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?