Leave things as they are - i.e. recommended but not compulsory. How would cycle hire schemes like Boris Bikes work for instance? The article was reasonably balanced I thought. Helmets are only designed for low speed impacts, something like hitting the ground at 12mph I recall, so aren't going to be much use if you are in collision with a motor vehicle where the combined speeds are likely to be greater. I always find it amusing that the proponents say a helmet makes cycling safer - well they don't protect against broken arms, legs, wrists, collar bones or road rash, all of which are more likely than a head injury.
Against, because it creates an implication that if a cyclist is not wearing a helmet, then they suddenly 'deserve' any injury they get.
FWIW, I always wear a helmet and have done for years, but it's my choice. However I would only cycle to work and back (showers at either end) or for fun at the weekends, so I never worried about helmet hair etc.
The same issue is with cycle lanes. A great idea in principle but they make other road users think that if we're not using them, then cyclists are fair game, rather than treating them as part of the traffic.
Against. There are types of cycling where it is good to wear one (cities with congested roads, mountain biking) and there are types of cycling where it is broadly unnecessary (low speed cycling on dedicated off-road paths such as the MK Redways). Leave it to the individual cyclists' own risk assessments, or that of their parents/families.
As with climbing, some prefer to wear one at all times and not bother with that RA, I'm absolutely fine with that, that's their choice, and I will (unlike some people who are against helmet laws) never suggest anyone has made the wrong choice by wearing one. But (as I hate having things on my head and they cause me to overheat) I prefer to decide based on the individual situation.
>I always find it amusing that the proponents say a helmet makes cycling safer - well they don't protect against broken arms, legs, wrists, collar bones or road rash, all of which are more likely than a head injury.
Because a head-injury is potentially much more life-changing/fatal compared to a broken wrist/arm/leg?
I'm still surprised they aren't mandatory. You have to wear a seatbelt in a car, a helmet on a motorbike...
If not for adults, then certainly under 18 year-olds.
What always surprises me is seeing parents cycling with their children, parents wearing helmets, kids not.
Interestingly, a study (no time to find it, but it's there!) found children are much more likely to receive an head-injury from using scooters/micro-scooters than riding a bike. The proximity to the ground, combined with the nearly equal speed of fall means you don't have as much time to put your hands out to protect yourself.
In reply to Blizzard: If helmets were made compulsory - would there be lessons in how to fit one correctly?! I often want to inform parents that their child's helmet is not protecting their head correctly when it sits on the back of the head and doesn't cover the forehead! I never have spoken to parents about it, I feel it's not my place, but I see if so often that I wonder if I should.
I will give you the benefit of the doubt here and presume you were asking a genuine question, not just being silly.
The process of putting on the helmet prompted us to think more about us and our bikes. So rather than just jumping off and cycling away it helped us get into the habit of doing some other checks on the bikes - tyres, brakes, chain etc.
Physically putting the helmet on was also a good reminder to consider safety.
And yes, you don't need a helmet to do those, but for us it was neither an inconvenience nor an issue. It was a positive thing.
> (In reply to Chris the Tall)
> To be fair, motorists have airbags on almost all new cars (is it now required, like ABS is?) which fulfil the same purpose.
Same purpose? No. The purpose of airbags - and various other car 'improvements' - is to ensure that cars are less economically mainainable and therefore to increase new car sales and improve the car manufactures' revenue streams.
> (In reply to Rampikino)
> An interesting point. Presumably it made you think about cycling as a risky activity rather than a day-to-day mode of transport?
> Good or bad? A bit of both there, I think.
> FWIW, on the occasions I do wear one it doesn't make me check those items any more than usual.
I think a number of things were at play - the knowledge that a Policeman could stop us at any time and give us an on-the-spot fine was one motivation. But also the routine it got us into gave us a bit more thought about the whole process. We used our bikes both for getting to/from work but also for fun at places like Woodhill. We both fell off our bikes a few times and in hindsight I'm glad we had the extra bit of safety.
I guess I should point out that I've not made a call one way or the other - I was simply pointing to an experience in a country where it is enshrined in the law.
Over here we always wear them - we've got into the habit and it makes a lot of sense.
In reply to Rampikino: I never asked for you to give me the benefit of the doubt.
You responded to Blizzard with - "Personally I am against it." is hardly a basis for a debate.
The contribution you then made to the debate was to say it's mandatory in New Zealand. How does that help the debate? Shall we just go through every country in the world and say what their position on helmets is?
Or, should we only take the views from countries where you have lived?
> (In reply to Marek)
> You can think that. Meanwhile I'd rather be involved in an accident in a car with an airbag than one without.
