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Should Everyone Riding a Bike Wear a Helmet?                 <Back to Index

The issue of helmet use is not as simple as it appears.

I know, we tend to think it makes sense to add that extra layer of protection. These days in the U.S. more and more laws are being passed that coerce cyclists to wear helmets. But as you know, governmental authorities have a penchant for defining problems too narrowly while ignoring important aspects of the issue, then they "fix the problem" with  a simple mandate like:  "All cyclists must wear helmets."

Consider the gun controversy. Rationally, we know it's the "INTENSION" of the person with the gun that determines how dangerous the gun is, not the gun. We’ve all heard the saying: Guns don't kill -- people do. And it’s true whether a person wants to accept it or not. But enough about guns. Let’s return to helmets.

Does everybody need one when riding a bike? It depends, doesn’t it? It depends on lots of things: age, experience, location, weather conditions, speed. Do you need a helmet when you sleep? Depends on “where” you sleep. I understand people get killed every year by falling coconuts. So, if you're sleeping under a coconut palm in Florida, you might want to wear a helmet. Obviously, a blanket statement like “everyone riding a bicycle should wear a helmet” doesn’t allow for personal freedom to make choices and risk assessments. A 30-year-old man riding on a deserted bike path is not the same as 25 eight-year-old mountain bikers following each other, bounding over rugged terrain in the Rocky Mountains. 

Australian film maker, Mike Rubbo, gives us food for thought in these two videos:





Don’t get me wrong.  I'm not telling anyone to bike without a helmet. That's your choice. Just keep in mind, studies show that bikers who wear helmets take more chances and do riskier things that expose them to serious injury and death because of a false sense of security. And on roads, people drive their vehicles closer to helmet wearing bikers than they do to those without helmets. In general, helmets protect bikers from minor injuries, and yes, there are cases when serious head injuries are prevented, too. Would you be less likely to injure your head in a fall down stairs if you wore a helmet every minute of the day? Sure you would. But does that mean you’re going to wear one? I doubt it, unless somebody forces you.

Incidentally, Sue Abbott ultimately won her case in court, as you can see in this Sydney Morning Herald story:
"Heady freedom as judge agrees helmet laws are unnecessary."

In that story, Judge Roy Ellis, told Ms. Abbott: ''Having read all the material, I think I would fall down on your side of the ledger...I frankly don't think there is anything advantageous and there may well be a disadvantage in situations to have a helmet - and it seems to me that it's one of those areas where it ought to be a matter of choice.''

Denmark's Bicycle Ambassador, Mikael Colville-Andersen, (creator of Copenhagen Cycle Chic) tells us "Why We Shouldn't Bike with a Helmet," in this TEDxCopenhagen video.


Among other things, Andersen discusses our Culture of Fear and the fact that Fear is often used by big business to market products.

If you want to investigate the helmet issue further, I recommend this NY Times article:
Bicycling Mystery: Head Injuries Piling Up

and What’s Wrong With Bicycle Helmets?

Try to find a cyclist wearing a helmet in this video of Amsterdam: The Bicycling Capitol of Europe. Listen carefully and notice when the narrator talks of the importance of bicycle safety in Amsterdam, helmets aren’t mentioned. Apparently their idea of bicycle safety includes aspects that overshadow helmet use. Personally, I think our society has become so irrational when it comes to risk assessment that many people live in fear of obscure dangers mainly because of fear mongering by the media.

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