/ Motoring

Your say: for and against compulsory cycle helmets

Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins has come out in favour of compulsory cycle helmets. It’s a debate we touched on last month, so here’s a look at the arguments you made.

The recent death of a cyclist in a collision with a bus near the Olympic Park led to Tour de France winner and Olympic champion Bradley Wiggins calling for better laws to protect cyclists.

Wiggins said there may need to be legal intervention against cyclists using iPods and phones, with helmets also singled out. He’s since stepped back from this position, explaining that he hadn’t ‘called for helmets to be made law’. Whatever the case, the question of compulsory helmets is in the news again.

We debated the issue last month, and with more than 200 comments, it’s one of our most popular Convos. The poll came out strongly against the idea, with 63% of 1,175 voters saying ‘cyclists shouldn’t be legally required to wear helmets’. What were the arguments against them?

Your comments against compulsory cycle helmets

Peter Clinch argued that mandating helmets would be an own-goal:

‘When you look at the actual track record of making them compulsory (New Zealand, Australia for example) the rates of head injury have not changed but cycling levels have been reduced. And since cycling is a health benefit, mandating helmets actually makes for a public health own-goal. Cycling saves lives (through general fitness and well-being improvements). Cycle helmets, judging by their actual track record across whole populations, don’t.’

Zandranna said the cost/benefit ratio of compulsory helmets didn’t add up:

‘The money wasted to police a mandatory bicycle helmet wearing would far out weigh the cost (emergency service wise) of the rare cyclist whose life might be lost because he/she didn’t wear a helmet.’

Cycling instructor Charlie Holland said we need to be cautious:

‘A legal requirement to wear a helmet will deter children from cycling (and their parents from daring to let them take up such a “risky” activity) to the detriment of their health and fitness and to the cost of the UK in obesity, diabetes and other debilitating long-term illnesses, not to mention pollution and congestion.’

And Tim Beadle added that compulsory helmets could damage the popularity of cycling:

‘“Should cyclists be legally required to wear helmets?” Only if you wish to finally put a nail in cycling’s coffin in the UK. It’s been bumbling along in its death throes for 40-odd years, having never quite died out. Now it’s enjoying something of resurgence. Want more cycling? Focus on cycling’s intrinsic safety as an activity, and campaign for infrastructure that allows people of all ages and genders to ride without having to share with HGVs, buses and cars.’

Biggles concluded with this:

‘Is the risk of head injury when cycling much greater than that of normal day-to-day activity? If not, then why not propose that wearing a helmet all the time is a good idea for everyone?’

Your comments in favour of compulsory helmets

And now to the ‘for’ camp. Rich Boese argued that cyclists needed to be nannied:

‘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 wear a helmet.’

Joe argues that wearing a helmet is common sense:

‘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.’

Ambrose thinks now is the time to invest in a helmet:

‘Helmets save lives and prevent catastrophic injury because they protect the brain from trauma. We live in a renaissance of materials, manufacturing and design. Cycling helmets have never been so varied and stylish and sorted. Yes, they must be worn correctly. Same with trousers.’

Judith Smith felt very strongly about the matter:

‘Some vocal cyclists are paranoid about this matter – as they fear that mandatory helmets will discourage people from cycling and hence reduce the interest in their hobby. However they refuse to answer the simple question: if you were to be involved in a cycle accident, is a cycle helmet likely to do more good than harm?’

Cathy Moore, who’s worked in children’s intensive care units, extolled the virtues of helmets:

‘I have seen many children die who could have survived with a helmet as protection, and survival in those wearing them. However, head injury is often not about dying but the quality of recovery and that is less measurable but has a huge impact on the families. There will be a few worse outcomes because of helmets but they are far outweighed by the reduction in permanent brain injury and its consequences.’

So, which side do you come out on? Do you think cycle helmets should be compulsory, or should the choice be left to the individual cyclist?

Comments
Guest
Geoff Rone says:
3 August 2012

Wiggins actually retracted the statement – he was actually filmed riding without a helmet the same day!

What he was trying to say was that cyclists need to do all they can to stop motorists having the excuse that cyclists are all to blame.

