ECF Ask me why I cycle without a helmet LeadECF button campaign.
By Aretha Munro
Helmets. A single word that motivates all-night debates, spurs online forum wars and unfortunately divides the worldwide cycling community. We can all add our two-cents from our own cycling experiences, analyze the statistics, and try and evaluate regional factors, but the mandatory helmet law is a multifaceted issue. One group who is definitely concerned with this issue is the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).
The ECF declares that it is not against helmets, but against “mandatory helmet laws and shock-horror helmet promotions.” In their opinion, the promotion of cycling as a healthy and safe way to travel is being overcast by the promotion of “helmet propaganda.” This claim may sound far-fetched to some, but the ECF disagrees with the portrayal of cycling being far more dangerous than it is, and the portrayal of bicycle helmets offering far more protection than they do. Taken directly from the ECF website, their opposition to a mandatory helmet law is because of the following:
- They discourage cycling by portraying it as abnormally dangerous - you are less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking. (Wardlaw 2002)
- Injured cyclists are less likely to have head injuries than injured pedestrians or car occupants (ONISR 2005).
- They portray bicycle helmets as offering far more protection than they do-bicycle helmets are only designed to withstand minor knocks and bumps, not being hit by motor vehicles.
- Countries that have penalised people for normal cycling (without helmets), have failed to reduce head injury rates despite increased helmet wearing rates.
- The health benefits of cycling far outweigh the injury risks.
- Reduced cycling reduces health and environmental benefits.
- Reduced cycling reduces Safety in Numbers, thus increasing the risk of injury to remaining cyclists.
Part of this ECF campaign has been the "Ask me why I cycle without a helmet" button. 500 of these buttons were distributed at Velo-City 2009 in Brussels. Similarly, an extension of this campaign has sprouted from other troubled cyclists in anticipation of Velo-City 2012, to be hosted in Vancouver, British Cloumbia. The province of British Columbia enforces a bicycle helmet law, and concerned cyclists have made a Facebook page called, “No mandatory bike helmets at Velo-City Global 2012 in Vancouver” to raise awareness about their worries.
Obviously, it is hard to compare the infrastructure and the culture of European cycling countries to those here in North America, but it seems to be unanimous that we all want to promote cycling and not discourage it. Is the ECE’s pro-choice helmet stance the best way to promote cycling? Or is taking the safety precaution with a mandatory helmet law the sound solution for your city? The debate continues.