A review of the evidence relating to cycle helmets has concluded that they are effective in minimising the impact of a “low kinetic energy event such as a fall or a trip”, and as such it is therefore “prudent to insist on helmet wearing”.
The study, ‘Cycle helmets and young people: a brief review of the evidence base*’, was commissioned by Devon County Council and carried out by Dr Paul Hewson from Plymouth University. Dr Hewson’s brief was to undertake a literature review into the effectiveness of cycle helmets, particularly during cycle training.
As a result of the review, Devon County Council will continue to require all participants on its National Standard cycle training programme to wear a helmet.
The review was conducted in the context of Bikeability which Dr Hewson describes as “precisely the circumstances capable of generating the kind of incidents for which the British Standard specification implies that helmet will be effective”.
The review concluded that: “Helmets may be a compromise which allows aerobic activity, but clearly they are designed to protect from a relatively low kinetic energy event such as a fall or a trip.
“There is little in the literature that contests the effectiveness of helmets in these circumstances. It seems prudent to insist on helmet wearing for these activities and there is little published research to contradict this view.”
Devon County Council has also undertaken a survey of the local authorities and other providers who deliver National Standard cycle training in England, which reveals that the majority have a policy that requires children to wear helmets.
About half of the providers also either recommend or require adults to wear helmets during training; this is particularly true in the case of the larger providers.
British Cycling has a company-wide policy that all participants on their various cycling courses are required to wear a helmet.
The survey also shows that nearly all National Standard instructors in England wear a helmet when delivering training, regardless of whether there is a policy in place.
The full report is in the library section of the Cycle Devon website.
*Footnote: The review makes extensive use of reviews published by the Cochrane Collaboration on cycle helmet effectiveness and cycle helmet legislation effectiveness. The range of databases searched for relevant literature includes Medline, Web of Knowledge, Scopus, Google Scholar, Transportation Research Information Services and the Education Resource Information Centre.