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Guest

Hello Geoff and Tim below – Yes, I referred to his retraction in the copy above: ‘He’s since stepped back from this position, explaining that he hadn’t ‘called for helmets to be made law’.’

I still thought it was worth featuring some of your comments! Thanks

Guest
Tim Beadle says:
3 August 2012

Wiggins then went on to state that he wasn’t calling for compulsory helmets…

Q. Should I wear a helmet?
A. It depends.

Q. Should helmets be mandatory?
A. No.

Guest
RON says:
3 August 2012

Nanny State , You break the law if you do not wear a helmet when cycling ? I think not .
When you carve the sunday roast you must wear a chain male glove, When you drive your car you must wear a F1 style safety helmet , When you cross the road you must carry a warning triangel , and so on .
Lets stop this nanny state tosh Now .T he majority of people know when they need to take care and use safety equipment , they do not need confining laws to do so.

Guest
David L says:
3 August 2012

I am in principle in favour of helmets although when I started cycling about the age of seven they were unknown. However, what I am more concerned about is the comparatively large number of cyclists who ignore basic traffic rules like red lights, weave all over the place, use pavements, no lights. I am surprised that there are not more accidents. I also think it should be compulsory for cyclists to have insurance.

Guest
MartynA says:
6 August 2012

I would also add the frustration of cyclist on main roads when there is a perfectly good cycle path next to them. They can then have no surprise that passing motorists treat them with little care or respect.

Guest
Christine Jones says:
6 August 2012

In response to: “I would also add the frustration of cyclist on main roads when there is a perfectly good cycle path next to them. They can then have no surprise that passing motorists treat them with little care or respect. ”

There is never any excuse to treat cyclists with little care and respect. Just because there is a cycle path next to a road, unless you’ve actually used it on a bike how can you say it’s perfectly good? many cycle paths end abruptly, are poorly surfaced, meaning you need to pedal twice as hard to get anywhere, leave you in the middle of a dangerous junction or force you to walk sections. I know of many places where I prefer to take my chances on the road rather than weave round overgrown branches – I am a vehicle and can and will use a road on a bike and follow the rules of the road. If you, like all drivers are in charge of what is if you look at it from a safety point of view, a deadly weapon then to say you think cyclists are asking for it for using the roads that is no different to saying women are asking for it if they wear a pretty dress and get raped.
The reason Holland, Denmark and Germany have laws that put the driver of the car at fault whatever the situation is because if you hit a cyclist at 30mph you will most likely kill them, helmet or not. If I hit your car with my enormous 28 inch wheel Dutch mummy machine, you would be at best a bit irritated and have to get a few dinks in your car sorted.
Over the years in the UK, I’ve been car doored, slapped on the bum, knocked off by a driver turning right (this resulted in concussion and broken bones), knocked off several times by vehicles including a cement mixer turning left over taking me – on these occasions, I dove off my bike onto the pavement and both me and the bike were fine. 10 years in Holland cycling every day, the only collision I ever had was with another cyclist. I love cycling and do it as much as I can. Every day an increasing number of people in the UK choose to ride a bike, we pay tax and we should have the right to use the highways and be protected by proper provisions like separate roads (that actually go somewhere), traffic lights and lanes (that don’t end abruptly when you most need them) as well as laws to protect us from drivers who think that to drive is a god given right.

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Guest

If you want to push for segregation of cyclists and drivers you might need to persuade fellow cyclists to stop saying how safe cycling in the UK is. Rather than widening roads for people that drive 20,000 miles a year we should be spending money on cyclists and pedestrians.

Guest
Christine Jones says:
6 August 2012

Cycling in the UK involves assuming that nobody as seen you, being a bit wobbly at times is a good way to keep cars at a distance. Behave like a vehicle, especially at roundabouts – take the lane. I always wave or nod to considerate drivers and offer the same consideration where I can. There are times when cycling the wrong way up a quiet street or leaving ahead of the lights can be the common sense thing to do, so don’t judge cyclists too much unless you yourself have done that particular route by bike.
The majority of friends I know who think helmets should be mandatory either don’t cycle or cycle much less than they drive. One mandatory helmet advocate recently admitted to me that since she took my advice and started riding regularly has gone out several times without her helmet, shock horror!

