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Should you wear a bike helmet?

Should you wear a bike helmet?


Should cyclists be forced to wear helmets? It’s a subject guaranteed to start an argument. Driver: Have you got a helmet on? No!
Cyclist: I don’t have to wear a helmet! Everyone has an opinion. The problem is, they’re normally not based on evidence. Let’s start with something straightforward. I don’t have a problem with bike helmets. In fact, when I ride a bike,
I usually wear one. And if I fall off my bike and my helmet is properly fitted and I hit something at low speed, the evidence shows
it’s probably going to help me. So making cyclists wear helmets
is a good thing, right? Well, here’s where it starts
to get complicated. Let’s hear first from a doctor who has to deal with head injuries. I’ve seen patients sustain
devastating skull fractures, brain injuries,
indeed unsurvivable brain injuries as a consequence of
the head striking the ground. Last year when I was cycling across America, a truck’s wing mirror smashed into the back of my head at 70 mph, knocking me off my bike
and onto the road. But I was lucky. I was wearing a helmet. If I hadn’t been, I’d be dead. I honestly believe
that cycle helmet legislation would significantly reduce the proportion
of cyclists that are currently killed on our roads. So it’s pretty clear:
helmets can save lives. But let’s hear from another doctor – one who looks at health not just for individuals but across whole populations. There are very good indications that forcing people to wear bike helmets makes cycling less appealing to people and probably reduces the amount of cycling that takes place. And there’s an overwhelming body of evidence that the health benefits of cycling vastly, vastly outweigh the health risks. Also, cycling isn’t as dangerous
as people think. Here in Britain there is one death for about every 30 million miles cycled. That’s around 100 cyclists
killed every year. In fact, it’s about as safe as walking. But in that same year, well over 85,000 people die early because of illness caused by inactive living, mainly things like heart disease,
diabetes and cancer. And these are precisely the sort of conditions that cycling can play a really, really big role in preventing. Cycling is one of the best ways that we can help fight that, I mean cycling as part of transport, as part of everyday life means that people get
a moderate workout regularly. It’s not something that you have
to go to the gym to do. They can do it on their way to work, on their way to the shops and so on. So enforcing the wearing
of cycle helmets, even if it were the case
that it made cycling safer, would still lead to an overall
cost in public health terms. And something else happens when cyclists put on a helmet, something that seems hardwired
into our nature. Scientists call it ‘risk compensation’. Basically, that means if you have more protection, you tend to take more risks. We got people into the lab and we told them we were going to look at decision-making whilst they wore an eye-tracking device. It came with a baseball cap or it came with a bicycle helmet. And then we got them to do
various decision-making tasks and gambling tasks. We found that the people
who were given the helmets took more risks on the gambling tasks and seemed to show higher sensation seeking measures. So riders seem to be using
that extra protection to be more reckless. But here’s where it gets more scary. Other road users then seem
to take more risks with cyclists too. In another experiment,
Ian went out on his bike fitted with a measuring device. Sometimes he wore a helmet, sometimes he didn’t. And he found that when
he was wearing the helmet, traffic would, on average,
pass him more closely. Sometimes dangerously so. We had two possible explanations for that. It might just be that
if you’re wearing a helmet you look more experienced
and drivers respond to that. Or the other possible explanation was drivers were essentially thinking: ‘he’s protected, I can take risks’. So what has happened when countries have made bike helmets compulsory? Scientists have done major studies in three countries: Canada, New Zealand
and Australia, to try and find out whether helmets improved overall safety. Keep your head together,
wear a helmet! Their conclusion? There’s no evidence that they do. This is why lots of cycling experts get really
frustrated when cycle safety campaigns get based around helmets and high-viz only. Wear a bicycle helmet
every time that you ride, gotta strap it on kids,
wear your helmet with pride. Someone who knows these frustrations better than most, is Chris Boardman, the former Olympic champion
turned cycle campaigner. Helmets are quite a divisive topic. They tend to be people’s reaction
to an environment: “I feel helpless, there’s nothing I can do.” Cycling is a safe activity. It’s the environment that’s dangerous. It’s that that we need to change … The Dutch have spent 40 years
building safe bike lanes and over there almost nobody
rides wearing a helmet. But in the Netherlands,
cycling is about four times as safe as it is in Britain. One thing the Dutch do is removing a lot of the motor traffic
from neighbourhoods. So that residential streets
are not really busy with people trying to cut through, avoid the main road, you know,
take a short cut and so on. I would suggest to people, if you want to wear a helmet,
wear a helmet. Whatever makes you feel comfortable
to ride a bike. And I think for all of us the message is: if there is a freedom to choose, which, of course, there should be, then let it be a freedom, which means I’m not going to impose my will on you either way. In fact, if you look purely at head injuries for all road users, the greatest number is amongst motorists. So maybe if anyone should be forced
to wear helmets. It should be them. Thanks for watching –
let us know what you think in the comments below,
check out the other videos in this series and make sure
you subscribe for more.


