28 February 2009

The Bicycle is Booming - Just Not in Denmark

True Style Over Speed
Forty years of working hard to create the World's Cycling Capital and, it seems, we're throwing it all away.

All over the world the bicycle is booming. Sales are up in the most unusual places after 'The Summer of the Bicycle', the oil crisis and the global economic meltdown in 2008. Even in Holland, where everyone owns a bike already, many companies are reporting increases in sales. Some of the larger companies are up 15%.

If we look at Denmark, the numbers for bicycle sales in 2007 are not reassuring. According to the industry organisation for bike retailers - Danske Cykelhandlere - the numbers are expected to be down 5%.

When I spoke with them the man tried to brush off the negative numbers by saying that Denmark has had a few years with high sales increases so a fall wasn't a problem. However, many other countries have experienced increases over the past few years, too, so there goes that theory. When pressed about bike helmets, he quoted word for word the same rhetoric as the Road Safety Council and the Danish Cyclists Federation. It was like hearing the same answering machine message again and again. They've prepared their spin well.

Denmark, like everywhere else, was affected in 2008 by a period with sky-high petrol prices and then the global financial crisis left its mark on the country as well. Car sales - both new and used - have plummeted.

It is prime time for people to ditch their car and hop onto their bikes or to invest in a new one, as we've seen all over the industrialised world. We have the bicycle infrastructure in place, so you wouldn't think it was an issue at all.

What has gone wrong in Denmark?

There is only one difference between Denmark and the rest of Europe in 2008. Intense bicycle helmet promotion campaigns have washed across the nation, initiated by the Danish Road Safety Council and the black sheep of the European cycling community, the Danish Cyclists Federation.

They have done so despite the fact that, at best, the scientfic jury remains out on bicycle helmets. Despite the fact that bike organisations all over Europe continue fighting against bike helmet promotion and legislation. Despite the warnings about how promoting bicycle helmets reduces the numbers of cyclists because of this uneccessary branding of cycling as dangerous. The latter has been heard loud and clear in numerous studies and papers and not least from the European Council of Ministers of Transports [ECMT] who stated in their 2004 report National Policies to Promote Cycling that:

"PROMISING, a research project commissioned by the European Union and coordinated by the SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research (2001), suggests that from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers.
[The ECMT is a council on which all the National Ministers of Transport in the EU sit.]

It is interesting, and frightening, to note that the bicycle helmet campaigns run by the Road Safety Council and the Danish Cyclists' Federation do not feature science as a firm foundation. It is a textbook example of rhetoric and propaganda used to manipulate an unsuspecting population that has no knowledge of, or experience with, bicycle helmets, unlike many other countries where they've at least had a debate. Welcome to the Culture of Fear.

The Road Safety Council, on their website, do not inform the Danish people about the wide variety of scientific studies available on bicycle helmets in order for them to make up their own mind - which should be the case in a personal matter like bicycle helmets. They merely quote a single report from the Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics [TØI], from 2002. They don't mention the report from 2007, from the same TØI, that is much more sceptical of helmets.

It reminds me all too much of one Colin Powell, sitting in the UN, showing off his "proof" that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. Our own right-wing prime minister bought THAT hype. Nevermind all the experts that said this wasn't the case. Or just think of the scientists that George Bush pulled out of his hat who refused to acknowledge that global warming was caused by humans. Despite the international scientific community's position that it was. Or rather is.

When you don't provide documentation and only rely on slogans and rhetoric, you are lying and you are no better than any other movement that exists solely on propaganda.

Danes cycle 30% less now than they did in 1990. The number of children driven to kindergarten or school has risen by 200%. If we still cycled that lost 30%, we could save 1500 lives a year in this country. [It's worth mentioning that the cycling rates in Copenhagen are much higher than these sad, national statistics.]

Together with Holland, Denmark is the safest country in the world in which to ride a bicycle. Why aren't we broadcasting THIS fact to our citizens? If we wish to reduce cyclist injuries, we should tackle the problem. Cars. Cars injure cyclists and cars kill them. Restricting this killing and maiming should be the goal instead of promoting bicycle helmets which are only designed to protect the head from non-life threatening injuries in solo accidents under 20 km/h.

