Back to Blog

Cycle helmets offer little protection against head injuries - Paul Kitson discusses

Research from London University ignites long-running debate over compulsory helmets.

New research from St George's University of London has found that adult cyclists should not be forced to wear bike helmets because they offer little protection against head injuries. The research compiled by Dr Carwyn Hooper was created in response to laws in Northern Ireland making cycle helmets compulsory for cyclists, according to the Cambridge News.

Since the new research from St George's University of London emerged, Paul Kitson – partner at Russell Jones & Walker and legal advisor for the CTC – said: “Cycle helmets offer very limited protection. In my experience of cycle accidents, it's rare that wearing a helmet would prevent or reduce the severity of cyclists’ injuries.

"Both British and European standards require helmets to withstand a free-fall drop from 1.5 metres onto a flat and kerb shaped anvil, at an impact speed of about 12 mph. This is equivalent to falling to the ground from a stationary riding position. Cycle helmets are not, and cannot be, designed for impacts with moving traffic.
“There is good evidence from Australia and Canada that enforced helmet laws reduce the number of cycle journeys, this in itself undermines the Government's target to increase the number of cycle journeys in the UK.

"In countries such as Denmark, Holland and Germany it is rare for cyclists to wear helmets which is reflected in the number of journeys made by bicycle; in the UK approximately two per cent of journeys are by bicycle compared to approximately 27 per cent in the Netherlands. We have long way to go to catch up with the Netherlands in the promotion of cycling as a healthy, environmentally friendly method of transport and making sure cyclists are not forced to wear helmets is a vital part of this.”