Campaign

Cycle helmets: the evidence

Introduction

Cycle helmets: the evidence

CTC has long campaigned against helmet laws. Campaigners and politicians perenially attempt to make their name by proposing legislation to force people to wear helmets. CTC aims to prevent these moves by explaining the damage such legislation could bring. 

However CTC is not only concerned about the harmful effects of mandatory helmet use.  By creating exaggerated perceptions of the risks of cycling, even voluntary helmet promotion campaigns have been found to deter some people from cycling. Given that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by around 20:1 (one recent study put it at 77:1), it can be shown that only a very small reduction in cycle use is needed for helmet promotion (let alone helmet laws) to shorten more lives than helmets themselves could possibly save, regardless of how effective helmets might be.

On the other hand, CTC does not however take a view on whether or not it is beneficial for individual cyclists to wear helmets – in that respect, we are neither 'pro-' nor 'anti'-helmet.  The evidence on this question is complex and contradictory, providing as much support for those who are deeply sceptical of helmets as for those who swear by them.

Whether or not it is a good idea to wear a helmet may depend on both the rider and the type of cycling they are doing.  However, given the extent to which the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks involved, CTC's view is that it is more important to encourage people to cycle, than whether or not they wear helmets when doing so. Cycling should be promoted as an essentially safe, normal and enjoyable transport and leisure activity, which anyone can do in whatever clothes they prefer to wear, with or without helmets.

For more information, see CTC's campaigns briefing  and our overview of the evidence on helmets.

Recent Campaign Activity

The DfT's THINK! campaign
The THINK! campaign for bikes is relaunched - CTC assesses its impact Blog
Running in some of the cities that received money for cycling recently, the THINK! campaign follows the now usual 'give and take' message that equates cyclists and drivers as similar sources of danger, both of which need to 'play their part'. However, the messages it sends out are largely sensible.
How many TV adverts breach Highway Code rule 3?
Now send us your 'irresponsible' walking-down-the-street adverts! Blog
Although the ASA has provisionally withdrawn its ruling against Cycling Scotland's TV advert, the fight isn't over yet. Please send us videos showing how a ban on helmet-free cycling in TV ads would be like refusing to show people on the streets at night without reflective clothing.
Unhelmeted hipsters riding all over a promenade. Tsk tsk.
Which ads are now banned? Your examples wanted Blog
The ASA's bizarre ruling (under appeal by Cycling Scotland) that all cyclists must now be helmeted and cyclists must adopt dangerous road positioning has caused anger amongst the cycling community. If you've got examples of ads that would now be banned, please send them here.
The image that proved controversial to the ASA
Advertising watchdog’s helmet ruling threatens the promotion of normal cycling News
CTC, the national cycling charity, has voiced concern over a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which could prevent future adverts from showing cyclists without helmets on TV.

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