'They should be compulsory': Alex Dowsett wades into helmet debate after crash in Tour of Guangxi

Deleted social media post showed damage to rider’s helmet

Alex Dowsett at the finish of stage five of the 2018 Tour of Guangxi (Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Former British time trial champion Alex Dowsett has entered the argument on cycling helmets after a high-speed crash last Saturday. The Katusha-Alpecin rider published a picture of a crack in his cycle helmet sustained when he was involved in a crash in the final metres of Saturday’s stage of the Tour of Guangxi.

The post first assured readers he was relatively unscathed in the fall, which came with just 100 metres of the 212.2km stage five, and was eventually won by Mitchelton-Scott’s Matteo Trentin.

He then went on to voice his thoughts on helmet use while riding.

“My helmet, it’s cracked, it saved my head, thank you @oakleybike!” he wrote. “Now let’s chat about helmets.

>>> Best bike helmets reviewed 2018: a buyer’s guide

“This is a topic that always causes some divided opinions but I’m certainly of the opinion that they should be compulsory for all cyclists, everywhere, all of the time.”

The picture of Dowsett’s Oakley ARO5 helmet pictured in the post clearly showed a hairline crack, and it is likely it prevented at least some injury to the Essex based rider, and his post argued his opinion.

“People like Chris Boardman have said like in places such as Holland where no one wears lids it’s not about wearing a helmet for safety but about infrastructure of the roads, which is a very valid point.

“… I along with a few people in Holland I’m sure have crashed by my own errors without the help of any others road users, human error isn’t it!

“Rather than wearing a helmet in a car I actually think it’s more akin to wearing a seatbelt.”

The debate about the effectiveness of cycle helmets in real world situations has long been debated, and former Olympic and world champion Boardman has long argued against them being made compulsory.

Indeed, Boardman responded to Dowsett’s post on Twitter.

“Tell me where in the world mandatory helmet use reduces reduces head injury? (Hint: nowhere),” he wrote in two tweets.

“Tell me what happened in countries where made helmets made mandatory? (Hint, it fell dramatically). 51% of kids  ride to school in the Netherlands. Tell me what there [sic] head injury rate is? (Hint it’s the lowest in the world.)

“Mandating will kill more people by other means than it saves.

“I researched it for 20yrs and use evidence not opinion to understand,” he concluded pointedly.

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Dowsett’s post acknowledged his opinions were likely to prove controversial, and gained many comments prior to the post being deleted. Some of the responses were supportive, however, many others weren’t and may well have been the reason the post was deleted.

In the United Kingdom there is currently no law requiring cyclists to wear a helmet while cycling.

However, Rule 59 of the Highway Code states: “You should wear a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened.”

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Owen Rogers is an experienced journalist, covering professional cycling and specialising in women's road racing. He has followed races such as the Women's Tour and Giro d'Italia Donne, live-tweeting from Women's WorldTour events as well as providing race reports, interviews, analysis and news stories. He has also worked for race teams, to provide post race reports and communications.