/ 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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Kim says:
20 July 2012

Why are WHICH giving biases information on this issue? The value of cycle helmets is far from clear cut. There is a lot of vested interest and scaremongering surrounding cycle helmets. As a consumer organisation WHICH should be ashamed of being involved in this mis selling, the supposed benefits of cycle helmets have been massively exaggerated. Next they will be telling us that the MMR vaccine cause autism and that mobile phone cause brain tremors. Both have been promoted in medical journals and the same level of flimsy “evidence” and abuse of statistics.

QPR says:
20 July 2012

Well said – the last review of helmet efficacy suggests 63% effectiveness – in MINOR collisions

Richard Burton says:
23 July 2012

@Rob Hull,

I don’t know why Kim thinks you’re biased, but I know why I think so: there are statements made in the article promoting cycle helmets, when all independent research shows that they are not effective at improving the safety of cyclists.

Your statement above “I hoped to open the debate on what you all think about helmets and from our testing have found they are good for protecting your head.” demonstrates your bias, and is not accurate. You found that some helmets are better at passing laboratory tests than others, but you have completely failed to demonstrate that those tests translate into reduced risk for cyclists. All the reliable, independent research shows that cycle helmets at best make no difference to the risk, and at worst, increase it.

I find it quite concerning that Which? writers apparently don’t understand the difference between laboratory tests and real life. Given that the results of the laboratory tests and real life are diametrically opposed, which do you think is wrong? Totally artificial constructs or real life?

Richard Burton says:
25 July 2012


You’re right, your article doesn’t explicitly refer to reduced risk, but it does say “While we recommend wearing a good quality helmet…” and “While not mandatory, we think bike helmets are worth wearing when in the saddle….”

The very clear implication of these statements is that wearing a helmet will reduce the risks of cycling. If they don’t mean that, please tell me what they do mean and why you recommend wearing one?

I’m afraid I have to stick to my original position on testing, and it cannot be relevant to test something for performance in a laboratory when it has been conclusively shown that it does not perform its function in real life. Many helmets used to be made to the higher standard of the Snell organisation, and the standards today are significantly lower. Snell approved helmets used to make up a significant proportion of helmets, but the evidence doesn’t show that they were any more effective. If helmets tested to a higher standard can’t be shown to have any beneficial effect, testing them to a lower standard hardly likely to demonstrate any beneficial effect either.

The laboratory tests may be controllable, repeatable and comparable, but if those test factors don’t affect real life performance, they remain irrelevant to real life performance. Your comparison with cars is also irrelevant, as it’s impossible to tell whether any particular car is rated higher, but it immediately obvious whether a cyclist is wearing a helmet.

Until the recommendations to wear a helmet, against all the reliable evidence, are withdrawn, it must be considered that Which? is biased.

Richard Burton says:
26 July 2012


the only measure of quality that you are using are irrelevant laboratory tests, so the recommendation to wear a “good one” is based on irrelevant information.

Laboratory tests are highly artificial, do not resemble real life and whatever the quality of the helmet as defined by those tests, wearing one doesn’t appear to change outcomes, which is really the problem with them: they measure something irrelevant to outcomes. It doesn’t matter how good a helmet is in your terms if what you’re measuring has no effect on outcomes.

I repeat my question: since laboratory tests and real life results are diametrically opposed, which is true?

QPR says:
20 July 2012

I think we have to ask quite seriously: who are the ones who call for cycle helmets to be mandated?

– the car industry
– motoring lobby groups
– non-cyclists
– people who have experienced something traumatic and want to make a difference but a) lack the forensic knowledge of collision and b) most probably have little involvement with cycling themselves
– people who have a vested interest in cycle helmet sales

We also have to ask what is the risk?