I'm not a betting man but I'm ready with a bet.

2008 was a legendary year for cycling in Copenhagen. Thanks to our City's Bicycle Office and not least our Mayor in charge of the traffic department, Klaus Bondam, we have had a fantastic array of visionary bicycle projects put into play.

- Among other initatives: at 117 intersections the stop lines for cars have been pulled back five metres, creating more visibility and security for cyclists.
- One of our main arteries and the busiest bike lane in the nation - Nørrebrogade - has been more or less closed off to cars, with an increase of 15% in the number of cyclists.
- We have expanded the wildly successful Green Wave to other main arteries leading to the city centre.

All of these things are the most progressive moves towards increasing cycling in Copenhagen since the first physically separated bike lanes 25 years ago.

The City of Copenhagen's biannual Bicycle Report is due out in April, I believe. The City has established goals for cycling. They want to increase the percentage of cyclists in the city from 36% to 50% by 2015. It also wants to increase the percentage of cyclists who feel safe and secure in the traffic from the 58% in 2006 to 80% in 2015. With all the great projects in this city throughout 2008, we should expect a positive jump in these numbers.

Here's my bet. Because of the intense bicycle helmet propanganda in 2008:
- the percentage of cyclists in Copenhagen - 37% - will not rise. It will either fall or remain unchanged.

If I'm wrong, I'll wear a purple helmet for a month. Readers in the UK will know what I mean by purple helmet. If I'm right... we'll that's up to anyone who decides to take the bet.

It's sad that we have no group or organisation in Denmark who are working for promoting cycling positively - well, apart from Copenhagenize.com and Copenhagen Cycle Chic and The Slow Bicycle Movement. We should get the Dutch Fietsersbond to outsource their knowledge, vision and respect for science and open an office here.
Cykelhjelm - Don't Get Scared, Get the Facts from Colville Andersen on Vimeo. If you consider the fact that there is no place in the world where bicycle helmet usage has resulted in lower head injury levels, it's unlikely that it will happen here. Instead, we're fueling the car-centric fire and waging a religious crusade against a large percentage of our population who choose a safe, healthy, life-extending, disease-preventing transport option. I hope that those of you out there in a position to influence will learn from these mistakes. And everyone who fancies it is welcome to support Cykelhjelm.org's Facebook group Cykelhjelm.org - In Defence of Danish Bike Culture - which is in Danish - here. More on helmets from Copenhagenize.com: The Culture of Fear - Cykelhjelm Society - Helmets for Pedestrians and Motorists - Helmets or Health? - Cycle Helmets and Other Religious Symbols - Clever Dutch and Arrogant Danes

43 comments:

Gregor said...

Hey, you are doing it all wrong !
In Slovenia, helmet is a cyclist's fashion accesorie that doesn't come cheap. You see ? It's a must have together with your afternoon full-suspended, 150mmm travel free ride machine. Or whatever...

This is supposed to be sarcastic...

I was told by somebody (car rider ) that cyclists shouldn't ride on roads, because they are dangerous..for car riders?

Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

You have my vote on this.

Interesting question for you: Presumably the pro-helmet campaigns are being funded by your department of transport or similar. Is it worth trying to get funding for a pro-cycling out of the department of culture or health? With a few million Kroner behind you, I'm sure you'd be able to lose that bet!

stevo9er said...

Keep fighting the good fight.

There are times when I wouldn't mind wearing a helmet, but overall I would rather not. So I don't appreciate anyone trying to shove their rhetoric down my throat.

sexify said...

So what you're basically saying is that we have yet another empirical example of bike helmets discouraging cycling.

I'm with Karl on this. For balance, we need an equal and opposing bit of shouting for the other side too.

George said...

Have you had meetings with the mad people who are trying to convince the population that cycling is a dangerous thing that should never be attempted by sane people, and is only for racing cyclists and poor hippies?

