Mikael of Copenhagenize on Why We Should NOT Wear Bike Helmets

Mikael Colville-Anderson is as entertaining in video as he is at Copenhagenize.com. He explains in this TED talk why he thinks bicycle helmets promote a culture of fear, that pedestrians and drivers have far higher rates of head injuries but nobody tells them to wear helmets, and that cycle helmets are a conspiracy by the auto makers to scare people off bikes and into cars.

thudgard baby helmet

Mikael notes that we really have carried the bubble-wrapping of our kids too far, to the point that you can even outfit them with Thudguards, to protect your kids "in a world of hard surfaces." Here he has a point. He also makes some controversial claims, such as that there is "a 14% greater chance of getting into an accident when you are wearing a helmet." (The bicycle helmet safety institute disagrees)


I have personally been the target of Mikael's ire for a post I wrote about bike activist Matthew Modine not wearing a helmet. After the Matthew Modine takedown I spent some time looking at much of the research that Elly Blue alludes to in her Grist post on the Helmet Wars and have come to the conclusion that Mikael was mostly right.

If we want people to use their bikes in cities then it has to be second nature, part of life. People who ride bikes are healthier than people who don't, there is safety in numbers for cyclists, so anything that discourages them is counterproductive, and nobody is going to cycle if they feel they have to dress up like a Christmas tree to be safe. (see Do Bicycle Helmet Laws Do More Harm Than Good?)

Cyclists are killed primarily by cars and trucks, yet the common North American attitude, as espoused by Toronto's new mayor, is that they bring it upon themselves by being on the road. The helmet wars are a diversion from the real problem: Lousy bike infrastructure putting cyclists in the same space as lousy drivers who get away with murder.

50,000 Americans are shot every year, yet you don't see campaigns to put the entire population into bulletproof vests. You don't blame the victim. Why are cyclists any different?

More on Helmets in TreeHugger:
To Helmet or Not To Helmet; This is the Question
A Brain Surgeon on Bicycle Helmets
Dutch Cycling: Remember the Phone, Forget the Helmet
If People with Lawnmowers Were Treated Like Cyclists
Do Helmet Promotion Campaigns Instill a Fear of Cycling?
Cyclists Cause Less Than 10% of Bike/Car Accidents

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