You clicked the link to say that you believe helmets should not be compulsory (thank you!) but should be strongly promoted. To be honest, if the helmet promoters stopped there I would not be half so wound up about them.
Maybe you think that, given you are in favour of promotion, compulsion is no big deal? Think again.
One small step for man, one giant leap backwards for mankind
You might think that the difference between promotion and compulsion is small. But it isn’t. In New Zealand one girl was held in jail overnight because she could not pay the spot fine for failing to wear a helmet, and there is evidence that the law in both NZ and Australia has been used to target ethnic minorities. There is a world of difference between encouraging cyclists to wear helmets and telling them that if their helmet is lost, stolen, forgotten or damaged they may not ride home.
There are two kinds of helmet law: ones which are enforced, and ones which aren’t.
Helmet laws which are enforced have the effect of deterring cycling, especially for those on lowest incomes; of portraying cycling as dangerous and thus perhaps excusing those who injure cyclists; of further marginalising cycling.
Those which are not enforced do not markedly increase helmet wearing rates, offer scope for abuse, and bring the law into disrepute.
Neither type has been shown to result in measurable reductions in head injury rates. There are reasons for that, which I discuss in the why helmet laws fail tour. But in the end, the fact is enough. Extending promotion to compulsion is a big step, and a step too far. But there’s more:
Is promotion unequivocally good?
There are some problems with the idea that helmets require promotion, which I’ve discussed here:
- cycling is not dangerous
- cycling does not cause large numbers of head injuries
- is it true that not enough cyclists wear helmets?
- the evidence is equivocal
- helmet promotion gives people misleading ideas about the role of helmets in safety
I hope these points have addressed at least some of your information needs. If there’s something I haven’t covered do please contact me and let me know.
Above all else I would like you to go away with this thought: after looking around this website and maybe my own site, are you prepared to concede that it is at least possible to make an informed choice not to wear a helmet? If you will admit that, then you need to think long and hard about the fundamental premise of helmet compulsion, which is that everybody who chooses not to wear a helmet for any ride is necessarily wrong. There is a big difference between disagreeing with someone and making their decision illegal.