Prof. Kay Teschke and colleagues from UBC have published new research in the Medical Journal BMJ Open.
The gist: mandatory helmet laws don’t help reduce the rate of injuries to people riding bikes.

Writes Prof Teschke:  

Results (from the Abstract):    In Canada, over the study period 2006–2011, there was an average of 3690 hospitalisations per year and an estimated 593 million annual trips by bicycle among people 12 years of age and older, for a cycling hospitalisation rate of 622 per 100 million trips (95% CI 611 to 633). Hospitalisation rates varied substantially across the jurisdiction, age and sex strata, but only two characteristics explained this variability. For all injury causes, sex was associated with hospitalisation rates; females had rates consistently lower than males. For traffic-related injury causes, higher cycling mode share was consistently associated with lower hospitalisation rates. Helmet legislation was not associated with hospitalisation rates for brain, head, scalp, skull, face or neck injuries. 
BtWW.6Conclusions (from the body of the paper):   In our study comparing exposure-based injury rates in 11 Canadian jurisdictions, we found that females had lower hospitalisation rates than males. This difference in injury rates is consistent with other bicycling studies and studies of other transportation modes. We found that lower rates of traffic-related injuries were associated with higher cycling mode shares, a finding also reported elsewhere. We did not find a relationship between injury rates and helmet legislation.
These results suggest that policymakers interested in reducing bicycling injuries would be wise to focus on factors related to higher cycling mode shares and female cycling preferences. Bicycling infrastructure physically separated from traffic or routed along quiet streets is a promising fit for both and is associated with a lower relative risk of injury.

Interestingly, since mandatory helmet laws reduce the number of bike-riding people, such laws would seem to contribute to a higher rate of head injury than would otherwise be the case. Not to mention the loss of health benefits of riding a bike, which are immediate and personal.  Good old unintended consequences again.
And, finally, this graphic, which illustrates the myopic focus on mandatory helmet laws for people riding bikes.  Other common activities result in a much higher prevalence of head injuries, but only a few attract mandatory helmet laws.
head_injury_helmet (1)

Comments

  1. If this is the case, why do all the lycrabros where helmets? Just part of the costume? Kind of an odd message when those experienced riders wear them, yet inexperienced riders are told not to bother.

    1. Faster cyclists are likely more prone to falls and spills etc, especially when cycling in a group.

      1. Given that brain injuries are caused by rotational forces rather than linear ones and that bicycle style styrofoam hats are only certified/built to mitigate linear impacts and only up to ~20kph and that at higher speeds these types of helmets, especially aero style race helmets can increase rotational forces in any impact that isn’t purely linear it makes no sense for racers to wear bicycle helmets.

    2. Sport cyclists in jerseys are not necessarily more experienced. There are new sport cyclists just the same as there are new transportation cyclists. There are experienced sport cyclists just the same as there are experienced transportation cyclists. There isn’t a skills test when one purchases a jersey.

    3. “…why do all the lycrabros where (sic) helmets?”
      Fascinating term, lycrabros. It presumes a tribal definition with a defined membership.
      So, to test this out, if I rode my City bike (with flat shoes, and street clothes) on one day, and the next day used a Mobi (same clothes, bike chosen to avoid having to lock my own bike up in a sketchy part of town), then the next day rode my touring bike (wearing a breathable jacket, mountain bike cleats, but no logos or bright colours), and the fourth day rode a sport bike (wearing an Italian national jersey, because I like the colours, and it is a memento of a cycling trip in Italy), am I a “lycrabro” on day 4? Or is membership persistent? Seems confusing.
      Wouldn’t it be better to refer to those on bikes as “people”?

    4. ” yet inexperienced riders are told not to bother.”
      No one is telling anyone not to wear a helmet. The problem is that people are forced to wear a helmet by law. This research shows that there is no evidence that this law improves safety, so why does it even exist. I believe that society would be much better off without this law.

    5. Race car drivers wear helmets too. When people are participating in a higher speed competitive activity where crashes are likely, protective gear like helmets makes sense. Not so much for everyday transportation.

    6. Not at all an odd message. When I ride my road or mtn bike; I’m pushing it a bit. I ride faster, harder, harder, take shortest line in corners etc. I use a helmet. When city cycling (commuting, errands, social meetings etc.) I ride in a mannered, less sporty way and do not use a helmet. AND I don’t want to broadcast to others this citizen cycling is somehow radical, extreme or dangerous by kitting up with cycling gear. Great way make cycling unappealing to many. Makes perfect sense. Maybe not too different from car racing where helmets are used, and driving everywhere else where they are not. (but probably should be!)