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Guest

Christine
You said you follow the rules of the road and now you have admitted you don’t. 🙂

Waving and nodding to considerate motorists does not compensate for breaking the law or deciding which rules are convenient to comply with. It’s not a game.

Guest
Christine Jones says:
6 August 2012

I am admitting I am human. I am being honest and frank from personal experience. If you can tell me you have never broken or bent the highway code, have never driven over the speed limit, turned around on a road where you weren’t allowed, over taken where the road markings say you shouldn’t, parked where you shouldn’t or done anything where you made a decision based on what you thought right rather and done what your driving instructor would have told you to do then I’d be very surprised.
the majority of drivers would need to be a tea total to have never driven knowing that you might be even slightly over the legal limit.
Drivers frequently come down on cyclists for running a red light or taking a short cut but I see flagrant and blatantly doing what they think best going on in drivers every single day.
Lets not enter a blame game. Common sense would be just to take the advice given by countless studies, tests and surveys and design our roads so cyclists don’t have to be putting their lives at risk sharing the roads with cement mixers and drivers who can’t distinguish between their sat nav and the road at 50mph

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Guest

I haven’t claimed that I stick to the rules of the road. I’m human too. I used to cycle and ride a motorcycle and I think you would be pleasantly surprised at how considerate I am to them and pedestrians. Unfortunately, I do upset other motorists from time to time and have seen some hand signals that are definitely not in the Highway Code.

Deliberately wobbling is very worrying and one of these fluorescent sticks with a reflector seems a better way to encourage motorists to keep their distance. I don’t believe cycle lanes are wide enough, especially now that cars have big door mirrors that could do a lot of damage.

I agree that we should not have a blame game and we are getting off topic anyway.

Guest
MartynA says:
8 August 2012

Perhaps I should have qualified “I would also add the frustration of cyclist on main roads when there is a perfectly good cycle path next to them.” with the observation that I regularly ride a bike myself and use the cycle paths and directed cycle routes where I live. It makes sense – narrow busy ‘A’ road with hedges and double white lines (so you have to follow a bike at 15mph and nip past when you can) or a purpose built (at great expense) cycle track next to it. I cycle it so know it’s ‘perfectly good’.

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Guest

Insurance companies insure risk. They have already looked at the feasibly of 3rd party cycle insurance and concluded that the the risk is so low that administrative cost would exceed the cost of the insurance. You may find that you may have 3rd party cycle insurance even if you don’t own a bike as it is included in many household policies. Including it in an existing policy is the only cost effective way they can provide it.
The only thing that compulsory 3rd party insurance would do would be to reduce the number of cyclists on the road, but then perhaps that’s your objective.
If you think compulsory 3rd party cycle insurance has any measurable benefits, list them along with the supporting evidence.
Note, in any objective study anecdotal evidence carries no weight.

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Guest

I think David L makes an important point – there are many safety issues with cycling that are just as, if not more, important. I’ve cycled in London for a fairly long time and have witnessed many close calls and the odd accident due to:

– Lack of adequate visibility. High vis jackets and lights make an *enormous* difference and should never be overlooked.
– Lack of respect for other road users. Drivers, pedestrians and cyclists need to learn to coexist and stop arguing over who pays ‘road tax’.
– Lack of understanding of road rules. My initial nerves meant I studied the book on cycling and took a short, practical (and free) course with my local council on road cycling, which was a massive eye-opener.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I would be keen to see resources spent on solving these problems. My free council-led cycling course was absolutely brilliant, but they told me – they have practically zero budget to promote it.

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Guest

I agree with all your comments above but as a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist there appears to be bias on cyclist behaviour. I’m not saying that the criticism is wrong but many motorists are ignorant of their own obligations towards other road users and remember, they are in control of the greatest source of danger on the road.
The DfT approved Cyclecraft training for example teaches you that road positioning is all important in improving your road visibility. Something like 80% of cycle casualties happen at or near intersections so you are taught to occupy primary position in the lane when approaching and passing though an intersection. This practice improves your visibility an reduces a number of the risks cyclists face, but I can’t count the number of times I have received abuse from motorists when I do it because they are ignorant of your objectives and perceive you to be deliberately obstructive.