Ah, but that's not the point here. I would like to have an airbag if I was to be in an accident (and indeed I always wear a bike helmet). But do you believe that it should be a criminal offence to drive a car without an airbag? I don't. I think it should be a personal choice. Over-enthusiastic legislation to protect us from our own mistakes logically lead to websites like this becoming a historical anachronism ("What is this climbing they speak of?").
> (In reply to RankAmateur)
> It's hard to say. I get the sense that 'hard-core' cyclists are quick to demand that more is done to legislate in relation to motorists but not so quick to accept legislation for themselves.
It's a matter of balance. A cyclist is likely to bear the brunt of the consequences of their or a driver mistake and therefore is motivated to be more careful. The driver is very unlikely to be injured, will suffer little financial loss and (assuming it was their negligence) is unlikely to suffer civil or criminal consequences (based on recent evidence). The driver has less of that basic self-protection motivation to be careful. The argument therefore is that to redress that, the legal bias must favour the cyclist to balance the physical bias in favour of the driver such that they are equally motivated to avoid an collision.
I'm all in favour of wearing them, but not in favour of it being law - it's too nanny state and the police don't have the capacity to enforce it anyway. Think about bike lights.
I wear one most of the time, always when I'm out mountain biking, always on the road bike, but not often on the hack bike just popping to the shops - but that's a considered risk, taking into account several factors.
I'd prefer it if social trends moved in favour of using them, as well as more visible clothing and bike lights.
As far as I can tell, many people's cycling would be much safer if they worked on their cycling ability and road awareness, rather than just stuck a helmet on for when they come unstuck - case in point being a PCSO we nearly ran over twice last year, circumstances of which I can't be bothered to type.
You can take safety to extremes. Earlier this week, I saw a dad with 2 boys on micro scooters, both wearing helmets and high-viz jackets that were almost down to their knees - seemed a bit overkill on a wide pavement in the middle of a residential area.
" But do you believe that it should be a criminal offence to drive a car without an airbag? I don't."
No, and it isn't, though it might well be the case that new cars must be manufactured with them, which is (over time) the same thing. This kind of situation has an advantage in that it reduces, over time, those of limited budget being put off choosing a safer car because the cheaper ones are less safe.
A comparison is perhaps the idea that food hygiene laws mean you can't serve ratburgers (well...) to keep costs down - everyone must follow at least some basic standards.
But I doubt cost puts anyone off wearing a cycle helmet, as they are £3 in Tesco, so if you can afford a bike you can afford a helmet.
This is true. I sometimes get the feeling I am just about the only person in MK who uses bike lights, and there is no enforcement. Yes, the paths are segregated, but as a pedestrian (or when I went for a run last night on a completely unlit path) it is nice to know when a stealth cyclist is approaching at high speed.
In reply to Blizzard:
If the Telegraph is to be believed then the studies show that the benefits of the exercise outweigh the risk of injury and that mandatory cycle helmets would worsen public health by reducing cycling. Hence I don't think helmets should be mandatory.
> (In reply to Blizzard)
> I'm all in favour of wearing them, but not in favour of it being law - it's too nanny state
Agree on both counts - there's also a fair amount of evidence that for whatever reason, compulsory helmet laws result in a net reduction in the number of people cycling, and that a reduction in the number of people cycling makes it less safe for those who are left. Hence from the selfish point of view of someone who wears a helmet anyway, compulsory helmet legislation would be an unmitigated Bad Thing.
> As far as I can tell, many people's cycling would be much safer if they worked on their cycling ability and road awareness, rather than just stuck a helmet on for when they come unstuck
Very strongly agree. A helmet won't help you if you get squashed by a lorry, knowing where not to position yourself to avoid getting squashed in the first place will. Lorries being designed to have fewer blind spots would also help.
Your cycling fatality figures also don't take in to account the number of miles (kilometres) travelled by bicycle in each country. Having the figure as x fatalities per 1 million Km or similar is probably the only reasonable way to compare countries.
A good number of the cycling deaths in London are due to large vehicles turning left and the cyclist being to the left of the vehicle - as much the fault of the cyclist as the vehicle driver. A helmet isn't going to do much good with a 40 tonne truck running over your torso.
Like I've said, I wear one but I'm under no illusion that the protection it offers is anything but slight once you are moving at any reasonable speed.
If as much effort was put in to improving the standard of behaviour of all road users then that would be much more use. I'm going to trade in our car as it's obvious round here that newer models are fitted with a device that lets you see round corners and over blind summits!
