ECF EUROPEAN CYCLISTS' FEDERATION EUROPAISCHER RADFAHRER-VERBAND FEDERACION DE CICLISTAS EUROPEOS FEDERATION EUROPEENNE DES CYCLISTESThe European Cyclists' Federation is an umbrella organisation for 25 Bicycle Advocacy Groups in Europe with some 250.000 members in 17 countries. They represent some 100.000.000 daily cyclists.
The European Cyclists' Federation has published a number of position papers on various issues. Below you will find the position paper on bicycle helmets. This paper was issued Oct. 25th. 1990, and revised Oct. 23rd. 1991.
Cycle helmets make cycling less convenient and should, therefore, by no means be compulsory.
Safety-campaigns should be directed towards primary safety - reducing the number of accidents by measures of infrastructure, equipment and education of cyclists and motorists - rather than secondary safety as for example promoting use of helmets.
Helmets which comply with any recognised standard should be taxated at the lowest possible rate.
Use of helmets have proved effective to prevent about 85% of the head injuries in cycling accidents (1).
Coroner reports show that 2/3 of fatal cycling accidents involve head injuries. Wearing a helmet would in some, though far from all of these accidents have prevented death. Reductions from 10-17% (3) to 50% (4) of the number of fatal cycle accidents, if all were wearing helmets, have been mentioned in the literature.
The wide range of estimates for casualty reduction suggest that a detailed study needs to be undertaken. Any study should investigate the issue of a "lulling effect" increasing the number of accidents (5).
There is a balance between comfort and protection capabilities of helmets. Thus, helmets offering an exellent protection tends to be very uncomfortable and vice versa.
A considerable number of standards for helmets provide an indicator to a reasonable level of protection (e.g. USA ANSI Z 90.4, SNELL, Switzerland bfu R 8602, United Kingdom BS 6863, Australian AS 2063.1, Sweden KOVFS 1985:6 or SP-MET 1985.2).
A European Standard is being elaborated at present (not ready yet as of January 95). The result of this should not attempt to increase the level of protection at the expense of user acceptability, as compared to current standards.
The trade-off between impact tested quality and user comfort should not be bias towards greater impact quality because voluntary helmet wearing may decrease, and discomfort may cause accidents. The issue of comfort is particularly important for the more active adult or racing cyclist.
The price - in the order of 35 ECU - can also be considered disadvantageous to the cyclist.
In the State of Victoria, Australia, wearing helmets has been compulsory for all bicycle riders since July 1990. The result has been a large percentage of helmet wearing among cyclists, but also that some cyclists have given up cycling because they do not want to use cycle helmets.
In general cyclists have not, even in the countries mentioned above, accepted helmets as a neccessary means of protection. Many cyclists are strongly against wearing helmets. Non-cyclists tend to be those most in favor of helmet use.
Calculations on the "total" health benefits of cycling, taking into account both accidents and reduced risk of certain diseases, shows that health benefits are greater than accident disbenefits (6).
A law requesting cyclists always to wear helmets would be totally in contrast to the nature of the bicycle as a simple and convenient form of transport. Such laws would meet strong opposition and lead to a decreased use of the bicycle, as the Australian example already has demonstrated.
Any attempt of compulsory helmet use should therefore be rejected as strongly as possible.
Research shows, that such a substantial amount would have a better effect in casualty-prevention if invested in campaigns educating cyclists as well as motorists and an improved infrastructure for cyclists (7). Poor road user behaviour is known as the number one cause of accidents. Potholes and poor design of cycle tracks and road crossings have also proven a major reason for cycle accidents.
As an example, supporting this, a comprehensive analysis of various actions to increase road safety in Denmark found cycle helmets to be among the least cost effective measures (4).
Campaigning for use of helmets will turn the responsibility of accidents from the society in general towards the individual cyclist. This has become the case in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, where cyclists often are blamed for not using helmets in an accident resulting from poor driver behaviour or road design.
Furthermore, irresponsible promotion of helmets portraying cycling as an extremely dangerous activity should be condemned.
Campaigns for use of helmets will, of course, be welcomed by those manufacturing the products. The question, however, should be to increase the safety of cycling through campaigning for better behaviour of both cyclists and motorists and the creation of a more safe infrastructure for cyclists.
References: 1) Robert S. Thompson et al, New England Journal of Medicine, 320/21, May 25, 1989. 2) Accident Analysis Group, Odense Hospital, Denmark, Report on Road-accidents treated at the Casualty Department, 1988. 3) Cyclists Touring Club, United Kingdom, Cycle Helmets, April 1988. 4) Commission of Road Safety, Denmark, Plan of Action for Road Safety, December 1988. 5) Gregory B. Roberts, Journal of Products Liability, 307/17, 1988. 6) Thomas Krag, Danish Cyclist Federation, Safety, the Achilles Heel of Cycling (lecture at the Velo City Conference), 1989. 7) C. S. Downing, Road Safety Division TRRL UK, in Ways to Safer Cycling Conference Proceedings, 1985.The European Cyclists' Federation may be reached through the following organisations: Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club, Germany. Fietsersbond ENFB, the Netherlands. Dansk Cyklist Forbund, Denmark.
European Cyclists' Federation c/o Dansk Cyklist Forbund att: Thomas Krag Roemersgade 7 DK-1362 Copenhagen K DenmarkPlease notice: This paper has been mailed onto the Internet from the computers of The Danish School of Journalism. This School is, however by no means connected to the European Cyclists' Federation or in any way responsible for the contents of this paper.
Ernst Poulsen (Ernst.Poulsen@djh.dk - address expires Jan. 15th 95) Dansk Cyklist Forbund __ __ __ ! ! !__! ! ! ! The Danish School of Journalism __! ! __ ! !____ ! Olof Palmes Alle 11 / ! ! ! ! _ ! ! DK-8200 Aarhus N ! O ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! phone: +45 8616 1122 !_____! ! ! !__! !__! ! fax: +45 8616 8910 DANMARKS ! ! JOURNALISTHOJSKOLE _/ ! !___/