Reader Comments

  1. I really liked this video. Amazingly balanced and informative. I always wear a helmet. If my father in law had been wearing a helmet in his car he would still be with us instead of taking five years to die from permanent irreparable brain damage. Helmet wearing is a good idea. Whether compulsory or not.

  2. i have my helmet on every time on my bike ride on the road or off road and it will save you from be hit on your head
    and i has that on off road so it did crack my helmets.

  3. Helmet is for safety of the rider. Once I myself fell of while cycling without helmet & lost conscious. So it should be upto the rider to use helmet or not.

  4. the dutch have proven how to cycle safely by masses without a helmet. they created infrastructure for bicyclists. they changed the law; a driver of a car is ALWAYS guilty when crashing with bicyclist.

  5. helmets will not become law because cycle hire company,s would be up in arms because you would need a helmet to hire them politics

  6. Obviously helmet helps with kids biking for sure… What is the point of this video? Are you advocating no helmet when biking???

  7. The safety in the netherlands on a bike is allso because virtually everyone who happens to drive a car, allso rides bikes. And on a racing bike a lot of people actually wear helmets.

  8. I think you have to distinguish between commuters and "cyclists". This isn't to say commuters aren't cyclists it's just to say that helmets are undeniably necessary when flying around at high speeds.

  9. Is there any dutch or danish reading this? I think I have an Idea which i think brilliant. Obligatoryy helmets for E-bikes. ebikes are ridden by the elderly. So when you get older, and your reactiontimes and vehiclecontroll is diminishing, you are going faster than when you were in your thirties. Accidents, even lethal go up. On a human power driven bycycle, you are more likely to go at moderate speed when there is a lot of traa, becouse you want to avoid using thebrakes, because you loose a lot of energy, you have to accelerate again. On an E- bike, you do not have this problem, You can accelerate "for free" So you go fast in traffic. Compulory helmets for e-bikes vwould discourage electric biking to an extent that people who do not need electric power will still be alowed on the cyclepath, no problem. And of course when I get older I will buy an e-bike. But by than I will be so old that riding a bike without a helmet would be a good idea anyway. The more I think of it the more advantagies I see.

  10. I always wear it, who cares if its law or not. Its common sense and for your protection. I also MTB and there is no infrastructure or cars or cops, I use it anyway.

  11. I've heard wearing a seatbelt doesn't really keep you safe anyway and there are studies out there that show cigarettes don't cause cancer. Check your facts people. I prefer my central nervous system to make a hard and satisfying SMACK when it hits the ground.

  12. I can’t wear helmets anyways cuz hair you know. I would have to straighten, and wear down in order to wear one so yeahhh. I wouldn’t wear it anyways lol. I got one for Christmas but I didn’t even open it yet 2months later

  13. Its good for the roads to force regular everyday cyclists off by enforcing mandatory helmet laws. Less obstacles. Theres the downside too, the cyclists who once wouldve rode their bike will now drive a car. Australia and New Zealand have mandatory helmets since 1990. Fudged statistics means nobody really knows if the plastic hats saved lives. A TV identity called Molly Meldrum was paid to promote wearing a helmet while cycling in the 1990's – he was the face of the mandatory bicycle helmet law. In the 2000's Molly Meldrum fell of a ladder at his home and sustained a brain injury. Karma.

  14. I find the very principle of enforcing personal safety as an infringement on individual liberty. Nobody is putting somebody else at risk by foregoing a helmet

  15. One thing they didn't mention is that many riders wear their helmets too loose. If the helmet strap is dangling inches under your chin, or is unfastened, the helmet will do no good at all. This seems like common sense, but at least half the riders I see using helmets wear them either unclasped or way too loose.

  16. So basically, you should wear a helmet, but you shouldn't force people to

  17. So the answer is to remove choice of people driving a car so that bikes can be safe without helmets. What stupid thinking in these countries!

  18. Interesting diversion into risk management on here – modern cars are extremely safe for the driver. If drivers didn't feel so safe perhaps they would be less inclined to take risks with themselves and other road users who lack their protection

  19. Funny thing is that every cyclist on his/her bike would agree wear the helmet but then they next day take a bicycle and no helmet (no lights when dark) and commute on it 10 miles in busy London.

  20. Well, a (distant) relative of mine got killed in cycling accident in the Netherlands. She didn't wear a helmet. I always wear a helmet.

  21. It’s shameful that the video focuses entirely on death rather than injury. Of the serious bike riders In my circle of acquaintances and their children, virtually all have had a serious accident — potholes, animals, night, other cyclists, just one involving a car, all but one still alive. Wear a helmet to avoid gouges, bangs, and scrapes, for chrissake.

