CTC’s View On Helmet Compulsion

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ctc_logo-763866This is CTC’s view on helmets:

CTC – the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation – always works in the best interests of all cyclists. If we felt that making helmet wearing compulsory would be better for cyclists and for cycling, of course we would support the move.

However, after years of examining all the available research on helmets, we believe that there is no clear or conclusive evidence to support the view that compulsory helmet-wearing would either advance the cause of cycling, or necessarily improve cyclists’ safety on the roads.

Cycling is by no means an exceptionally dangerous pursuit and it’s certainly no more risky than lots of other routine activities. For instance, you are more likely to be killed in a mile of walking than in a mile of cycling. 

In fact, cycling is much more likely to do you good than harm, because it’s such a healthy thing to do. In other words, the benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks.

Forcing everyone to wear a helmet may well put some people off cycling altogether. Studies from Australia and New Zealand show that compulsion leads to a drop in cycling levels – which means that fewer people gain from the exercise.

We don’t want anything to put people off cycling – not just because it’s healthy, but also because there is clear evidence that the more people who cycle, the safer it gets for each individual cyclist.

We recognise that some people choose to wear a helmet for their own personal reasons, and we will always support a person’s right to make that choice.

We are not experts in skiing; but we are experts in cycling – and we have been for over 130 years.


Comments (26)

    interesting and counter-intuitive to a lot of people, myself included. i would like them to be clear about the specific sorts of cycling they analyse and the specific scenarios that they monitor to come up with information like the mile of cycling vs. mile of walking. they obviously don’t ride a bike like i do! (or walk like i do?)

    The key thing is that “compulsion leads to a drop in cycling levels”.

    I know I wouldn’t have started riding bikes as a kid if I had to wear a helmet.

    Lies, damn lies and statistics.

    The CTC states:

    “For instance, you are more likely to be killed in a mile of walking than in a mile of cycling.”

    Please can I see the entire data set from which the CTC extrapolated this extraordinary statement?

    I support choice, but I always wear a helmet when I ride.

    I could bore you all all afternoon with tales of crashes where a helmet saved me from worse injury, but I won’t. I could also show you the two scars on my head from when I didn’t wear one …

    It is interesting… in the uk we always want to bubble wrap everything that might cause a risk! Mind I wouldn’t ride without a helmet now… were as in the med, far east etc they don’t even wear helmets on motorbikes!!!

    page 83 on here:
    http://www.dft.gov.uk/adobepdf/162469/221412/221549/227755/rcgb2007.pdf

    per kilometre, cycling safer than walking
    per journey and per hour, walking is safer

    I could also show you the two scars on my head from when I didn’t wear one …

    And yet you didn’t die. Without actually repeating your crashes with a helmet you can never say if it made the injury worse or not.

    The point is though that making helmets compulsory reduces the number of people cycling. And cycling is not a particularly dangerous activity, so why this constant drive to make them compulsory? We are not made to wear helmets when driving a car, for example, yet that is far more dangerous!

    Is it because we cover more kms on a bike rather than on a foot that the number of accident per kms is then smaller for cyclists? I really don’t buy this argument.

    It’s a debate that will run and run. There are a lot of statistics out there showing helmets don’t help. I don’t care, I’m not taking the chance, I’ll wear one (and after whacking a knee on the ice after Christmas I’ll be wearing pads more often too). On the other hand I wouldn’t force anyone else to wear a helmet (apart from my own kids), I might take the p*ss a little but it’s their choice and I can understand the CTCs view that at a policy level compulsory wearing of helmets is not a great idea, on a personal level I think it’s a no brainer, or eventually will be if you don’t wear a helmet.

    Good work Horatio – nice clarification of the stats.

    I am however, completely against regulation to force everyone to wear a helmet at all times on a bike and agree that this would deter a great number of new cyclists and recreational-cycle-path type cyclists. Far better to educate and persuade cyclists that helmets are a good thing.

    A ket phraee here is “on roads”. I believe that the data for “off road” would be very different

    Is’nt there a large number of head injuries from horse riding each year, yet they never talk of making helmet wearing compulsory. Maybe we should get more of the gentry riding bikes.

    Cycling, driving a car, walking, running, all have risks of head injuries. Cycling is no greater than any other past time. A report recently showed that car drivers get closer to cyclists when they are wearing a helmets because the driver assumes the cyclist is very competent. This increases the risk to the cyclists. Unfortunately injuries to cyclists tends to be as a result of car drivers when on the road

    Cyclist have been paralysed in accidents from wearing helmets and not wearing helmets. I seriously damaged my shoulder and neck because my helmet got in the way of me avoiding a fall and was lucky I was not paralysed others have not been so lucky. It all depends on how you fall and the circumstances of whether you hit something. Luckily I was not seriously hurt and a couple of months I was alright. I wear a helmet depending on the type of riding I do. I make a risk assessment of what is likely to occur.

