CCNB is not against or for the use of cycle helmets. Every cyclist should make their own decision on whether to wear or not wear one, while parents or guardians should make the decision for younger children. Their decisions should be made knowing the uncertainties over the benefits or otherwise of helmets.
In some countries where there is mandatory helmet wearing law the incidence of head injuries has gone up. The safest countries to cycle in Europe are the Netherlands and Denmark where the wearing of a cycle helmet is almost non-existent.
The standards for cycle helmets require them to withstand an impact velocity of only 12.5 mph (20 km/h) and are not designed for the kind of impact a cyclist may suffer if they are hit by a speeding vehicle.
The key to save cycling is slower traffic speeds, high quality infrastructure and strict liability legislation.
Cycling Embassy of Great Britain
Cycle helmets are designed to be effective particularly in the most common accidents that do not involve a collision with another vehicle, often simply falls or tumbles over the handlebars. They are not designed to offer any useful protection in the event of a collision with a motor vehicle.
Despite this, helmets are often incorrectly promoted by both public bodies and individuals as providing useful protection in the event of a collision with a motor vehicle.
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Transport Research Laboratory Report (2009)
The report contains a review of the evidence for the potential of cycle helmets to prevent injury.
The project concludes that in the event of an on-road accident, cycle helmets would be expected to be effective in a range of real-world accident conditions, particularly the most common accidents that do not involve a collision with another vehicle and are often believed to consist of simple falls or tumbles over the handlebars.
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Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation
Minor head injuries are usually a result of linear acceleration of the skull by impact with another object. Cycle helmets may have a benefit by reducing and spreading this force.
More serious injuries, on the other hand, are often a result of angular or rotational acceleration, which leads to diffuse axonal injury (DAI) and subdural haematoma (SDH). These are the most common brain injuries sustained by road crash victims that result in death or chronic intellectual disablement.
Cycle helmets are not designed to mitigate rotational injuries, and research has not shown them to be effective in doing so.
To the contrary, some doctors have expressed concern that cycle helmets might make some injuries worse by converting direct (linear) forces to rotational ones. These injuries will normally form a very small proportion of the injuries suffered by cyclists, but they are likely to form a large proportion of the injuries with serious long-term consequences. In this way helmets may be harmful in a crash, but this harm may not be detected by small-scale research studies.
For more information and a thorough treatment of the subject click here.
Cycle helmets do not protect someone being crushed by a lorry, dragged along underneath it or run down in broad daylight. Some deaths may be caused by careless cyclists but the majority of accidents and deaths are due to the careless attitude of many motorists to two wheeled road users.
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