The Dutch and Bicycle Helmets: Should Cyclists be Wearing Helmets?

Should Helmets Be Worn? 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.

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.

Theo Zeegers – Traffic Consultant for the Fietsersbond told Copenhagenize that no helmet will protect you against a fast-moving car. “It’s impossible to make such a helmet and it’s unlikely that there will ever be one developed,” he explained.

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 own view.

Things need putting into context. Looking at the data, driving is 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 wearing 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? Could it all just be a profitable plan from helmet-companies preying on the soft insecurities of the human body?

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 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.”

What do you think about helmets on bike? Necessary for safety, or blown out of proportion? Let us know in the comments below!


  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.

    • Sport cyclists DO wear helmets in the Netherlands, and in Denmark. The issue here is forcing helmets on everyday cyclists commuting, shopping, socialising in normal clothing. Weren’t helmets dreamt up as a high-profit item in the US? They are supposed to be thrown away any time you drop them. It was a way of NOT solving the problem, not creating safe infrastructure for cyclists – and for pedestrians.

      A high percentage of cyclists – and pedestrians – killed here are run over by heavy trucks.

  7. Well, generally speaking The Dutch are a bit thick headed, but that’s more of a conception and not necessarily describing the thickness of their skulls.
    It can’t be a bad thing to wear a bike helmet (as all motorcycle drivers/riders are required to do). The traffic in the cities gets worse, more foreign drivers not being as aware as Dutch drivers of the bikers makes it more dangerous (I was very nervous biking through the center of Rotterdam recently).
    I don’t know if it will require making it a law to get people to don a helmet (I do see more children wearing then, so the message is getting through to some people).

  8. Avoiding death by auto accident should not be the argument for wearing a helmet. If there is any chance of you hitting your head in an accident, involving an automobile or not, then there is risk of concussion. A helmet will reduce the risk of concussions, and as we know from our football players there are significant long-term effects from repeated concussions. Regardless of whether there should be laws about this, it is silly for people to believe that helmets aren’t valuable safety devices.

  9. Saying that cars kill cyclist not lack of helmets is like saying bullets not guns kill people, a helmet helps reduce head injuries on pact by car or falling on the ground. I am for helmets the issue for me is I find them not only uncomfortable but also weird looking.

  10. At age 11 1/2, long before bike helmets existed, my bike wheel hit a small pot hole. My head impacted the pavement and I suffered a 5″ long skull fracture, with likely brain bleed and TBI. MRI and CT scans had not yet been invented.

    In my 20s, I had 2 more bike crashes, both of which broke my helmet – but not my head. I did break other bones in the impacts (both at modest speeds). One caused long term traumatic brain injuries including a long lasting speech problem, tinnitus, emotional lability, anxiety and more. I am very grateful I was wearing a helmet in the real world and not living in the world of statistical abstractions and weak logic.

    Both of my last two doctors have strongly recommended I no longer ride a bike – at all – due to the risk of repeated, cumulative TBI.

    I am vey grateful that I was wearing a helmet in those last 2 crashes and I will choose to do so if I ever ride again (I would like to but am taking my doctors’ advice seriously). The post’s conclusion is appropriate – helmets can and do reduce serious head injuries and each rider should consider those risks and think about how lucky they feel when they get on their bike – as these events are typically random.

    Up to 90% of all bike crashes do not involve a motor vehicle. While vehicles are involved in most fatalities, those are the minority of crashes. Most involve bike vs bike, bike vs roadway hazard including weather, bike versus animal/people. A fall off your bike, even at low speed can result in a concussion – even a fracture of the head.


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