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Guest

I would be happy if there was an automated (Web and phone) system for reporting illegal, dangerous and aggressive behaviour of motorists and motorcyclists. Any registration number that is reported several times over a time period should be required to attend a course, like that offered as an alternative to a fine for those caught exceeding speed limits. Of course, cyclists or their cycles should have a registration number so that those who ride on the pavement can be reported.

Maybe we need more cycle boxes at junctions to help motorists understand why cyclists position themselves in front of cars.

I wish we had more tolerance and understanding on our roads.

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Guest

I mostly cycle with a headcam and feel a little exposed when I don’t. I have posted some clips on youtube and I have sometimes been accused of being selective about what I publish but helmetcams are a double edged sword. You need to ensure own behaviour is pristine because if you don’t and want to use the footage as evidence you could incriminate yourself as much as the accused. Personally I think that cameras should be fitted to all vehicles. I think it would make a huge difference to everyone’s behaviour on the road.

I don’t agree with reg numbers for cyclists BTW because the only thing it would accomplish would be a reduction in the amount of cyclists on the roads. Remember, motorised vehicles require registration because they are the primary source of danger. The danger cyclists present by comparison is statistically insignificant – you are at greater risk in your own home from household appliances.

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Guest

Have you ever been knocked down by a cyclist and suffered a broken bone, skeptictank? I have, and it hurt. Would it have hurt less if I had known that my accident was statistically insignificant?

I recognise that there are plenty of good cyclists and would not think of taking photos of those that misbehave.

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Guest

I take your point that statistically insignificant means nothing to those that make up the statistic. I don’t mean to diminish your experience so my answer your question is no, I haven’t been hit by a bicycle but I have been hit by a car entering the road from a side junction who “never saw me”.
I suffered a broken left clavicle and right ulna (just below the elbow).
The driver wasn’t even investigated even though he was clearly in the wrong. The reason I was given by the police? I didn’t have two independent witnesses so there was chance of conviction. In this instance being able to identify him through his registration counted for nothing.

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Guest

Correction: That should read “so there was NO chance of conviction” instead of “so there was chance of conviction” in the above post.

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Guest

If we are comparing anecdotes….

I have no idea of the identity of which cyclist injured me. No registration number.

I’ve also had a motorcyclist caused by a driver pulling out from a side road without seeing me. I suffered concussion and did not record the registration number of the car, but thankfully someone did and I received compensation.

Guest
roz a says:
3 August 2012

The CTC report studies which show that, for miles travelled, more walkers than cyclists are killed and, per hour spent, gardening results in more injuries than cycling. Who’s for walkers wearing helmets? Or for a law making gardeners wear full protective gear when carrying a pair of secateurs?

Guest
Steve says:
3 August 2012

The debate has been nicely summed up with five cons and five pros. However, is that proportionate to the debate? In other words were there the same number of cons and pros in total. If not the summary is not representative of the debate.

Secondly, it is a summary of opinion. Most of us have an opinion, but in the event the way forward should be based on the truth. There has been plenty of reference to information sources where there has been objective analysis of the facts, and it seems to me that those references have been made in general by those against compulsory helmet wearing, with those for compulsion falling back on unsupported and unsupportable statements in the nature of “it would have been worse without a helmet” or “it would have been better with a helmet” or “any protection is better than nothing”.

It would be good to know that some if not all of the pros had followed the links to further information, and to know if that had affected their opinion in any way.

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Guest

Hello Steve, Which? Conversation is about your comments and your opinions. So when we get a popular discussion we like to round them up and feature them. Hopefully we’ve made it clear that they are individual opinions from the outset

As far as the equal number of comments for and against – we need to present them in a balanced way, whether the proportion was different in the actual debate or not. Instead, the poll results are there to show the true balance of for and against (63% were against). Thanks.