Time to organise, I think - I'm sorry I cannot tell you how to do it.

Perhaps a guest opinion column in a major newspaper? A start, perhaps... Throwing it all away should not happen without a fight.

Matt said...

Fight this as hard as you can. Anyone with who lives in a country with helmet laws will be able to tell you that the only effect this will have will be to reduce the number of cyclists. With Copenhagen as an example to the rest of the world of how to set up a cycling and pedestrian friendly infrastructure it will be tragic. What will make it all the more tragic will be the fact that it has taken 30 years of hard work for Denmark to achieve what it has.

The sudden reduction in cyclists will support arguments that further spending on cycling infrastructure is unnecessary. That will have its own obvious flow-on effects.

All of this has happened where I live in Australia. Whenever there is a debate about road safety for children or pedestrian safety, helmets feature prominently. Any suggestion that car movement somehow be curtailed or that there are perhaps more effective ways to make roads and pathways safer for children seems to be ignored. It is impossible to have a rational conversation.

I see children on little foot powered scooters having to wear helmets to travel at walking speed on pathways. And they are never alone. They always have to have an adult close by. In Australia, it is very rare to see children playing alone. You only see it in private gardens. I do not know of any that even go to the local playground without adult supervision.

It is a tragic state of affairs and I think it is because of a combination of irrational fear and the fact that motor cars dominate every aspect of the city.

There are of course many people who advocate change and use Denmark and the Netherlands as examples. I was pleasantly surprised at the feedback after the Dreams on Wheels exhibition that went around Australia. But those people face almost immovable obstacles in the form of what one website describes as "car head".

Please do not let Copenhagen lose its status as an example to the world.

Kevin Love said...

For those of us not in the UK, would you mind explaining what purple helmet means?

Sean said...

I'm confused about something. Your article mentions that "Cycling in Denmark has fallen by 30% since the early 1990's. The number of children driven to kindergarten or school has risen by 200%."

Yet on cyclehelmets.org, the site you frequently reference and I assume the source of your information - since it is almost verbatim - is a bit different.

It says that "From 1993 to 2000 the number of children cycling to school fell by 30% while the number taken by car doubled."

I'm wondering which is correct? Is the decrease only amongst children? Or have adults stopped cycling as well?

And, what's happened between the year 2000 and today? Has the decline continued? Or, have higher fuel prices or other variables brought Danes back to their bikes?

Dyrlægen said...

"purple helmet"

*chuckle*

Imagine that on your blog...

Mikael said...

thanks for the comments.
Kevin: purple helmet is what you can, if you so choose, call the head of your penis. Dickhead, in other words.

Sean: you're right. my mistake. all these facts, all these facts... Danes are cycling 30% less than in 1990, not 30% fewer Danes cycle.

The 1500 lives saved a year is still valid though.

In 1990 we cycled 3.2 billion km. In 2006 it was 2,3 billion km. The numbers for 2007 were the same.

It's from a study by Lars Bo Andersen from the Institute for Athletics and Biomechanics at Syddansk Universitet.

The point of this post is that Danes have not returned to the bicycle in 2008 because of helmet promotion.

The stat about 200% increase in kids being driven to school is correct.

Morten Lange said...

Thanks for this post, Mikael. I am afraid you might "win" that bet. But in order to properly evaluate the things going on, perhaps try to use some of the methods from the scientific helmet literature : Draw up the trend in cycling in Copenhagen as well as Odense ( the other city that has really promoted cycling ) and other places in Denmark. Preferably get comparable graphs from other countries. Plot in the times of various improvements for cyclists as well as the timings for fuel price changes and helmet scaremongering.

A tall order perhaps, but would be all the more persuasive and solid.

Adrienne Johnson said...

When battling fear and propaganda, you will get nowhere with words. If you argue with them, it gives them the opportunity to show that you are fighting against safety. It gives them more chance to pull out their slanted research and made up data to frighten people even more.

