Sir Bradley Wiggins says cyclists should help themselves by wearing 'helmets and things' as a way to keep them safe on the roads

Sir Bradley Wiggins has waded into the helmet debate by claiming that the government should think about making them compulsory.

In an interview with the London Evening Standard, Wiggins said that cyclists need to ‘help themselves’ by wearing any protection possible.

“I think cyclists have to help themselves in terms of wearing helmets and things,” he said. “I think that probably should go some way to becoming the law soon.”

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The debate has raged on in recent months after a spate of deaths on the capital’s roads. The argument is, however, that for those cyclists involved in collisions with HGVs a helmet may not have made a difference, as the Standard points out.

British Cycling’s policy advisor Chris Boardman sparked controversy in November when he helped film a piece for BBC Breakfast television on safer cycling without wearing a helmet.

“[Helmets] discourage people from riding their bikes,” he said at the time. “You are as safe riding your bike as you are walking.

“There’s nothing wrong with helmets, but they’re not in the top-10 things you can do to keep safe.”

Countries such as Australia and Canada have laws making helmets mandatory for cyclists, but there are worries in the UK that such a law would discourage people from two-wheeled transport.

  • 666

    I said unspecified proportion, i.e. that 25% stat doesn’t really tell us anything about how useful cycling helmets are. I don’t have a view on whether they should be compulsory. I’ve fallen off both with and without and the helmet probably made no difference when I was wearing one and luckily I kept my head off the ground when I wasn’t. I never wore a helmet until my kids said they’d thought of buying me one for Christmas but in the end got me something else instead. Then I thought how bad it would be for them if I got a head injury and how they might feel responsible because they hadn’t got me a helmet. I don’t particularly like wearing it but there you are. And it just might make a difference if ever I land on my head.

  • harry smith

    Only if you ignore pedestrians, but only someone as thick as mince would do that.

  • 666

    So, you say, occupants of cars+vans+lorries account for only 25% of head injuries – therefore cyclists make up some unspecified proportion of the other 75%. Doesn’t really support your point does it?

  • Luke Jackson

    I was knocked off my bike two weeks ago (Don’t worry, the bike was mostly fine. A car pulled out on me, stopped, admitted fault and paid for replacements for everything that was wrecked. I would have been pleased to meet the guy in any other circumstances. Motorists are people too. I’m a motorist. I’m not perfect either). I was doing sprint intervals on a slight downhill, so I was moving a little faster than walking pace. I don’t think even the great Chris Boardman can argue with the physics that dictates this ups the risk from that of walking.

    I landed on my back and my head snapped backwards onto the tarmac. I knew this would happen in the instant before it did (adrenaline). I was wearing a helmet (LAS Victory – highly recommended) and it did its job. The pointy bits on the back were completely crushed and the helmet itself cracked all up the back. My head was fine (got checked out just in case – mild whiplash apparently, but I think I just had a stiff neck from riding in an aggressive position). I can’t say for certain that it saved my life or anything, but my experience of the physical world to date tells me that banging my head on tarmac in a 37mph crash would have, at the very least, hurt.

    If your experience leads you to believe something different, then okay. For the minute, don’t worry about wearing a helmet – the ever generous tax-payer will inevitably pick up some kind of tab if you’re ever conclusively proven wrong. Perhaps your loved ones won’t mind either. Or your boss. Eventually, perhaps natural selection will raise the IQ of the average cyclist.

    Given however that we live in a society that legislates to protect people like this from very obvious risks which can be simply and easily mitigated, it would seem that Bradley Wiggins is absolutely right.

  • David Chadderton

    Dear Harry,

    “It’s unlikely”, is a statistical argument without any back-up data. A cyclist only hits their head on a concrete kerb, or other solid surface, once. Then they are not a cyclist anymore.

    No, I do not wear a cycling helmet when a pedestrian. No one does.

    David Chadderton

  • Then you´re letting “third-party aesthetics” get in the way. Meh.

    You think I had my hair down to my waist in a braid and actually gave a hoot (that´s not what I didn´t give, but I´ll keep the tone nice 😉 ) what others thought or didn´t think?

    At your age you should be SO over that 🙂

  • Then you´re letting “third-party aesthetics” get in the way. Meh.

    You think I had my hair down to my waist in a braid and actually gave a hoot (that´s not what I didn´t give, but I´ll keep the tone nice 😉 ) what others thought or didn´t think?

    At your age you should be SO over that 🙂

  • harry smith

    It’s unlikely. The risk is about the same as for a ped-do you wear a styrofoam hat when you are a pedestrian?

