Should bike helmets be compulsory?

As many of you know, my husband head-butted a transit van recently and sustained substantial head injuries; multiple-fractures to the skull and bleeding on the brain.  We’ve talked about it extensively and we both agree that in this case, a helmet would probably have helped due to the location of the injury and the speed at which the impact occurred.  For the record, he now owns a helmet.

Coincidently, when we were travelling into London to see the neurosurgeon, there was a heated debate in the editors section of the Metro about legislating bike helmets.  I personally don’t feel that the government should legislate this unless they can categorically link a reduction in injuries to wearing a helmet.

In countries, such as Holland, where everyone rides bikes and not many people wear helmets there isn’t an increase in head injuries.  Could this be down to better roads, more awareness of cyclists, dedicated cycle paths or cycling proficiency?  But in countries (Canada, Australia) that legislate wearing a helmet there hasn’t been a reduction in head injuries.

However, I would like to see more people opting to wear helmets on their own accord; especially in the UK where cyclists and motorists aggressively vie for space on our overcrowded narrow roads, with limited cycle paths.

Interestingly, the neurosurgeon said they never treat people for injuries who’ve been using Boris Bikes.  My mind boggles and I’d love to know the reason behind this, he didn’t know why either.  They go just as fast as other cyclists and rarely do you see people wearing helmets whilst riding them.  Do you think it’s because motorists assume that they aren’t as proficient and give them a wide birth or is it because traffic isn’t as free flowing in the city?

I appreciate, that there isn’t research to prove that bike helmets reduce the chance of head injuries, but I’ve never heard a good argument for not wearing one and I’ve also never heard of a helmet making it worse. So, why not wear one?  It seems like a no brainer to me and you can get one for less than £20.  I know many people are sceptical of the commercial forces behind such legislation.

I’d love your thoughts on this?  Do you wear a helmet?  If not, why?













Author: mediocremum

A slightly older mum of one, who drinks far too much red wine and has an unhealthy obsession with her slow cooker. During the day she's an ICT Trainer, Social Media/Online Marketing consultant and does a bit of public speaking. Full Profile on Google+

11 thoughts on “Should bike helmets be compulsory?”

  1. I am so glad to hear your husband is back on the road.

    My partner rides a bike daily for work and always wears a helmet and reflective jacket, it’s part of his routine. When I used to cycle I always wore a helmet too, though as a motorcyclist I was always doubtful about the level of protection a bicycle helmet provided.

    I am not sure about legislation, I am aware that so many of the other things you suggested would help more (cycle lanes, bicycle awareness, training) and perhaps how you chose to protect yourself should be down to personal choice. The anger and impatience on UK roads gets to me, when people are in their vehicles they seem to lose some humanity and forget they are dealing with other human beings. When driving I always slow behind cyclists and wait until there is room to pass safely, at most it adds a couple of minutes to my journey but it’s worth it, I hate to see drivers squeezing past and putting cyclists at risk. Perhaps that is the biggest issue on our roads, our huge rush to get everywhere and apparent frustration at every other road user?

  2. I’d always assumed that wearing a helmet was law but to me it’s just common sense to wear one, accidents happen and if you don’t value your life enough to wear a helmet that would offer some protection then you should think about your family and what they would have to go through if a serious accident occurred and you were dependant upon them for the rest of your life. To me not wearing one is a selfish act.

  3. I had a bicycle accident back in 2006 where a van swerved into me and my helmet was cracked in about 6 places. I suffered chipped vertebrae, broken teeth, broken hand and damaged coccyx. I dread to think what my head would of been like if I didn’t have a helmet on.

    I always wear a helmet and I would advise people to wear one. At the end of the day what harm would it do to wear one just in case?

  4. I also have mixed views on legislating this. I think everyone should wear them for their safety, but in my personal experience if they are not fitted correctly they can actually cause more of a hinderance to you when you cycle.

    I have know two people to die in cycling accidents that would have been prevented had each of them been wearing helmets, but perhaps these are the minority.

    I think in this country you have got it spot on, we all fight for space on the narrow roads. Pot holes don’t help, the cyclists give them a wide bearth but don’t give you warning as a motorist, as a motorist, you don’t usually notice whether a drain is ill fitting as it’s not somewhere your wheels are going. Just an observation. Having been run off the road by a luton van in Edinburgh some years ago I’ve been too scared to go on my bike, but as a motorist, spending some time in a busy city centre on a bike has helped enormously with me understanding cyclists and now give them a wider bearth than I perhaps would have.

    So I’ve not really answered your question, but I think your hubby is a very lucky man and glad he is taking sensible precautions (wearing a helmet).

