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September 29, 2011



It's little surprise the CAA wants to see a helmet law. It's not a safety issue with them, they realize fewer people will use bikes (myself included).

Kitchener's community bike will never take off with the general public forcing people to wear a helmet.
BIXI won't thrive in Vancouver like it does in Montreal or Toronto, which is why many are looking for the law to be removed (at least in Vancouver) or have BIXI exempt from the law.

I recall a story from Ontario's doctors not long ago, and they actually said there are better ways to make cycling safer. Helmets weren't mentioned.

I do find the media and police quite hypocritical when reporting bike accidents to the point I now have a system of knowing if a person WAS wearing a helmet...It simply will go unreported if the cyclist IS wearing one.
I am also curious why the media even says "was not wearing a helmet" when no law is broken. I don't hear the same for motorists or pedestrians (the two groups who make up the most head injuries in Ontario)

If there is one thing I'd like to see changed in your post, it would be the "anti-helmet (pro-choice)" part. I'm anti-helmet LAW. It is purely your choice if you want to wear one and I fully respect that.

Jeff S.

There's pressure because it's an easy fix:

Step 1: Wear a helmet

There is no step 2! Issues like smoking are much tougher to address because it involves banning the sale of cigarettes, preventing the sale of contraband, and assisting millions of people who are going through nicotine withdrawal.


@Ryan: It is true that helmets were not mentioned in that excerpt, but if you go to the longer document, you will find that the OMA recommends helmets for all ages: "Approximately 20% of emergency department visits and hospital admissions related to cycling are for head injuries. Although there are other serious types of cycling injuries, significant attention has been given to head injuries and the protection that bicycle helmets provide. In 1995, bicycle helmets became mandatory for everyone in Ontario under 18 years of age. Cycling-related head injuries have decreased by 45% in provinces with mandatory helmet legislation.6 The use of bicycle helmets is recommended, on and off road, for children and adults alike.
That said, the prevention of collisions and falls is the much preferred solution. There are many head injuries that bicycle helmets cannot protect against, so the ultimate goal must be to prevent the falls and collisions that result in cyclists hitting their heads."

Frank Xavier

It is even odder that this classic empty knee jerk reaction will undoubtedly come wrapped in a budget bereft of any meaningful long term public education program. The token coat tail we will likely get is the requisite twice annual bike helmet enforcement days...when the local leaders can squawk about the meaningful contribution this makes to road and public safety.

Michael D

"There is no step 2!"

Nonsense. Step 2 is actually increasing (or not decreasing) the number of people cycling with the law in place. Good luck with that.

I want more people to cycle, because it is good for public health, it makes cycling safer, and it helps build a more functional transportation system.

There is no place in the world that has more than 2% or so of trips by bicycle with a mandatory helmet law.

Alan M

I started out intending to post a comment along the lines of "here we go again..."

However, it occurs to me that like many other not-worth-the-time-debating, don't-eat-dirt, culture-of-fear, nanny-state crusades, what this ongoing helmet debate is really doing is diverting our attention from discussing much more important things about accommodating cycling and engineering the social changes we need.

We know that requiring adults to wear helmets, as evidenced in BC, makes no *material* long-term difference to accident rates, fatality rates, cycling take-up rates, emergency response costs, long term population health trends or responsible driving attitudes.

Yet, this debate continually gets in the way of dealing with all these other issues that are much more important in the long run.

We know that basic skills training in handling a bike in different conditions can address about 70% of mishaps, that knowing and following the rules of the road with education to help motorists and cyclists get there will address another 20% of mishaps, that exercising defensive driving/cycling skills will address another 5%, being able to react to hazardous situations another 4.9999%, and that passive protection in the form of gloves, helmets, shoes, glasses and so on will take care of the final 0.00001%.

So let's give the fear-mongers and shiny-suited politicians their smiley-yet-serious-faced photo opp moment and push through helmet legislation as quickly as we can.

Then the agenda for more important issues can be uncorked and get better attention.

Alan M

...and as a follow-on, once all the important issues are addressed, as they getting close to in Montreal or Copenhagen or Amsterdam, we'll be able to repeal the helmet law for adults because it'll be readily apparent that it really did not contribute to population-level reductions in harm.


Thanks for that Bill. I was starting to read it this morning before I was called away from the computer and never finished until now.

I'm basing it more on a local doctor who was interviewed on radio when that article came out and was asked about helmets. He said they should not be a priority, nor forced on people, instead infrastructure and education is key.

