After Tragic Death, Are Mandatory Helmet Calls a Distraction?

Cracked bike helmet photoLaurie Chipps/CC BY-ND 2.0

There is some solid evidence that mandatory helmet laws can save lives, don't impact the number of cyclists on the roads, and that many of the other arguments against helmet laws are not true.

Still, bicycle activists like Ashok Sinha have been angered by Olympic cyclist Bradley Wiggins' call for helmets following a tragic accident outside Olympic Park.

In this instance, I have to agree with them.

Sinha writes over at The Guardian that Wiggins' suggestion that cyclists should always wear helmets, not wear iPods, and that a mandatory helmet law should be considered, are distractions from the real issues around bike safety:

It's deeply unpleasant to have to report the details of an accident where a young person has died, but it's extremely relevant to this collision that (as yet unverified) eyewitness reports suggest the bus actually drove over the cyclist. The suggestion that helmet compulsion could prevent this type of fatality is clearly wrong. Around half the cyclist fatalities in the capital involve large vehicles (lorries and coaches), so this type of crash is by no means unusual.

Of course, all things being equal, we'd be better off if cyclists wore helmets AND if infrastructure was designed with cyclists' safety in mind. But to focus on helmets and iPods suggests bike safety is all about personal responsibility, not collective planning and an inclusive approach to road safety.

By all means, let's consider mandatory helmet laws. But when a cyclist is killed by a gigantic bus, we might first consider how we can avoid that happening in the future.

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | London | Olympics | United Kingdom


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