Mandatory helmet laws make me wonder if politicians haven't already sustained severe head trauma / by Greg Gallinger

Jon Bovi, from the Winnipeg Free Press comments:

... mandatory helmet laws have clearly been shown to dissuade people from using bicycles as a mode of transportation, which is strictly contrary to the goal of encouraging a healthy lifestyle and reducing public medical costs.

I'm not going to argue that helmets don't prevent people from sustaining serious head injuries, however I argue that these injuries are less prevalent than the media and the medical health community would have you believe.

Since Manitoba has been toying with the idea of mandatory bicycle helmets I've heard all kinds of facts about how helmets save lives, though none of these articles mention the percentage of bicycle accidents that would have been prevented by wearing a helmet.

I've been in several bike accidents over the years, the most serious of which I broke several teeth and my nose, but did not sustain a "head" injury. I was not wearing a helmet and based on how I was injured (my face was impaled by the handlebars) a helmet wouldn't have made any difference.

But I digress, I realized that my own experiences are not an exact reflection of the rest of society. In many cases I don't doubt that people have been saved because they were wearing protective headwear. Helmets are probably a good idea, especially for young children, but should not be mandatory for several reasons.

As the commentor mentioned mandating helmets tends to discourage the everyday use of bicycles as a means of transportation. This is counterproductive for a society that needs to start weening itself off fossil fuels, and start seriously thinking about how people will get around in the cities of the future. Promoting simple, cheap, and accessible forms of transportation, such as the bicycle, is one of the most effective things we could be doing.

For evidence just look to the countries with the highest percentage of bicycle use.

The Government of Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau report on the use of safety equipment among cyclists:

France, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Singapore do not impose any legislative requirements to mandate cyclists to wear protective helmets. Authorities in these countries generally consider that enhancing education and publicity to encourage voluntary wearing of protective helmets by cyclists is a more appropriate approach. In the United Kingdom, there are views that a mandatory requirement mayleadtoareductionincyclingactivities. Suchameasure may also not be generally accepted by the public, and there are practical difficulties in enforcement.

Another reason helmets should not be mandatory is that it is simply impossible to enforce such regulations. City Police and RCMP have higher priorities than chasing down cyclists who opt to take responsibility for their own safety. Even those pushing to make helmets mandatory admit that having the police enforce such laws is useless.

Jim Rondeau, Healthy Living Minister:

"We don't want to have police chasing kids to give them a ticket. What we're trying to do is look at innovative approaches."

How are mandatory helmet laws innovative?

An innovative approach would be an all incompasing plan for promoting bicycles, bike education, safe riding workshops, driver education (yes, motorist should be held accountable for cyclists safety!), and streets designed to make urban cycling safer, and while we're at it why don't we make the streets safer for pedestrians too (or maybe we can force them to wear helmets instead!)

Helmet laws, like so many other safety regulations, are a waste of resources, they don't work and they contribute to discouraging the very activities they attempt to make safer.