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Won't Mandatory Helmet Laws for Cyclists Fix the Problem?

  • For the most part, most preventative health organizations such as the Centre for Disease Control are in favor of policies to encourage helmet use (18). These recommendations are generally based on studies showing reduced rates of certain types of head injuries with helmets (19).
  • There are however a number of scientists and researchers who challenge the view that mandatory helmet laws will make things safer:
    • Those against helmets (9, 20, 21) point out that helmets may discourage cycling and generally do not help in car-bike collisions which account the vast majority of serious cycling injuries.
    • Helmet opponents (9, 20, 21) also point out that wearing safety equipment such as helmets can encourage risk taking behavior.
    • Some interesting work by Dr. Ian Walker (16, 22) suggests that when cyclists wear helmets, motorists perceive cyclists as less vulnerable and overtake cyclists more closely.
  • Authorities on both sides of the debate generally agree that helmet use is not nearly as important in preventing injuries as proper cycling infrastructure such as protected bike lanes (18, 20, 21). In fact, cities such as Amsterdam that have invested in cycling infrastructure have the lowest rates of cycling accidents (6) despite having very low rates of helmet use (about 0.1%) (23).
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