  2. @Bob:
    1. Yes, in part it is part of the costume.
    2. Some cyclists think cycling is macho and prefer that it be viewed as risky. These same people hate separated bike lanes and 5 year old girls riding bikes.
    3. Helmets are still wise for certain kinds of riding: 99% of mountain bikers and road racers wear them because helmets can be effective for some types of falls, typically those not involving motor vehicles. Both these types of cyclists are likely to be pushing their physical limits and are therefore much more likely to crash – much more likely than those riding to work, school, leisure or shopping. Many mountain bikers also wear body protection because crashes are expected.
    The point is, transportation cycling is safe and helmets are no more necessary than they are for walking. It can always be made even safer. But helmets play no role in that.

    1. Yeah, it’s funny that mountain biking does not have a mandatory helmet law, yet slow cycling on a quiet street on an upright bike does.
      It might not have been the automobile industrial complex that first thought up the idea of bicycle helmet laws but they certainly benefit from them and are fighting against their repeal.

  3. Ken, i’m not sure the title of this posting “Bicycle Helmet Laws Are Ineffective” is correct as the findings suggest: “We did not find a relationship between injury rates and helmet legislation.” Also in the abstract: “Helmet legislation was not associated with hospitalisation rates for brain, head, scalp, skull, face or neck injuries. ” In other words it is not proven by this study that the requirement to wear a helmet why cycling reduced or increased injury rates.
    Regarding the study method, I’m assuming the source of the mode share data is from StatsCan’s journey to work, which in this case represents commuting trips. If so then I would question if the cycling injury data was filtered for commuting trips only. Also mode share values are not completely accurate and a simple sensitivity test (which required understanding how the mode share data was collected and the associated errors from self-stated vs. observed data) may throw off the correlation results. It would be better of each person injured was interviewed and their estimated usage of the cycling mode was provided.
    The hospitalization to mode share graphs show interesting patterns. I’d have to see the data and sources, but it is difficult to separate confounding factors (roadway design, bike mode roadway treatment, weather and road surface conditions, cyclist skill, roadway lighting provisions, etc.) of these variables across multiple jurisdictions that probably do not have consistent reporting methods.
    Finally, the main issue with the conclusion is that it is known the rate of collisions to exposure (i.e. volume, and % mode share is a normalized surrogate of use intensity) is non-linear, with rates naturally dropping as exposure or use increases. So the conclusion that increased activity reduces the RATE of instances of random events (accidents) is known due to the non-linear nature of the two variables.
    What worries me is this conclusion: “These results suggest that policymakers interested in reducing bicycling injuries would be wise to focus on factors related to higher cycling mode shares and female cycling preferences.” Because it is simply stating the obvious and the policy recommendation will not reduce the absolute number of collisions, but reduce the *rate* of collisions as you have more people cycling. With the same logic, one could conclude that more driving (higher vehicle-km travelled) will reduce the rate of automobile collisions (because the extensive database of auto collisions shows this consistently). Traffic engineers know this but we do not use that as a policy rationale because that does not reduce actual collisions and is a false indicator that would misleadingly support the logic more driving causes the road system to be safer, from a rate perspective.
    So the conclusion should be restated as “These results suggest that policymakers interested in reducing *the rate of* bicycling injuries would be wise to focus on factors related to higher cycling mode shares and female cycling preferences.” In fact if this is the main conclusion from this study, the method used is not as strong as looking at collision rates across the road network and correlating to cycling volumes. If they did that (which we engineers do often) you would find the same conclusion that increasing volume will reduce the *rate* of collisions (not absolute number of collisions as they will go up with increase activity, but at a slower rate). I have a feeling that the researchers started off by trying to find a correlation between helmet requirements and reduced hospitalization, but could not prove this so instead they went for the obvious conclusion.
    Also the recommendation wording “be wise” is loaded in that it seems to presuppose that the statistic correlation can be accepted as causation. It is a judgement to the policy maker in that if they do not follow the recommendation, they are not wise. I would suggest the policy maker be wise and question the logic of the recommendation and possible unintended precedent it could create (similar rationale for more auto use).
    So to me, their hypothesis that there is a relationship between helmet legislation and hospitalization was not proven from their investigation, as they state: “Helmet legislation was not associated with hospitalisation rates for brain, head, scalp, skull, face or neck injuries.”