– there are 13 million UK cyclists
– 32 million drivers
– Around 20,000 cycle collisions a year, 130+ killed and 3000 seriously injured (Dept for Transport 2011 stats)

Who are they being injured by?
– 2% of all cycle collisions (police study PPR445) are down to an injudicious practice of riding unlit
– 6% of all cycle collisions are down to other injudicious actions (eg running a red light, leaping into the road from a pavement, etc)
– most are injured by motorists (the majority, eg failing to overtake safely, or pulling out of a junction without looking properly) or poor road surface
– even in 2006 the DFT analysed data from that year and established that around 75% of all cyclists involved in collisions with others were not to blame for their injury or death. Just 10% were said to be completely at fault. Analysis of road collisions involving cyclists has moved on leaps and bounds since then..

Then you have to question the economic impact of bringing in new laws:
– Studies in Australia and New Zealand concluded (Erke and Elvik in 2010) that cycling was simply abandoned after the law was changed
– Since the law change in those countries obesity and sedentary lifestyle illnesses have risen sharply. This has cost their health services, cost lives.
– Do the Police have the resources to actively deal with those who ride “unhelmeted”?

Lastly you have to actively question how and if cycle helmets work:
– every helmet I have seen has a disclaimer inside “not guaranteed for protection against impact with motor-vehicle”
– how are they tested. ANSI and British/Euro Standard helmets are anvil tested at only 12mph at a 1.2metre weighted drop. The most comprehensive test is the SNELL b90a I seem to recall, but even that does not really expand on the British Standard.

AndrewRH says:
21 July 2012

The author’s byline: “senior cars researcher”.

Where is his evidence to support his statement “we think bike helmets are worth wearing when in the saddle”?

I expect better research on that for my Which? subscription.

Oh wait, he just said an international review in 2009 found no evidence.

Thus, I can only conclude his assertion is based on personal bias. See author byline.

I expect better researchers for my Which? subscription.

Hello Andrew, you can read the full report in the magazine as contributed by our independent research and lab tests.

To note, Which? isn’t campaigning for compulsory wearing of cycle helmets – instead we have started a debate to see what you think. Rob has not come out on either side of the debate, as in this case it is up to you to express your opinions.

Which? Conversation is for personal opinions and debate, so please concentrate on the issues at hand rather than individuals.

Richard Burton says:
21 July 2012

“To note, Which? isn’t campaigning for compulsory wearing of cycle helmets”

Are you sure?

“While not mandatory, we think bike helmets are worth wearing when in the saddle….”

It would appear that anyone who has examined all the evidence has concluded that cycle helmets are irrelevant to the safety of cyclists, but Which? says that it thinks they are worth wearing. Whatever the validity of your research into the performance of specific helmets, you haven’t examined all the evidence about helmets, but you still make statements supporting their use. That may not be campaigning, but it’s definitely promoting their use, when the evidence is that they have no beneficial effect, and very considerable negative effects.

Judith Smith says:
21 July 2012

To QPR : I think that you will find that both cycle helmets and motor cycle helmets are tested in precisely the same way – and to emulate the striking of the head on the ground in an accident. This is carried out by dropping a “helmeted head” vertically on to an anvil – hence the test speed of between 12 and 20mph. Neither are designed to protect the head against impacts with vertical objects. Regarding signage – have you ever seen a sign in a motor cycle helmet: “Guaranteed to protect your head in case of an accident”. Perhaps on a seat belt: “Guaranteed to save your life in an accident”. These are the sorts of spurious arguments produced by militant cyclists which have been referenced elsewhere in these comments.

Richard Burton says:
23 July 2012

@Rob Hull,

As I’ve already pointed out above, these laboratory tests are unrealistic artificial constructs which do not demonstrate that they will reduce risk, and all real life experience shows that they don’t, so which do you think is wrong? real life or the unrealistic artificial constructs?

It’s very bad science and illogical to say that unrealistic laboratory tests demonstrate any level of protection. All you’re demonstrating is the ability of a piece of equipment to pass irrelevant tests, and the only claim that can be made is that it passed the tests. You cannot claim that it will make you safer, and to so is misleading and bordering on deliberate misinformation.

QPR says:
20 July 2012

Also the report linked above: The UK are NOT planning to make cycle helmets compulsory for under 14s. The Bill was thrown out of Parliament this spring.

