Helmet laws have a strong deterrent effect on cycle use (particularly among teenagers), thereby undermining its many health and other benefits. By contrast, the claimed safety benefits of helmet use are far from clear. Helmets are only designed for low-speed impacts (equivalent to falling to the ground from a stationary riding position), whereas 93% of cyclists’ fatal and serious injuries involve motor vehicle collisions.
Several recent reports (including four papers in peer-reviewed medical journals) have found no link between changes in helmet wearing rates and cyclists' safety - and there are even cases where safety seems to have worsened as helmet-wearing increased. Whilst this may at first appear to be counter-intuitive, there are actually several possible explanations which have some plausible evidence to support them.
CTC is not 'anti-helmet'. However there is a good deal of evidence that helmet laws deter cycle use - particularly among teenagers - and that this would seriously erode cycling's health and other benefits. As to the effectiveness of helmets, the evidence currently available is complex and full of contradictions, providing at least as much support for those who are sceptical as for those who swear by them.
CTC therefore remains entirely neutral on the pros and cons of helmet-wearing per se, and believes that public policy should do likewise. The protection provided by helmets is at best limited, whereas making cyclists wear helmets could drastically reduce cycle use, causing far more harm to public health in the process. At a time of growing concern about obesity and physical inactivity, the last thing we should be doing is legislating people into car-dependent sedentary lifestyles.