Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for September 16th, 2009

“Use your head: Bike helmet laws don’t work”

with 26 comments

Useful reminder

Brad Killburn in the Richmond News presents some intriguing information about how helmet laws got through the legislature.

The article is full of useful data – but sadly none of it is properly cited or referenced, so I have not been able to identify his sources or check them for myself. It does indeed seem likely that cycle helmets do very little to reduce fatalities of cyclists involved in collisions with motor vehicles. The bike hemet is after all mostly a thin plastic shell on styrofoam.

He refers to a study that was cited when the legislation was being debated

what the honourable members did not know was that it was collisions with motor vehicles that caused virtually 100 per cent of the cycling deaths, and that the study used to show reduction of head injury did not include a single collision with a motor vehicle, or any involving cycling adults for that matter, but merely simple falls by children from their bicycles.

I think he should have identified the study sufficiently to help his readers follow up if they wished to. I have heard many people argue that helmets save lives – including former Vancouver Councillor Dr Fred Bass. I have equally heard a lot from advocates who say that helmets simply convey the message that cycling is dangerous, but do little to reduce its risks, and that cyclist fatalities will start to fall when more dedicated cycling facilities are provided. The ticketing of cyclists without helmets is an especially controversial practice, given the lack of evidence that it actually does any good at all.

I thought that I would at least raise it here in case any of you know of these studies and can provide URLs in your comments

Written by Stephen Rees

September 16, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Posted in bicycles, cycling, Road safety

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