In reply to Blizzard: I wear one when I feel like it and don't wear one when I don't feel like it. I like to have that choice. I always wear one when out mountain biking, or in poor conditions and winter but when I have the Ray Bans on and am just chillin, I like the wind in my hair. It's my risk but I understand that.
In reply to Blizzard:
I am very happy that I spend a large amount of time living in a country where I can largely do what I want.
To that end, I tend to wear a seatbelt when driving a car -but not always.
I don't wear a helmet on my scooter nor when I kitesurf but I do when cycling.
I'm not sure there's a lot of logic behind this but am happy that I get to make the choice myself.
It must be said that when I am helmet less on my scooter, I am very aware of this and I think this encourages me to be more aware.
The thought of being forced to wear one in this country does not please me at all and is the sort of thing that I left the uk to avoid.
I think it is fair that payouts are reduced if a head injury occurs without a helmet that can be proven would not occur with one. However, a mashed bike has nothing to do with a helmet. I would have pursued that, in court if necessary.
> Both of those activities involve far higher speeds.
Is it not compulsory to wear a helmet on any motorbike? A lot of young people ride motorbikes limited to 30mph,and stil have to wear a helmet which I'm sure any road cyclist will tell you is significantly slower than their top speed...
> Leave things as they are - i.e. recommended but not compulsory. How would cycle hire schemes like Boris Bikes work for instance? The article was reasonably balanced I thought. Helmets are only designed for low speed impacts, something like hitting the ground at 12mph I recall, so aren't going to be much use if you are in collision with a motor vehicle where the combined speeds are likely to be greater. I always find it amusing that the proponents say a helmet makes cycling safer - well they don't protect against broken arms, legs, wrists, collar bones or road rash, all of which are more likely than a head injury.
All of which are less likely to cause death unlike a head injury. A decent helmet will take a decent bit of energy out of any collision with the head, and so will reduce the energy transmitted to the skull and brain a little no matter what the speeds involved in the impact. Of course if you want to expand the remit of evidential analysis to include other factors then helmets might not be overall healthy because they discourage people from cycling and so we get more heart disease (but this is challengeable by education and other pro cycling measures), they might reduce hearing and overall awareness (perhaps, but addressable with better helmet design), might provide top heavyness or the potential for leverage imposed during a collision (again addressable with better helmet design). None of which takes away from the lab analysis that shows the energy imposed upon the brain is much less when a helmet is being worn. Personally, having hit a Rolls Royce silver shadow (me going about 25) him coming out onto a main road not looking, at night, without his lights on, I've gone head 1st right across the bonnet, and landed head first on the road, then flank against the curb, cracked the helmet in two, but with no concussion or anything, but pissed blood from the kidney injury. I was very glad that the helmet had done its job.. ..so I'll keep wearing mine.
> (In reply to Blizzard)
> "Personally I am against it." is hardly a basis for a debate.
> We lived in New Zealand for a while and helmets are mandatory. It got us into good habits for good reasons.
If a cyclist gets a lower payout for not having a helmet that means the idea of lower damages payout should apply to pedestrians, motorcyclists, drivers of small cars or anybody else who chooses to travel in anything other than a lorry or a heavy 4x4 with bull bars.
I think legal liability should be tipped towards road users in the heavier/faster vehicle.
The trouble the anti-compulsion lobby have is that it's counter-intuitive; surely wearing a helmet is the right thing to do, in the minds of most people.
I have to declare an interest, I cycle a lot an nearly always wear a hat. I crash a lot whilst mountain biking because I am crap, on occasion I believe my hat has reduced the severity of cuts and grazes to my head.
Personally I don't agree with compulsion though. I think the pro-helmet lobby is mainly made up of well meaning medics, and anti-cyclists.
I'm not saying that helmets are no good, only that they aren't the universal panacea that the vehemently pro-helmet lobby make them out to be. I reckon out of the 10,000Km that I've ridden in the last year I've probably only ridden about 5km without a helmet. I'm not anti helmet, I'm anti compulsion as evidence (Australia and elsewhere) shows that there is a reduction in take up of cycling when such laws are introduced and while short term hospital admissions *may* fall, in the long run the health benefits of people not taking up cycling (or giving up) will outweigh any such gains.
Interesting point about reduced hearing - there's a definite difference in volume between facing forward (loud) and looking to the side (not so loud). Been out this morning and it was very windy and a real struggle to hear cars coming up behind you.