The issue I have with stats that show a decrease in head injuries after helmet laws were put in, is it doesn't take into account the decrease in people cycling.

The following are just some quotes from this website:

-The Saskatoon City Council has voted unanimously against mandatory bicycle helmets, largely because such a law discourages recreational exercise during an era of record obesity

-"The data from Australia and now Nova Scotia suggest that legislation increases helmet use but also reduces the numbers of cyclists."

-Further research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests a 62% reduction in cyclist numbers in Halifax the year after helmet law enactment, with more cyclist injuries recorded than before the law and a nominal reduction in head injuries (8 less head injuries in 1999).

-Attempts to introduce a bike share scheme in Vancouver have been delayed until spring 2012, largely because of difficulties with British Columbia's mandatory bicycle helmet legislation.

Again, if people want to wear a helmet, by all means wear one. I don't see anything positive from making it law though.


@Ryan: Nicely put. My sentiments exactly! Too many people/advocacy groups seem to know what's best for everyone else.

Evan Rosamond

Auto occupants and pedestrians get more head injuries than cyclists, so I'll start wearing a helmet when I'm cycling just as soon as Luisa starts to wear one when she's driving or walking.


I agree with Jeff S, but for slightly different reasons.

Forcing people to wear helmets is an easy fix for governments and non-cyclists. The blame is easily shifted on to cyclists, and the fix doesn't involve anyone else making any changes (like installing bike lanes, altering roads in other ways, or changing driver training).

I wear a helmet. I think, given the poor infrastructure for cyclists and the driving culture in Canada, it makes obvious sense. Despite the varied arguments against helmets, I think most people opposed to them in principle do so out of vanity. I'm not sure that a mandatory helmet law is a bad idea, but I don't see why it should be the best step. If 20% of hospital admissions from cycling injuries are head injuries, and helmets would help in maybe only half or a third of cases, that's a pretty small help to cyclists. Making changes to the roads that decrease the number of collisions would be a better first step. But as I said, less appealing to governments and non-cyclists.


Bill, are you insane? A helmet post? AAAAAH! Run away! Run away!


Bill, I suggest you take a look at: http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/fatals.html for more longer-term perspective on cycling fatalities. The funny thing to note in

The thing with helmet laws is that seem to decrease the total number of cyclists and actually create more public health care costs in the way of obesity rates and all that... check out what happened to cycling in Australia.

When I feel the need to wear a helmet in the shower or when I drive my car, I think I'll start wearing a bicycle helmet, but the risk of injury is so low I think I'll just continue to enjoy the wind through my hair.

Matt Carty

Every person moving faster than 20 MPH should wear a helmet. Yes, that includes motorists. Actually, that means motorists especially, since so many die every day. Make them wear helmets, dammit!


I rather like Matt Carty's comment.

It would probably be far more beneficial to the health of cyclists to make it that every person travelling faster than 31 MPH should wear a helmet, most especially motorists. If the law were enforced I expect that most female motorists would probably respect the city speed limits in preference to wearing a helmet. And likewise a fair number of male motorists, especially those with female passengers. And with well over half of motorists actually respecting the speed limit we would see a dramatic improvement in cycling safety. Sadly no politician hoping to be re-elected will ever support this.

Of course, setting the helmet speed to 31 MPH also means most of us will not need to watch out for the radar traps when cycling outside of the school zones.


"But the attention paid to helmets has me puzzled. Where is the pressure coming from?"

One interesting theory is put forth by Mikael Colville-Anderson in http://video.tedxcopenhagen.dk/video/911034/mikael-colville-andersen

His assertion (I wish he had presented facts to back this up!) is that the pressure is coming from the automobile industry. It's a lovely conspiracy theory--they have the most to gain--but solid evidence would be nice...

What do you think?


I think the notion that the auto industry encourages the bicycle helmet supporters because it discourages cycling and therefore encourages motoring is presuming that the auto industry is full of nimble thinkers and forward planners. Based on the near-shipwreck of the past few years for the North American auto industry, I don't think they have anywhere near enough nimble thinkers or forward planners on staff! Having said that, they were devious enough to buy up the early urban "light-rail" systems (aka, street cars), but that was also accompanied by the surge in inexpensive, cheap-to-operate autos. Not like the impossible to afford and impossible to run motoring options they offer now.

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Bill Bean

  • North America is eventually going to figure out that, for all the right reasons, we need more bicycles on our roads. Dust off your bicycle and go cycling. And if the gas-burning dinosaurs start to crowd you, it's your road and you paid for it. Take the lane for yourself.

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