Use their tactics against them. Advertise without engaging them directly- don't come out and say that helmets are unnecessary. An example would be to compare styles of riding side-by-side in a way that shows bikes to be healthy and fun- left side shot is an average city rider with child on board riding through the city to run errands (well dressed but not too chic, just a well put together everyday person) while the right side shot is the same person barreling through the mud on a mountain bike (with a helmet) all muddy and grinning from ear to ear. Show where each scenario is appropriate instead of fighting about it.

Open debates won't work, but really good marketing will.

Anonymous said...

Denmark is iconic for those of us who aspire to have such cycling freedom. I would imagine, on that basis alone, the car/oil/purple helmet lobby would see it as a suitable prime target.
Peter

townmouse said...

I've an idea - why not set up a blog showing how lovely, stylish and safe cycling can be without a helmet. Post up fresh pictures every day until the whole world is drooling, then use this popularity to ...

... er

... you did that already didn't you?

I'll get my coat.

Sorry to hear that there's a worm in cycling paradise

lagatta à montréal said...

Oh dear, that is a problem. I'm constantly sending people pics from CCC and Amsterdamize, to show them the benefits of urban cycling dressed as normal human beings. We have a good urban cycling culture here in Montréal, but we are in North America, so the purple people are always a menace.

How on earth could I wear my béret with a helmet?

What are the social roots of the Danish Cyclists' Federation? Is it because it is mainly racing cyclists or so-called "mountain biking" fanatics? (The latter can be very environmentally destructive, as so many don't respect flora and sensitive ecosystems). I couldn't imagine the average Copenhagener joining such a group, more than they would join a federation of people who go to the shops to pick up bread and milk.

I'm certainly not against helmets for athletes who are travelling as swiftly as a car, and perhaps I'd wear one myself if road biking in a mountainous area, but that is not germane to the type of bicycle use featured in this and other urban, daily, chic or slow bicycle boards and blogs. Sport federations can impose their own rules on helmets as on anything else.

A lot of the head-accident problem in certain parts of the world was caused by the popularity of mountain bikes and other trendy types where the centre of gravity is wrong (head to far ahead and down) so even a minor spill can cause a headboink. On a sit-up-and-beg you are far, far more likely to hurt your arm or leg. And of course children should be taught how to fall as they learn to ride their bicycle.

But no, more plastic, more petroleum. It is a lucrative market for bicycle shops, especially since while bicycles can and do last for decades, the frigging helmets are supposed to be changed upon one fall, however minor. A most anti-ecological approach to the issue of safety.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Michael for putting these ads in context. It was interesting to hear when listening to them that the Danish Safety Council was "scaring the sh*t out of cyclists". Fear mongering is common in the USA and has worked to scare many parents from even allowing their children to ride their bikes out of the driveway.

Your data on less cycling/more kids driven to school is disturbing. Looks like your pictures have made the ads and that's a step forward. Thanks again,
Jack

Anonymous said...

I'm all for riding helmetless in urban casual or commuting situations, and I've started to wear my helmet less when doing so. However, as a trained scientist, I can't help but note that there may be some confusion going here between causation and correlation. You state that bicycle use is up almost everywhere and yet it is down in Denmark, at the same time that an apparently aggressive campaign is being waged to induce bicyclists in that country to wear helmets. Definitely correlation, but causation?

Mikael said...

morten: great ideas, but out of my league.

adrienne: great ideas. in a way, what I do on CCC is showing, not talking.

peter: i agree.

townmouse: :-) i just hope CCC helps in some way.

lagatta: super comment. thanks. The Danish Cyclists Federation [DCF] have a fantastic track record over the past century. They are not sports related - there's another org for that - and they have always advocated everyday cycling.

Unfortunately they have, according to European collegues, been 'forced' into helmet promotion by the Road Safety Council, who threaten with legislation.

And unfortunately, they provide only spin and rhetoric instead of science. They've even said that promotion of bike helmets is not a problem, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I know one person who is a member, that's it. They only have about 18,000 members, down from the heyday of 40,000 and if woolen socks in sandals are your thing, you'll find many kindred spirits in the 'club'.