Guest
Steve says:
3 August 2012

Thanks, Patrick, for your reply to my last. I note that 63% were against, which helps me get a perspective on the opinions submitted.

Guest
Tim Beadle says:
3 August 2012

If a law isn’t enforced, it’s worthless. The Police are already stretched as it is, and can’t/won’t enforce other, far more serious for road safety, infractions by motorists like using a mobile phone while driving, speeding, driving without due care and attention etc.

In what sane and rational world is it sensible to criminalise helmetless cyclists?

Guest
Boxbrownie says:
3 August 2012

My son (25 years old) was recently knocked off his bike cycling home from the local railway station, minor back roads in a big town…….it was a hit and run driver (never caught), my son still cannot remember the accident but thankfully he WAS wearing a helmet, it was split by the impact.
Doctors at the hospital said we would have been identifying his body not visiting him in ICU had it not been for the helmet……strangely enough I think they should be compulsory.

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Guest

I’m an enthusiastic user of the Cycle Hire scheme in London. I use the bikes to get in and out of work every day and wear a helmet and a high vis waistcoat.

I tend to agree with the sentiment expressed in this item: http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-real-debate-isnt-whether-people.html

In other words, the debate about cycle hemets could be diverting attention away from the real issue – the need to look carefully at roads and junctions in the UK.

Just my tuppence!

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Guest

Completely agree with the sentiments expressed in the blog post above. If you ever go to Holland you won’t see every single cyclist wearing a helmet but you will see a road system that is set-up for the cyclist and understands the risks and the dangers.

Comments like Bradley’s will increase the awareness of the issue. This is true for cyclists, drivers & pedestrians and can only be a good thing. But unless the government comes up with a proper strategy for cycling the debate will continue to raise it’s head every few months. Last time it was the boss of Addison Lee, this time it’s the winner of the Tour de France.

You will never be able to make helmets compulsory but there is so much you can do to make cycling safer on our roads.

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Guest

Perhaps we should pay a bit more attention to those who have had accidents and survived.

I have a friend who was knocked off his bike as a young man, at least 30 years ago. He is brain damaged and most people don’t want to have anything to do with him because he can be bitter and unfriendly at times. He is paralysed in one arm, lives in sheltered accommodation and has to be transported because he cannot cope with buses because he is not steady on his feet. Despite his problems, he can still play competitive chess. I don’t know if it would be useful to seek his view but there are many who have had less serious accidents, who could make useful comment.

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I’m currently recovering from a cycle accident I had a couple of weeks ago. Broken collar bone and ribs and concussion (so I can’t actually remember the incident) but I did see the dent in my helmet! The nurse at St Thomas’ said I was lucky to be wearing one- and I agree! Hopefully, I’ll be back on a bike when everything’s healed up- but I’ll be buying a new helmet first…

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Guest

I’m an avid cyclist and never leave home without my cycle helmet but I certainly wouldn’t be in favour of legislating for compulsory helmets. Here’s an interesting article from the BMJ which presents the argument against making helmets compulsory – http://www.bmj.com/rapid-response/2011/10/31/case-compulsory-cycle-helmets-not-made.

Although I would personally advocate wearing a cycle helmet I too understand the argument that some people support, which holds that wearing a helmet can give some cyclists a false sense of security and therefore cause them to cycle in a more careless manner. Which brings me onto the safety issue. I wholeheartedly agree with previous comments about road safety and better consideration for fellow road users – be they motorists, cyclists, pedestrians or motorcyclists.

All too often on my cycle to work I witness dangerous driving and cycling. This only serves to antagonise all road users and cause drivers to berate cyclists and cyclists to berate motorists etc. It is worth noting here though, that the majority of drivers and cyclists are safety conscious and responsible road users so its not all doom and gloom…

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Guest

All too often on my cycle to work I witness dangerous driving and cycling. This only serves to antagonise all road users and cause drivers to berate cyclists and cyclists to berate motorists etc. It is worth noting here though, that the majority of drivers and cyclists are safety conscious and responsible road users so its not all doom and gloom…

I completely agree with you about road users antagonising each other. Whether we are motorists, motorcyclists or cyclists, some need to do a lot more to overcome this problem.