Where does the 85% head injury reduction rate number some from? The 1989 report by Thompson and Rivara – two people who a) set out with an agenda to make helmets compulsory and b) were torn to shreds upon peer review. Both their numbers and their criteria were uncontrolled and poorly sampled.

For mountain biking and road and track competitions a helmet is essential. Just as a helmet is worn in motor sport. However, for everyday cyclists a helmet is an irrelevance. Cycle helmets are designed to absorb the impact of a rider falling off a back onto the ground – an accident which hardly ever happens in the real world. The most common collision mode is a motorised vehicle turning across the path of a cyclist, who is riding straight on a major road at a junction with a minor road.

If you look at accident statistics, there are more UK fatalities from drowning and falling down stairs. Should it be compulsory to wear a helmet when going up or down stairs? Or to wear a life jacket when walking along a canal or river path?

The case for compulsory cycle helmets is promoted by manufacturers and retailers, who have a vested interest. It’s as shameless an exploitation of fear as PPI mis-selling. Also, many council road safety officers believe that the best way to improve accident figures is to discourage people from cycling. By promoting high visibility clothing and helmets, the subliminal message is that cycling is really dangerous. In reality, cycling is safer when more people take their bikes on the roads – as demonstrated in London in recent years.

QPR says:
21 July 2012

I would go so far to say that track cycling uses helmets for aero dynamic effect. There is evidence that the teardrop shape does snag and has broken one or two poor rider’s necks

Zandranna says:
20 July 2012

I don’t think the argument should be whether cycle helmets actually do or don’t save lives. The point is, is it right to continually take away our right of choice?

The money wasted to police a mandatory bicycle helmet wearing would far out weigh the cost (emergency service wise) of the rare cyclist who’s life might be lost because he/she didn’t wear a helmet. The majority of cyclists being killed are killed under the wheels of a motorised vehicle.

We are continually being babied in the UK. It’s a wonder that any of us are allowed to cross the road without our hands being held by someone authorised to cross us over.

If the powers that be really did care about cycling safety they would be building cycling infrastructure as in the Dutch style and then the talk about helmets would be totally unnecessary anyway.

If Which? wants to do something about health, what about physical inactivity? It has been reported that 65% of deaths are due to non-communicable diseases (including cardio-vascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancers). The UK has the highest level of obesity in Europe.

It has been proven that a major cause of non-communicable disease is physical inactivity – i.e. people taking less than the recommended minimum 150 minutes of exercise per week. A report in this week’s The Lancet concludes that on average 10% of all deaths can be attributed directly to physical inactivity.

What’s this got to do with cycling helmets? Well, cycling is a major (and affordable) way of taking exercise. Everyone has to go places and could use a bike for some of those journeys.

Compulsory helmet use would increase the cost of cycling and so increase health inequality as it would be a disincentive to lower income families.

The challenge is to make cycling more accessible so that it is seen as normal – not as an extreme sport that requires special clothing. Look at the Dutch: in Groningen, 47% of all journeys are made by bike and people don’t wear helmets for everyday cycling.

Hello Robwiz, we debate obesity and health issues quite a lot on Which? Conversation, such as here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/obesity-crisis-responsibility-deal-whos-responsible-food/ Thanks

It is interesting to read the comments that fewer people would cycle if there was a requirement to wear helmets. I cannot remember if people gave up driving and motorcycling when seatbelts and motorcycle helmets became compulsory.

I conclude that it’s unfashionable to wear helmets. Like it’s unfashionable to have mudguards on bikes for some. I have driven behind many cyclists with a wet and sometimes muddy streak from their neck to their backside because they don’t have a mudguard. Almost as good as the young women who go clubbing in short, sleeveless skirts in January. Some times I wish I had trained as a psychiatrist. 🙂

Col says:
21 July 2012

I don’t think that you can take any two pieces of safety equipment and compare them just because they are both ‘safety equipment’. Helmet use is not like seatbelt use. Seatbelts are worn inside a car, not really that visible, you are not on display as much, and there is a simple alternative to bike use – jump in the car. Its easy to put people off cycling, but we’d have a real battle on our hands to get put new drivers off driving! On the face of it driving is easier, faster, very convenient…. etc. Its only when you look more intelligently at the situation that car use brings, (personal health & fitness & enjoyment of journeys, as well as congestion and carbon footprints) that we can start to see the huge benefit of cycling.

