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Helmet use not the key to safety, study claims

You know that you should wear a helmet whenever you get on your bicycle. As a pedestrian and cyclist, if you're hit, you can be at serious risk of injuries that could leave you hospitalized or worse. Some people have argued that helmet use isn't the be-all-end-all for cyclist safety, though.

Here's an unusual argument for not requiring helmets: Bicyclists may be more likely to get into accidents if they wear them. According to a 2015 study by the University of British Columbia, when looking at 11 cities across Canada over the last five years, you can see that there is no definitive correlation between hospitalization rates and helmet legislation.

It's been proven that helmets do reduce the risk of head injuries. In fact, they can be reduced up by up to 85 percent. Overall, legislation also encourages and increases the use of helmets. So, what's the problem?

Bike helmet use shouldn't be discouraged, but evidence has shown that wearing one actually may increase the risk of getting into an accident in the first place. It may make a cyclist less careful, thinking that the protective gear will help him or her if he or she makes an error, and drivers may not be as careful when they see cyclists wearing safety equipment. Cyclists who wear helmets may also ride faster, increasing the risk of injury in a fall or accident.

So what is the most important factor in bike safety? Higher levels of participation. It's been shown that when more people ride, fewer people are injured; the statistics show this actually has a higher impact on bike-injury reduction than helmet use. If you're planning to head out on a bike, that means travelling in a group is going to be key to your safety and visibility.

Source: Winnepeg Free Press, "Cyclist safety in numbers, not helmets," Brent Bellamy, June 27, 2016

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