Compulsory Bicycle Helmets

Schools promote them, worried parents insist their children wear them and the manufacturers keep bringing out new and expensive styles of them.

I heard an interview on the radio that seemed to be a pillorying of Transport Minister Norman Baker for being a keen cyclist and yet not wearing a cycling helmet. He also refuses to wear a helmet while walking, which is also part of his ministerial brief, but that has not made the headlines.

All this is just after it has been proposed that the wearing of cycle helmets should be compulsory in Northern Island. I wonder who is behind all this, could it be the motor lobby that resent bicycles being on “their” roads and hindering “their” progress? Where else could it come from?

Almost all of the studies that promote cycle helmet use have been conducted by or for the helmet manufacturers. The road users who suffer head injuries more than any other are the front seat passengers of motor cars. I don’t notice any push to get all of them into helmets.

Recent studies show that when head, face and neck injuries are counted together, there is “no net protective effect” from wearing a cycle helmet, because cycle helmets actually increase the risk of neck injuries. Get that? It is a matter of debate whether they have any net protective effect at all! So why have so many schools been duped into thinking it is all done and dusted when it comes to proof? Beats me.

In 1991 Australia introduced mandatory bicycle helmet laws requiring all adults and children to wear a helmet at all times when riding a bike. This was despite fierce opposition from cycling groups. The result was the predicted noticiable drop in cycle use.

Just as the conversation is whether to bring in compulsory helmet wearing in this country, in Australia they are moving in the opposite direction and the conversation there is whether to repeal those laws.

Wear one if you want, but I do not think they should be compulsory.

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