Cycle helmets: the evidence


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 briefings explaining our policy and giving an overview of the evidence on helmets.

Recent Campaign Activity

Cyclist wait at junction
Road safety and cycling: Overview Campaigning Views
'More' as well as 'safer' cycling can and should go hand-in-hand...
Cycle helmets Campaigning Views
There is no justification for making helmet-wearing compulsory - it could undermine levels of cycle use and, in any case, the effectiveness of helmets is far from clear.
Gorey harbour in Jersey - the scene for the Jersey Festival of Cycling
Jersey's under-14 helmet law "will harm public health and the island's reputation for family cycling" News
CTC is disappointed to learn that Jersey's legislature has agreed to make it compulsory for under-14-year-olds to wear helmets, despite fears that the overall public health will suffer if people are deterred from cycling.
The original offending image, now deemed acceptable
Watchdog overturns its finding on Cycling Scotland ad thanks to CTC's evidence News
The original finding, issued in January, upheld a complaint calling for helmets to be worn in adverts involving cyclists. Thanks to work by Cycling Scotland and CTC, that finding has now been reversed.


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