Use your head, wear a helmet when cycling

Using the right equipment is essential to ensuring safety while cycling, and the Automobile Association (AA) again urges cyclists to wear appropriate gear when out of the road. The Association says too many riders are still riding without proper helmets, or helmets which no longer offer the right level of protection in the event of a crash.

“More and more people are using bicycles as these offer cheaper alternatives to motor vehicles or public transport. There is a growing need to educate and inform the public on the necessity of helmets, and the safety they provide. It is no longer acceptable that people ride bicycles without these essential pieces of safety equipment,” notes the AA.

National Road Traffic Regulations cover the rules about safety equipment for cycling, where cyclists can ride, and rules of the road that apply to both motorists and cyclists. These regulations stipulate the legal requirements for helmets which include that they must be specially designed for use on a bicycle and must fit properly.

“Helmets are designed to help prevent head injuries. A serious fall or crash can cause brain damage or even death. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the first large, case-control study of helmet effectiveness estimated 85% and 88% reductions in head and brain injury respectively for helmeted cyclists relative to un-helmeted cyclists. In addition, studies show that every year 41000 cyclists die in road traffic-related incidents worldwide from either not adhering to the rules of the road or from injuries resulting from not wearing the correct protective head gear.

“The hard plastic shell on the outside and foam on the inside of a helmet is made to ensure that if you hit your head, the helmet assists to dissipate the force and energy of the impact which reduces the force applied to the skull.

“People should also realise that cycling helmets have expiry dates. The older the helmet is, the less likely it will offer protection. It must also be remembered that once a helmet has been involved in a crash, even if the damage is not visible, it is advisable to replace that helmet as the inner lining to absorb shock may have been damaged,” says the AA.

There are four elements that one can use as guidelines to purchase an effective helmet. It must have a strong outer shell, it should have an impact-absorbing liner, it should have comfortable padding, and it should have a good retention system.

“Visibility should also be a key consideration for cyclists, so helmets with bright colours make them stand out. Wearing high-visibility clothing is also advisable, especially as many riders ride early in the morning and, going into winter, it becomes light later which makes it difficult for motorists and other road users to see cyclists,” the AA concludes.