Should Helmets Be Worn? The ideas behind the ‘controversy’ of the Dutch and bicycle helmets

 

Conventional wisdom in the bigger part of the world tells us that the helmet is a must if we want to ride our bikes safely. If someone were to suggest otherwise, you might wonder if they’d rather wear a tinfoil hat instead.
Putting an extra layer of protection around your soft head gives it at least a slight fighting chance if it were to do battle with the pavement. Right?!

 

Well, yes.
But it’s not quite as cut and dry as we think.

 

What Do The Dutch Think About Wearing Helmets?

In recent years there has been much controversy over the laws of wearing a bicycle helmet while cycling, and the bicycle-obsessed Dutch have decided NOT to wear one.

In most countries, a mention of a “Dutch Reach” is likely to bring up mental images of questionable google searches, but don’t get too excited, in the land of the tall the Dutch Reach is a strategy to stop cyclists getting knocked off of their bikes.

So why in a country that demands such high safety standards are they opposed to something that will protect the old melon with such ease?

 

Helmets Don’t Protect You Against Crashes

Most cyclists don’t die from independently falling off of their bikes. 92% of cyclists die because cars smash into them.

According to Theo Zeegers – Traffic Consultant for the Fietsersbond in this interview he said:

there is no bike helmet ever developed that will protect you against the impact of a car travelling at high speeds. It’s impossible to make such a helmet and it’s unlikely that there will ever be one developed.”

 

The Dutch and bicycle Helmets: what are they doing?

So, instead of fear mongering about the importance of helmets the Dutch are concentrating on the environment. The reasons are because it’s not cycling itself that’s dangerous. It’s the context in which cycling occurs.

If bikes are cycled in an environment that is safe, then they’re much less likely to have an accident. This is why the Dutch have an incredible infrastructure which sees minimal slow moving traffic and separate cycle lanes.

If you enforce helmet law on cyclists, you’re telling people that cycling is a dangerous activity. People thinking cycling is dangerous increases the likeliness of them choosing to drive, subsequently making the environment more unsafe.

What’s worse is if people stop cycling you start seeing other side effects such as heart disease, obesity and other rubbish things associated with the lack of physical activity.

 

Why I Started To Change My Mind

When starting out with this post, I was of one opinion that “helmets = safety” but as I read more into the subject I began to sway my view.

Things need putting into context. Looking at the data driving is far, far more dangerous than cycling. With this in mind, why isn’t it the law to wear a helmet while driving? It could stop something from being a minor incident into a catastrophic disaster. Suggesting to wear a helmet in a car sounds foolish, but it isn’t foolish to suggest so on a bike.

In some countries, it’s the law for children to wear helmets on bikes. However, children are more likely to receive traumatic brain injuries on foot than if they cycled. If you were to put a helmet on a child while they walked around your garden people would think you’ve lost the plot.

Why has cycling been singled out? Why are people allowed to cross the road with their bare head exposed?

Here’s a quote from Copenhagenize which I think says a lot:

“- Helmet advocates sell helmets and use fear to do so.

– Bicycle advocates sell cycling and use science and positive messages to do so.”

Dutch and bicycle Helmets
Get a bike, and this can be you!!

My Opinion

My opinion is that helmets are a good idea. However anecdotal it may I’m sound it seems obvious to me that getting hit in the head with a helmet on will hurt less than without.

But I guess it’s thinking like this that got us into the situation we’re in today. Using flaky science to enforce a law is questionable at best. Ultimately I think the choice should come down to the rider.

So in the words of a spoilt teenager who’s annoyed at his parents, “it’s my life I’ll do what I want.”

 

 

 

7 COMMENTS

  1. Research has show that cars passing cyclists who wear helmets will often pass closer opposed to cyclists not wearing helmets.
    So helmets in this way /increase/ the risk of getting struck by a car!

  2. Also, if we had the wear helmets all the time, it would be pretty annoying taking it with you. To the supermarket, school, friends, a night out. What would you do with the helmet all the time? Lock it with your bike?

  3. This rises another question. In some countries a lot of roads are forbidden for bicyclists. I think in no European country more than in the Netherlands. Usually this is justified with safety arguments. But that does not make too much sense, if some kind of roads are always forbidden, without any regard to the concrete situation.

    It would be much better to *allow* bicycling on all roads that allow cars. And mark dangerous sections, with evidence, not only religion of being dangerous, with a warning sign, so bicyclists can choose to avoid them or not.

  4. The problem is when Dutchies ride bikes in the U.S. as if they are still in the Netherlands; wandering the streets without stopping at stop signs, zig zagging on narrow roads, rubbing shoulders with 70kph cars , and of course, no helmet. The helmet philosophy should change with one’s environment, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  5. The problem is when Dutchies ride bikes in the U.S. as if they are still in the Netherlands; wandering the streets without stopping at stop signs, zig zagging on narrow roads, rubbing shoulders with 70kph cars , and of course, no helmet. The helmet philosophy should change with one’s environment, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

  6. A whole bunch of people try to bring statistics into why you shouldn’t wear a helmet because it increases your risk of getting hit, and I think that is an excuse not to wear one, for me my excuse is that I don’t feel comfortable with one on. Also, I don’t do helmets because in my opionon I don’t need one, I don’t fall off my bike, I don’t plan to, so until I feel differently, I will continue to wear my baseball cap when I am riding my bike.

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