Veloviews for January 20, 2023 – Are Cycling Helmets Necessary?

Cycling Helmets Hanging on Bike by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi from

Currently, a debate is swirling around the cycling community and industry about the use and effectiveness of cycling helmets. Can they really save a cyclist’s life? Do they keep cyclists safer? This debate is expanded on in an article over at the Slate website called “The Cult of Bike Helmets.”

If you’ve ever crashed your bike due to an altercation with a car or errant debris in the road, you are (like I am) grateful you had something covering your head. If you wear a cycling helmet, it is a precautionary measure, one which I am not willing to eschew. I’ve crashed or fallen over more times than I’d like to admit. Hey, it happens. And if you ride a bike for a long enough time, it will happen to you as well.

After one fairly bad crash, I noticed that my helmet was cracked. If I had not been wearing it, I might not be sitting here writing this blog post today. Plus, a head or brain injury can be debilitating and even life-threatening, so why risk it? Moral of the story: Wear a helmet when you go cycling!

Here’s the Debate

In 2021, Seattle, Tacoma, and Dallas all did away with helmet mandates. One of the main motivations for this decision stems from more minority cyclists being cited for riding without a helmet versus white cyclists.

If someone on a bike is not wearing a helmet, a warning versus a citation should be given. There could be innumerable reasons why a cyclist, besides economic factors, might not wear a helmet. But there are those in the cycling community who argue that eliminating helmet mandates would make cycling safer.

Their point is that those who want to bike are intimidated by the fact they need to wear a helmet. They assert that there are not more cyclists because the sport is viewed as “an activity so dangerous it necessitates body armor. That, in turn, can suppress ridership, and take away the safety benefits of riding in numbers.”

History and Support of Bike Helmet Usage

Although the activity of bicycling has been around since the 19th century, the wide-scale use of bike helmets didn’t occur until the mid-1970s. That was the result of reported incidents among children with head injuries.

Frontal View of a Cycling Helmet from

As the 70s passed into the 80s, 90s, and 2000s, helmets became lighter, more breathable, and more aerodynamic. Helmet manufacturers introduced and implemented more safety standards. But while tests have been done to study the impact of an unprotected head against solid objects, what occurs in cycling accidents can’t truly be predicted.

55 studies of bike helmets from 1989 – 2017, however, concluded that cycling helmets, overall, saved lives. In fact, the use of cycling helmets reduced “serious head injury by 60 percent, mild head injury and traumatic brain injury by about 50 percent, and the total number of seriously injured or killed cyclists by 34 percent.”

What It Will Take to Make Cyclists Safer

Cycling helmets, much like the helmets worn by motorcyclists, or those worn by baseball and football players, are, as I mentioned earlier, a precautionary measure. I would argue that a head injury occurring from a baseball or a motorcycle is equal to that of a bicyclist.

In other words, yes, it is highly possible or the potential exists that a head injury may occur while partaking in these activities. But what will make cyclists safer, in the long run, is infrastructure. Delineation and separation from motor vehicles definitely can help. And more bike lanes and bike paths can increase the safety of cyclists and even, perhaps, curtail accidents.

But the reality is that cyclists can still encounter road debris and crash. There are no guarantees, even in the safest of circumstances, that a cyclist won’t be injured while out on a ride.

Last Thoughts

Whether to wear or not wear a cycling helmet should not be a debate. But if you can’t afford one, that is a problem that shouldn’t be responded to with penalties. The cycling industry should reach out to communities and make them available in some way.

I certainly don’t have the answers, but until cycling infrastructure is improved, the danger of potential accidents will continue to exist. To me, it is just common sense to wear a helmet because you can’t predict the unpredictable. That’s why we buy life or health insurance to protect ourselves against the unknown.

What are your thoughts about cycling helmets? Do you wear one when you ride or not? Please like, comment, or share this post and let me know your views.

Have a good weekend everyone and stay safe out there.

Author: Doug McNamee

Freelance Content Writer, Travel Writer, Editor, and poet.

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