Road safety

ECF position on helmets

ECF are not against individuals choosing to wear helmets, however we are against mandatory helmet laws and shock-horror helmet promotions. We do this via support to our members, and also by becoming active members in a wide range of trans-national forums. 

ECF opposes mandatory helmet laws because:

  • They discourage cycling by portraying it as abnormally dangerous-you are less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking (Wardlaw 2002).
  • A well respected literature review states ‘When the risk of injury to head, face or neck is viewed as a whole, bicycle helmets do provide a small protective effect. This effect is evident only in older studies. New studies, summarised by a random-effects model of analysis, indicate no net protective effect.’ (Elvik 2011)
  • Injured cyclists are less likely to have head injuries than injured pedestrians or car occupants (ONISR 2005).
  • They portray bicycle helmets as offering far more protection than they do. Bicycle helmets are only designed to withstand minor knocks and bumps, not being hit by motor vehicles; see more here On Bicycle Helmet Standards.
  • Countries that have penalised people for normal cycling (without helmets), have failed to reduce head injury rates despite increased helmet wearing rates. See an ECF factsheet on the case of Australia and its helmet laws – Australia and cycle helmet laws
  • The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the injury risks (de Hartog et al, 2010)
  • Reduced cycling reduces health and environmental benefits.
  • Reduced cycling reduces Safety in Numbers, thus increasing the risk of injury to remaining cyclists (Jacobsen PL, 2003)

You can find a draft of ECF’s position on helmets here Helmet factsheet

Education & campaign resources

  • The ECF Helmet Working Group has compiled an information sheet on the issue of helmet wearing.

                            ECF Helmet brochure 2012

                            ECF Helmet brochure 2012 for print 9Mb

                            ECF Helmet 2012 Deutsch

                            ECF_Helmet Brochure_2013 Español

 References for the Brochure;

Cavill N, Davis A, 2007. Cycling and Health: what’s the evidence?. Cycling England

de Jong, P. (2012), The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws. Risk Analysis, 32: 782–790. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2011.01785.x, 2012

Jacobsen PL, 2003. Safety in numbers: more walkers and bicyclists, safer walking and bicycling. Injury Prevention 2003;9:205-209.

NHTSA. Traffic Safety Facts. Bicycle Helmet Use Laws. 2005

Robinson DL, 2006. Do enforced bicycle helmet laws improve public health?. BMJ 2006;332:722-725

Rojas-Rueda D, de Nazelle A, Tainio M, Nieuwenhuijsen MJ, The health risks and benefits of cycling in urban environments compared with car use: health impact assessment study. British Medical Journal, BMJ 2011; 343:d4521 . 2011

St Clair VJM, Chinn BP, 2007. Assessment of current bicycle helmets for the potential to cause rotational injury. Transport Research Laboratory PPR213

Thompson RS, Rivara FP, Thompson DC. New England Journal of Medicine, 1989 v320 n21 p1361-7. 1989

Tuxworth W, Nevill AM, White C, Jenkins C, 1986. Health, fitness, physical activity and morbidity of middle aged male factory workers. British Journal of Industrial Medicine 1986 Nov;43(11):733-53

Hillman M, 1993. Cycle helmets: the case for and against. Policy Studies Institute ISBN 0-85374-602-8.

Walker B, 2005. Heads up – the science of helmets. Cycle Jun/Jul 2005


Ask me why I cycle without a helmet” button

To art to create your own: Helmet_button_cm

“Stop dangerising cycling through helmet promotions!” sticker

To art to create your own : Stop_dangerisation_sticker

Safety in Numbers


Results of Helmet Laws & Shock-horror Promotions

Cycling Promotions

These documents from the EU are good examples of promoting cycling as a safe activity without harmful helmet promotions. 


National and local campaigns currently underway

  • Spain – Last year 2012 the Spanish Minister of the Interior announced a reform of the Spanish Traffic Code which will include compulsory cycle helmets in all Spanish cities (in Spain, helmets have been mandatory on non-urban roads since 2004). The Spanish Urban Cyclists Union ConBici feel that this rule – if approved – will be very dangerous for urban cycling in Spain, just at the time when there is an important growth in bicycling in many Spanish cities such as Barcelona, San Sebastián, Sevilla, Valencia, Vitoria, Zaragoza and many others.

    ConBici has launched a campaign against this project. An important success of this campaign has been the support of more than 40 City Councils of the main Spanish cities, including Madrid and Barcelona, as well as Sevilla, Vitoria, Zaragoza and many others.

    Another success has been the announcement of a debate in the Spanish Parliament about this subject. This debate will take place next October, with the presence of the main Spanish Cyclist’s Associations, as well as experts on the topic.

    Despite these success, the threat of helmet legislation is far from finished, so we will need the support of the cycling community around the world. You can sign against compulsory helmets in Spanish cities here.

  • Here is a paper from Ricardo Marqués and Vicente Hernández questioning the effectiveness of the current Spanish laws Helmet_in_spain-Ricard Marques and Vicente Hernandez_2013
  • Portugal


Examples of successful campaigns

 Successful individual opposition to helmet law

Ceri WoolsgrovePolicy Officer – Road Safety and Technical IssuesUnited Kingdom


Last Updated April 17, 2015