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Guest

I can’t see the present government finding time for legislation to make helmets compulsory although, lest we forget the original springboard for the previous Conversation, the EU Parliament might oblige it to do so for the under-thirteens. Personally I am against compulsion although, if I were still cycling today, I would wear a helmet. However, what we don’t want to happen, in the absence of legislation, is the insurance industry taking it into its head to penalise unhelmeted cyclists in the event of a compo claim.

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Guest

I made a compensation claim in 1976, after being knocked off my motorcycle at low speed. At the time I had no idea how much this would affect the rest of my life. One of the problems is that I could not ride a bicycle a couple of miles to work. I have always wondered whether motorcycle leathers could have protected me or whether not wearing them affected the amount of compensation that I received. That was not mentioned when my condition was assessed, months after the accident. With a lot of hindsight, I feel that my life might have been very different if I had worn protective clothing and that I may have contributed to my own problems.

Guest
rich says:
4 August 2012

Why are helmets a legal requirement? What excatly do helmets do for the cyclist in an accident?? What ever next? Every cyclist has a bubble put round them??

The road law`s actually need to focus on motor vehicle drivers operating ANY mobile device or just being distracted whilst driving.. And cyclist`s need to be fined when not abeying red light traffic signals!

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Guest

I have had to take avoidance measures to avoid distracted drivers using hand-held and hands-free mobile phones, and the problem seems to be getting worse. At least the risk of being caught helps discourage speeding but motorists using phones is a bit like cyclists going through red lights and riding on the pavement. Getting everyone to behave themselves would help generate more respect between motorists and cyclists, but I cannot see an easy way of keeping both in order. Having laws that are not enforced could be a slippery slope.

Guest
Christine Jones says:
4 August 2012

I was hit by a hit and run driver (who was caught) who turned right on to me at a junction in London. I wasn’t wearing a helmet, I had 5 stitches to my head, I don’t remember any of it due to the concussion, cracked several ribs front and back and a broken collar bone. However I don’t think helmets should be made law. I wear a helmet when riding a road bike or if I’m commuting but to pootle into to town for a bit of shopping, no. I am looking into a helmet – Lazer CityZen urban helmet http://www.chainreactioncycles.com/Models.aspx?ModelID=60189 this one to be precise and I would love Which? to tell me how effective it would be should I be hit by something. I hate wearing my helmet, and usually wear a peak cap because it keeps the sun, rain and wind out of my eyes. This helmet in the link has a peak and doesn’t look as ugly as most. I am pleased to see helmets are starting to come in different shapes and colours for different purposes.
The main reason I am looking at one for every day cycling is that I do expect my kids to wear their helmets and they keep asking me why I don’t wear mine. My answer would be ‘because it looks pants and doesn’t go with what I’m wearing’ but I can’t really say that, hence trying to find one I would be seen dead in (oh the irony).
Definitely don’t make it a legal issue. What we do need is the same laws they have in Holland and other neighbouring countries that means that drivers are legally at fault whatever the accident, which makes them much more cautious and respectful of cyclists. Having happily cycled to the moon and back in Holland for 10 years and never worn a helmet there or come into any grief with a car there I’d say, give the UK better roads and better rules and the helmet thing is best left mainly for sport riding and kids (who do just randomly fall off all the time).
Cycling is my favourite thing in the whole world and I do it most days, I own three bikes on average and a trailer and take great pleasure cycling everywhere with my kids. I would much rather see good roads with adequate room or segregation where speeds exceed 30mph than ways to make cyclists at fault for not wearing a helmet.

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Guest

It beggars belief that appearance should be a factor in deciding whether or not to wear a cycling helmet.

Having said that, I realise that I did not wear motorcycle leathers because I did not wish to be associated with the minority of motorcyclists that behave like idiots. I might not have been limping for the rest of my life if I had had more sense.

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Guest

Quite right about appearance being irrelevant. If you choose the right helmet nobody can tell who you are anyway.

