Friday, 30 August 2013

Understanding the complex nature of cycling injury compensation

The father of teenager Ryan Smith, who was knocked off a bike whilst riding without wearing a helmet and now lies comatose in hospital, is campaigning for cycling helmets to be made compulsory.

Mark Smith, who is a paramedic, said “I don’t want any family to go through this. Don’t let this happen to your kids. Get your kids helmets.” It is understandable that he wants the issue to “go to Parliament straight away.” But the debate surrounding mandatory cycle helmets is a very controversial one and has continued for several decades. Although the decision to wear a helmet may affect the level of cycling injury compensation following an accident, whether or not helmets actually increase safety remains open to question.

The controversial nature of bicycle helmets:

Opponents of compulsory helmets often point to Holland which has one of the best cycling safety records in the world and where fewer than one in a thousand cyclists wear head protection. However, the low number of cycling injury compensation claims in the Netherlands may have more to do with the country’s excellent road infrastructure and the Dutch culture which has adopted pedal-power as a mainstream form of transport and where car drivers aren’t constantly complaining about their two-wheeled compatriots.

Back in the UK, research by Bath University traffic psychologist Dr Ian Walker found that helmet wearing cyclists could actually be exposing themselves to more danger purely due to the fact that
they appear to motorists to be “more serious, experienced and predictable” than their bare-headed equivalents. As such, drivers tend to give them less room when overtaking, increasing the possibility of accidents. This rather ironic observation shows how the route to ensuring safety on the roads is not black and white; there are a whole range of factors which need to be taken into account.

Even if one ignores factors such as road infrastructure, culture and psychology of motorists, the question as to whether a cycle helmet is an effective safety measure is disputed. They are only tested to impacts of 14mph so any serious accidents will not be covered by this testing. Furthermore, one study indicated that bicycle helmets might even increase the risk of brain injuries from rotational motion.

If you would like to speak to solicitors who know all the ins and outs of cycling injury compensation, call a member of the friendly and experienced team at Cycle Aid on 0800 387 815 or send an email to

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