  • captainPerfect

    To all the No-Helmet-Brigade
    For the test you have two choices: You are going to have your head smashed against a wall at 15mph. The choices are with a helmet or without.

    Will the 1st anti-helmet ranter please step forward and state your preference?

  • David Chadderton

    Or, not falling off a bike and hitting head on a kerb then?

  • harry smith

    Does this additional taxation mean that drivers pay a fair price after all? To make a meaningful comparison, if we take into account these additional taxes on motorists, we must also take into account the wider cost of motor vehicles to the economy as a whole. The economic cost of road accidents, for example, was estimated in 2004 to be some £18bn per year (DfT 2004, 5) and the cost to the British economy of road traffic congestion was estimated to be £20bn, rising to £30bn by 2010 (Goodwin 2004, 2). In 1998 it was calculated that between 12,000 and 24,000 deaths may be may “brought forward” each year in the UK as a result of air pollution, and that between 14,000 and 24,000 hospital admissions annually result from poor air quality (COMEAP 1998), to which road transport is by far the largest single contributor (FoE 1999, 1), and although the resulting economic cost is not estimated it must be considerable. In this light, and without even factoring in the less easily established costs of damage to wildlife, noise pollution, contribution to climate change, and end-of-life disposal of motor vehicles, it is already clear that motorists do not currently pay anything like the full cost of motoring. As the Dresden Technical University study The True Costs of Automobility concludes, “Even if motoring taxes were taken into account there remains a significant shortfall in the UK. Fuel duty and its associated VAT along with vehicle excise duty contribute around £38bn a year to the Treasury’s coffers, £10bn less than the estimated cost.” (Guardian 2012)

  • Rockin Rob

    Agree if you look at VED alone but we pay a huge amount of tax on petrol – far more than VED. Over £30bn for the two combined…

  • harry smith

    25% of head injuries are suffered by the occupants of cars, vans and lorries. Mandatory helmets for anyone in a motor vehicle would save thousands more lives than helmets for cyclists. So, helmet supporters, do YOU wear a helmet every time you get in a car or are you crass hypocrites?

  • harry smith

    I suppose Wiggo forgot to mention he’s sponsored by a helmet manufacturer?

    “Wear helmets!” says a bloke who trousers cash from helmet manufacturers!

  • harry smith

    4/ Not hitting my head on a concrete lamp post!

  • harry smith

    Private motoring receives enormous subsidies. Add up the entire fiscal contribution of motorists. Take away road building and repairs, policing costs, NHS costs from drivers colliding with buildings and people, congestion, pollution, etc etc. Private motoring is a net drain on the economy.Vehicle Excise Duty (tax discs are being phased out) brings in £5.98 billion/year net (Source: DVLA)
    On the other side, the Highways Agency costs £2.48 billion/year (Source: HA), while Local Authorities in England spend £5.60 billion/year on roads (Source: IAM). Total so far: £8.08 billion/year.

    So we’ve spent more than VED income already on just two obvious highways budgets and there’s still everything outside England to pay for, as well as the plethora of other road-building funding methods created by the Cameron government with names like Local Growth Fund, Local Transport Bodies, Pinch Point Funding and so on.

    Conclusion: VED collects less revenue than road maintenance and road building budgets.

  • Rockin Rob

    What, like here?: http://www.racfoundation.org/data/road-user-taxation-highways-spending-data-chart You see that motoring brings in far more revenue than it costs. And those road costs are incurred for you to cycle too, without the associated revenue from taxation on your activity…

  • Do a little research on how much does cycling save the economy. Or how much does cycling cost the economy along with how much does motoring cost the economy.

  • Rockin Rob

    No, you havent saved the country a fortune, you have lost it a fortune in reduced taxes by not using a car & petrol etc. You actually havent paid anything to cover the cost of any medical assistance as the Govt & NHS get no money from you riding your bike, whereas they would if you drove everywhere…

  • They are babe when one is heading fast to 70. As much as long flowing hair on a young girl is beautiful, on an old girl like me I think my family would disown me if I allowed my hair to hang loose. I also still have great legs but I ain’t gonna wear a mini skirt either, lol.

  • David Chadderton

    A practical test for all those who think that wearing a helmet is somehow related to speed, vehicles, traffic or weather.
    1. Hit your head onto a concrete lamp post at walking speed while wearing a cycle helmet.
    2. Repeat, if you dare, without the helmet.
    3. Which do you prefer?

