Monday, February 24, 2014

Mandatory Bike Helmet Law Responses



Bike helmets – a dangerous fixation? On the bike helmet’s place in the cycling safety discourse in the United States

Missing the point


Chris Boardman

Bike Helmets are useless (Brain surgeon)

Less effective than you think

Cycling injuries up with helmet law

Against the advice from many cycling groups, it's very clear now that the Province of Ontario has chosen to make cycling 
as scary and unattractive as possible. 

0. Being forced by law and under the threat of a fine to put on a helmet does not make me want to a bicycle.

1. Instead of getting killed without a bike helmet, I get the honour to be killed with a bike helmet on like
Mike Rankin and Tom Samson

2. The message the Ont. Gov't is sending is this: 1. Drive or take transit. 2. Cycling is dangerous and we will not
make it safer you anytime soon.

3. We cannot be bothered to make it the roads safer for cyclists (three foot passing law, complete streets, 
side guards on trucks, etc) but we can make sure we make cycling as unattractive as possible.

4. Get off your bike if you don't like it.

5. Mandatory helmet legislation means the province is choosing to take cycling seriously as a mode of transportation.

6. The Bike helmet becomes more important than cycling.

7. End of bike advocacy

8. Will no longer ride because I refuse to give in to the idea that cycling is dangerous.

9. They will sell on wearing a bike helmet and promise to improve cycling conditions.
Then tell us there is no money for it.

10. The end result will be 10s of thousands of fines for cyclists (see BC stats) and less cyclists
on the road.

11. Give me one good reason why I should ride a bike now?

12. Makes it official that it's your fault if you injured or worse while riding a bicycle without a bike helmet.   

13. Wearing a bike helmet will save me from a fine, not bad driving.

14. La obligatoriedad del casco redujo el uso de las bicis un 40% en Israel. Fuente: El PaĆ­s

15. Hello Bike Helmet. Good-bye bicycle.

16. Good-bye Bixi and cycling tourism.

Five days ago, I thought everyone in Alberta should be forced to wear bike helmets.
Having grown up in New Brunswick, where a bike helmet law has been in place since 1995, I didn’t really understand why anyone wouldn’t want wear a helmet, especially when they’re so much more stylish and cooler than they used to be. However, after spending the last few days reading countless studies, talking with dozens of people and watching more Tedx talks than ever before, I have to admit, I actually don’t know how I feel about bike helmets anymore
Instead of simply saying, “Bike helmets should be the law.” I wanted to know more about the often-divisive issue. So I went to talk to Sean Carter, the owner Bike Bike, thinking he would surely support helmets. So imagine my surprise when he told me that he rarely wore a helmet himself, saying “I don’t feel like my cycling habits are more dangerous than my walking or driving habits.” It’s an interesting perspective, but not one that he necessarily pushes on his customers. “We recommend our customers wear one if it will make them feel safer and thus ride more often.”
We chatted for almost an hour about all the studies and statistics that show that helmets aren’t all that they’re cracked up to be. For example: By forcing people to wear helmets, you run the risk of making cycling seem more dangerous than it actually is, which causes people to be unnecessarily scared of biking. There’s also the theory of risk compensation. That’s when things like helmets give both cyclists and drivers an increased sense of safety, which in the end could result in even more accidents.
Of course, many say helmets can and do save lives. Last year in British Columbia, where helmets are now law, the BC Coroners Service released a study showing that 68 per cent of cyclists who have a fatal spill (without car involvement) are not wearing a helmet. On Twitter, numerous people told me stories of their accidents and how they felt a helmet had spared them from serious harm.
It’s a complicated issued. Still, there was one thing that every article agreed on – the need for better bike infrastructure. If helmet advocates are that concerned about safety, then they should be pushing all levels of government to create a safer environment for those who choose to bike. I think I’ll always wear a helmet, but I can’t say I won’t ride sometimes ride on the sidewalks, even though it’s illegal.  That’s because there’s actually very few places I feel safe enough to bike in Calgary, helmet or not.

London Mayor 
In countries where helmets are optional, their use is a symptom of dangerous roads that need making safer.” Indeed.
Helmet traps are safety theatre. They do not make the streets of Vancouver safer."