    Big hugs

  5. Hi Just found your blog. :) Golly poor but lucky hubby. Hope he’s all good.
    My husband is a serious cyclist of sorts and always wears a helmet, I am using the excuse that I’m pregnant to avoid cycling but always wear a helmet when i do although i hate the hat hair effect afterwards and find them uncomfortable. Overall I’m not a cycling fan-prefer running, I feel safer. Very interesting re the borris bikes! A few years back we visited copnehagen and hired bikes there similar to the borris bikes. What a pleasure they were to ride. I loved that you sat up right and not hunched over/tucked up which may make you more aerodynamic but puts a nasty crick in ones neck, not to mention gives me back ache and plays havoc with my alreayd tight ham strings (told you I’m not a cycling fan) I am seriosuly considering getting a pashley and trading in my zooty bianchi as I feel I may take to cycling around more, however I am told pashleys and boris bikes are fine for flat but not so good on hills,….mmmm Back to your question I think whering a helmet makes absolute sense.

    PS Kelly Ouch!

  6. I have a friend who has cycled.. with a helmet.. For years. infact hes spent a significant number of years competing in professional triathalons too. It was only when leisurely cycling along a woodland path that he hit something small, he doesnt know what but it wasnt much but as a result he fell off his bike and ended up in a coma for several weeks close to death. If it hadnt been for his helmet he would be dead… Personally Ihate to see not very proficient kids zooming all over place without helmets. I know one lad that lost about a week of memories when he went over handle bars. Fortunately he wasnt going fast. Most kids wont wear them cos they are so uncool and athis ends up as life long bad habit Truth is all it takes is a funny fall and they can be dead so i sut legi legislation to force helmets to be worn just like horse riders and motorbike riders. We have to start respecting this form of transport and even though its the look of the draw and not everyone without a helmet suffers perm damage its muchmore likely to if one isnt worn

  7. I cycle, but don’t always wear a helmet, and don’t think there should be legislation for a number of reasons.

    Firstly, I like the freedom of cycling, the wind in your hair feeling, there’s nothing better than a bike a quiet country road with fine views and a balmy day. The risk of accident, in this situation, is comparatively small, and it’s one I’ll take.

    Secondly, as you mentioned certain countries have made helmet use compulsory and haven’t seen significant reductions in head injuries (although there is limited research into whether there’s been a reduction in severity of said injuries) but have, in particular Australia, seen a dramatic reduction in cycle use. Would we see the same in the UK? It’s hard to say, but in an age when we should be encouraging people to consider alternatives to the car legislation may well counter many of the green initiatives.

    Thirdly, I think certain cyclists put themselves above other road users, and many of them are dayglo clad helmet wearers, it’s almost as if they smugly say, look at how safe I am, so why do I need to bother with the Highway Code? We’ve all seen them, jumping lights, riding the wrong way down the road, barging into traffic. When I first moved to London I set off on my bike for Westfield. Half way down Wood Lane, the lights turned red, so I stopped. From behind came the sound of squealing brakes, metal against metal, and a string of invective. “Why did you f**king stop?” shouted the dayglo, helmetted cyclist. “Err, because the light is red?” said I. The rest is best left to the imagination. Would this increase if people had to wear helmets? Hard to say, but it does seem that if you insulate many people against risk, they think they are invulnerable, and then take larger risks.

    Fourthly, as a country boy, now living in the capital, I am beginning to realise just how much legislation is based on city living, and how that can impinge on the freedoms of all those who don’t live in the city, or the capital in particular. Could legislation be devised that applied to certain areas or routes? I doubt it. Who would decide? What would the criteria be? What if a cyclist accidently rode into a helmet zone?

    So no, I don’t think there should be legislation, I think there should be education, for cyclists, for motorists, for all road users in fact. Equally I think there should be better enforcement of existing traffic legislation. Is a driver putting cyclists at risk? Prosecute for driving without due care and attention. Is a cyclist failing to obey the same rules? Penalise them equally firmly. Hopefully that would teach all road users to stick to the rules of the road, and bring down both accident and blood pressure.

  8. I think helmets should be compulsory and I think people are mad to go out on their bike without them. I’ve worked with a couple of people who (seperately) either had a collision while on their bike or came of their bike for some reason and if they hadn’t had a helmet on, their injuries would have been so much worse.
    What infuriates me is when I see a family out on their bikes, but mum and dad don’thave helmets on. It’s great that the kids have been made to wear helments, but what use will the parents be to their kids if they are knocked off and sustain a real bad injury. It’s not setting a good impression, it’s careless and dangerous.
    Anyway that’s my few bobs worth. WEAR A HELMET!

  9. BUT
    There is one piece of legislation I would like introduced, that a minimum standard of lighting should be fitted to all new bikes sold, preferably dynamo driven, and that removal of this lighting unless for very specific reasons – competition for instance – should be an offence.

  10. It is legislated in Ontario, Canada that kids under the age of 18 must wear a helmet, so my husband and I felt it only fair that we wear one. Two years ago, my husband while on his bike was in an accident with an SUV (who was at fault), he went flying over the hood. Luckily there were no broken bones, his head protected by the helmet was fine, but the bumps and bruises lasted for months. Drivers here are insane and don’t always give way to the bicyclist with or without helmet. In my city, bike lanes are slowly being put in but what needs to happen is driver education.

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