  22. This video is contradictory. It is anti compulsory helmet, but their leading example doesn't reflect conditions in Britain. Ok, if there is no motorised traffic, then you can do away with helmets, but that isn't the case is it? So the issue is not compulsory helmets, the issue is cycling free from high speed motorised vehicles. Bike paths costs a fortune to build. The cheaper option is to allow cycling on footpaths and reduce the speed limit on local roads to 40km/h.

  23. Amsterdam is so different from Sydney that there are few lessons to be learned. Sydney is hilly, hot in summer, very spread out and doesn't have a cycling culture. Sydney is better suited to electric bikes and a 40km/h limit on local roads and 15km/h on footpaths.

  24. A pathetic film. If the evidence suggests increased risk-taking after wearing helmets one would not expect a major drop in death rates. The fact that people might decide against cycling as a consequence of having to wear a helmet again should increase mortality if the author's logic is correct. It is just nonsensical. One can and should only compare biking with vs biking without helmets. This will speak for itself. One also needs to look at how and against what heads are banging in normal traffic. Tjhis is not the ground, this is the hard edge of a car. Do your background research before you spew stuff around that is not based on solid science.

  25. Bicycle accidents can (and do) happen to anyone. Just ask Bono, who was in a very serious, almost grievous accident in Central Park while cycling. So, if the issue is looking uncool or surviving a spill without a head injury or serious brain damage when a careless Rollerblader crashes into you, best to be wearing a helmet after all. And they do make models that look cool these days so just find one that you like, that looks threaded and aerodynamic.

  26. in skate/BMX park I rarely wore a helmet but on the road I always do…mainly because I'm not worried about my actions but actions of others, a car could tap you and you go flying.

  27. Enough rules in this country without forcing people to wear stinking helmets, if you gonna force helmets then force people to eat less then 3000 calories a day and force them not to smoke.

  28. Bike helmets are a scam by the shareholders at big-bike corporations! Even worse then the greedy money hounds who make seat belts!

  29. It's a fact that if you hit a stone with your head you're gonna have a serious injury. The fact that it may not happen so often among cyclists doesn't justify one shouldn't be prepared.

  30. in my opionion the answer is very simple. except children grown ups shouldnt be forced to wear helmet. some degree of freedom should exist.

  31. I mean, if people have to wear seatbelts than why not cyclists have to wear helmets? Sure, we should be focusing on other ways to make things safer for the cyclists, but you might as well.

    Anyway, the study about bike helmet wearers taking more risks is flawed because gambling is irrelevant to cycling and is done in a totally different environment. And your statement that most head injuries happen to those in cars is also irrelevant because there are more people who travel by car.
    Also, the sort of people who cycle to work are more likely to be physically active as it is, so the argument that less people will cycle is also flawed

  32. According to a French study in 2008, head injuries are involved in the deaths of over 40% of drivers killed in car crashes. Compusary helmets for drivers? Of course that's ridiculous as it is with cyclists or pedestrians, but In the case of driving, everyone's health would be improved if less people chose to drive. Public health improves when more people cycle.

  33. I've ridden my bike without my helmet on a couple of occasions, accidentally, I might add, and it always felt strange. I always wear one, even if I'm only going a short distance, as you never know what might happen. I try to ride to the side of the road as much as possible, but I often take the lane when it's too narrow. I've never had any problems with close passes, even when commuting to work and back.

  34. I've seen the evidence. One dead mate. I find it particularly hard to be detached about the claim that the benefits of exercise balance out death. Surely this one's a false dichotomy writ large.

  35. Not sure about compulsory, I came off my bike load of times as a kid, broken arm, collar bone, wrist, multiple cuts requiring stitches but never any head injury, just lucky maybe

  36. Cycling is meant to give a sense of freedom. Telling people to wear a block of polystyrene on their heads when there is no proof you are more likely going to bang your head than falling off a ladder is taking away that freedom for no logical reason. I've been riding a bike since the early 90s and the only time i have banged my head is from doing a wheelie and missing the back brake. The stats just don't add up.

  37. Misleading title. The video is not about whether you should wear a helmet, which you obviously should, but about the unintended consequences of helmet legislation. I wouldn't complain about this if it was just some guy on the internet but the Guardian really should do better.

  38. The only reason why I wear a helmet is because I want to be able to eat and speak when a motorist eventually sends me into a wheelchair.

  39. Yeah, every one of those people who live on their couch would adopt healthy lifestyles and become cyclists if there were no helmet laws. Yeah, that makes sense!