  • Yeah, like long hair and helmets are mutually exclusive things. LOLROFL

  • I totally agree with you regarding a cycling proficency test. I think all children should have to learn to ride and take a test at least by the age of 11 or 12. As with all cycling countries I believe this should be done through the schools. If this country eventually wants to become a cycling country as Denmark, The Netherlands, etc, then they need to make cycling proficency for children compulsory “now”.

    It wouldn’t be practical forcing all adults that cycle at present to take a proficency test as very few adults don’t drive and therefore already know how to use and share the roads.

    A cycle aware section in the driving test I also most definitely agree with.

  • Edited to remove my answer as I have just realised you are asking Julie Anne Griffiths that question.

  • You personally may be able to ride anywhere you want but people from 8 to 80 years can’t ride where they want. I certainly wouldn’t want my 8 year old cycling on our roads. But you really need to go to The Netherlands and experience cycling over there. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. Everyone of all ages cycle over there. Over here cycling as a mode of transport is simply for a very small minority. I know I would prefer to cycle on a 3 metre wide smooth surface than squeezed onto 2ft wide of road next to traffic whizzing passed at 60/70 miles an hour.

  • Richard Campbell

    While it’s a good idea to wear a helmet, a helmet law makes no sense. Enforcing the law would take police time away from the enforcement of other laws that protect all road users on bikes, on foot and in vehicles. The result would be that the roads would be less safe for everyone. The best way to protect cyclists’ heads is to prevent crashes in the first place through well designed protected bike lanes and protected intersections.

  • RG

    Dutch segregation is b. awful. One of the few good things about cycling in the UK is that you can ride pretty much where you want. Forcing all cyclists of all abilities onto a strip of road a couple of metres wide would be a disaster.

  • NitroFan

    well said.

  • NitroFan

    Useless plastic, priceless!

  • NitroFan

    Two fine pro’s both of whom have forgotton more about cycling than most of us will ever know, two differing opinions so I guess it is down to personal choice.

    I tend to agree with BW but can also see CB’s point, Of course the best safety aid even discovered was the cycling proficency test which should be mandatory far ALL road users and adding a cycleaware section to the driving test would be a big step forward.

    I choose to wear a helmet, on each of the three occassions I have been “had off” by motor vehicles on my commute through east to south London, I took a knock to the head cost me three helmets but what is my head worth to me?

    If you do not want to wear one…….. dont, as my late father used to say “its your funeral”!

  • Muse-ette

    Julie Anne, you mention “research on cyclists (not tricylists) who are still alive thanks to wearing a helmet”. Can you elaborate please? What research exactly? If it exists then it would be useful to add some actual facts to this debate, as opposed to anecdotes and supposition, which, of course, are less than helpful.

  • I wouldn’t dream of “having a go” at BW for having an opinion on whether it’s best to wear a helmet or not. Of course he is entitled to his opinion. But having an opinion on whether he feels it’s better to wear a helmet or not is very different to using his position to champion a helmet law.

    Someone in his position would be doing a lot more for getting people on bikes if he was to get behind the campaign to build real cycling infrastructure just as Chris Boardman is. It’s very frustrating when the compulsory helmet wearing discussion is continually drawing attention away from the real problem of bicycling safety in this country, and that’s decent Dutch style segregation.

    That interview with BW was a total wasted opportunity for someone, who’s view a lot of people think matters, to have done some real good for cycling in Britain.

    Fighting for a helmet law is really only a fight for vehicular cycling. Vehicular cycling isn’t safe for all aged 8 to 80.

    Wearing a helmet does not make bicycling safer when being forced to share space with motorised vehicles travelling at sometimes 70mph.

    Less time and energy should be used fighting for a helmet law and more fighting for bicycling segregation.

    Motorists are continually complaining about having to share the road with bikes, and I honestly don’t blame them. They don’t have to constantly watch out that they don’t drive over pedestrians, because pedestrians have been given their own space.

    Driving is stressful enough on today’s roads without having to constantly have bikes weaving in and out, in front, at the side and behind you. But why aren’t then motorists behind the fight to segregate bikes from motorists. Why isn’t the cry of motorists “Get Bikes Off the Road”.

    Can you imagine how government would sit up and listen if every motorist in the country started that particular campaign?

  • Mike Prytherch

    Why have a go at a bloke (Wiggins) who has an opinion, you have an opinion, you just expressed it, after all you said “because here in the UK it will never happen”, whats the harm ?, so let him have his opinion and don’t have a go at him.