    1. I’ve looked at dozens of published studies on the efficacy of helmets and helmet legislation and the results range from +88% effective down to -77% and everything in between for head and/or brain injury. Clearly nobody has developed a robust method to determine the role of helmets that isn’t corrupted by confounding variables.
      In all cases where data was collected there were serious increases in the likelihood of neck injuries when wearing a helmet. There is a Dutch study that has determined that increased rotational forces when wearing a helmet can greatly increase the worst kinds of brain injury and these forces are especially prevalent in collisions with motor vehicles. Increased neck injuries with helmets seems to support that study.
      Europeans ride bareheaded for the most part. For the Dutch it’s close to 100%. Yet the Dutch have the best record of cycling safety followed by other European countries. Overall there appears to be an inverse relationship between safety and helmet use.
      Picking apart data isn’t necessarily going to provide the answer to this question. But since there is no significant health issue or major cost to society of riding bare headed it should be entirely a matter of personal preference, not a law that discourages cycling.

      1. And is there a process in which laws that were applied based on unproven ideas can be re-evaluated and removed when proven incorrect.
        The single study (funded by a helmet company) that was used as justification for these laws in the early ’90s has been proven time and time again to have used wrong methodology and appears to be an intentional fraud. Since the sole reason to even enact this legislation in the first place was wrong, we have good reason to look at it again with an eye to striking it down.

      2. Ron: The wide range of results (” +88% effective down to -77%”) point to what we know: the highly varying and random nature of not only collisions, but the more rare cycling collision that results in an injury. I haven’t seen the data for these studies but likely the data is overdispersed in that the variance exceeds the mean of the crash counts. If they used a Poisson regression model then they would be introducing a bias. But more worrisome is if they used a linear model and consider crash rates as a safety measure.
        Your Dutch example of more people cycling reducing the rate of collisions is what I am suggesting is the natural result of a non-linear relationship. This means the crash rate (collisions over exposure) is not constant and as exposure goes up the crash rate (slope between crashes/time over exposure/time) will reduce, so crash rates should not be used as a measure of safety because natural increases in volumes will “make it safer” per unit person. See figure attached:
        http://ascelibrary.org/cms/attachment/71381/1528361/1.jpg
        This is a basic concept taught in the first course of traffic engineering. The concept of diminishing returns applies here, however the “returns” are collisions and this is desired to be reduced (vs. usually where policies that have diminishing returns suggest linear increases in effort or funding produce less and less return on investment).
        And about the study on helmets causing more rotational injuries, if the forces are that strong, would that not cause more damage to the skull if unexposed? Also there are sticker technologies (I believe SFU invented some) to reduce helmet-related sports concussions that can be applied to reduce impact friction of helmets. Wouldn’t that be more of a rational initiative vs suggesting we get rid of helmets because they cause neck injuries?
        Adanac: You may be right in supposing helmet companies lobby for helmet use legislation, but then you would also be exposing the lobbying bike manufacturers do for pro-cycling policies, transit manufacturers lobbying for more transit investments, and road builders pushing for more pavement. But I hope you are not painting helmet manufacturers in the same colour as say the tobacco industry. One is trying to help safety and the other well I can’t see the health benefit of smoking (but i’m sure there are social and image benefits…). Continue along that thought and everything being sold to us, there is a conspiracy theory behind it!
        I appreciate and respect cycling advocates (I sincerely believe the ones I personally know are better citizens than I am) are there are many benefits to cycling. But is it just me or is the advocacy for cycling getting to such a point that there is also a non-linear diminishing of logic? I would hope people do not suggest increasing cycling mode share should trump cycling safety. I do not know of may conclusive studies that suggest helmet requirements are a significant causal factor to reduced cycling, rather I would think it is the lack of adequate (segregated) infrastructure that causes people to cycle less than they may want to. Or maybe it’s the weather because I have lots of data I can show you as to the profound impact of precipitation to cycling volumes.
        I think cycling advocates are getting desperate if they start attacking the bicycle helmet industry. If I am not a regular cyclist, and while I am listening to your persuasion for cycling and then I see you arguing with the bike safety industry, it rather defeats your message (or at least the optics look bad). But I am not a cycling helmet safety expert so I am open to your evidence-based logic.

        1. Kay: Thanks for that. I wondered why all the speculation given the info in the paper.
          Clark:
          I don’t think that cycling mode share trumps cycling safety, I think that increased mode share is supportive of improved safety through safety in numbers. If you are suggesting that helmet laws result in improved safety, then I think the onus is on you to show it. There are many studies that have failed to find the link, but perhaps you have evidence that some of us haven’t seen.
          The helmet industry is not being attacked so much as the single study which many helmet laws were based on is being attacked. Evidence wins out.
          You say you don’t know of studies showing how helmet laws have impacted ridership. The easiest way to get at it IMO is to look at before and after ridership stats for the places that have implemented helmet laws. Perhaps start here, and follow the linked sources: http://cyclehelmets.org/1242.html