In reply to DancingOnRock: whether it's ski or bike helmets, the frequency of near death experiences seems to increase in direct proportion to the strength of feeling that people have that folks should wear them. I've never banged my head in 10 years of fairly serious cycling (all road pretty much) and 25 years of skiing - and until a recent incident had never personally known anyone to bang their head in either pastime. I usually wear a helmet cycling, never do skiing. However get on a helmet thread over on Snowheads and there are literally dozens of people who have smacked their head skiing and been saved from death or brain damage only by their helmet.
Similarly in cycling - broken helmets in helmet proponents etc seem far, far more common than broken skulls - but I guess there's some self-selection going on there! Although I do find James Cracknell's assertion odd, in that he would "definitely" be dead had he not been wearing a helmet when hit at an estimated 70mph by a lorry's wing mirror in an unwitnessed accident that resulted in serious brain damage - presumably because his brain smacked into his skull in the sort of impact that we're told can't be mitigated by a cycling helmet.
I'm very much against compulsion but probably wear one on 95% of rides nowadays - my current helmet's pretty comfy. I might take it off for a long climb if it's super hot, but that'd be rare.
> Similarly in cycling - broken helmets in helmet proponents etc seem far, far more common than broken skulls - but I guess there's some self-selection going on there!
Having been in a fair few bike crashes my theory is that we're much more aware of where our heads are than we realise when we take a tumble, and so many helmets get smashed simply because they make your head twice as big and you don't naturally tuck the extended area in.
> (In reply to andy)
> Having been in a fair few bike crashes my theory is that we're much more aware of where our heads are than we realise when we take a tumble, and so many helmets get smashed simply because they make your head twice as big and you don't naturally tuck the extended area in.
I can identify with that. We sometimes have to wear site helmets at work. You whack your head on all sorts of things.
The other issue is that it's been 'proved'? that motorists take more care around cyclists and give them more room when the cyclist is not wearing helmets than when the cyclist is. I don't know if that takes into account that doddery old ladies and children wobble about a lot in the gutter and MAMILs cycle assertively out in the middle of the road.
> The other issue is that it's been 'proved'? that motorists take more care around cyclists and give them more room when the cyclist is not wearing helmets than when the cyclist is. I don't know if that takes into account that doddery old ladies and children wobble about a lot in the gutter and MAMILs cycle assertively out in the middle of the road.
I think that 'study' was a bit flawed, if not plain guff.
I think helmets are effective in some circumstance, but compulsory use will have a number of unintended consequences, most of which have been mentioned.
I'll add.... you'll get a load of people wearing badly fitting helmets (which you see anyway). The consequences of this will eventually show up in the accident stats and be misinterpreted by the anti-helmet zealots.
> (In reply to Papillon)
> Not quite symmetrical is it?
Not quite that simple!
Go somewhere like cyclehelmets.org (a website that is frequently linked) and you'll get very subjective opinion presented as fact. Numerous peer reviewed articles criticised, often tenuously, while the Ian Walker study is lauded as absolute truth.
It's one of those subjects which seems to polarise opinion too much.
> (In reply to deepsoup)
> Not quite that simple!
> Go somewhere like cyclehelmets.org (a website that is frequently linked) and you'll get very subjective opinion presented as fact. Numerous peer reviewed articles criticised, often tenuously, while the Ian Walker study is lauded as absolute truth.
> It's one of those subjects which seems to polarise opinion too much.
I think it's a bit cynical to believe that drivers don't take more care depending on the appearance of cyclists. We're human beings. Anything that dehumanises the appearance cyclists is going to be a bad thing.
I've noticed in particular that cars will pass me very quickly and closely (I don't wear a helmet) then slam on their brakes and pass my 13 year old daughter (wearing a helmet) with lots of space.
I don't wear a helmet out of choice and habit rather than from any critical statistical analysis I've carried out. .
"It's one of those subjects which seems to polarise opinion too much."
This is rather the problem. Both sides would do better to stick to rational argument and debate, and respect each others' views.
I am someone who usually does not wear one, and being called an idiot and the likes is hardly likely to influence me to change my behaviour, and knowing my nature neither is emotional stuff like "I'm glad I was..." or "I wish I had been...". A rational argument, for example injury statistics and what happened in those cases coupled with information on testing and the products out there is much more likely to do so.
> (In reply to Papillon)
> "It's one of those subjects which seems to polarise opinion too much."
> This is rather the problem. Both sides would do better to stick to rational argument and debate, and respect each others' views.
> I am someone who usually does not wear one, and being called an idiot and the likes is hardly likely to influence me to change my behaviour, and knowing my nature neither is emotional stuff like "I'm glad I was..." or "I wish I had been...". A rational argument, for example injury statistics and what happened in those cases coupled with information on testing and the products out there is much more likely to do so.