    You effectively had a personal attack on him by saying “I really take exception to these do gooders that are trying to take away my free will and free choice.”, its a shame you can’t see that you are just as bad as Julie as per the personal attack, double standards.

    I believe in personal choice, however sometimes there are very good reasons to remove personal choice and safely is one of them, you already used seat belt example in cars, everybody knew it was safer but hardly anybody used one.

    I’m not saying a helmet makes you safer, there are certainly times when a helmet can help, I know from personal experience that is true, I unfortunately also know from personal experience that there are accidents that a helmet was no use at all.

    Its very hard to gather stats to know one way or another, its certainly nowhere near as clear cut as seat belts in cars, but let people decide themselves, let people have an opinion and stop having a go at people who do choose one way or another.

  • huhu

    Fewer, not less.

    Completely agree otherwise, of course, all good points!

  • Goodness me! Talk about taking it personally, rofl. You may have had your bum on a bicycle seat at some point, but you certainly aren’t a bicyclist or you would have done “your” research and found out just how little a helmet can actually help reduce any damage to the side, back or front of the head.

    It can however help reduce damage if one lands directly on the crown of the head. Do some research, including checking out the safety checks that are actually made when testing helmets. There is also absolutely no proof or published figures of a helmet saving anyones life.

    There is proof however that motorists drive closer to, and overtake closer to, cyclists that are wearing helmets and all the other safety gear, than cyclists that wear ordinary every day clothing to cycing in.

    There is also proof of those cyclists that do wear helmets and other safety gear actually ride more dangerously because subconsiously they feel safer.

    You will find though that those that need to wear a helmet due to the type of riding they are doing, such as racing, adventure cycling, and even those that speed in and out of traffic across the cities to get to work, do choose to wear a helmet.

    Those of us that bike to get shopping, meet up with friends, go visiting, a trip to town, etc, etc, don’t want to make a big thing of biking, no more than you would wear special clothes or wear your hair in a tatty pony tail to get in your car and do the self same things. Just like you want to get dressed for your destination and not your journey before getting in your car, so do most bicyclists.

    There really is no cause for a law for helmet wearing. Seat belts were called for due to the sheer volumn of motorists that, when in an accident, were shot through the window or passengers in the back seat flew over the heads of the people in front and killed them. There have been less than a handful of cyclists killed purely by hitting their head when knocked over by a motorist. The majority of cyclists are killed though a car running directly over their body or of being shot up in the air so high and so hard that nearly every bone in their body has been broken.

    There have even been a couple of countries that have rescinded their helmet laws (Mexico was one) after figures showed that were there no less deaths to cyclists yet less people cycle because of the helmet law. And for every person that cycles on a regular basis it saves their country a fortune. Now only Australia and New Zealand are the only countries that still have helmet enforcement for adults. And probably even they one day will rescind their law too.

    Really though, the compulsory helmet wearing discussion is rather mute, because here in the UK it will never happen. Our government want more people cycling, not less.

  • Julie Anne Griffiths

    Pathetic, not going to cut my hair??? Put it in a bloody low pony tail and put a helmet on. Havr you really done your research on cyclists (not tricylists) who are still alive thanks to wearing a helmet, I think not! What a sweeping statement about a fool in a motorised vehicle, what if ‘God forbid’ some fool on their trike causes me to have an accident, do you have insurance to pay for your actions….no I thought not!!! Most motorists are courtious of cyclists, we also abide by the law by wearing a seatbelt to help prevent injuries proven to prevent serious injury and therefore save the NHS thousands. And yes I am also a cyclist.

  • I’d love to know why some people think it’s so important that helmet wearing becomes law. Does there “not” being a law stop them from wearing a helmet? Does it stop them making their children wear one? Why are they so obsessed with my safety?

    My only form of personal transport is a tricycle. I therefore save the country a fortune. I am also saving the NHS a fortune. Therefore if, God Forbid, some fool in their motorised vehicle runs me off the road, I have well paid up front for any medical assistance I might need. A helmet would only save me any extra head trauma if I land directly on the top of it. There is far more chance of me getting head trauma by being a passenger in a car. In fact there is a higher chance of me being in an accident as a passenger in a car than being knocked off my trike.

    On top of which there is no way that I would to cut all my hair off simply to sit a piece of useless plastic on my head (I don’t think a bun would fit under a helmet). I’m afraid I would be continually fined for not wearing a helmet, which probably in the end would get me off my trike and buy a small car instead.

    I really take exception to these do gooders that are trying to take away my free will and free choice.