A helmet is, according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, a defensive or protective head cover, which is why it is used by military personnel, firemen, policemen, miners, building workers and others in hazardous occupations. It seems entirely natural therefore, and even a matter of common sense, to regard a helmet as a means of protecting the head against injury.
But do helmets provide protection in the context of cycling, and particularly everyday non-competitive cycling? How great is the danger of suffering a serious head injury as a result of a cycling accident? To what extent (if any) will a helmet protect against a serious head injury?
You may think the answers to these questions are obvious. So did I. Then I became aware that the apparent need to wear a helmet is putting a lot of people off the whole idea of cycling. This seemed a great shame and I began to wonder whether the widespread perception that a helmet is a necessity for cyclists is justified.
Are people being put off for no good reason? It is an important question because most authorities agree that it is in the interests of cyclists for there to be more of us. Growing numbers of cyclists encourage local authorities to make better provision for them which, in turn, encourages more people to take up cycling. It is also worth noting that in some European cities where there are large numbers of cyclists, very few wear helmets.
So I have started to look for some reliable information, hoping that it will be unbiased either by the interests of the helmet manufacturers or by the enthusiasm of the pro-cycling advocates who might tend to play down the dangers. So far I have looked at the Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation and at the British Medical Journal. There is plenty more to do and your comments will be welcome.