The Great Helmet Debate

Momentum Magazine has a great new article about the helmet debate – one of the most divisive issues within the biking community. I’m a bit torn on the issue. I wear a helmet and would feel naked without one, but I think the mandatory helmet law in BC should be scrapped.

Why? Two main reasons.

  1. Helmets discourage people from riding and increase the perception that cycling is unsafe. Less people cycling means more fat people. If we could convince them to bike, they would be healthier and society would be better off even if they didn’t wear a helmet.
  2. Helmets make bike-sharing nearly impossible. Melbourne is the only city that has a public bike-sharing program and a mandatory helmet law, and it is floundering. Vancouver is looking to become the second city, but it is also struggling to figure out how to make it work with a mandatory bike helmet law.

The real focus should be on making cycling safer, not on reducing the risk of head injury in the most severe crashes. That means education cyclists and drivers, enforcing lower speed limits, creating separated bike lanes, and doing other projects to improve general cycling safety.

Here is Mikael Colville-Andersen’s TEDx talk on Why We Shouldn’t Bike with a Helmet


  1. Agree on both your points! I know in Brisbane that people observed when the helmet laws came in there was a big drop in the number of people riding bikes and instead of bikes being used for small errands and everyday use etc the main people riding were only serious bikers in spandex on thousand dollar bikes. Just as we were leaving Brisbane (Australia) they were introducing a bike share scheme but were really unsure about HOW to make the helmet thing work… I wonder how it is going, I might look into this… I have heard that a lot of scandinavian countries have WAY more bikes on the road, no helmets, and much less injury than countries with helmets because people drive cars and ride bikes with an awareness of each other.


  2. To be honest, there would be less “conflicts” within the cycling community if the idea of mandating helmets was off the table.
    Instead of debating more pressing issues within the cycling community, we to often are debating helmets.

    I dread the idea of Ontario mandating helmets as I personally have zero interest in wearing one…I really don’t care whether people choose to wear one or not.
    Anyone I have talked to in BC have told me they would wear a helmet even if it wasn’t law, but they are dead against it being law.

    I believe in a lot of cases helmet laws were introduced as a cheap way of making cycling “safe” back in the 80’s & 90’s.
    It’s only in the past few years where cities have realized that they actually have to spend money on proper infrastructure.


  3. Hey CanadianVeggie, I wrote my above comment prior to watching the video incase that makes more sense with regard to my thoughts about Scandinavia… which were kind of addressed in that he spoke alot about Denmark. The quote above is very interesting. This isn’t really related to helmets but general bike conduct – I have heard that the style of bike also affects safety. More traditional style, sit-up-and-cycle bikes (there’s a wepsite about advantages) are designed so that you’re sitting up and facing oncoming traffic – it’s easier to wave, to greet people etc, so this style of bike tends to encourage positive interaction between traffic which is a good thing: Road racing bikes on the other hand when your head is down, are more suited to racing, and not necessarily to getting around town in a social manner. I don’t think either is right or wrong but I think the first encourages a positive, social bike culture 🙂


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