“Don’t force people to wear helmets”, says top cycle group


COMPULSORY wearing of bike helmets should be abandoned, a leading cycling group has claimed.

Spokes says it will no longer promote cycling events which insist on protective headgear, claiming helmets can make bike users more vulnerable.

The Edinburgh-based charity, which has been promoting cycling for 20 years, believes helmet-wearing riders are at greater risk because motorists consider them “safer”.


Spokes says it will not back events wher helmets are compulsary

Spokes revealed its dramatic and controversial change of view in an online newsletter, saying: “Compulsion, or one-sided promotion, is very wrong – even more so as they put people off the healthy choice of getting about by bike.

“Therefore Spokes will not publicise charity rides or other events involving helmet compulsion.

“We call on all other organisations concerned with public health to do the same.”

Trossachs Ton and Tour de Forth are believed to be among the events Spokes will no longer promote.

The charity is also urging police forces and official bodies such as Cycling Scotland to stop using publicity images with only helmeted cyclists.

It also wants the manufacturers to publicise the risks as well as the benefits of their safety gear.

Spokes added: “Helmet manufacturers and sales outlets, in the interest of public safety, should have to make clear on boxes and in sales literature a helmet’s impact design speed (usually around 12mph) and the potential risks as well as the benefits.”

The group maintain that while in some cases wearing a crash helmet may be beneficial – such as if an object hits the user straight on the head – they can cause more harm than good as they “worsen some serious head injuries if hit at an angle making the neck rotate too fast or far.”

It is also claimed that bike users who adorn themselves in safety equipment can feel over-confident and behave in a cocky manner on the road.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents supports Spokes.

ROSPA campaigns manager Michael Corley said: “We do not believe it is practical to make the use of cycle helmets mandatory.”

Malcolm Wardlaw from the Transport and Health Study Group said: “Helmet laws have not noticeably reduced serious head injuries, except by reducing cycling.

“An excessive focus on helmets adds ‘fear’ to the obstacles hindering a cycle revival.”

But road safety group Brake strongly backed compulsory helmet wearing, at least for children, because evidence shows a reduction in head injuries.

Ellen Booth, Brake’s senior campaigns officer said: “We encourage cyclists to do everything they can to reduce risks, including wearing a helmet and high-visibility gear, and choosing the safest routes possible.”

Brenda Mitchell, lead solicitor for Cycle Law Scotland agrees that helmets on cyclists are an important and necessary commodity.

She said: “For me it’s simple, if you can protect yourself from risk of serious head injury then do so.

“I fell off my bike two years ago and sustained a head injury that could have been avoided if I’d been wearing a helmet.

“We share road space with motorised vehicles and that itself puts a cyclist at risk.”

Spokes’ stance on cycle helmets follows the announcement that £180,000 has been spent improving urban cycling environments across the country in order to tackle the problem of road accidents involving cyclists.


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  1. Spokes is absolutely right, and helmet wearing is not associated with reduced risk to cyclists. In fact, the largest ever research project found that helmet wearing increased risk.

    Brake is not really a road safety group, they are more of a victim blaming group, and rather than sort out the cause of the problem, the blame the victims for not wearing enough armour.

    The only effects of helmet promotion is to deter some people from cycling, and to make obscene profits for the manufacturers, there is no safety benefit. Since cycling confers such huge health benefits, the people not cycling any more get sicker quicker and die earlier. The overall effect of helmet propaganda is a massive public health own goal.

    Check out cyclehelmets.org for the facts rather than helmet promotion fairy stories.

  2. How daft is that? Common sense tells you that wearing a helmet will prevent injury. Talk to the A&E professionals. What’s next? Motorcyclists shouldn’t wear a helmet either…don’t wear a seatbelt? Get a grip………

    • CS, you’re so right, what am I thinking. Common sense is just so much more convincing than evidence isn’t it.

      Please give my regards to the Flat Earth Society.

  3. Wow, this is really amazing, also because of the details related to new labelling of helmets by manufacturers.

    Good job and big helmetless hugs from Berlin (the German transport minister said that if he doesn’t see 50% of people wearing helmets he will push to make it mandatory).

  4. The law here in Finland makes it mandatory for cyclists to ‘usually’ wear a helmet. An approximate translation of the paragraph 90 of the Finnish road traffic law would read “A cyclist and a passenger on a bicycle should, while riding, usually wear an appropriate protective helmet”. There are no penalties on the books for failing to wear a helmet.

    Personally I always wear a helmet when cycling. I also support the notion that helmets should be compulsory during mass events, charity rides and such where possibly less experienced riders ride in (large) groups. When riding alone it’s more up to the individual in my view, but I don’t greet fellow roadies without a lid.

  5. Pic’s of helmeted cyclists is the public health equivalent of smoking in films. Those wearing helmets while promoting a healthy lifestyle are as irresponsible as a doctor smoking while being interviewed on cancer or heart disease. They don’t save many if any lives but helmets do cost thousands of lives through discouraging healthiest means of transport.

  6. It is a requirement around my way to tie last nights pillows a duvets around oneself before leaving the house in the morning. This does increase the washing workload and make things a little clumsy but the padding provides useful additional protection should anything happen.

    It’s common sense really.

    It also means there are far fewer people out on the streets so it’s win, win.

  7. Ay all the PC opininated trendies will be out in force (once home and away and neighbours are over) to opose me riding my bike..they know better of course.. whatever we ordinary people say they counter with their..patronising ‘yes but….’ arguments..

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