After a century of cycling goodness, they are now rendered impotent by giving up their independence.

Anonymous said...

So...let me get this straight. All over Denmark, in the mornings before school starts...parents stand in their doorways, and contemplate the dilemma...should I drive the car to take the youngsters to school? Or, should I let them ride their bicycle to school? And, their answer is....I guess I'll take the car, because darn it anyway, they have to wear a helmet if they ride their bike.

Call me skeptical on that.

Dave said...

As an American, I am envious of your bike culture. I wish I had your bike lanes and your level of support for bike commuting. I commute most days and am nearly always alone against the cars. I would no more leave home without my helmet though than I would my wheels. I have a 19 year old son who had a crash two years ago that he would not have survived without a helmet. It did not involve a car either, so a dedicated bike lane would not have mattered. He wound up going over the bike and his head hit a steel post. The helmet died but he did not. No bike leaves our driveway without the rider wearing a helmet.

Mikael said...

anon: they stand there contemplating it and think "I won't let them take the bike because I'm scared..." Because of fearmongering campaigns. Instead, we should be telling our citizens that we live in the safest bike nation on the planet and encouraging them to ride, not lauching scare campaigns that ultimately result in parents driving their kids to school, as mentioned in the post.

Dave: tell me... how did you prove scientifically that it 'saved his life'? Did you reenact the accident without a helmet and compare the result? This kind of anecdotal 'belief' is not science and it is not backed up by science. In fact, read this "A helmet saved my life" article to get to back onto the 'knowledge' track.

These kinds of stories, without any proof and based merely on belief serve no good purpose to cycling. A bicycle helmet isn't designed to protect the head against life-threatening injuries.

Dave said...

Obviously no accident can be recreated so no, I have no "proof". It is interesting to me how much emotion there is on this topic in Europe. We have had similarly heated debate here over motorcycle helmet laws. Not as many cyclists, and most of the debate has been over whether children should be required to wear them. As for my son, I have only the opinion of his doctor and the condition of the helmet. Can I "prove it" - no. But in a case like that, I would rather be wearing a helmet than not. I would not be in favor of a law requiring helmet use. It's a personal decision.

Mikael said...

Dave: the doctor, while probably a very good doctor, is not an expert in bike helmets.

the debate is, however, not that emotional in Europe. We don't have helmeted cyclists rolling up to non-helmeted cyclists and preaching/shouting/insulting about their lack of headgear like in america.

not yet, anyway. the cyclist groups here put more weight on science than rhetoric and emotional blackmail, for which I'm grateful. Just not in this country.

Dave said...

Sadly, where I live there are not enough cyclist to shout anything at each other. There is one bike rack within a 5 minute walk of my office. Usually my bike is lonely. Enjoy your environment.

workbike said...

I have been told off for not wearing a helmet, and not making my children wear helmets when riding on my bike with me. The most recent (I think) was the local bike shop owner, who then got a barrage of statistics. Poor man looked a bit dazed afterwards, but he did say he'd look into it further. Trouble is, helmets have a very high profit margin.
Anyway, I think the best thing we can do is be ready with the facts, and ride sans polystyrene to show people cycling is safe.

Dave said...

What I find interesting about this discussion is that in the US, people who wear helmets do so because they think it is safer (debatable, apparently), but those who avoid helmets do so because it is annoying, or too hot, or messes up their hair, or is just inconvenient. Some don't wear them because they don't think that they will be in an accident. I don't see riders making a concious decision not to wear a helmet because they do not think it is safer. Most places here though, bike riding is much more recreational. Few of us use a bike as a primary means of transportation. Those who do probably think more about those things than recreational riders do. I suspect that is why this discussion has reached a higher level in Europe than in the US.

Morten Lange said...

Mikael, While you may be experiencing a (temporary) setback regarding helmets in Denmark, I hope it can improve your mood somewhat to learn that your positive influence on the helmet matter extends far beyond the English- or Danish-speaking web.