Alright, forget the comparison, but why should wearing a cycle helmet deter so many people from cycling? Cost may be a factor but I would be very surprised if this is the main reason. Your comment, Col, suggests that being on display is a factor. Is wearing a cycle helmet a heinous fashion crime like wearing socks with sandals?

No-one is denying the benefits of cycling or the problems associated with cars.

Phil says:
21 July 2012

“Why should wearing a cycle helmet deter so many people from cycling?”

In a word, vanity. They look silly and wearing one is considered sissy by many. A bit “gay” is the modern idiom. Maybe if manufacturers could come up with a design that looked “cool”, maybe something indistinguishable or similar to a baseball cap, more people would wear them.

SpudULike says:
21 July 2012

In reply to Wavechange – carrying the helmet about when off the bike is the factor here. Since car seat belts are fixed, the nearest analogy I can come up with is making a motorist carry their warning triangle with them when away from their vehicles.

SpudULike says:
21 July 2012

In reply to Phil – I’m sure manufacturers are already desperate to find ways to get people to wear their helmets, but this desperation does not come from a provision of safety, it’s to sell helmets.

John Stevenson says:
21 July 2012

Why people stop riding when helmets are made mandatory is interesting, but only in an academic way. Studies of traffic types after helmet mandation indicate that cycle usage goes down. Given al the social and personal benefits of cycling, that alone is a compelling argument against mandation.

I can relate to that, SpudULike. I used to be a motorcyclist. That is one factor and cost is another, but I am not convinced that these are the main issues. I would ask family or friends, but all the cyclists I know are committed helmet wearers.

Thanks, Phil. That was my guess. No doubt there are other reasons too.

QPR says:
21 July 2012

There are a number of reasons cited as to why people dont like to wear helmets. These include:

– they make your head sweat
– they can be hot (most cycle helmets I simply cannot wear as I will pass out from heat stroke – I had in invest nearly £200 to get one of a standard that kept my head cool)
– they can mess up your hair (women particularly dont like this, also some businessmen pride themselves on their appearance)
– they trap insects (a bee flying into the vent on your lid can be quite painful)
– they can be difficult to carry (I used to take mine into work but not having anywhere to store it I found work colleagues often knocked it off the table, put things on it or in it, leaving it on the bike often leads to it being damaged or stolen)

– and simply that they dont believe the science has been proven

Cycle helmets are nothing like seat belts. Seat belts:
– underwent significant testing before the law
– are constantly retested in new models of car
– have a higher range of standards to adhere to
– are cheap to replace
– are proven to protect others (the passengers of the car will not collide if they all wear a seatbelt and the car crashes, where as a helmet really would only in principal affect the individual)
– come as standard with the car, significantly low risk of it being stolen or damaged once the driver leaves the vehicle
– there is already law to compel seatbelt use

Geoff Rone says:
21 July 2012

Fashion has nothing to do with it. If helmets actually saved thousands of lives a year (like seat belts are supposed to do) their may be an argument for compulsion but they don’t. Frankly the numbers of serious accidents where helmets may have saved a life or serious injury is statistically irrelevant. Helmet compunction is basically “victim blaming” – an excuse for the authorities not to make infrastructure safer by saying “if you wear a helmet and florescent we don’t have to make the conditions safer.

If you want to see how safe cycling could be look across the North Sea to The Netherlands where helmet use is virtually non existent but their KSIs are a fraction of ours despite about 30% of all journeys being made by bike. Please check out http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/ for more info.

@wavechange – There is evidence that motorists give less room when overtaking cyclists who are wearing helmets. Dr Ian Walker’s experiments showed that 23% more vehicles came within one metre of cyclists wearing helmets than those not wearing a helmet.