I probably used to look ludicrous on my old-fashioned gaudily painted 1950’s Raleigh Roadster with Sturmey Archer 3-speed hub gear and dynamo lighting. A helmet would not have made the appearance any worse but it might have softened the blow when I was knocked over by a car coming out of a side road one night. Battery lighting would have been a good idea as well as my front lamp was barely showing as I struggled up the incline at low speed. Personally I can’t think of one good reason not to wear a helmet nowadays but I still would not support making it compulsory.

Cycling is one of those activities wherein however much care you take you are exceedingly vulnerable to the actions of others and to unforeseen hazards. Some people have identified going down the stairs as being more dangerous and would equally justify the wearing of a helmet. Not so in my opinion – if you take proper care on a staircase, grip the handrail, and tread carefully, you will come to no harm as nobody’s going to ram you from the side or slam into you from behind.

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Guest

You probably blended in nicely with the other cyclists of that era, John.

When I was able to ride a bike I got out the soldering iron and made a simple circuit to automatically switch over from dynamo to battery lighting when moving slowly or stationary. I had four speed Sturmey Archer gears too. Compared with pushing chains across cogs, it seemed an elegant design. I did not have a cycle helmet, and I’m not sure if they existed at the time.

I agree with your comments about stairs, and can recommend living in a bungalow. 🙂

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Guest

I should have mentioned that I was talking about the the 1985-90 era when I cycled all over north London on my ungainly machine with bright green frame and red mudguards and a varnished wooden box on the back with loose shopping in it that rattled and banged as the bike went over every bump in the road. I felt quite safe in the daylight because everyone gave me a wide berth. As you say, wavechange, cycle helmets as we know them now were not available. In wet weather I wore a sou’-wester and in the cold I had an old Biggles-type flying helmet; neither would have been much good in a prang.

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Guest

No 631 double-butted, carbon fibre toe-clips? I am surprised. 🙂

Guest
Christine jones says:
6 August 2012

Deliberately wobbling is a technique mentioned and advocated by many urban cycle instructors. It doesn’t mean look like you are about to fall off! Those sticks are a foot long and went out with the ark, no doubt because they didn’t work. They would need to be a metre long and at that length pose more risk than not having one. I agree cycle paths need to be wider and over 30mph, seperate. I’m glad you are a considerate road user, you clearly care. Just don’t get me started when it comes to picking on cyclists vs drivers and law breaking. I’ve heard it all, seen most of it and have the scars to prove it 🙂

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Guest

Driving instructors used to teach various things that are now considered poor practice. Deliberate wobbling might be frowned on by future cycle instructors.

I assume that someone who is wobbling may be drunk. A couple of nights ago I had to brake to avoid a wobbler that suddenly cut in front of me to change lane, without any warning. If cyclists wobble when they are sober how will I know when to take extra care.

We have already agreed that this should not be a blame game and that we need to do more to make cycling safer. To say something relevant to the topic, I think it would be prudent to wear cycle helmets until this happens. We are both accident-prone when on two wheels.

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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)

What do you think?

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Guest

“Joe argues that wearing a helmet is common sense”
“Common sense is that collection of prejudices that you have accumulated by the age of 18 – Albert Einstein”
Einstein nailed it. Common sense synonymous with “gut feel” and too many decisions based on it turn out to be consistent with the end product of the gut. If you think differently I suggest you read Daniel Kahnemans “Thinking fast and slow”
This subject is more complex and counter-intuitive than most people think. Forget the “common sense”, read the evidence.

Guest
Zandranna says:
14 August 2012

The plain fact is, that we can’t afford a mandatory helmet law.

1) It’s costing this country millions in terms of obesity and lack of good healthy exercise. Helmets = Less people cycling

2) To police the act would also cost millions.

3) Wasted time – The act would then be tried and tested over several years while creating segregated cycling would be put on the back burner while they get all the stats together.

4) Our cities and towns need cleaning up “NOW” of the foul air we breath that is causing 29 thousand early lung disease deaths. More cycling = less motorised vehicles on the road.

