Why We Shouldn’t Bike With a Helmet

In the scope of “the great helmet debate,” yesterday I posted a TED talk video of Prof. Gorgens arguing for the use of bike helmets, especially for children. Today I’ll share a video a friend shared with me in response, another TED talk video where Mikael Colville-Andersen makes the case for why “We shouldn’t wear bike helmets,” on the grounds that wearing a helmet actually increases your risk of getting into accidents, and instills fear of cycling among the general public, which hinders the proliferation of urban-bicycling.

Which poses an interesting question of practicality; what would be the effect on safety with regards to bicycling and for drivers in a city like Boston or New York if nobody wore helmets-would drivers see this as a reason to be more cautious around cyclists? Would would-be cyclists see this as a reason to start cycling? Think of the power the increase in oil prices had in 2008 on the increase in cycling. Mikael certainly makes a compelling case for why decreasing helmet use might increase cycling safety.

Me? I wear my bicycle helmet everywhere. Biking on the streets of Boston is very different from biking on the streets of a city like Copenhagen, as are the attitudes of drivers. However, there are cases where I will take off my helmet to feel the breeze in my hair, like when I’m cruising down an empty protected bike path at low cruising speeds. I was never afraid to bike in Boston, and never will be, but as long as Boston is the way it is, I still want to protect that top part of my head in the unlikely event that I go flying over a car door, and I’ll still wear a seatbelt in the backseat of cars in the unlikely event the driver loses control due to an unexpected ice patch.

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3 Responses to Why We Shouldn’t Bike With a Helmet

  1. Fenway says:

    I’m always saddened how the anti-helmet crowd refuses to accept that helmets can save lives and reduce injury IN CERTAIN SITUATIONS.

    I honestly do not understand how anyone can make an argument with a straight face that helmets increase risk to cyclists by encouraging drivers to be more careless towards cyclists. If anything a careless driver is going to blame a rider without a helmet that they’ve injured for being reckless for not wearing a helmet.

    I suppose one could argue that protective equipment can make the user slightly more reckless in the belief that they are somehow protected. However, in the case of riding a bicycle: I don’t think anyone is harboring the delusion that a bit of foam is going to save them from a multi-ton vehicle moving at speed, versus offering some protection if they get doored, fall, collide with a pedestrian or the back of a vehicle.

  2. matt says:


  3. Eric says:

    I fall down standing still on ICE and would benefit from a helmet as a pedestrian.

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