        2. Hi Kay, yes I found the paper and if the dataset used is also available, I would appreciate a copy as getting my hands on the data and reproduce the results helps in understanding the research of complex subjects–such as safety–that typically have many confounding factors. It would be an interesting twist given the past 2 decades I have supplied many academics’ transport data needs! 🙂
          I have read some of the research on mandatory helmet laws in the past and many were deemed inconclusive in that the methods and/or data were lacking (I administered GVRD’s cycling committee in the 90’s about the time this law was passed and I recall US academics doing research on BC’s new law). That is where I started from and i apologize for jumping into questioning the results as possibly you and others have developed improved methods and obtained better data in the last few years.
          But now that you are here, if you can clarify your statement for us in case I may have misread it:
          “We did not find a relationship between injury rates and helmet legislation.”
          Are you confirming and concluding there is “no” relationship and this law is ineffective, OR simply stating this particular investigation did not find a relationship, and that it does not confirm helmet legislation is ineffective. In other words, is the title of this post “Bicycle Helmet Laws are Ineffective” correct in reducing down your work as a headline? It was this that grabbed my attention and then the use of academic research to provide support to this statement. You could imagine how this “headline fact” could run loose and misinterpreted by children to justify helmet-less cycling (of course Price Tags should be required elementary school reading these days). From my understanding of your conclusions, the title should read “Effectiveness of Bicycle Helmet Laws Still Inconclusive”
          While I appreciate research into post-event outcomes such as injuries are very useful, I would think research into how many injuries were avoided due to requiring helmet protection would be a better way to go about this, because due to that protection no hospitalization was needed and therefore medical costs to society were likewise avoided. And if somehow you could ask those that were protected by their helmets what they thought about mandatory helmet laws before and after their incident (i.e. would they have cycled with or without their helmet during the ride they crashed?). Helmets are proactive whereas hospitalization is reactive. It is difficult to measure such positive outcomes (if you can call cracking your helmet to save your head positive), and proactive policies such as these mandatory laws are geared to increase these positive outcomes while trying to avoid thing you are measuring which is hospitalization or negative outcomes. But so far I understand all you could do was to measure the negative outcomes. However, just because you can’t measure the positive outcomes I do not think people can conclude from your research that helmet laws are ineffective.
          As a similar example, this issue of the limitations of reported data applies to auto collision records where at a certain “cost threshold” collisions are not reported. However this does not necessarily mean we do not need to consider countermeasures to fix possible safety problems that may exist. A crash is statistically a rare and almost random event and therefore not the best way to deem what is safe. It would be better to measure near misses, which are not “negative outcomes” but “positive outcomes” in that the uncomfortable situation of a near-miss resulted in no serious outcome. And although near misses are not reported, a split second of difference could have transformed it into a collision and possibly a fatality. It seems the slim margin of “luck” is all that stands between a non-event vs. a life altering event–some near misses are not even noticed by inattentive people oblivious to what could have been major crash, yet this would be a very important data point.
          I’m sure you’re aware of the “safety pyramid” (see figure below) and if we could measure near-misses we could proactively avoid collisions and learn from them to further improve the safety of a location. The current standard is to wait for data from negative outcomes like crashes, injuries, and fatalities for 3-5 years and then do something about it. This is similar to using hospitalization data to determine safety measures, which is what I call “unfortunate data” (researchers are desperate for the data but it comes at a very high cost).
          http://ascelibrary.org/cms/attachment/72110/1553495/1.jpg
          So in the search for proactive means to empirically obtain “positive outcome” data i.e. near misses, for the past 12+ years UBC engineering has produced methods to extract this information from a location using computer vision technologies. This also allows for more conclusive before-and-after studies, and you can actually see the evidence as a video (“seeing is believing”) vs. simply a table of aggregate data. See below publication as an example (one of over 100 journal papers on this work):
          https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:759740/FULLTEXT01.pdf
          Now rather than waiting for collisions and hospitalizations to occur over 3-5 years and then using this data to determine the safety of the location so we can do something about it, we can determine the safety of these location in a matter of days–with not even a single crash data point!
          Using this as an example, I think to better answer if the helmet legislation is effective or not, we need to look at both sides of the impact of the law. Ideally a thorough analysis of the costs (law administration, price of helmets, causing “helmet-hair”, hot and sweaty heads, policing, fines, etc.) of the legislation vs. the benefits of the legislation (saving of injury and lives, avoiding medical costs, etc.) should be done. But the requisite data for this analysis would be quite the challenge to obtain. However, I believe our modern day ingenuity can help us in this area and hopefully we’ll soon be drowning in high quality data to answer questions of legislative potency.
          Until then, for me the effectiveness of this law is still inconclusive.

