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Bicycle helmets and the law

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 12 June 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f3817

Re: Bicycle helmets and the law

I have never needed my helmet* and hope to end my cycling days without ever having needed it. However, I wear it because, if I ever do need a helmet, I will really need it. (I always wear a leather jacket when cycling for similar reasons: I am fond of my elbows and would like to keep them.)

It may be, as some have argued, that not wearing a helmet actually confers some degree of increased safety but I would argue that a slightly reduced risk of head injury does not justify a 100% reduction in cranial protection.

The above notwithstanding, I would argue against any attempt to legislate for compulsory helmet-wearing (except possibly among children). The lack of a helmet is a convenient and obvious signifier to all other road users that a cyclist is more likely to act in a careless or stupid manner.

On the other hand, a helmet indicates a cyclist who is prepared to take personal responsibility for their own safety, and who is therefore likely to cycle carefully and take a responsible approach to road safety in general.

When overtaking another cyclist, I always give a significantly wider berth to those without helmets. Legislation would remove this handy distinction.

*Except when using the lower rank of two-level cycle storage.

Competing interests: Founder and former co-ordinator of Spokes: The NHS Cycling Network

01 July 2013
Mike Simpson
Web content editor
University of Leicester
University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH