Helmet Wars. .

Following on from Put a Lid on it (June 2010).

The debate on the pros and cons of helmet-wearing is an endless one. Militant cyclists will keenly reprimand anyone and everyone they pedal across who does not sport a helmet when cycling, whereas some steadfastly refuse to wear one for a variety of reasons: discomfort, for fashion reasons, reduced visibility… A simply Google search leads me to a website stating that “the use of hard-shell helmets saves a predicted 90% of fatalities” and can “reduce concussions by 29%, and skull fractures by 82%” in casual, or recreational cyclists.

It goes without saying that a cyclist who does not wear a helmet is likely to be more cautious than one who feels more secure because of the added protection, thus their risk of an accident will be reduced. What is more, I have heard account, and experienced for myself, that motorists are more likely to take liberties with helmet-donning cyclists: the bubble of safe personal space on the road seems to shrink and whereas they might hesitate to overtake someone not wearing one, they will happily squeeze past in this instance.

I am an -on-the-fence cyclist, meaning that I will wear a helmet on occasion, usually dictated by a number of factors which vary from roadworks along my route, boristo low visibility due to the weather, but that said I rarely wear my one in broad daylight along my daily journey, or late at night when there’s not a soul in sight. My personal opinion on helmets is well summarised in The Cycle Helmet: Friend or Foe, where the author points out that “responsibility for the safety of cyclists [is shifted] onto cyclists themselves. The proposition that cycling is relatively dangerous overlooks the fact that few cyclists ride into motor vehicles. It is drivers of motor vehicles who are the source of most of the threat to their life and limbs. […] Moreover, it should be recalled that the great majority of cyclists’ deaths and serious injuries result from collision with a motor vehicle, that is the type of accident in which helmets are largely ineffective.

When a cyclist was killed at Elephant and Castle in 2009, the first question that people asked was if she had been wearing a helmet, as though if she hadn’t, the tragedy would have been expected or even deserved. She had been, by the way.

For statistical sources visit Cycle helmets: A summary of research.



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