According to a 2015 study, only 30% of adults wear bicycle helmets on major roads in the UK and, perhaps surprisingly, only 11% of male children, probably one of the highest risk groups. An earlier study in 2012 found that more than 100,000 head injuries from cycling accidents in the US could have been prevented in 1997 if all riders had been wearing helmets.
Cycling Safety Laws
Wearing a helmet is not compulsory in the UK although it is law in many other parts of the world including Australia, New Zealand and many states in the US and Canada. There is a strong body of opinion backed by medical evidence that helmet usage significantly reduces the risk of head injury when a cyclist has an accident.
There is also a large lobby of people who oppose wearing one at all, refuting the validity of case studies and arguing that compulsory legislation just encourages rather than fights obesity.
What Does a Cycling Helmet Do?
A bicycle helmet is intended to reduce serious head injuries by preventing the skull from making direct contact with another object. The crushable polystyrene that forms the mainliner is naturally light and absorbs energy on impact thereby protecting the head.
Cycle helmets are not designed nor indeed tested to provide full protection if coming into contact with a moving vehicle, but they can still reduce the risk of a fractured skull plus protect the head from cuts and bruises.
Good Reasons for Wearing a Cycling Helmet
- Evidence from multiple medical studies and accident and emergency hospital admissions shows that head injuries can be reduced and prevented by wearing protective headwear.
- Sudden sharp braking can result in a rider falling headfirst over the handlebars with inevitable consequences.
- Overhanging objects such as trees are easily hit when not paying attention.
- Inexperienced riders, especially young children, often have less control over their bikes, resulting in more frequent falls.
- Mountain biking, by nature, is prone to more frequent falls and impact with tree roots, rocks, and other natural features so a mountain bike helmet is a must.
- A properly fitted helmet will feel like a second skin and a rider should feel naked without it.
Anti-Helmet Campaign Arguments
- Compulsion laws reduce the number of cyclists and discourage an active healthy lifestyle.
- Drivers take less care when approaching cyclists wearing helmets.
- Average cyclists are not presented with the same risks as road racers or downhill mountain bike riders so do not need to take the same precautions.
- Good quality helmets are too expensive, especially for low-income groups.
- Wearing a helmet is uncomfortable on hot days and sweat can hamper vision, causing an accident.
- Females hate “helmet-hair” and prefer to look their best on arrival at their destination.
- For young people, it just isn’t cool to wear one.
To Wear or Not to Wear a Cycle Helmet
Cycling helmets can prevent serious brain damage when worn and fitted correctly. Whilst wearing one is entirely up to the individual, anyone who has ever fallen headfirst off their bike will vouch for their effectiveness. For them, it is, quite literally, a no brainer.