/ 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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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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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).



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.’


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


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