Cycling safety: why have helmets become compulsory?

woman attaching her bicycle helmet in the city

Cycling is a very popular means of transport for its many advantages: economical, ecological and beneficial for health.

However, it is not without risks, especially when it comes to road accidents. Wearing a compulsory bicycle helmet is therefore an essential measure to ensure the safety of cyclists.

You can also find our dedicated article on the 5 essential accessories for cycling in the city.

The importance of helmets for cyclists

The bicycle helmet is an essential element of protection for the cyclist in the event of an accident. Indeed, head injuries represent a significant proportion of serious injuries among victims of road accidents involving cyclists.

Although some people may find wearing a helmet restrictive, it is crucial to be aware of its role in reducing the risk of brain damage in the event of a fall or impact.

The protective role of the bicycle helmet

The main purpose of the helmet is to cushion the impact during an accident, by distributing the force over a larger surface area of ​​the head and thus avoiding too much pressure on a specific area.

In this way, it limits the risks of skull fractures and lesions causing irreversible neurological sequelae.

The different types of bicycle helmets

There are several types of helmets, adapted to the different practices and needs of cyclists:

  • The road bike helmet : light, ventilated and designed for long distances
  • The MTB helmet : more covering than the previous one, it offers reinforced protection for outings on rough trails
  • The BMX helmet : similar to the MTB helmet, but with a chin guard for complete face protection
  • The city helmet : less technical than the others, but designed for daily and urban use

To choose your helmet carefully, it is important to check that it complies with safety standards, that it has a good adjustment system to adapt to the user's body shape and that it has elements reflective to be visible at night.

man on a mountain bike in the mountains with a bicycle helmet

Legislation on the compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets

Wearing a helmet has not always been an obligation for cyclists. However, faced with the increase in accidents involving bicycles and the risks linked to head trauma, several countries have decided to legislate on this issue.

French laws regarding the wearing of helmets

In France, wearing a helmet is compulsory for children under the age of 12, both for drivers and passengers on a cycle (bicycle or electric bike).

This measure, which came into force in March 2017, aims to raise awareness among young people of the dangers of the road and to instill in them good practices in terms of bicycle safety from the start.

Adults are not required by law to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. However, it is strongly recommended to use one to protect yourself from accidents and their consequences, especially since many insurance companies require the use of a helmet to cover damages in the event of an accident.

child riding a bike with a blue helmet

The situation in other countries

The compulsory wearing of a bicycle helmet varies according to the legislation of different countries. For example :

  • In Quebec (Canada), helmets are compulsory for cyclists under the age of 18
  • In Australia, all bicycle users are required to wear a helmet, regardless of their age.
  • In Belgium, a helmet is not obligatory, but its use is strongly encouraged
  • In the Netherlands, only MTB helmets are compulsory in certain specific areas

The debate around the obligation to wear a bicycle helmet

Despite the many arguments in favor of wearing a helmet, it continues to cause controversy among cycling enthusiasts.

Some believe that the obligation to wear a helmet could slow down the use of bicycles for daily travel and thus reduce the environmental and health benefits of this means of transport.

Others fear that the implementation of an overly restrictive law will cause a general disaffection for cycling, in favor of other less ecological solutions.

However, it should be remembered that wearing a mandatory bicycle helmet is above all a question of personal safety : this equipment remains the best way to effectively protect your head during bicycle outings, whether sporting or utility.

Beyond legislation and different points of view on this issue, it is therefore with complete conscience that everyone must choose to wear a helmet in order to preserve their health and safety.

woman with city bike helmet