Have a look at the references for the Japanese Wikipedia-page on bicycle helmets, for instance through the google translator.

It refers to http://Cykelhjelm.org and another that you know well.

Adrienne Johnson said...

@Dave- I stopped wearing my helmet when it nearly got me killed. It had loosened up enough during my ride that it fell in my eyes just as I was entering an intersection causing me to not see the change in light. I was nearly taken out by not one but three cars. I have not put it back on since. When I am asked why I don't wear a helmet, I tell that story.

The funny thing is someone here in SF tried to get me to buy a helmet, recently. I told him if he could give me proof that it would protect me I would buy one. He proceeded to tell me about his 2 week stay in an ICU after a horrible bicycle accident he had several years earlier. He swore the helmet saved his life. I asked if he hit his head and he said no and lifted his shirt to show me where he had been impaled on a fence after being thrown from the bike (right through his liver). I asked him if the helmet was so amazing it would have protected he abdomen as well, and he chuckled. Turns out, he had the same experience I had with his helmet obscuring his vision and causing him to plow into a car!

I don't like a helmet ruining my hair, but that is not why I don't wear one.

Dave said...

No doubt fit is critical. Seems logical to me that if I'm going to hit my head I would rather have a helmet on than not, but it can be an impediment and obviously won't help every accident. It seems to me that the issue of whether they do or do not protect the head would be fairly easily solvable by impacting a head model with and without a helmet - crash test dummy for helmet testing. I wonder if that has ever been done?

Mikael said...

the tests for bike helmets are designed to give the helmets the best possible environment to succeed. helmet manufacturers are involved in deciding how the tests should work - reassuring? not.

the tests are limited to simulating a pedestrian falling on the crown of his/her head from a standing position, without using their hands to break their fall.

the tests only involvee the crown of the head, not the sides or the back. there is resistance whenever it is suggested that tests include sides and back or more rigid testing.

simply because the helmets will fail. they don't take into account the weight of a body inside the helmet and the extra force that provides on impact. they don't take into account the injuries that cause brain damage - rotational injuries - and many studies suggest that helmets increase your likelihood of suffering these injuries.

the fact remains that there is nowhere in the world where helmet usage has reduced head injuries or death. that says it all.

you can believe or you can know. i choose the latter.

stevo9er said...

I hope the d30 stuff slowly drops in price, I would definitely wear a D30 beanie while cycling in winter.

Just a cyclist said...

Have to say that it feels rather relieving to hear Dave's opinions. It comes from an apparently devoted, almost zealous helmet user. I wrote almost - because he seems to rather focus on the bigger cycling issues such as the apparent lack of cycling infrastructure/culture and apparently acknowledges helmet use as a matter of personal choice.

If every friend of bicycle helmets had the same views then the developing world could focus on the really important issues of cycling policies - and safety - such as cycling infrastructure and, of course, on the health and environmental benefits of promoted and increased cycling.

Just a cyclist said...

Sorry, I meant the *developed* world...

David Hembrow said...

I've just posted a "response" to this. The level of cycling in the Netherlands has remained at pretty much the same level and not suffered from a reduction.

Of course, it has also not suffered from negative publicity surrounding helmets as these are as a matter of policy not pushed in NL by the cycling organisations. There is far more to lose by discouraging cycling than there is to gain by pushing "safety" equipment.

Dave said...

To "just a cyclist", your assessment is correct. While I would not leave home without my helmet, I have no interest in telling others what to do. I especially do not want the government telling me what to do. I agree with Thoreau who said “The best government is that which governs least". I am a non-smoker who opposes smoking bans. I am also a social scientist and not a physical scientist, so I'll have to leave the helmet studies to others. I suspect the truth is that there are times when they help and times when they do not. There are too many variables for an absolute answer. It is as implausible that helmets NEVER help as it is that they ALWAYS help. It was an observational curiosity to me why contries that embrace cycling to such a high degree avoid helmets to such a high degree. I have a better understanding of the arguments. Mikael - I hope that neither of us is ever in a position to determine who is "right". Good riding.