        3. Clark posted: “It is difficult to measure such positive outcomes (if you can call cracking your helmet to save your head positive),…”
          This repeats a common misunderstanding about bike helmets. Cracking your helmet doesn’t save your head, except possibly from abrasion, and you don’t need a helmet for that. It takes very little force to crack a helmet. You can drop a helmet from waist height and see it crack. What that plastic outer skin does is hold in the foam. The protection comes from the foam being compressed, reducing impact shock. If in a crash your helmet cracked, it failed. The impact exceeded the design spec. If the foam is also compressed, then it provided some protection. But often, when the plastic breaks, there is nothing left to hold the foam in, so it doesn’t compress.
          There are no end of claims that a broken helmet is proof that a head was saved from being split open like a watermelon. The claims usually start with “I know a guy…..” and I only mention watermelons because they often feature in these anecdotes.

        4. Jeff, I assume you are not suggesting helmets are of no use but that they are very fragile and a crack does not mean you had a near death experience? You are right that helmets are very fragile, and I think that is part of the design (similar to crumple zones of cars?). Regardless, I think the effectiveness of helmets is a different discussion and as far as I know you could be a bike helmet engineer. I have no such expertise so that would be interesting one for you to lead.
          My point that you quoted is that it is difficult to measure positive outcomes (or should I call it “anti-outcomes”?) such as the avoidance or reduction of injury. The key word being “difficult”. I was merely suggesting if you can call damaging your helmet indicative or a measure of such an outcome (key word “if”). I did not state the evidence of a cracked helmet is conclusive of a positive outcome (one could have sat on it), but merely suggested it as an example of how one could deduce an injury was prevented. And ideally I would think this would be done in conjunction with a personal discussion with the subject and determine from their view if the helmet was effective in the said incident. I’ll leave it up to the researcher to deduce how one would measure such an injury prevention/reduction. The point I was trying to make is that if you are only looking for hospitalized injuries to test the legislation, it may be too narrow of a view and you need to open the view to situations where injuries were prevented but that the helmet law was effective in that prevention. And if a person had injuries prevented (or reduced the severity of an injury) due to using a helmet and after they confessed that they would not have worn a helmet if there were no law requiring so, then would this not count as valuable information in the judgement of the effectiveness of the law? I like to consider looking at both the positive and negative outcomes as looking at the glass as half full and half empty. It may be a matter of perspective, but perspective can create bias. By looking at it from both perspectives, i believe it provides a more balanced and open minded (no pun intended) point of view.
          In fact, as I write this I realized this is similar to the concept of “additionality” in the quantification of carbon reductions, in that there is a behavioural homeostasis that needs to be present and observed, and then the ability to detect changes to that behavior post implementation of an initiative/policy. The classic before and after study, if you will, however with carbon additionality, the “after” assumes historical patterns would prevail. And the difficultly in carbon measurement is that it’s hard to measure carbon reduction had things not changed, or what you could call “anti-carbon”, due to confounding factors. Again the difficulty of measurement in the real and “wicked” world rears its ugly head.

        5. Clark, I don’t think helmets are of no use, just very limited use. If you are stopped at a light astride a bike, and fall over (the most common situation for a person on a bike to fall over is when they aren’t moving) a helmet can provide useful protection. If you fall and slide along the roadway, the helmet can help prevent road rash. Most importantly, having worn a helmet is a rebuttal in a crash investigation, when the lawyer or investigator asks if one had a helmet on, in trying to determine fault. It shouldn’t matter. But it is taken as some kind of barometer of behaviour. We should remember that bicycle helmet laws aren’t ‘normal’. BC is an exception, an outlier. Many other jurisdictions that brought in helmet laws around the same time that BC did have repealed them. They figured out that the study that was used to justify helmet laws wasn’t in fact legitimate. Government agencies withdrew their support of the study.
          The damage that helmet laws do isn’t in creating helmet hair, or causing a person to be hot (those are helmet issues, not helmet law issues). It is that it reinforces a mindset with the general public that riding a bicycle is an unsafe activity. It also provides a distraction from what does matter, creating safer infrastructure and providing training to both people riding, and people driving. The damage doesn’t tend to impact the numbers of those already riding. It has a significant impact on those who would like to ride, but don’t think it is safe, by supressing their numbers. And for both parties, it denies them the safer infrastructure that we could have been putting our efforts into creating instead of focusing on helmet laws.
          This popular meme of riding a bike being dangerous is played out in newspaper articles, and conversations, every day. And it isn’t helped when researchers promote it. You have come at this, in your comments above, as if helmet laws provide some protection, as if that is the base case. That isn’t the starting point. We don’t have evidence that they do. But we do have evidence that they create a negative view of cycling safety, and risk, and reduce ridership.
          Cycling advocates don’t generally go after helmets. Rather, we/they tend to point out how helmet laws are illogical, and can have a negative unintended consequence. I wear a helmet. I suggest that others do. But I don’t support the BC helmet law.

