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Independents' Day

Cycle helmets don't work - so don't make kids wear one

I’ll admit, I don’t ride a push bike as often as I used to.

I'll admit, I don't ride a push bike as often as I used to.

When I was a kid, things were different. No summer afternoon was complete without a burn across the local waste ground, a few laps of our homemade cyclo-cross track complete with water jump across a brook about eighteen inches wide, followed by a riders' debrief session outside the local newsagents fuelled by a bottle of fluorescent fruit-flavoured gloop from the slushie machine.

The only time you'll see me on two wheels these days is in Amsterdam, where it's virtually compulsory.

So I'm annoyed by the A&E doctors who want to make cycle helmets mandatory for children. Firstly because half the fun of riding a bike is the wind-in-the-hair feeling - and secondly because this Cochrane report confirms that they don't do any good.

I spent one afternoon last summer cycling around Vancouver – complete with regulation headgear. I have never been more likely to get hurt on a bike in my life. I felt unstable and top heavy, I couldn't hear or see half the traffic around me or half the sights I was supposed to be enjoying. And pardon my vanity, but I looked like a complete dork. Meanwhile among the tulips, cycling is an unfettered delight.

There's more than enough evidence around to show that car drivers leave less room when passing cyclists wearing helmets, increasing the risk of injury, that cyclists in helmets ride in a riskier manner than those without, and that any decrease in injuries result from a reduction in the distance ridden rather than any protective effect.

Copperfield Copperfield

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