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Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Legislation?
Many states and municipalities are considering mandatory bicycle helmet laws. Such bills should
be vigorously fought. Here's why:
Bike/Skater Helmet Laws are Misdirected
They don't Stop Accidents
Helmets only ameliorate head injuries
Measures to reduce accidents are needed
They Assume Cycling is Dangerous
The relative risks of dying of head injury for equivalent activity times are
little different for motorists (0.19) and cyclists (0.25).(1)
Drivers: 542 fatalities per 5 million passenger vehicles (108.5/million)
Cyclists: 27 fatalities per 2 million regular cyclists (13.5/million)(2)
Motorist Enforcement will Save More Lives than Helmets
3/4 of cyclists serious injuries and fatalities are due to cars(3)
"The route to encouraging cycling and making it safer lies in the provision of safer
cycling networks, enforced lower speed-limits, and in changing the attitudes and
behavior of drivers rather than cyclists."(4)
Requiring Motorists to Wear Helmets will Save More Lives
Brain injuries for males between the ages of 15 and 24, the highest risk group:
50 percent motor vehicle accidents
21 percent falls
12 percent assaults
10 percent sports (bicycles are a tiny portion of this category)(5)
Reduces Bicycle Use
Surveys in Sydney found the helmet law reduced cycling by 38%(6)
Biking without Helmet Better than not Biking
Expressed in potential life-years gained vs potential life-years lost, regular cycling's net benefit
to personal health outweighs its risk of injury by a factor of 20 to 1.(7) Thus, the reduced
health benefits caused by lowered levels of cycling will result in more medical problems than the health
benefits produced by requiring everyone to wear helmets.
- Robinson, D. An Assessment of the Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Law in Australia.
- Ontario Road Safety Annual Report, 1991.
- British Medical Association, Cycling Towards Health and Safety, 1992, p.47.
- British Medical Association, p.88.
- National Trauma Society
- Robinson, D.
- Hillman, M, Presentation at Velo Mondiale/Pro-Bike/Velo-City Conference, Montreal, 1992.
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Last updated: 17 April 1999