Phil says:
21 July 2012

It seems some people are uncomfortable with the truth.


I’m sure some way could be found of securing a helmet to a bike when not in use and anyway if they’re so unpopular who’d want to nick one anyway?

There was a lot of opposition to the car seatbelt law mainly on the same grounds, that they’re uncomfortable (especially to women), compulsion was wrong, that they were not really effective etc and the early ones which did not have inertia reels were a real pain.

Round here the apparel of envy is riding habit. So why not design a cycling habit that would send out all the right status signals? Helmets could be like jockeys’ caps – hard and highly protective but disguised in a silk cover with peak. Jodhpurs optional, but more useful than bicycle clips which always go missing. Not sure that compulsion for helmets is the way forward, even for under fourteens; better to make safety and protective clothing highly desirable [Hollister and Superdry know how to do it], and to remove the prohibition of cycling on the footway from the under fourteens while we’re at it [so long as a bell and lamps are used].

Linda Cottrell says:
21 July 2012

There is evidence that helmeted cyclists have mroe accidents. There is also evidence that the numbers of people cycling go down when helmet compulsion laws are introduced.

Whether one believes in the benefit of helmets, it should be a personal choice, not a legally mandated one!

Research by Dr Ian Walker of Bath University showed that motorists allowed less room (8.5 cm) when overtaking a helmeted cyclist than they did for a bare-headed cyclist. This is known as risk compensation and demonstrates that cyclists are more at risk from motorised road users if they wear a helmet.


He carried out further experiments wearing a long blonde wig and discovered that drivers allowed an extra 14cm.

Simon Geller says:
21 July 2012

Rod, you said:-

“I mountain bike almost every weekend, but I transport my bicycle to the location I ride with my car, so at no point am I riding on a highway. Because of this, I don’t wear a helmet. However, if I rode a bicycle to work I definitely would, as I’ve learnt that I can’t be responsible for all other road users.”

This comment amply demonstrates how fraught the whole subject is, as is indeed anything associated with risk and statistics. Mountain biking is one activity where you probably should be wearing a helmet, preferably a full-face one as jaw fractures are common. Driving is another activity
where head injuries in collisions are common so you should probably be wearing a helmet while you drive by the same logic. Of the three activities you mention, commuting to work by bike is probably the one where there is the least need to wear a helmet.

See this video for a convincing demolition of the pro-helment argument:-

Col says:
21 July 2012

The evidence for the safety benefits of helmet use is small, and even then can be disputed. Helmets may have helped some, may have made things worse for others. Difficult to come to a concrete conclusion.
Weigh this against 2 other factors that are definitely proven.
1. Regular cycle use and mass cycle use amongst the population is beneficial to health (regardless of helmet use)
2. Mandatory helmet use will kill the much hoped for rise in the uptake of cycling amongst the public.


Chris Armstrong says:
21 July 2012

It is a fact that enforced mandatory helmet laws significantly reduce cycling. In cities such as Vancouver Canada where the mandatory helmet law (for everyone) is virtually never enforced, cycling remains widespread but only about half of the cyclists wear helmets. I have never worn a helmet there and do not feel the need.

When cycling becomes part of your chosen lifestyle you stop making a big deal of it and just ride. No special clothes; you just dress for the day and ride. If you have ever ridden in Amsterdam you will know this difference.

Mandatory helmet laws are normally argued for by non cyclists to reduce injury and improve health. Ironically, mandatory helmet laws achieve neither.

John Thompson says:
21 July 2012

Most have already said it all but here goes:
The British Medical Association estimates that thge health benefits of cycling outweight the risks by around 20:1 and helmet compulsion significantly reduces the amount of cycling
There is no evidence that helmets save lives or prevent serious injury. There IS evidence that dpending on the rotational forces involved they can increase the risk of serious neck injury and the additional impact of a helmet on the head, and the fact that a helmet effectively ‘increases the size of the head’ means they can increase injury. I have myself witnessed cyclists fall where the impact of the helmet probably caused extra discomfort and pain.
There is a paradoxical irony about the effectiveness of helmets: as pedestrians suffer about three times more head injuries than cyclists, at the speeds helmets have some effectiveness there is a stronger argument for pedestrians to wear them. On the other hand, if they were effective at high speeds there would be a thirteen times stronger argument for motor vehicles occupants to wear them.

