Is a Helmet Necessary?

Bike helmet croppedDo you wear a helmet when you’re cycling? I do but I’ve been reading recently that I am probably wasting my time. I have to be honest and say that I only started wearing one when I moved to London. In all the years I cycled in Bristol I never once put one on my head. I made the decision to wear one before I moved here as I knew the traffic was going to be heavier and the roads unfamiliar to me. It just seemed like a sensible thing to do and I never considered the possibility that there was little or no point in wearing a helmet.

I quite reasonably assumed that a cycle helmet would reduce the possibility of serious head injuries were I to be knocked off my bike. According to the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (BHRF) this is not entirely true. They suggest that studies into the effectiveness of cycle helmets are not wholly accurate. One research project into whether bike helmets should made compulsory found that there was no evidence to prove that wearing a helmet made any difference to head injury rates. They did discover that there was direct link between head injury rates and the consumption of alcohol and drugs among cyclists. Many of these cases were not, however, wearing helmets.

There is further suggestion that motorists will give cyclists who are not wearing a helmet a wider berth when passing them. So perhaps helmets are seen as a magical defence against serious injuries while out on the road. I never really gave any of this much thought. I will say that I have had a few sanctimonious moments when I look at other cyclists who are careering around and flying through red lights whilst not wearing a helmet. It is up to them of course whether they wear one or not but I have felt a little smug in my protective head gear. It would appear that I was maybe fooling myself (which probably serves me right for being smug).

Any serious collision involving a bike is likely to result in serious injury or death with or without a helmet according to an article in the Metro last year. The BHRF also suggest that cyclists who wear helmets are more likely to take greater risks whilst wearing a helmet as opposed to those that do not. I have to say that I don’t fully support this theory as I have seen helmeted and bare headed cyclists do some pretty stupid things over the years; myself included. Helmet laws would also significantly reduce the number of cyclists out on the road according to more research by the BHRF. They would be less inclined to ride a bike if they felt that they had to wear a helmet. It would also have an impact on bike hire schemes. Their web page is worth a look at.

This is an interesting little film about a new bike helmet invention. It is called the invisible bike helmet and seems to work in the same way as an airbag would in a car. It is worn around the neck and triggers when involved in an accident. It has a one-time only use, which is the same as a bicycle or motorbike helmet, and has a little black box in the collar that records the data of the accident for research. With a price tag of 399 Euros I doubt if I will be buying one anytime soon though. For the fashion conscious among you you can accessorise your collar with special fabric add-ons that come in at 59 Euros.

I’ve become rather comfortable wearing a helmet, and will probably continue to do so regardless of what the evidence suggests, as I do feel a little safer with it on. I don’t look at it as a magical remedy to getting squashed I see it as a precautionary item that will hopefully keep my head in one piece should I get knocked off my bike. For me that’s reason enough to wear one.