Your cycling fallacy is…
“People should wear helmets when cycling, that would make it safe”
Wearing a helmet has been shown to make little difference to overall cycling safety. Countries with mandatory helmet laws, or high levels of helmet usage, show no reduction in head injuries (or injuries overall) compared to countries or areas without these laws.
Where streets and roads are designed well, cycling is such a subjectively safe activity that people feel as comfortable cycling as if they were going out in a car, or on a bus, or walking about. Good quality infrastructure has a far higher effect on cycling rates and safety than personal protective equipment.
Conversely, in some parts of the world the environment is so hostile to cycling that many people may feel there is no option but to wear a helmet or other equipment, even if it should only offer the most minor improvement in safety. A high rate of helmet use is a sign that the authorities have failed to design well for cycling.
The mandating of helmet use is proven to have a negative impact: it discourages people from cycling, thus reducing the societal benefit accruing from a healthier, more active population. It should be an individual's choice whether to wear a helmet, or indeed any other form of protective gear.
The effect of good infrastructure cannot be ignored: the Netherlands – which is the safest country in the world for cycling, with the widest demographic of people who cycle – also has the lowest rate of helmet use. Anyone who truly cares about cycling safety should campaign for infrastructure, first and foremost.
Photo by P.M. Lydon (CC BY-SA 3.0)
- European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery – Rethinking bicycle helmets as a preventive tool: a 4-year review of bicycle injuries — Springer Link
- Bike helmets – a dangerous fixation? On the bike helmet’s place in the cycling safety discourse in the United States — Taylor and Francis (academic journals)
- Changes in participation, demographics and hazard associated with mandatory bicycle helmets in New South Wales, Australia — ScienceDirect
- Are head injuries to cyclists an important cause of death in road travel fatalities? — ScienceDirect
- Bicycling injury hospitalisation rates in Canadian jurisdictions: analyses examining associations with helmet legislation and mode share — BMJ
- Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws — ScienceDirect
- "0.5% of Dutch cyclists wear helmets, 13.3% of hospitalised cyclists were wearing them" — The Cycling Silk
- Car Crashes Are The Leading Cause Of Fatal Head Trauma Among Teens — Forbes
- Study finds no link between cycling helmet laws and head injury rates — Road.cc
- The Case Against Bike Helmets—And For Better Bike Infrastructure — FastCoExist
- "Why forcing cyclists to wear helmets will not save lives" — The Guardian
- Cycle helmets are useless, says brain surgeon — The Telegraph (UK)
- Aussie helmet law does more harm than good, Senate hears — Road.cc
- The Unhelpful Ways Cities Talk About Bike Helmets — CityLab
- Should bike helmets be compulsory? Lessons from Seattle and Amsterdam — The Guardian
- How Bike Helmet Laws Do More Harm Than Good — CityLab
- The big bike helmet debate: 'You don’t make it safe by forcing cyclists to dress for urban warfare' — The Guardian
- ECF Helmet Factsheet — European Cyclists’ Federation
- The Cycle of Reform - Mandatory Helmet Laws on YouTube Show video Hide video
- Infrastructure vs Helmets — The Alternative Department for Transport
- So what’s the best evidence we have on bicycle helmets? — War on the Motorist
- Why it makes sense to bike without a helmet — Howie Chong
- Helmets – Expectation and Inconsistency — As Easy as Riding a Bike
- Stairs are dangerous - wear a helmet — A View From The Cycle Path
- Debunking the Biggest Myths of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Law Advocates — The Warrior Factor (blog)
- "All those helmet posts in one place" — At War With The Motorist
- Headway’s Brick Wall — As Easy as Riding a Bike
- A Health and Safety Perspective of Cycling Safety — Alistair Marshall
- Rethinking Safety, by Marjut Ollitervo @cyclite — Kaupunkifillari
- Are Helmets Just A Distraction From The Bigger Issue? on YouTube Show video Hide video
- Cycle helmets use analysis and myth-busting — Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation
- Argumente gegen die Helmpflicht - ADFC Bundesverband e.V. — ADFC Bundesverband
- Infrastruktur vs Helme — Das Andere Bundesministerium für Verkehr
- Pedro Delgado, representante de Ciclistas Profesionales, opina sobre el uso obligatorio del casco, ante comisión del Congreso de los Diputados on YouTube Show video Hide video
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