I put off writing about it at the time, but The Helmet Debate resurfaced just before Christmas, along with rumours that the Government may consider making cycle helmets compulsory*.
So a few quick thoughts on the subject.
The argument for making helmets compulsory is that they’ll make cyclists safer. This is toss. My helmet doesn’t make me any safer. It doesn’t throw up a forcefield to deflect close passing cars, or fill in potholes in the road ahead. Nor does it psychically alert pedestrians that they should look both ways before stepping into the road- even if all those cars are standing still. It’s not there to make me safer. It’s there to minimise a specific type of damage, for when its nonexistent magical abilities don’t prevent an accident caused by bad driving, crap roads, inattentive pedestrians, or my own mistakes.
So many of the things that people think of as safety devices are, likewise, really just damage limitation features. Staying on the roads, seatbelts aren’t safety devices. Nor are airbags, crumple zones, side impact protection, or strengthened pillars. Whilst you want your car to have all those things built in, to save your life, you don’t want to ever have to use them.
Safety devices are the things that can help you prevent the damage limitation features being used. Brakes, good tyres and suspension, a well maintained and marked road, and, most of all, actually using that thing between your ears.
If campaigners and politicians are genuinely interested in making the roads safer for all (but especially cyclists, in this context), they should ignore all calls for mandatory helmets, and look at ways to improve driver awareness, and build better cycling infrastructure.
*Based upon flimsy evidence, admittedly. But we have a ridiculously flimsy Government at the moment.