot of the views richard has put forward above [14:08:12] and wholeheartedly agree with m.'s contributions.

I wonder how some of the contributors to this column who are vehemently antipathetic to any form of head protection would react if their parents or spouse/partner or children requested them to wear a safety helmet.

I haven't yet seen any arguments to suggest that wearing a helmet increases the actual risk of riding a bicycle. I acknowledge the argument that the universal wearing of helmets at all times on all roads might be conducive to a "risk compensation" psychology among vehicle drivers. This is probably the issue that really should be addressed and, as wavechange has said, the tendency for cycling popularity to wane as a consequence of compulsory safety helmets would repay greater examination and corrective education.

It seems to me that the there are two things the cyclists-against-helmet-law are afraid of: [1] a possible reduction in the popularity and uptake of cycling [for which health benefits are an unconvincing explanation under existing environmental conditions], and [2] that a law introduced to protect the young and more vulnerable [who are also less able to make risk-based judgments on when and where to wear additional protection] might over time be extended to encompass the entire population at all time, on all permitted roads and cycle paths, and in all conditions. I do think most sensible cyclists are capable of mature and experienced judgments and the evidence for that is visible on our highways every day so a general law is not required. Those who cycle on footways, use no lights at night, ride dangerously, and have no regard for their personal safety and that of other road users nor for the thoughts of their families and friends, are in a different category and can be dealt with either by existing legislation or through the condemnation or despicion of the rest of us.

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Mantequilla says:
14 August 2012

John, it’s about personal choice. No law should be blindly invoked solely on the instruction of the euro-politicians as it is undemocratic.

If you take the smoking ban as an example (and ignore the “saving lives” part for a minute), here in England we invoked a blanket ban and everywhere is now non-smoking. However, in Germany, they sent their top lawyers into action and discovered that you can indeed have smoking rooms and also smoking pubs without contravening European law. They are given a choice.

The issue here is the British government’s seemingly endless subservience to European initiatives without carrying out due-diligence. In Britain it seems as if the mantra is “it COULD save lives so we’ll make it law”, eroding more civil liberties as they go.

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A democratic plebiscite and Parliament have taken us into the EU and we might one day have a chance to reverse it. Until then I suspect we have no choice but to adopt and incorporate the EU’s laws – a large number of which have been promoted by the UK – indeed, our own government has frequently sought to ratchet others up a notch or two [with Which? support in many cases]. Like members of any club, we’re not in a position to pick and choose the rules we can obey or disobey.

I was not aware that the smoking in pubs ban came from the EU but, anyway, our own Parliament had a choice of how to implement it and – after extensive consultation – chose the present arrangement. A different Parliament could change it again and would no doubt do so if the government thought there were any votes to be gained thereby.

Getting back to mandatory safety helmets for young cyclists . . . If we do indeed implement the proposal I would put money on no UK political party standing out against such a change in the first place or seeking to revoke it subsequently [well, UKIP might I suppose – bet cancelled!].

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Anyone who does not adjust the headrest of a car is negligent. One some cars, headrests are quite difficult to adjust, and I find it embarrassing to do this I am a passenger with anyone I do not know well. I should not be so stupid and just get on with it, but a bit of publicity about the benefit of correctly adjusted headrests would make it easier.

It is interesting how we differ in the risks we take and how a near miss can change our outlook. When I was a teenager I ordered a new front brake from the bike shop but decided to take the risk and go for a ride on a warm day despite only having a back brake. Over 45 years later I still have a scar near my elbow thanks to a long hill, a bend, some gravel and the back brake failing. Ever since then I have been very careful about keeping bikes, motorcycles and cars in a safe condition.

Sorry to be off topic.

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Tim Beadle says:
14 August 2012

“I haven’t yet seen any arguments to suggest that wearing a helmet increases the actual risk of riding a bicycle.”

* Ian Walker’s overtaking study? http://www.drianwalker.com/overtaking/
* Risk compensation? http://cyclehelmets.org/1180.html
* “Choose the yum and risk the yuk?” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/8019357.stm

Risk’s a funny business, as is the Law of Unintended Consequences.

That there are people who are suggesting that cyclists should be “educated” to keep cycling with a lid on should a law be introduced is hilarious, were it not for the fact that these people are serious.

NOT EVERY PERSON ON A BIKE IS THE SAME, OR HAS THE SAME LEVEL OF RISK AVERSION. Some will carry on cycling, some will think “stuff this for a lark, I’ll go by some other form of transport instead”, possibly by car, leading to greater road danger for everyone else.

People keep asking for the “experts’ views”. They’ve already spoken. In the words of Dr. Ian Walker (referenced above): “I do not know whether or not bicycle helmets save lives. And, critically, nor does anybody else.”

There is not the level of evidence that a major medical intervention, which is what helmets are, requires.

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Mantequilla says:
14 August 2012

John,

There are many elements of the EU which are beneficial. If you want to come and work in Spain, you can, without having to get a Visa.

I think you see my point though, the UK government chose to implement their interpretation of the law, that being a blanket ban and no choice for the UK consumer. In Germany they simply gave their population a choice, something that the UK government will never do.

That is the point, there should be no law forcing kids to wear cycle helmets, if parents want to protect their children, why should the state have to do it?

Parents need to take responsibility for their children, otherwise it wouldn’t even be considered. In Europe, personal responsibility is a mantra for many nations and you can see it in the way they don’t cow-toe to the US blame culture or EU dictatorate.

Leopold

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John Ward, In response to your comment that you haven’t yet seen any arguments to suggest that wearing a helmet increases the actual risk of riding a bicycle then read is suggest you Google Dr Ian Walkers controlled study on overtaking which showed that drivers overtaking cyclists allow less space to helmeted cyclists than non helmeted cyclists.

Yours comments appear to indicate that you object to the tax payer cross subsidising the risk of head injuries in cyclists. The BMA has stated that the health benefits of cycling greatly outweigh the risk and consequently put less strain on NHS resources than non-cyclists. I assume you are also against the cross subsidisation of smokers suffering from cancer?

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Two more conditions I want imposed on cyclists.

7 – All cyclists to have 3rd party Insurance – why should I – as a motorist or motorcyclist – have to have insurance but cyclists not – even though motorists have to pay for their share of accidents.

8 – All cycles to have and display a license plate like motorcyclists – so they can be identified by CCTV. If this had been the case recently – The idiot cyclist in the case reported earlier would have been identified rapidly. And it would allow CCTV to identify all those moronic cycling idiots who transgress traffic laws daily and are a danger to the rest of the driving public.