Benefits and Drawbacks of Wearing a Helmet

To Helmet or Not to Helmet: The Great Cycling Debate

Cycling has always been a popular mode of transportation, especially in countries like Holland, where bicycles outnumber cars. However, one of the most debated issues in cycling safety is whether or not to wear a helmet. While helmets can provide protection against head injuries, many cyclists in Holland never wear them. In this article, we will examine the benefits and drawbacks of wearing a cycle helmet.

Benefits of wearing a cycle helmet:

  1. Protection from head injuries: The most obvious benefit of wearing a helmet is that it can provide protection from head injuries in the event of an accident. Head injuries can be severe and even life-threatening, so wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of such injuries.
  2. Increased visibility: Many cycle helmets are designed with reflective materials that can increase visibility, making it easier for motorists to see cyclists on the road. This can be especially important when cycling at night or in low-light conditions.
  3. Increased confidence: Wearing a helmet can provide cyclists with increased confidence while cycling, as they know that they have an extra layer of protection.

Drawbacks of wearing a cycle helmet:

  1. Risk compensation: Some studies have suggested that wearing a helmet can lead to risk compensation, where cyclists may take more risks while cycling because they feel protected by the helmet. This could lead to an increase in accidents.
  2. Uncomfortable and inconvenient: Some cyclists find helmets uncomfortable or inconvenient to wear. Helmets can be heavy, hot, and sweaty, and some cyclists may find them to be a nuisance when trying to lock up their bike or carry it on public transport.
  3. A barrier to cycling: Some people may choose not to cycle because they feel that wearing a helmet is uncomfortable or inconvenient. This can lead to a decrease in the number of people cycling, which can have negative impacts on public health, traffic congestion, and the environment. It’s important to encourage people to cycle in a way that feels safe and comfortable for them, whether that includes wearing a helmet or not.

Amsterdam cyclists

What about drivers?

It’s difficult to generalise how drivers treat cyclists based solely on whether they are wearing a helmet or not. However, research has suggested that wearing a helmet while cycling may actually increase the risk of being struck by a passing vehicle. The study found that drivers tend to pass closer to cyclists who are wearing helmets compared to those who are not, which can increase the likelihood of a collision. On the other hand, some drivers may see cyclists without helmets as more vulnerable, unpredictable or inexperienced and in need of extra caution.

Child helmet

Children – the Clear Benefits

When it comes to children, there are many benefits to wearing a cycle helmet. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury in children by as much as 85 percent. Children are especially vulnerable to head injuries while cycling, as their bodies are still developing and they may be less experienced riders. Helmets can provide a layer of protection against minor falls and accidents that are common among children learning to ride a bike.

However, it’s important to note that helmets may not necessarily protect against more serious collisions with motor vehicles. While helmets are certainly useful in low-speed falls, their effectiveness in high-speed accidents is controversial. Nevertheless, given the low cost and ease of use of cycle helmets, encouraging children to wear them while cycling is a simple and effective way to promote their safety and wellbeing.


…in favour of wearing a cycle helmet:

While there are some drawbacks to wearing a cycle helmet, for some people, the benefits far outweigh them and this is especially true for children. Protection from head injuries is essential, and helmets can provide that protection for low speed falls in particular. Increased visibility and confidence can also make cycling safer and more enjoyable. Overall, cyclists should wear helmets when cycling to ensure their safety.

“Wearing a helmet can make the difference between a minor injury and a serious head injury or even death. It’s not worth the risk.” – John Howard, former professional cyclist

…against wearing a cycle helmet:

While helmets can provide protection from head injuries, there are some drawbacks to wearing them. Risk compensation could lead to an increase in accidents, and some cyclists find helmets uncomfortable or inconvenient to wear. In countries like Holland, where cycling is widespread and accidents are relatively rare, wearing a helmet may not be necessary for all cyclists. However, it is still important for cyclists to be aware of the risks and make their own decisions about whether or not to wear a helmet.

“I’m not anti-helmet, but I’m definitely pro-choice. The decision of whether to wear a helmet or not should be left to the individual cyclist.” – Gary Fisher, mountain biking pioneer and cycling advocate.


University of Bath. “Wearing A Helmet Puts Cyclists At Risk, Suggests Research.” ScienceDaily.

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