Reg, says:
21 July 2012

Have spent many years cycling and have written off two helmets due to (a) A hit and run driver (b) A deep pothole. Even so, I do not think mandatory helmet wearing will improve things.
Many of the comments above enter into the car v cyclist category. I would like to add that this year I did a ten day cycle tour of Belgium and into Germany. Not once did I feel the need to aim expletives at a motorist. Arriving home did a short ride of 20 miles around my home in West Kent, I recall at least 4 occassions when I felt the need to aim a string of expletives.n I kept them under my breath, but to me it is indicative of the appaling attitudes displayed to the vulnerable by many UK motorists.

QPR says:
21 July 2012

I am saddened to say that I virtually never cycle these days. Gone are the days of 40-50 mile rides out to the local villages of Hampshire, the New Forest etc. It is sadly the many actions of drivers that have put me off, and I certainly think younger drivers are now making things worse.

There is this sense of entitlement and I’ve certainly experienced them drawing parallel, shouting out a few obscenities as they draw in a few dangerous inches from my right.

I (and other cyclists I would well imagine) dont want to be drawn into this whole cyclist vs driver nonsense. I have always driven more than I cycle, all I and others really want is safety and consideration. That wont happen with helmets – its just another thing for those that dont ride to point at and complain.

Rad Wagon says:
21 July 2012

I’ve written about helmets a lot in a vain attempt to draw together various studies.

And there is a great resource in http://cyclehelmets.org

There is very little debate when it comes down to it. There’s lots of people who stick their fingers in their ears and repeat the mantra “wear a helmet, it saved me”. Then there are people who take hte time to look at all the evidence and rationally come to the conclusion that any form of helmet compulsion (including the insipid fake moral “it’s your choice, but you should” argument) is just plain wrong and will lead to more health problems of the population.

Joe says:
21 July 2012

Personally, I can’t see an argument for not wearing a helmet, it wouldn’t harm to make it law, but to be honest, it’s common sense. After all, helmets are not expensive, and if it was law, I’m sure something could be done to make helmets more affordable.

If a helmet improves my chances of survival by even 0.5% then that’s good enough for me – granted if a lorry runs me over its not going to help, but I have experience (I won’t go into huge details) of people who have simply fallen off even bikes while stood still and hit their head on a kirb and suffered minor brain damage, a helmet would have prevented this. Simple.

People who don’t wear one, or think its “not cool” to wear one are selfish, it’s not only yourself you’re protecting, but think of the effects on your family, friends, and other people involved in such an incident?

What ever the law is, it’s just common sense – wear a helmet, it saves lives.

QPR says:
21 July 2012

OK, lets take this from another angle…

Drivers (and their passengers) are 5 times more likely to suffer a head or brain injury than a cyclist. Under that basis, why are motorists not compelled under “common sense” to use head protection?

BTW your numbers are deeply flawed. You cannot put forward anything as “beneficial” unless the numbers are massively in favour. If medicine only had that margin of benefit it wouldnt be used, certainly the medical licences wouldnt be issued. If industry had to spend similar outlays for marginal gain they would find other more effective and economical means of increasing productivity.

Thats how numbers should work. Maximum benefit for little investment. Helmets simply dont offer that.

Richard Burton says:
21 July 2012

“If a helmet improves my chances of survival by even 0.5% then that’s good enough for me….”

But all the reliable evidence shows that at best they make no difference, and at worst increase the risk. Check out cyclehelmets.org for a few facts rather than unfounded assumptions.

“…..it’s just common sense – wear a helmet, it saves lives.”

And it’s common sense that the earth is flat. However, the scientific evidence shows that it isn’t, and the scientific evidence shows that cycle helmets don’t save lives. The choice of which to believe is yours.

