The choice to wear helmets – or not

This article was published in 2012, in Newsletter 104.

Spokes, the cycling campaign for Edinburgh, recently produced a leaflet in support of its decision not to publicise events where helmets are compulsory. They have also decided they will only circulate flyers and give website links for events where adverts, photos, etc. are not helmet-dominated.

On one side of the leaflet it says ‘SAFETY WARNING! A cycle helmet may make you feel safer. A cycle helmet may make you look safer. But it may not make you be safer. Whether or not to use a helmet should be your informed choice, and you should be given easy access to the main facts and arguments on both sides.’ On the reverse it summarises some of the arguments why wearing a helmet should be a matter of choice and should not be compulsory.

Key arguments are that making helmets compulsory would put people off cycling, whereas increasing the numbers of people cycling is good for public health. Helmet use may result in people taking undue risks because they perceive their helmet will protect them and there is research evidence showing that motorists give helmeted cyclists less space when overtaking. Also, many helmets are not designed to prevent injury in accidents at speed or involving motor vehicles. The flyer is available on their website at and includes links to further information regarding the efficacy or otherwise of cycle helmets.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign is considering whether it should say it does not promote events for the general public that require or imply the mandatory wearing of cycle helmets.

What do you think? This issue will be discussed at the AGM on Tuesday 6 November.

Monica Frisch