      3. And ye the Dutch have the highest rate of cyclist deaths in Europe as a percentage of total traffic fatalities. I also question the validity of trying to transfer the habits of a tiny flat country to other regions. Perhaps if you all wanted to move to Richmond it might be valid.

        1. Bob, that’s dumb statistic since they have by far the highest rates of cycling – one would expect higher rates of cycling death even if they are the safest. What’s your point?
          The Netherlands also has hilly areas, but people rider their bikes there too. The Vancouver region is a lot smaller than Holland. Nobody is proposing we ride our bikes across the country. Few do it even in Holland.

        2. Well Ron is even the earnest Dutch bike riders can’t do better than a 25% fatality rate (vs 8% in the rest of Europe) why are you arguing to follow their sorry record in using safety equipment?

        3. A fatality rate of what? Compared to what? That’s a pretty cryptic stat with no context.

        4. Bob, you realize that isn’t a fatality rate, right?
          Your stat is for mode share. It is mode share for people involved in fatal crashes, but it is fundamentally a measure of what form of transport people were using, not how many died, as you seem to be trying to suggest.
          We wish we had such safe roads here.

  4. There’s no law that says I can’t wear a helmet, so I do, in the event that someone or something I cross paths with causes me trauma. Even being extremely aware of potential hazards, you can’t avoid them all. This is not Holland.
    I’ve invested too much in brain over the decades NOT to wear one. If your brain isn’t valuable, ditch the lid.

    1. Then obviously you must also wear a helmet when using stairs, climbing ladders, walking…
      My brain is valuable enough that I’ve looked at the risk critically. Not just bought what is fed to me by vested interests.

        1. I think what Tyler is suggesting is that “when he uses the stairs, he’s not a few feet away from a 35,000 lb. bus/truck moving at 65 kph. When he uses a ladder, he doesn’t have somebody’s errant, ill-bred dog run out in front of his wheels. And when he walks, he rarely has an erratic biker make an absent-minded, near catastrophic swerve as they do in bike lanes/paths.” (thank you pre-edit optional WP emails).
          Ron are you suggesting if the helmet law were not in place you would ride without a helmet? I think Tyler is just suggesting he perceives cycling to be a situation where he needs to wear a helmet. I agree with him and I think millions do. Does this mean we are advertising that cycling is a dangerous activity? If we really felt it was, why then are we even cycling? The fact that we are cycling demonstrates it is safe enough, but some are more cautious than others. Can being cautious be a fault?
          I sense that this conspiracy theory (if that is what you mean by “vested interests” and it may well be true for all I know) is causing cycling advocates to have an anti-helmet view, or at least it looks like it with your replies to comments like Tyler’s that seem to be founded on being a safe cyclist. You may have superior cycling skills and sense, and we would do well to learn from you someday (a price tags event!). But some of us are not as blessed and we need help in the form of government regulated protection (yes many of us are a sad lot).
          Just a thought but I wonder if the legislation was amended to allow for say adults to sign a waiver to accept the consequences of cycling without a helmet and be provided a “license” to flash at the police officer as they ride by (or simply add themselves to a registry that deflect any fines). Would such a thing help resolve this issue? I’m probably riding into a legal bees nest but this would allow those that have considered the risk (as Ron suggests) and decide on not wearing a helmet, because such people are probably good enough on the road on a bike that the likelihood of needing the helmet is negligible. It would open up many legal and forensic issues should an accident occur with such a person, but I guess it would balance the need for liberty and public safety which seems to be the at heart of the issue.

        2. No, I think that what people want is for the law to be put under scrutiny and see if there is any basis in evidence. There is a huge amount of evidence that it was a fraud all along that got repeated and repeated and now has a folkloric life of its own.
          Many people feel that it’s time to end the nonsense.
          Cycling is an inherently safe activity. It does not need special safety gear to do. Children are now see wearing helmets even when walking because they’ve been fed a bunch of propaganda telling them that their heads are fragile and that any activity where they move will result in their heads split open. It’s crazy, it’s nonsense and it’s wrong.
          The law needs to be repealed. There should be an investigation on the history of how it came to be, who was behind it and who benefits from its continuation. If in conclusion there is no evidence of it’s need then it should be repealed.
          If they still think that it’s needed despite lack of evidence then they should enact legislation requiring helmets (and elbow pads) for any other activity that has the same amount of (extremely low) head injury possibility. When driving, when walking, when doing anything really.