Judith Smith says:
21 July 2012

I see in a response below that it is suggested that car drivers and passengers should wear helmets as they are more than 5 times as likely to suffer head injury.
I wonder if the responder has any idea of the difference between the numbers of “cycle passenger miles” and “car user passenger miles” per person per year? The DfT states that on average 47 miles are traveled by cycle by person per annum compared to 5600 miles by person by car/van.

I think that puts his statistic in context and shows cycling is relatively dangerous.

“Common sense is that collection of prejudices we have accumulated by the age of 18” Albert Einstein.
Without hard evidence you are simply expressing a prejudice. Even if you are right, you are right by fluke.

CJ says:
23 July 2012

Joe: I cannot see why you take that helmet off when dismounting from your bike.

It would seem that you already own one, so expense is certainly not an issue for you. And unlike me you seem to find it comfortable to wear for such an energetic thing as bicycling, so where’s the problem in keeping it on when you get off and walk, or drive, or do pretty much anything else apart from sleeping and washing your hair? For in your own words: if a helmet improves your chances of survival by even 0.5% that’s good enough for you!

Granted if a lorry flattens your car it’s not going to help, but there was an accident reported in the local paper where a whole family died of head injuries from bashing their heads on the inside of the car (all wearing seatbelts) when it rolled. Cycle helmets would have prevented that. Simple.

People who unthinkingly doff their helmets when getting off the bike, or think its “not cool” to wear one for driving are selfish. It’s not only yourself you’re protecting, but think of the effects on your family, friends, and other people involved in such an incident?

Whatever the social norms are, it’s just common sense: if you have a cycle helmet already, wear it all the time. It saves lives.

Geoff Rone says:
21 July 2012

Helmet compunction is basically “victim blaming” – an excuse for the authorities not to make infrastructure safer by saying “if you wear a helmet and wear florescent clothes we don’t have to make the conditions safer.

If you want to see how safe and normal cycling could be, look across the North Sea to The Netherlands where helmet use is virtually non existent but their KSIs (Killed and Seriously Injured stats) are a fraction of ours despite about 30% of all journeys being made by bike. Please check out http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/ for more info.

Biggles says:
21 July 2012

Is the risk of head injury when cycling much greater than that of normal day-to-day activity (I have yet to see stats which prove this)? If not, then why not propose that wearing a helmet all the time is a good idea for everyone, on the off chance they might have an accident and the wearing of a helmet will reduce their chances of serious head injury. This may seem like a ludicrous suggestion, but if the objective is to reduce the number of head injuries it makes more sense to apply the solution to the population at large rather than a small minority who are perceived to be at some huge risk, but in fact are not.
Better to do something to correct negative attitudes towards cycling and promote the positive health benefits rather than reinforcing the view that cycling is a highly dangerous and hence undesirable activity.

Austen says:
21 July 2012

As a long-term subscriber to Which? and a cyclist, I am not at all happy to read that “There have been plenty of reports to support the use of cycle helmets spanning the last two decades.”

If the Consumers Association had bothered to check with its counterparts in Europe and elsewhere and UK cycling organisations, it would have found that in countries like the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, people don’t wear cycle helmets? Why not? Because they don’t need to. That’s because cycling has been made safer there. In Australia, compulsory helmets simply resulted in less people cycling.

This is shoddy, inadequate and sensationalist reporting that damages the organisation’s reputation for accuracy and independence. We all deserve better.

Rob Bushill says:
21 July 2012

We are not so much debating Helmets for ‘cyclists’ but helmets for people that pop down the shops to get a paper on a bike, commuters that use only cycle tracks to get to work…helmets for sport is one thing, for riding a bike to get about is another. Cars are the issue here….the only real reason why helmets are being lobbied for…(along with money for cycle shops, manufactures etc).

I’m not sure why the focus is head injuries for people using bikes either, looking at the official figures, more people using feet are injured by cars than people using bikes..so lets start there shall we…guilt tripping people to wear something that may actually cause them more harm than good is bonkers.