Bike helmets can make roads more dangerous for cyclists, says Bike Regina

While the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) is calling for the province to implement a mandatory bike helmet law, Bike Regina states that such a law could do more to reduce cyclist safety than help it.

“It is not something we support outright. We support helmets if people feel they need them,” said Luke Nichols, vice-president of communications for Bike Regina. “Research shows that helmet laws don’t increase safety. They can actually reduce the safety of cyclists.”

According to the SMA, 700 young people are hospitalized in Canada each year from bike-related injuries. A total of 20 die and 50 are disabled. Currently, Saskatchewan and Quebec have no provincial law for bike helmets. Cities can also implement their own helmet bylaw, something Regina has not done to this point.

A New England Journal of Medicine study found that riders with helmets reduced the risk of head injuries by 85 per cent. Conversely, an article published in the New York Times reported that the rate of bicycle head injuries, while less severe, had increased 51 per cent from 1991 to 2001, a timeframe in which bike helmets were mandatory. In the same timeframe, bike use was actually decreasing. One reason for this comes down to the drivers of vehicles.

“Studies have shown that when people wear bike helmets, cars pass closer to them, rather than leave them extra space,” Nichols said.

A University of Bath study showed that when overtaking cyclists, drivers gave helmeted cyclists much less space than those without helmets. On average, drivers passed helmeted cyclists 8.5 centimetres closer than non-helmeted cyclists.

Read the rest, at the Leader-Post.