        3. Clark: ” Does this mean we are advertising that cycling is a dangerous activity? If we really felt it was, why then are we even cycling?”
          Respectfully, that is the entirely wrong population to ask the question of. Those riding have asked themselves that question, and answered it. The critical ones are those who aren’t riding, but want to. The phrase “interested by concerned” is often used to describe them.
          Recall that a pedestrian is also feet away from a bus or truck moving at 65 km/hr. Should they wear helmets on sidewalks?
          A pedestrian in a multiuse path is presumably at the same risk as a cyclist. Should they wear helmets on multiuse paths? Especially when texting or using earbuds while walking?
          If not, why the double standard?

    2. That sounds good but it’s an illusion. The industry created “test” is suspect. Since they knew that helmets weren’t necessary for cycling, they cooked up a test that allows them to create something for pennies out of styrofoam and straps then turn around and sell for $30 to $100. It’s been a great profit making venture for them.
      So, where whatever you want, it’s up to you but the more you research it the more you’ll discover what everyone else has, that they’re not needed and the ones that you’re buying do little.

  5. Good point Tyler. One could argue on the road the fittest survive, and that is usually based on the vehicle with the greater mass and more protection.
    As such one could interpret helmet requirement legislation to be anti-evolutionary in that it is protecting potential Darwin award winners. Maybe that is why so many smart people are anti-helmet legislation, because possibly their motivation is pro-evolution? Now it all makes sense!
    Regardless of your opinion on the law, lets all evolve our thinking–while you can still think.

    1. Clark, all your meticulous, “agnostic” data analysis is entirely meaningless if you ask the wrong questions or start with the wrong assumptions.
      As for Tyler’s safety, somebody could knock him down the stairs, bump his ladder over or jump the curb as he walks a sidewalk. There is no good reason not to wear a helmet the moment you get out of bed. But on the latter, an “agnostic” would know a helmet is no match for a moving car.
      It seems that MV traffic is a major reason to promote helmets and justify the helmet law. Yet helmets are not designed nor test for the kinds of impacts one gets in a collision with a motor vehicle. Furthermore, a recent report to the city of Vancouver found that 90% of bike-car collisions were the fault of the MV driver. Helmet laws have been a ridiculous distraction away from policies that promote real safety.

  6. It should be noted that bike helmets are designed to protect a cyclist in the case of a simple fall, not protect cyclists in high speed crashes with motor vehicles.

  7. Lots of back and forth on the merits of bike helmets and bike helmet laws. For those that think wearing a helmet while cycling is good and even necessary, there is little acknowledgement that if wearing a helmet while cycling is good and even necessary for safety reasons, then certainly wearing a helmet must also be good and even necessary while walking – especially in an urban area – and also for driving. If helmets do improve safety, then surely they should be worn for walking, driving walking on stairs and even while taking a shower. Why not wear a helmet all the time? Why do so many people, including our government, pick on cycling as requiring a helmet law? Surely society would be better served by broadening the helmet law to walking and driving.

    1. Don’t forget smoking. If smokers had to wear helmets when lighting up, they’d be butting out. Also people who pork out on Doritos. If they had to wear a helmet every time they reached for a crunchy snack – they wouldn’t. Imagine the health benefits.

    2. >Why do so many people, including our government,
      > pick on cycling as requiring a helmet law?
      To sell cars.

  8. Clearly, the lowest of the low, in terms of logic, comes when someone argues that pedestrians should wear helmets. One, even on the basis that a sidewalk is within a few feet of trucks & buses. There is a continental difference.
    A walker can react to something that would cause a fall or collision and stop on a dime. A cyclist, travelling on a slight downhill, can reach a speed of 45-55kmh easy.
    Stopping is dependent on a combo of reaction time, mass (bike, rider, load), brake pad & rim efficiency (worse when wet), road surfaces and tire aspects (size, condition, etc).
    It can take many metres for a cyclist to become aware of something that will stop them dead or more often violently put them off their trajectory. Then there’s the reaction time (oh, what to do now; usually panic, yell, move hands towards the brake levers and squeeze them hard). Then there’s braking force; too much on the rear, you lock up and fishtail. Too much on the front and it’s a head dive right into the pavement. (The type of bikes we ride today are classed ‘safety’ bikes as the previous version was termed boneshaker).
    Where your brain winds up in the aftermath is pure lottery. In those events, you want as many advantages as possible. A helmet is a significant one.
    Comparing a walker to a rider is no comparison.