Chris_Boardman: You want to use one, use one, I usually do. If you want to save lives, leave them out of debate & focus on why people feel they're needed

Bicycling Magazine; Concussions

What are bike helmets all about, right? As kids we fell, a hint that we shouldn't do that again.

Bicycleing Magazine

The health impact of mandatory bicycle helmet laws.


de Jong P.


Risk Anal. 2012 May;32(5):782-90. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01785.x. Epub 2012 Mar 2.


Department of Applied Finance and Actuarial Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia.

Comment in


This article seeks to answer the question whether mandatory bicycle helmet laws deliver a net societal health benefit. The question is addressed using a simple model. The model recognizes a single health benefit--reduced head injuries--and a single health cost-increased morbidity due to foregone exercise from reduced cycling. Using estimates suggested in the literature on the effectiveness of helmets, the health benefits of cycling, head injury rates, and reductions in cycling leads to the following conclusions. In jurisdictions where cycling is safe, a helmet law is likely to have a large unintended negative health impact. In jurisdictions where cycling is relatively unsafe, helmets will do little to make it safer and a helmet law, under relatively extreme assumptions, may make a small positive contribution to net societal health. The model serves to focus the mandatory bicycle helmet law debate on overall health.
Spokes supports ‘informed choice over cycle helmets – not just choice.   Informed choice means that individuals should be told the pros and the cons of helmet use, then allowed to make their own decision.

Do bike helmets keep you safe?

Why I ride without a helmet

Bike Helmets suck

Helmet Freedom

British Medical Journal - Helmet laws do not make cycling safer

I am a cyclist, not a spaceman.

John Pucher

Helmets should be optional

There's no ethical case for mandatory cycle helmets

Why bicycle helmets should not be compulsory

Another telling stat. 16% of Australians indicated they'd be more likely to cycle if there were no helmets laws. That's 3 million people!

​"More people, cycling more often, the way we tell them to"

A cracked helmet is a helmet that has failed. It is more likely to be an indication of an accident that wouldn’t have happened without the helmet, than “proof” the helmet saved a life. 

Many people look at a cracked or broken helmet and believe it is “proof” it saved their life. Actually, it is proof it failed. In a serious accident, bicycle helmets tend to break into pieces and absorb little energy. Technically, a cracked helmet is a helmet that has failed to work as intended:
“The next time you see a broken helmet, suspend belief and do the most basic check – disregard the breakages and look to see if what’s left of the styrofoam has compressed. If it hasn’t  you can be reasonably sure that it hasn’t saved anyone’s life.“
Polystyrene-based helmets protect by absorbing the energy of the impact through compressing the polystyrene. If the polystyrene has broken into pieces but not compressed, it has failed. Yet ironically we mistakenly believe that the broken helmet saved us.
Statistically, we can expect a severe head injury once every 8,000 years of average cycling.
Yet for helmet believers, every damaged helmet is “proof” it saved them.
On the other hand, cyclists who don’t wear helmets tend to ride slower and have fewer accidents. Most of them have neither accident nor head injuries, yet they don’t preach that their lack of helmet saved them.
It is natural to assume a helmet saved us, as it justifies wearing it, and fits with helmet advocates exaggerated claims. However that doesn’t mean it is true. We don’t know what would have happened without a helmet. Cyclists, with and without helmets, get hit by cars; the survival rates are identical. Most bicycle accidents do not result in serious head injuries, with or without helmets. Helmet wearers tend to overlook this, and eagerly attribute their lack of head injury to their helmet, even though the outcome would have been the same without one:
“see the double-standard of finding it entirely logical when helmeted cyclists who survive collisions report that wearing a helmet saved their life. It is a powerful emotional argument, but logically, statistically, and scientifically, it is erroneous for the same reasons it would be erroneous to say that not wearing a helmet saved Gene Hackman’s life. If a cyclist wears a helmet and they emerge from a collision alive, that implies correlation, not causation.”
What is bicycle helmet anyway? It is little more than piece of polystyrene. Calling a polystyrene hat a “helmet” doesn’t magically give it protective abilities. However, it can fool people into believing that it provides far more protection than it does, and induce people to take unwarranted risks.
A soft-shell helmet is a piece of polystyrene covered by a layer of plastic less than 1mm thick.
Notice how the helmet has cracked, but the polystyrene did not compress.
This indicates the helmet failed to absorb the energy of the impact.
Polystyrene based helmets are not designed to protect in a serious accident:
“In cases of high impact, such as most crashes that involve a motor vehicle, the initial forces absorbed by a cycle helmet before breaking are only a small part of the total force and the protection provided by a helmet is likely to be minimal in this context. In cases where serious injury is likely, the impact energy potentials are commonly of a level that would overwhelm even Grand Prix motor racing helmets. Cycle helmets provide best protection in situations involving simple, low-speed falls with no other party involved. They are unlikely to offer adequate protection in life-threatening situations.“
Helmets make little difference in a serious accident, as Dr Hooper reports:
“Looking at evidence, it does not matter if people are wearing a helmet or not, any serious accident on a bike is likely to kill them,”
Not matter how strongly people believe in “helmets”, there is not much a piece of polystyrene can do in a serious accident.  After being asked
“Can your helmet save your life?”,
a helmet manufacturer salesperson shrugged and laughed uncomfortably, before responding:
“Can it?” “Well, not save your life, no.”
A cracked helmet may indicate a cyclist not riding cautiously enough, perhaps lured into a false sense of safety.After the helmet law was introduced in Australia, the risk of accidents more than tripled. The risk of cycling injuries, including head injuries, INCREASED after the helmet law. This is unlikely to be a coincidence. It is ironic that a cracked helmet is hailed as “proof” that the helmet helped, while the accident may not have happened without it.
It is easy to be mislead, especially after a traumatic experience. It is important to be realistic about helmets capabilities, and to base that assessment on factsOverestimating their protection can be dangerous. After a serious accident, it is too late  to discover that helmets are not designed to protect in a serious impact.
Bicycle helmets can be insidious:
  1. At first, they seem to “protect”.
  2. However, they tend to increase the risk of accidents.
  3. They provide less protection than we have been led to believe, particularly in a serious accident.
Does the protection compensate for additional accidents?

