Activists from the main association of cyclists in Lyon, La Ville à Vélo, recently mobilized against a bill presented to the Senate making it compulsory to wear a bicycle helmet.
According to the members of Ville à Vélo, the bicycle helmet is beneficial on an individual level. On the other hand, imposing it on everyone would have a negative impact on the number of cyclists who cycle on a daily basis. In a column, which we publish below, La Ville à Vélo explains its opposition to this obligation to wear a helmet.
Only three countries have made helmets compulsory by bike
In Australia, New Zealand and Finland, wearing a helmet is compulsory if you do not want to ride a bike. These are the only three states to have legislated on the issue. In Australia, helmet enforcement has made fall cycling practice.
The pioneering countries in the use of bicycles in Europe, such as the Netherlands, Denmark or Germany, have not made helmets compulsory for adult cyclists either.
On the other hand, on a more local scale, several cities and regions of the world have also made the bicycle helmet compulsory. For example, it is in five of the ten provinces of Canada.
Let’s not make the helmet mandatory on the bike!
Victoire ! The lobbying work of the Federation of Bicycle Users (FUB) to which La Ville à Vélo belongs and the vast mobilization (including that of several dozen members of La Ville à Vélo) helped prevent helmets from becoming compulsory on bikes. Support the City by Bike, also means taking action on a national scale.
Reminder of the context: On January 13, 2022, senators debated a Law proposition who offered to return the helmet on a bicycle. This proposal had been tabled by the senator of Charente François Bonneau and supported by about thirty senators of the group of the Centrist Union (UC); it was withdrawn after the general discussion but before being put to the vote. Only one amendment, proposing the deletion of the text, had been tabled. Its explanatory memorandum reveals the fundamental role of “federating organizations for bicycle users and communities”, here the FUB and the Club of Cycling Cities and Territories.
This event is an opportunity to explain why La Ville à Vélo is resolutely against the obligation to wear a bicycle helmet, and to call on elected officials to act on the causes of accidents in order to achieve 0 dead or injured cyclists. falls.
Why making compulsory the wearing of helmets is counter-productive
The Gustave Eiffel University (ex-IFSTTAR) recent since 1995 all road accident victims in Lyon and Rhône, in collaboration with 245 hospital services that smoke in charge of the injured, whether they are hospitalized or only treated in the emergency room. Between 2006 and 2012, cyclists with life-threatening injuries (BUT 4+) prevented 76% of them from head injuries.
In addition, several studies in France and abroad show that wearing a helmet reduces the severity of head injuries.
Therefore, comment on the following paradox: wearing a helmet on an individual scale is beneficial, especially in sport, but it becomes counterproductive when it is made compulsory?
The obligation to wear a helmet cancels the safety effect by the number
When cycling increases, the risk of accidents decreases. In other words, the more cyclists there are, the lower the probability of being the victim of a collision. The National Interministerial Road Safety Observatory explains in its 2020 report :
“cycling mortality fell by 5% between 2019 and 2020, despite an increase in travel of around 10%.
Or, the obligation to wear a helmet discourages cycling, thus nullifying the safety effect by the number and increasing the risk of collision.
The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks, even without a helmet
A 2012 study by the Ile-de-France Regional Health Observatory evaluated that the health benefits of cycling are more than 20 times greater than the risks involved, and this benefit/risk ratio increases with the number of cyclists. Authors cited:
“This very high ratio in favor of cycling is essentially due to the benefits of physical activity which far outweigh both the other benefits and all the risks. »
In the metropolis of Lyon, between 54% and 84% of the population depending on the municipality walking less than 10 minutes per day, far from the recommendations to practice at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. However, nearly 2 out of 3 journeys in the Lyon metropolitan area are less than 3 km, a distance that can be reached on foot… or by bike!
Set the goal of reaching 0 cyclist dead or seriously injured
Whether or not a collision is fatal depends in the vast majority of cases on the involvement of a motor vehicle driver (65% of deaths in 2020, 73% in 2019). Result: It can be seen that there is the same proportion of killed among the victims with helmets as among the victims without helmets.
For the safety of cyclists, La Ville à Vélo therefore asks all elected officials, local and national, to act on the causes of accidents to create a “safe system” and achieve 0 dead or seriously injured cyclists.
These effective and concrete actions are as follows:
- Linking the metropolis with secure and continuous cycling facilities
- Generalize city 30 (50 km/h becoming the exception)
- Generalize the pedestrianization of streets in front of schools and in city centers
- Generalize the compulsory learning of knowing how to ride a bicycle at Cycle 3 level (CM1, CM2, 6ème) in all schools and colleges in the metropolis
- Make blind-spot devices compulsory for large vehicles
Apart from this last measure, they are all part of the competences of elected municipal or metropolitan officials.