I agree, but it would depend how those statistics were presented and how they were relevant to me (a white, fit, confident, male, riding on quiet country lanes) vs an old lady cycling in central London, or my son riding up and down our quiet cul-de-sac on the pavement.
There are two main views - one (mine) is for individual risk assessment of the situation (I would, for instance, wear one mountain biking, though it's not an activity I often engage in), and the other is "just wear one always then you don't have to think about it".
I have no particular issue with those wishing to take the latter view any more than I do of anyone who always takes a waterproof jacket whenever they go out, say. Up to them. But I do object to being told, often very rudely, that is the only valid approach.
I similarly think those who rubbish the wearing of helmets entirely are doing the same thing.
FWIW, the irony of this is that any helmet law is only likely to hit the riding of bicycles on the public highway rather than e.g. on forest trails on private land.
> (In reply to LastBoyScout)
> Surely if its to be balanced it should be 'and you mustn't wear one either'?
What it really should be is:
> Pro-helmet zealot: "I wear a helmet, and you must wear one too and I want this enshrined in law."
> Anti-helmet-law zealot: "I don't want to wear a helmet and you're not going to make me, but I have no problem with you wearing one if you want to."
In reply to LastBoyScout: not sure what you are getting at there.
Zealots are people who are completely at odds. You're not a zealot if you're not arguing the opposite. In your example the second person isn't being a zealot. He's not imposing his will on the first person. What am I missing?
There's no problem with people being free to chose. The problem comes when people are told that it will improve their chance of survival if X happens. It's particularly crazy when the chance of X happening is non existent.
"The problem comes when people are told that it will improve their chance of survival if X happens. It's particularly crazy when the chance of X happening is non existent."
Or, as with cycle helmets, where the chance of X happening (where X is falling off and banging your head, either caused by another vehicle or not) is felt by one cyclist to be sufficiently low that it is acceptable, but that another cyclist thinks it's sufficiently high and that the other one is a nutter. There are those who don't find something on their head a problem, there are others (like me) where it will cause them to overheat very quickly.
Soloing is a relevant example. Some do it, some don't. Some lead, some only top rope. Etc. I must admit I don't get why so many climbers are so sanctimonious on the issue (of cycling or climbing helmets) when they will argue much more sensibly on the issues of other protection e.g. the use of ropes, types of belay device etc.
(I similarly sometimes wear a helmet when climbing depending on risk of stuff falling on my head/me falling off and banging my head, and when belaying it's the climber who gets to decide as I am there to protect them).
I was trying to put into perspective what exactly are the positions of the 2 camps - perhaps I should have replaced the word zealot at that point, but it does seem to accurately reflect the intensity of feeling.
In reply to LastBoyScout: I know where you're coming from - I tend to react in a more entrenched way when people say things like "you're selfish because you're not the one who'll have to wipe your bum and feed yourself when you bang your head" (this one mainly on skiing forums) as if EVERY serious head injury would be completely avoided by wearing a helmet.
I don't wear one skiing, I almost always wear one cycling, but I couldn't care less what other people choose to do. I do, however, tend to react to being called an idiot or suggestions that I haven't made an assessment of the risk.
In reply to Blizzard: i wear a helmet but it's to protect me from motorists. i've been knocked off my road bike several times but have only ever fallen off once of my own making. motorists should reduce their speed both in town and beyond to allow them more time to consider the presence of other road users, of which cyclists are possibly the most vulnerable and certainly always to come off the worst
The only time I have come close to knocking a cyclist off (by turning right onto a road "onto" him) I was turning out of a junction at around 10mph at night. The cyclist successfully swerved slightly to avoid me. This is not acceptable on my part, I clearly didn't look for long enough, and my guess is that he was hidden behind the pillar at the point I looked. It perhaps didn't help that the road concerned has a parallel Redway so cyclists would not normally be expected on the road, though they are entitled to be there if they wish.
Nonetheless had it happened it would have been completely my fault, and I will look better next time. However, my point is that speed is not necessarily the problem, least of all in town centres where 30 tends to be optimistic - unobservant drivers are. People also need to ride/drive defensively, as mistakes can always be made, and I am thankful that he did as I wouldn't want a dead or seriously injured cyclist on my conscience.
(note re upthread: overtaking traffic on the left where a left turn is possible is *not* riding defensively)
That said, 50mph limits on country single carriageways, which are becoming increasingly common, probably do what you ask, as they promote a much smoother drive (on many such roads I could if I wanted just put the cruise control on 50mph and turn the wheel, though I don't actually do this) and as such keep attention spare to ensure that e.g. a cyclist around a blind bend is noticed.