Should bike helmets be compulsory?

The Giro Atmos Helmet 2011

The Northern Ireland Assembly has voted in legislation that will make the wearing of bike helmets compulsory whilst cycling. The Irish Parliament is also soon due to debate this issue.  I am just hoping, perhaps optimistically, that this debate will not start in Westminster.

Wearing a bike helmet is undoubtedly a good idea. I own one and I wear it on some rides and not others. This is my choice. Choice seems to be a difficult concept for some politicians and supporters of this legislation to understand.  You take a risk when you ride a bike and how you choose to manage that risk, is in my opinion, your decision.

Politicians should not interfere in how people choose to ride their bike. If helmets should be compulsory, why not elbow and knee pads? That would help to prevent the more common injuries. What about shoulder padding too? Since breaking your collarbone is the most common fracture on a bike. Let’s make pedestrians wear a flashing red light at night too so that motorists could see them better in the dark. This would save lives.

I always choose to wear good quality cycling gloves as, when I’ve fallen off in the past, grazing your hands on tarmac stings like mad. But I don’t think that others should be forced to through legislation.

Bike helmets should not be compulsory. It should be left to the cyclist to decide whether he or she wants to wear one. There is no evidence to suggest that in a collision or a fall that it will actually help.

The Giro Atmos is available from Wiggle for £116.99

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9 responses to “Should bike helmets be compulsory?

  1. If anything, those flashing red lights should be banned again!
    I agree in some respects. Serious cyclists are generally well enough informed to make a decision on whether or not to wear a helmet. But I think we can probably agree that this law isn’t aimed at serious cyclists, and more at the day-to-day, hop on anything with two wheels and ride it cyclists. In those cases enforcing safety measures is probably a good idea.

  2. Vic, that’s a fair point BUT the trouble is the law, if introduced, would affect everyone. I couldn’t apply for exemption because I have 40 years of cycling experience nor others.

    • I must admit that if I’m only nipping down to the shops, I don’t tend to bother. I guess the reasoning behind the law is that it’s better to impose upon the will of the experienced in order to improve safety amongst the wider cycling population.

      I suspect it will be much like the fine for riding on pavements – everyone knows you could get fined but it doesn’t stop them.

  3. My kid’s friend’s dad is a v experienced cyclist. He is also a Dr.
    He always wears a helmet.
    Recently he had an accident where a deer ran out and he crashed into it (I know – does sound unbelievable). He fell etc – deer died (he was going v fast the cyclist). His bike helmet cracked in 2. There were broken bones- surgery required. But at least no fractured skull……
    But in this state, even motorcyclists ARE NOT required to wear crash helmets. And every year so many bikers die in crashes with head trauma….

  4. Mum of 4,

    When I get my new road bike, I will probably wear it always whilst I am riding fast. But if I’m just nipping down to the shops 5 mins away and riding slowly, I wouldn’t. No risk of deer running out in front of me then…

    And I believe you! seriously.

  5. You lost me on the second paragraph.

    Wearing a helmet is not undoubtedly a good thing. If it was then there would be no debate about it. However the evidence for them being effective is non existent. Where they have been mandated there has been no drop on casualty rates as you would expect if they were effective. Why that happens is unknown but it is still true.

    What we do categorically know is that making helmets compulsory causes a massive drop in the number of people cycling.
    Those who are pushing for compulsion are either incompetent in that they have not done basic research into the subject or have another agenda. However that agenda does not include improving the safety of cyclists.

  6. Chris,

    I actually agree with everything you write. There are two aspects to this debate, which are

    is wearing a helmet a good idea?
    and, should it be compulsory?

    Perhaps I wasn’t explicit enough in my article. The debate about whether wearing a helmet is a good one will continue. Personally, I prefer to wear a helmet when I want to feel safer. I understand if others don’t want to. I don’t really want to get bogged down in this debate though.

    The most important issue is the second question. Should it be compulsory? Absolutely not.

  7. No way, they shouldn’t be compulsory. For under 16s or something like that maybe… I want to be able to make the choice between wearing a helmet if I’m going on roads or anything hilly, mountain bikey or fast; or not if I’m going for a casual flat ride. And broken collarbone, yeah I know that one, ouch!

  8. http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1052.html
    … a starting point?

    I used to wear one in my cycling days, because I thought it might help in a minor accident. Indeed, my wife’s one split when her head hit the asphalt on one memorable occasion. But I doubt how much it would help in a really serious accident. Actually, there’s probably a greater case for compulsion in the case of vehicle occupants. The trouble with compulsion is that it shifts the blame to the non-wearer. But then again, why should scarce medical resources be expended when a helmet might have helped?
    Tricky ….. on balance, I’m against compulsion but for wearing …
    Lovely view from the fence, up here …

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