Mikael said...

i agree with your last sentiment, dave. now i'm curious... do you wear a lifevest when swimming or just hanging out on a beach?

the lifevest is a fantastic piece of safety equipment and actually designed to save lives. it would be, to me, logical that your sentiments about bike helmets would extend to other activities. You have a higher risk of drowning that getting a serious injury on a bicycle.

And what about driving in a car? Do you wear a motorcycle helmet? If not, are you irresponsible? Reckless? Your risk of head injury is far higher in a car than on a bike. An Australian study showed that if motorists would wear mc helmets, 25% of the lives lost each year could be saved.

And the simple act of walking down a city street... higher risk of head injury than cycling. Do you helmetize when pedestrianizing?

And don't forget your steel-toed shoes. You never know when something heavy might drop on them.

:-)
Just looking for logic, that's all.

lolcopter said...

"Or just think of the scientists that George Bush pulled out of his hat who refused to acknowledge that global warming was caused by humans. Despite the international scientific community's position that it was. Or rather is."

There are more scientists who question the notion of anthropogenic global warming than just a few of hand picked Bushies. There are even scientists within the UN IPPC who questions their original statement that humans cause global warming. Look it up.

lolcopter said...

whoops, IPCC. my bad

Rachel said...

In New Zealand an intense push for cycle helmets in the 1990s has seen all kids and adults wearing them. You are at risk of a fine if you do not wear one. However this has only served to discourage cycling and make it less attractive for the average commuter. Perhaps a relook at this law is needed.

tOM said...

You are right and wrong.

For adults, a law reduces cycling and increases the risk for the remaining cyclists, as shown in Nova Scotia and Australia, as well as increasing unhealthiness.

But for kids, a helmet law increases safety (by a lot!) and doesn't decrease cycling.

Me, an older adult, I always wear a helmet, and on busy roads, a bright safety vest. Helmets are not just protection, they are a great place to stick bright fluorescent/retroreflective stuff!

tOM http://SafeCycling.ca

Mikael said...

selected stats showing reductions in child cycling as a result of helmet laws:

Australian Capital Territory - 33%-50% fewer cyclists.
New South Wales - 44%-90% fewer child cyclists. A reduction that is 5 times greater than increase in helmet use. 90% of teenage girls stopped cycling.
Northern Territory - 17%-39% fewer school children cycling. Fortunately the numbers rose again after NT dumped the helmet law.
Queensland - 22%-30% fewer children cycling.
South Australia - 38% fewer schoolchildren cycling.
Victoria - 36%-46% fewer children.
Western Australia - 50% fewer children cycling.

Canada:
Alberta - 41%-59% fewer children and teens cycling.

aleks said...

I was hit by a car while cycling last October in Montreal (I commute by bike). I wasn't wearing my helmut. I sustained a severe fracture to my clavicle and fully tore my PCL due to impact with the windshield and flying over the roof of the car.

I WASN'T wearing a helmut. I DO now. Until you've actually sustained severe injuries, whatever the mode of transportation or even sport activity you undertake, it's all statistics and conjecture as to what is best.

I like wind in my hair when I cycle. However, I love the fact that I am back on my bike, and a better more conscientious cyclist, nevermind pedestrian and driver as a result, and so, I will wear a helmut and hope others don't learn that helmuts are as a good a precaution as condoms the hard road surface way.

Final thought. Ever seen a car jump a curb and hit a pedestrian? It happens, so I'm not raising my kid to think she's safer on bike paths with barriers.

Anonymous said...

Note that frequent commens about the Northern territory "dumping their helmet laws" don't tell the whole story.

On 31st March 1994 the NT Minister for Transport announced an amendment to the law to permit cyclists over the age of 17 to ride without a helmet "along footpaths or on cycle paths which are not on roads".

This is hardly a major change for the bulk of the population, so any big change in ridership presumably comes from kids who can make their whole trip on bike paths or from somethign else.