  40. I ride bicycle without helmet for 12 years… finally i got a helmet 2 weeks ago.. but the helmet gives me a bad headach and now i dont wear it anymore

  41. that “risk compensation” is really interesting. I do find i’m more careful on my fixed gear bike than on my road bike, the latter having better stopping power. And I vote for dressing for safety, cycling in a safe manner, plus I really want my tax payer money to add more and more cycling lanes in London, because they are great for safety and for reducing the overall annoyance level! 🙂

  42. I always wear a helmet. As a pedestrian, in the office, when grocery shopping, in my garden, at the nude beach, in bed, when I'm sewing.
    I can't even remember the last time I took it off. You can't be too careful in life 🙂

  43. Cycling isnt dangerous..the environment is…which makes cycling, dangerous.

    And helmets are proven to reduce injury from serious impact.

    So the logical thing to do is wear a helmet till you are in a safe environment.

    Wearing a helmet isnt always required. But the ridiculousness of suggesting helmets arent required full stop is ludicrous.

    Especially in particular countries with little cycling infrastructure and a culture of anti cycling.

  44. So if people take less risks when theres no safety equipment qhy dont we strip cars of seatbelts, airbags, crumple zones, collision bars. Why dont we not have dedicated baby seats and booster seats.

    Not even the glorious Scandinavia have removed these from cars. If your logic is sound then we should. Because it would be better and safer for everyone to have absolutely zero protection when on the roads.

  45. I lived in US, Australia and China. I do cycling in Australia and China, not US lol! Personally, wearing a helmet is responsible thing to do. I thus do wear one in China and Australia. For public sectors, it seems no need to regulate helmets issue rather than building a bike friendly environment.

  46. I agree, when car users (both drivers and passengers)have to wear helmets, then make cyclists wear helmets.
    Visibility and distraction (itches, fit, sweat etc) are my biggest reasons for not wearing one, unless racing or downhilling.

  47. A lot of seemingly intelligent people talking essentially, drivel. I love the process of cycling and I try to cycle every day in Birmingham. Only a fool would cycle without a helmet on the dangerous roads of my locality.

  48. The problem is as vehicles are being driven faster you have to cycle aggressive and always ride by intersections peeking at both sides down while your hands are already on the brakes anticipating a stopage. The only reason I ride with a helmet is because I don't ride a bike, I race on a bike so the speeds I average are minimum 30 km hr to 45 km hr ( 14 kg alloy road bike). cycling around my neighborhood I don't wear a helmet as I am going slow.

  49. My helmet is most practical as it holds both my rear view mirror and my camera.
    This said, I'm fully aware that the protection offered is limited to minor accidents and there's nothing a helmet could do if a driver decided (touch wood!) to use their vehicle as a weapon against me. Only a dimwit wouldn't understand this.

  50. I didn't wear a helmet for about 6 years. I got really lucky in those years, I have fell many times, but never injured my head, once. Also went down hills at 35 mph a few times, was sketchy as hell, never once fell. I'm not going to push my luck anymore, though. The next time I bike ride, I will be wearing a helmet.

  51. Of those hundred deaths, why so mum on how many were wearing helmets? Of those hundred deaths, how many were a drunk cyclist, cyclist at night with no lights, a US cyclist keeping right not left, and so on? That is, how many of these hundred could have been me who doesn't cycle stupid, helmet or not. Also, wouldn't mandatory mirrors reduce bike accidents, don't we need more and more laws…to keep us safe.

  52. That was a fancy commercial about a the truck mirror at 70 mph, perhaps paid for by the helmet industry?

  53. Yeah idc if wearing a helmet will reduce the chances of head injury, I’m not gonna wear a helmet like I’m in third grade

  54. I always alert people to wear a helmet when cycling. I've been doing this for 30 years. I'm 58 years old and I had both hips replaced. Cycling has many, many health benefits. The main problem is weight. You wanna lose that flab, get on a bike every day. It will change your life. You feel better. The best part is you don't have to ride fast to enjoy cycling. Cycling also slows down the aging process. So, put the hammer down, fast or slow. 🙂

  55. I personally don't wear helmet and in the last few years the infrastructures of cycling in Portugal are improving. So I think I'm not going to use ….

  56. Mandatory helmet laws are an absolute disaster in Australia which is an incredibly hostile place to cycle. All it has done is reduce the number of cyclists and provide fodder for the victim blaming media. For Club and training rides I would always wear a helmet due to speeds involved. If I was just riding to to shops or a cafe in Europe, I wouldn't wear a helmet. Unfortunately in Australia we have to

  57. Born in The Netherlands, now living in Australia, I'm saddened about the fact that it is compulsory to wear a Helmet. Because when you wear a helmet in Australia, you really can't wear a sun protecting hat. As the sun can get really brutal here in Australia.

  58. So if you cycle & wear a helmet you gain the benefit of both issues. It is only a loss if you don’t cycle & don’t wear a helmet. Fine drivers for going close.

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