Should helmets be compulsory?

I thought I’d conduct a poll (see below) to see what readers of my blog think about legislation to make helmets compulsory. One of the things I like about living in York is that I don’t *have* to wear my helmet when I go cycling. I can just jump on my bike and dash out without having to worry about cycling paraphernalia. It also means I can wear my beanie when it’s cold or wear my hair tied back.

Today I have been having a discussion with members of my family about mandatory helmet laws. They think that if I have an accident while cycling and end up with a head injury which could have been prevented by wearing a helmet, then I should have to fork out the cost of my medical expenses.

I disagree with this view. I don’t think that people who smoke should have pay their own smoking-related health expenses, or people who drink should have to pay their own alcohol-related health expenses. Nor do I think that people who eat too much and exercise too little should have to pay their own health expenses.  Nor do I think that people who eat too much red meat and end up with a dietary-related cancer should have to pay their own chemotherapy. Do my readers think they should?

The other obvious answer is that cyclists have fewer health problems by virtue of the exercise they get. We are fitter and healthier and so less of a drain on the public purse. The benefits of regular exercise far outweigh the risks of not wearing a helmet. It is also not clear that compulsory helmet legislation has any effect on serious head injuries according this paper, Bicycle helmets and the law. The same paper also says that there’s evidence that motorists give greater clearance to cyclists who don’t wear helmets. The conclusion I draw from this is then that it’s safer for my children (who ride on the front of my bike) if I dispense with my own helmet while they wear theirs.

Just so I don’t get accused by the Daily Mail of being a burden on the British taxpayer, I want to disclose that we have insurance which covers my health expenses should I have any. But I can see the headline now:  Immigrant – without a helmet – crashes bicycle and puts drain on public health system.