Bike helmets ‘fail to protect cyclists’

  • Joanne McCarthy

The protective effect of bike helmets is much smaller than people realise, according to Cyclist.ie, the Irish national cycling lobby group.

In advance of National Brain Awareness Week, Cyclist.ie has expressed concern at efforts to promote helmet-wearing using unsupportable claims for their effectiveness.

Because cycling helmets are quite light, they provide little protection when the impact is strong, the group said. According to Cyclist.ie, when helmet-wearing was enforced in other countries, the number of cyclists declined steeply, but no clear improvement was observed in head-injury rates.

Cyclist.ie chairperson Dr Mike McKillen said the government’s Smarter Travel policy is to get as many people as possible to make daily journeys by bicycle. If this aim is be realised, we must not get distracted by counterproductive debates about helmet wearing, he said.

“The drop in the number of cyclists following vigorous helmet promotion in other jurisdictions draws a stark picture: you can promote cycling or you can promote helmets; you cannot do both,” he added.

Furthermore, cyclists who put their trust in helmets are likely to be less wary at junctions, the group said.

The group also stressed that the focus should be on preventing cycling accidents in the first place rather than reducing injury severity after crashes occur.

Increasing the number of cyclists thereby raising motorists’ awareness of cyclists, introducing on-road training for cyclists, training motorists to interact with cyclists and enforcing the rules of the road for all road users would all lead to a reduction in accidents, Cyclist.ie believes.

The group stated that reducing traffic speeds and volumes in towns, improving road surface maintenance and redesigning roads to take cyclists into account would also contribute to a reduction in accidents.

Cyclist.ie has released a briefing paper setting head injuries to cyclists in their proper context in advance of National Brain Awareness Week.


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