Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

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British Medical Journal reader poll is not impartial.

Summary: A poll of British Medical Journal readers got responses from 1,439 of them, with about 976 of them (68 per cent) opposed to helmet laws. The response sample was self-selecting, with only those motivated to express an opinion sending back a response.

A poll of British Medical Journal readers was reported in the BMJ Group Blog on July 27, 2011. The question asked was "Should it be compulsory for adult cyclists to wear helmets?"

There were 1,439 responses from among the BMJ's readers. The blog reports that 68 per cent voted no. That represents about 976 of the journal's web readers. Almost all of the comments quoted were opposed to mandatory helmet laws, not reflecting the overall vote. We think the sample was skewed by self-selection, and that only those with strong views responded. But it is clear that those with strong views oppose mandatory all-ages helmets laws in the UK.

One comment did make it through the filter: a recent study from Australia of New South Wales data shows a drop in head injuries of up to 29 per cent after compulsory helmet law was adopted there in 1991. The researchers showed that head injuries dropped in comparison to other cyclists' injuries. They concluded "Our results make it untenable to rescind compulsory helmet laws." Australia has two decades of experience with all-ages mandatory helmet laws, and is not repealing them.

The British Medical Association examined the evidence and recommended in 2004 that the UK adopt a mandatory helmet law for both children and adults. They had previously recognized the benefits of helmet use but had feared that a helmet law might reduce cycling, resulting in negative net health benefits. In 2010 Jersey was moving toward a new law that will require helmets for riders under 18, having rejected a proposal for an all-ages law. The UK's Transport Research Laboratory has published a 2018 paper on the effectiveness of helmets. It found that in 2008, 34 per cent of riders in the UK were already wearing helmets on major roads, and 17 per cent on minor roads. In a 2011 poll of 4000 cyclists conducted by the non-profit IAM, ten percent of the respondents said they would quit cycling if a mandatory helmet law were enacted.