British Cycling's policy advisor Chris Boardman says helmets are a barrier to cycling and are not in the top 10 issues affecting cyclists in Britain
Chris Boardman has hit back at detractors who have criticised him for not wearing a helmet while filming a cycling safety video for BBC Breakfast.
The British Cycling policy advisor drew the ire of cycling campaigners for appearing in the video wearing dark clothing and no helmet in the clip, which aired this morning (November 3).
Boardman also said that he wouldn’t let his daughter ride on local roads for fear that she might be injured, but it was his decision to ride without head protection that drew most attention.

Boardman says he also believes that helmets are a barrier to cycling for some people and insists the real dangers to cyclists need to be addressed first.
“[Helmets] discourage people from riding their bikes,” he said. “You are as safe riding your bike as you are walking.
“There’s nothing wrong with helmets, but they’re not in the top-10 things you can do to keep safe.”
In a statement on the BC website, he added: “If cycling looks and feels normal, more people will cycle (British Cycling research has shown that two thirds of people would cycle more if they felt safer).
“The more people cycle, the safer they are — the safety in numbers effect. The more people cycle, the more lives will be saved from amongst the 37,000 that die each year from obesity-related illnesses.
“Never mind the more than 27,000 that die annually from pollution-related illnesses.
“In contrast, there are approximately 116 cyclists tragically killed in the UK each year, that’s one per every 1000 times around the planet.
“Cycling is statistically safer than gardening and yet it doesn’t feel like it when you’re cycling next to a lorry or car that gets too close at a busy junction.”
Citing statistics from Utrecht in the Netherlands, where Boardman says helmet use is less than 0.5%, the Olympic gold medallist believes the real dangers to cyclists need to be addressed before helmet usage.
“I understand exactly why people feel so passionately about helmets or high vis,” he continued. “I understand why people wish to use them. But these actions seek to deal with an effect.
“I want to focus the debate on the cause and campaign for things that will really make cycling safe.
“That is why I won’t promote high vis and helmets; I won’t let the debate be drawn onto a topic that isn’t even in the top 10 things that will really keep people who want to cycle safe.”


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