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.
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
- CTC’s SiN report: http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=5225
- For many more resources for combating harmful helmet promotions, please visit:www.cyclehelmets.org
- For a good overview on how to plan a successful campaign, please visit:www.onestreet.org/campaign-planning
- Link to the ECF brochure on making cycling safer without making helmets compulsory:060131_ECF_Helmet_brochure_1
Results of Helmet Laws & Shock-horror 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
Examples of successful campaigns
- Mexico City repeals their mandatory helmet law in order to increase bicycling. Story by Ana Peñalosa:
- FUBicy’s excellent overview of the helmet problem which has prevented several cycle helmet law attempts: http://www.fubicy.org/spip.php?article191
- Proposed Helmet Law Defeated in Poland:
Poland_helmets_article July 2011
- Israel Bicycle Association successfully revokes adult element of mandatory helmet law. Read their story:
Israel_helmet_law.pdf August 2011
- Letter to helmet working group :
100119Israel_bicycle_association January 2010
- Paper in Sport and Society:
Here September 2009
- Italy’s FIAB blocks mandatory hemet law. Story by Edoardo Galatola and Mircea Steriu:
- French Campaign: Press release from 6 cycling organizations : 100104_Helmet_France
- Brief Summary on Swiss Campaign by Dr. Käthi Diethelm Pro Velo Schweiz,
- Here is a link to CTC’s successful campaign against a helmet law in Northern Ireland, and their campaign briefing here.
- (link to ADFC’s helmet working group or their results) coming soon
Successful individual opposition to helmet law
- Australian judge agrees helmet laws unnecessary Newspaper article: Sydney Morning Herald August 2010
News Coverage From ECF
- Safety File: Bike Helmet Headaches, Openfile, April 10, 2012
Our Secretary-General speaks to Canadian media about helmet laws and how they affect negatively on bicycle share schemes. A radio interview with national canadian radio can also be found here.
- Fremantle in call for no helmets trial, The West Australian, May 11, 2011
After speaking to Australian Journalists, ECF president, Manfred Neun has sparked a call to scrap helmet laws in the city of Fremantle.
To Encourage Biking, Cities Lose the Helmets, New York Times, Sep 29, 2012
About helmets and incompatibility with bike sharing schemes.