5) Hundreds if not thousands of lives save with segregated cycling – a small handful saved with a helmet law.

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Guest

For goodness sake. Cycling isn’t the only way of getting good healthy exercise.

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Guest

Cycling isn’t the only way of getting healthy exercise but bear the following point in mind: Humans are no different to other animals in we evolved to exist in a world where we competed for scarce resources. We no longer live in the type of environment for which we are evolved but conserving energy is nonetheless powerfully built into our nature, and performing any activity that has no utility purpose requires a force of will. This is evidenced by the fact that fewer than 5% of people who embark on exercise regimes manage to sustain the regime.

I have never regarded cycling as a form of exercise & by exercise I mean an activity performed to compensate for a sedentary lifestyle. To me cycling is a form of transport, its a lifestyle activity with utility value that happens to provide health benefits and be enjoyable enough to use for leisure as well.

Guest
Richard F says:
16 August 2012

I do wear a cycle helmet when I ride a bike – I always thought it would be protective only if I fell off, but little use otherwise. When I used to go to work 20 miles away using train and bike I was one evening knocked off by a car turning right across my path – a pure accident. Most of the impact was taken by my shoulder blade being smashed; but some time after surgery I realised that another part of the offending car had damaged the helmet, which I replaced. So I’m quite convinced of the virtues of a Which? Best Buy helmet.

Guest
Steve Augustin says:
16 August 2012

I’m for safety but also reason. What do the statistics say. I read somewhere or perhaps heard it on a podcast that wearing a helmet made the wearer feel safer and therefore lead to a false sense of security resulting in them taking more risks which then lead to more accidents. Not wearing a helmet meant that riders felt more vulnerable and took less risks resulting in a lower level of accidents. Can anyone confirm this or what study it was ?

Guest
Christine Jones says:
16 August 2012

http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1139.html

This might be what you are looking for. Worth reading.

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Guest

I’ve heard this too, Steve. It’s fair enough to take risks off-road, but with cars and heavier vehicles on the road, it does not make much sense to take a lot of risk.

Drinking alcohol makes many people feel more confident about their driving.but if they have any sense they will recognise that this is a false sense of security.

We can probably discount the idea that wearing a helmet is, on average, likely to make injuries worse.

Guest
Christine Jones says:
16 August 2012

Having just spent three days having a mini holiday in Central London, taking bikes and cycling round the routes that 7 years ago were regular daily commutes I have seen some big differences in 7 years. There are alot more cyclists; mainly on trendy fixies (fixed wheel) with white tyres. Hybrids are yesterday’s news. Cyclists everywhere! there are the Boris bikes, and Bromptons (my choice too) of course but alot more of all types and ages. It is an uncomfortable tustle between the buses, taxis, white vans and alot more large lorries than I remember. Also the speeds were higher than I remember, drivers really putting their foot down between each set of lights, a few white van drivers that really wouldn’t care if they left you for dead.
The biggest thing that would make a difference would be to bring the law into line with Holland, Germany and Denmark in that if a driver hits a bike they are automatically at fault. The result is that drivers are more mindful of hitting a bike or pedestrian. If a driver faced a driving ban for hitting a cyclist instead of a slap on the wrist for killing someone’s mum they might think twice.
A helmet is useful but if you are hit by a double decker bus, there’s only so much you can expect a helmet to do. I don’t agree with making them law.
Changing the law to protect cyclists should be a cheap and easy step one but ultimately I found sharing the road with cement mixers and double deckers pretty harrowing, there must be a way to segregate cyclists on the major roads, there is plenty of road they really just need to get the Dutch in to design something for them – they manage it with far less space, especially in medieval cities like Utrecht.
Oh and whoever is responsible for the surfaces should be really ashamed of themselves, the road surface in places was shocking, the potholes were more like craters.
I think the first step would be to change the law – a vehicle is a deadly weapon and whoever is at fault, ultimately the one with the vehicle is the winner because they are still alive, making drivers more aware of this this will protect cyclist far more than a helmet.

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Guest

We could have done quite a lot to deal with these issues if we had spent half the amount on the Olympics.