Should Cycling Helmets be made compulsory here in the UK?

Whether or not, cycling helmets should be made compulsory is a very complex issue with no easy answers. There are strong arguments to be made on both sides of the debate.

Cycling helmets have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of head injury in the event of a crash. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 70% and the risk of death by up to 40%.

In addition, helmets can also help to protect against facial injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other serious trauma.

A number of countries have already made cycling helmets compulsory for certain age groups or in certain situations.

For example, in Australia, all cyclists must wear helmets when riding on public roads.

In the United States, some states and cities have helmet laws for cyclists, while others do not.

On the other hand, there are also concerns that making helmets compulsory could have a negative impact on cycling rates.

Some people argue that helmets are uncomfortable and inconvenient, and that they can discourage people from cycling, especially children and young people.

In addition, there is some evidence that helmet laws may actually increase the risk of accidents, as cyclists may become more complacent and take more risks when they know they are wearing a helmet.

They also argue that helmets do not necessarily prevent accidents from happening in the first place and that it is important to address the root causes of cycling accidents, such as poor infrastructure and reckless driving.

Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to make cycling helmets compulsory is a matter of public policy, and personal choice.

There is no right or wrong answer, and each country will need to weigh the evidence and make a decision that is in the best interests of its citizens.

Here are some additional factors to consider when making this decision:

Ø  The level of cycling safety already in the country:

In countries with a high rate of cycling accidents, such as the UK, helmets may be more important for safety than in countries with a low rate of accidents. (The Netherlands).

Ø  The age of the cyclists:

Helmets are generally more important for young cyclists, who are more likely to be involved in accidents.

Ø  The type of cycling:

Helmets are generally more important for cyclists who are riding on busy roads or in other dangerous areas.

Ø  The personal preferences of cyclists:

Some cyclists may prefer to wear helmets for safety, while others may not.

Why now? A couple of happenings this month that have reignited the debate.

Firstly, on the 1st April 2023, Japan has made the wearing of helmets compulsory. However, there are no penalties for not wearing one.

So, I’m not sure how you are going to police it.

There is also the question of Bikeshares.

Bikesharing, is very popular in Japan. You can ‘hop on’ a bike, ride a short distance, ‘hop off’ and go about your day.

However, the Bikeshare companies are not going to hire out helmets, so that means you will have to carry one with you. I think, very much a ‘non-starter’!

And secondly, it is only 20 years since helmets were made compulsory for all UCI sanctioned Bike Races.

This was after the tragic death of Andrey Kivilev on the 12th March 2003, during the Paris-Nice race, when we collided with teammate, and badly crashed to the ground, resulting in a skull fracture and two broken ribs.

He died overnight without regaining conscious.

After his death the UCI made the wearing of helmets compulsory. They had tried previously in 1991; however, the riders refused to wear them, so the rule was never formally introduced.

This time the rule was enforced and confirmed in October 2003.

Helmet-wearing is now universal and uncontroversial in the peloton of both professional as well as amateur races. It has also become common-place among recreational riders in many parts of the world.

As of 2023, the following countries have compulsory helmet laws for all cyclists:

·         Argentina

·         Australia

·         Cyprus

·         New Zealand

·         Japan (as of April 1, 2023)

In some other countries, helmet use is compulsory for children only, or for cyclists in certain areas.

For example, in the United States, helmet use is compulsory for children under the age of 18 in 21 states and the District of Columbia.

In Canada, helmet use is compulsory for children under the age of 18 in all provinces and territories except Quebec.

My own experience is to always wear a helmet.

I have previously written about my accident, and am quite convinced that the helmet I was wearing saved my life.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of whether or not cycling helmets should be made compulsory.

The best decision for each person will depend on a variety of factors, including the level of cycling safety, the age of cyclists, the type of cycling, and the personal preferences of cyclists.

If in doubt – Wear the helmet – it may just save your live.

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