The Danish Cyclists' Federation about helmet wear

The Danish Cyclists’ Federation recommends that cyclists wear helmet but we are against helmet compulsion. A helmet protects the individual cyclist in case of an accident, but making the helmet mandatory could devastate the Danish bicycle culture.

We think it is common sense for cyclists to wear helmet. We base our opinion on the Danish Accident Commission’s recommendation and various international surveys among other things.

A helmet protects your head

“Bike helmets can reduce head injuries, and in some cases, it can mean the difference between life and death.” So the Danish Accident Commission concluded in an in-depth analysis of a number of accidents involving cyclists.

The prevalent international research substantiates this assessment.

The Institute of Transport Economics in Norway has summarized recognized international surveys on cycling and helmets. The recap shows that half of the head injuries could have been avoided by wearing a helmet which covers the forehead, the temples, and the back of the head, and which is set correctly.

Why we are against helmet compulsion

Denmark has a mainstream bicycle culture that many other countries try to copy. In Denmark, everyone bikes – children, adults, and seniors alike.

We must be careful not to make regulations that will have a destructive effect on the Danish bicycle culture. Examples from other countries show that helmet compulsion can make people get off the bike:

  • In 1994, Australia made helmets compulsory with a decrease in the number of cycle trips as a result. One in five Australians state that they would bike more often if it was not for the helmet law.

  • True, in the U.S., a helmet law for adolescents has reduced the number of serious accidents involving children and youths. But it has also had the unintended consequence that fewer children and adolescents actually cycle.

  • In Sweden, markedly fewer children (69 %) wear a helmet despite Sweden’s helmet compulsion compared to Denmark (78 %) where wearing helmet is not mandatory.

If Denmark makes helmets compulsory, we predict that some will comply with the law. But some will keep on cycling without a helmet, and they will then become offenders.
Others will not want to cycle any longer which will have a negative effect on public health:

Because research in cyclists’ health shows that the mortality among Danish cyclists is 30 times lower compared to the Danes who only use passive modes of transport.

Criminalizing and scaring the Danes off the bikes is the wrong approach.

Campaigns are the way to go

The Danish Cyclists’ Federation has spent a lot of resources on campaigns that among other things promote helmet wear. This has resulted in a significant increase in the number of cyclists who wear helmet.

Our campaign, Bike to School is a good example:

Almost 90 % of the participants in Bike to School wear helmet. Still, the campaign meets its primary objective: namely encouraging more children to cycle. We have not registered any negative effect from giving extra points for wearing helmet during the campaign – on the contrary, it makes cycling safer.

We do not believe in making something compulsory that people already do voluntarily. In our view, campaigns are the way to go – not compulsion.

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