    Accidents will always happen, you can’t mitagate against them. More car drivers get head injuries than cyclists it was stated by the radio 5 live phone in expert.

    Maybe we all should wear helmets, when we leave the house. In fact the house is quite dangerous place as well maybe it should be compulsory at all times for all people. I practise Parkour but I don’t wear a helmet for that.

    The debate is not about helmets but risk assessment. Where will it end when none of us can do anything because it is deemed too dangerous. As you read the comments people have been saved from injury by wearing a helmet yes and every one I can see hit something but they don’t stop every injury and can cause injury themselves. It must be a matter of choice whether you wear one or not.

    “Is it because we cover more kms on a bike rather than on a foot that the number of accident per kms is then smaller for cyclists? I really don’t buy this argument.”

    Is it because people don’t understand statistics that we keep having the same argument?

    Point is, they’re not discussing whether you should wear a helmet or not. If you feel you should (as I do) then that’s your choice. What they’re against is compulsory helmet wearing for the reasons they cleary state above.

    As said above its about risk assessment. Personally I’ll always wear a helmet on a bike as its when you least expect it that something happens and I like to ride my bike and being injured ain’t good.

    I sort of agree with the CTC about not making them compulsory – I recently witnessed some kids between the age of 10 and 14 taking the micky out of one guy who was wearing a helmet – comments like “You like like a right sad f***er wearing that” but they were riding some of the biggest BMX ramps I’ve personally seen – is it good that they were all out riding – I think so, but it is a shame that they don’t wear helmets and have such a negaitve view on them.

    I believe the media don’t help on this, as a lot of people young people look up to don’t wear helmets in magazines and are in fact paid more to do photo shoots without helmets on (OK so I’m not talking about MTB here) – if that changed then so may their view on helmets. There have been a number of high profile cases recently in the BMX world of people being seriously injured while not wearing a helmet – Mike Aitken being one of them. The irony being that at his benefit jam loads of the riders took part without wearing helmets!!!!

    I once read a study concluding that cyclists riding without a helmet are one of the best sources of organ donors. Quite simply because when they die their useful organs are undamaged compared to those who die wearing a helmet.

    In short they wouldn’t have died in a comparable crash had they been wearing one!

    Though I agree with the CTC as I do not want to see people criminalised for riding to the shops instead of driving!

    Of course it is impossible to say whether a helmet is the only factor that decides whether you survive a head injury after a heavy fall, but having seen the damage to the one I was wearing when I did have a heavy head first impact I would not ride without one now. I agree with daveob compulsion would be counterproductive.

    Why do people say “I always wear a helmet but it shouldn’t be compulsory”. If everyone wore a helmet, as I believe they should, making it compulsory would be irrelevant.

    Oldtimer – so when I am wandering down a grassy old railway with nowt to hit, on nice soft turf, riding at 50% of my ability I should wear a helmet? The odds on having an accident resulting in a head injury on that sort of riding are millions to one.

    I am an adult and I can make up my own mind. Its not as if there is an epidemic of preventable deadly head injuries out there. a couple of dozen a year across the country

    Im a member of the CTC as i’m, a cycle trainer. However I frankly think they are taking the piss.

    How about this. Im going to drop you on your head against a kerb. You have a choice. You can wear a helmet or not. I think most would go for the first choice.

    Who gives a damn about ‘advancing the cause of cycling’.
    Yes its great that we get more and more people to cycle. But protect those who do already should be a priority.

    Its a bit like wearing a seatbelt. If you take the choice away it becomes normal. I feel weird in a car without one on!

    Motorcyclists wear helmets. Why shouldnt we have to?

    Burma boy – I suggest you read the article

    “the more people who cycle, the safer it gets for each individual cyclist.”

    “Several recent reports (including four papers in peer-reviewed medical journals) have found no link between changes in helmet wearing rates and cyclists’ safety – and there are even cases where safety seems to have worsened as helmet-wearing increased.”

    “Evidence from Britain and elsewhere shows that cyclists really do benefit from ‘safety in numbers’. The more people who cycle, the safer it becomes. By contrast, helmet wearing rates are, if anything, inversely related to cyclists’ safety.”
    From the article above and from their links

    burmaboy –

    You ask “Who gives a damn about ‘advancing the cause of cycling'”. I do. And so do lots of other people.

    You’re being contradictory. “You have a choice” you say. Which is exactly what CTC say in their penultimate line.

    So I have to ask, what exactly is your point?

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