    1. “Where your brain winds up in the aftermath is pure lottery. In those events, you want as many advantages as possible. A helmet is a significant one.”
      It must be very inconvenient that in the thread you are responding to, the study under discussion found no evidence to support your claim.

    2. “Lowest of the low”?
      Note that just as many people walking get head injuries as people cycling. It is the intersections that are the real hazard for both and there it is the heavier and faster moving motor vehicles that do not care how you are crossing the street. And way more people get head injuries while driving.
      Again, why is there this unnatural focus on cycling as being so dangerous that one must wear a helmet to survive? And if helmets are so great, why not wear one while cycling and driving? I have yet to see a reasonable answer to my questions.

  9. Helmet evangelists are a lot like those religious wackos who want to save you from perdition. With them, it’s simple to tell them to f. off. Not so with the armed Uniforms.
    Still, in my years of cycling in Vancouver, I was only harassed once. One of these dudes pulled his cruiser over in front of me, got out, and asked, as I was passing, where my helmet was. Since he hadn’t ordered me to stop, I boogied on my way – why stop for aggressive strangers – and ducked into a doorway. Seconds later his car raced past. Reconstructing the incident – he would have had to ride over those little plastic boulevard markers, and drive diagonally through the park to get there that fast.
    Was I a danger to someone, or was he?
    Anyway, I’m happy to see massive non-compliance with this onerous, arbitrary nonsense – and the Uniforms are insinuating themselves infrequently. Doubtless they feel silly harassing cyclists. If one of these strangers does accost me and demand accountability, I’ll tell them it’s for medical reasons – which is true. I am not obligated to say more than that.
    This is all part of bully dominator motordom. That we have to wear body armour to protect ourselves is absurd – like wearing a bulletproof vests because there are snipers. Deal with the snipers. How about raising the license age to 20 – at least for males – that’s not sexist; that’s statistics. Boy racers are a testosterone “accident” waiting to happen. Have school programs that explain the pitfalls of vehicular debt bondage.
    And eating and smoking in vehicles while driving is wacked. Bully motordom is pointing the finger while never coming to a full stop at stop signs, speeding, quacking on the phone.

    1. My son was cycling in Melbourne without a helmet and an officer shouted out “Excuse me”. My son continued on and the police pursued by bike and knocked him to the ground, calling him a little “sh*t”. Great way to promote safety!. Fines for this offence are quite high and police also charged him with stealing the bike he was riding on and which he had found obviously abandoned. It was then that he decided to return to Canada, so he is now on the lam from Australian “justice”.

      1. An Officer and a Hypocrite – later, he’ll hang out with his fellow Uniforms having a few and brag. The “finest” following orders – from the days of gay-bashing, to the ongoing persecution of harmless pot users. There’s nothing here to crow about except that it’s a well-paid job with a fat pension for minimal education. Too bad your son didn’t get away from these bullies.

    1. The problem is, evidence shows that in the type of collision described, helmets make brain injuries worse. http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1182.html
      Helmets are tested for low speed forward falls. They typically use a simple device that falls using a pivot and does not twist.
      This research show that this form of testing is completely inadequate for real life situations. But when crash test dummies are used in collisions where a car hits a cyclist from the side, the rotational forces on the cyclists head are radically higher when wearing a helmet.
      The descriptions of the brain injury in this article are consistent with the highly damaging rotational forces that are exacerbated when wearing a helmet. He also broke a vertebrae. All helmet studies that have measured for neck injuries show significant if not dramatic increases in neck injuries when wearing a helmet. This is also consistent with increased rotational forces.
      Nothing blithe.
      The place in the world with the fewest cycling head injuries is the Netherlands. Nobody wears a helmet.
      Go figure.

      1. Possibly because the Dutch cyclists don’t blow through stop signs as seems to be more common here. And the rider in question doesn’t seem to doubt the helmet saved his life.

        1. In Vancouver, 90% of car/bike collisions are the fault of the motorist. So who is blowing through stop signs?
          The rider has been busy recovering. I’m sure he wasn’t reading all the latest helmet research. He might change his mind if he saw how closely related his injuries were to the increased head trauma in the research.

  10. This article is an argument against, not for, helmet use. If this guy wasn’t feeling invincible with his helmet, he would have driven with due care and diligence and not blown through a stop sign at full speed. He was irresponsible – at fault. Presumably he will pay for damages.

    1. Really? So you’ve never seen a helmetless cyclist make a similar move? And you’re confident the three cyclists who preceded him were wearing helmets?
      I sincerely doubt any cyclist feels a helmet makes them feel invincible, after all according to many here the roads are a fearsome pit of death and carnage, hardly conducive to feeling invincible.

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