Bike helmets ‘fail to protect cyclists’

  • Joanne McCarthy

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

In advance of National Brain Awareness Week, 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, when helmet-wearing was enforced in other countries, the number of cyclists declined steeply, but no clear improvement was observed in head-injury rates. 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, 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. has released a briefing paper setting head injuries to cyclists in their proper context in advance of National Brain Awareness Week.


Anonymous - 17/03/2009 10:40

I cycled throughout my childhood, teens and early adulthood and never had a helmet.

DJK - 23/03/2009 20:16

i have to admit also that as much as i like cycling the thought of having to wear a helmet puts me off completely...

Jamie - 24/03/2009 11:19

You don't have to wear a helmet. It's optional. Feel free to cycle without one. But whatever the says, in my opinion, a helmet will help you if you fall off.

Anonymous - 24/03/2009 15:39

Hi Jamie, I thought there was some talk of making it a legal requirement (like seat belts in cars?

Or is that just for children and professional cyclists?

Jamie - 24/03/2009 16:54

Dublin city council were going to make them compulsory, but it was voted down. They don't have the power to do it anyway.

They look stupid, and cyclists hate them. But I'd wear one while commuting

Drago - 26/03/2009 10:44

I wear one even though I agree with Jamie that it looks stupid, but then so do Hard Hats.

Road_Runner - 11/04/2009 08:45

Bicycle helmets have been compulsory in Australia for nearly 20 years, with the result that a lot of people here no longer cycle (including me).  The police in my town are quick to fine anyone (adult or child) who doesn't wear one, but they turn a "blind eye" to riding on the wrong side of the road, (cyclists) failing to stop at stop signs, and incorrectly fitted helmets.  Be happy that helmets aren't compulsory in Ireland.  There's scientific evidence that wearing a helmet actually increases your risk of serious brain injury.

Anonymous - 14/04/2009 14:06

Road Runner, how do police actually manage to fine anyone? I couldn't see that being greeted with anything but laughter here. I mean its not like a car - bikes don't have registration plates and cyclists (or anyone) cannnot be legaly compelled ton carry ID - no citizen can so how does that work?

Road_Runner - 14/04/2009 22:45

I was commenting on the helmet situation in my (small) town, where the cops know most people, or could soon find out.  And you're right about ID - you don't legally have to carry it.  In Melbourne, a large percentage of riders don't wear helmets - I assuming the cops have better things to do with their time, or they can't be bothered because of people not carrying ID (and giving false names and addresses).  I don't have a problem with people who want to wear a helmet, but there are so many reasons why people shouldn't be forced to wear one.  I believe the state that I live in (Victoria) was the first place in the world to introduce compulsory helmets for motorcyclists, and I remember distinctly that we were the first place in the world to introduce compulsory seat belts, so it stands to reason, that the politicians thought bicycle helmets would be good too!  I'm a member of CRAG (Cyclists Rights Action Group), an organisation formed over 17 years ago to oppose the draconian helmet laws in this country.  

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