Helmet Hypocrisy

Helmets are good. The correct device, used in the correct way, can help reduce injury, and in certain situations, it can also save lives.

Moving beyond yes and no

Does that make me personally “for” or “against” bike helmets? Well basically, neither. there are times and situations where bicycle helmets are useful, and situations where they really aren’t.

So am I really in favour of helmets in the right settings? Well frankly, still no. It’s not so much whether or not I think they are a good idea. The simple reality is that I do very little cycling in environments where helmets are used for their design purpose. Although I bought a second hand mountain bike a few years ago, the gears are knackered, and I doubt I will get them repaired. I have a road bike, but I haven’t been out with it yet this year. Most of my transport these days is on foot and by bus, and when I cycle, I tend to cycle at a relaxed pace in low or no traffic environments.

What about walking?

Do you wear a walking helmet? No, I guess you don’t. Nor do I. I don’t see why I should be expected to wear a helmet when I am cycling in a very similar manner.

Do I think you should or shouldn’t wear a helmet? Who am I to judge? We know that our Dutch friends have a very sensible attitude towards this. Contrary to some misconceptions, Dutch cyclists **do** wear helmets, and when they do, participation rates seem almost at 100%. Don’t believe me? Spend an afternoon in Limburg province – that’s the area around Maastricht if you want to go there on street view. You’ll find nearly all road cyclists and mountain bikers there (yes, you do know they have hills here too, right) – will be wearing helmets. Elsewhere, helmet usage amongst Dutch cyclists sits at around 0.5%.

Oh but we should wear helmets until the roads are safe

I’ve never really got the purpose of this argument. Again, do we wear walking helmets or driving helmets?

But walking is different

Really, it isn’t. The risks are very similar, but it might depend on whether you compare the risk per mile, per hour of activity, or per participant per year. Either way, the UK still has around 4x as many pedestrian deaths as we do for cyclists. The last time I know someone to get a head injury, she fell down during a competitive running event. As she was telling this story to the group, I asked if her running helmet was securely dastened, and the room went silent. Ok. Of course I didn’t actually ask that, because you know what the response would have been.

Why do we keep asking such silly questions when people are hit whilst cycling?


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