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Car industry talks bike helmets, silent on car helmets

ERIK SANDBLOM 2012-10-08        #20853

Engineers at the University of Adelaide have designed a helmet-like headband. But the car industry has not shown any interest

Experience from Australia, France and Sweden shows that among car occupants who end up at the hospital, the head often has the worst injury. In Sweden, car occupants need more hospital days for head injury than any other road user group.

Engineers at the University of Adelaide have designed a helmet-like headband which would reduce the number of injuries by 44 %. For some reason the car industry has not picked this up. But they have started some campaigns for cyclists to wear helmets.

In The Netherlands, the safest country for bicycling, Volvo ran a campaign encouraging helmet use among children. They noted in a press release that 35 children die on Dutch roads every year, but neglected to mention that most of them were likely run over by a motorist. Volvia, Volvo's financing arm, has a blog about child safety. Apart from addressing what type of helmet is best for children, they assert that small children can't breathe on bicycles because of the strong headwind! Volvia hasn't seemed to notice that most cycling parents in Sweden have the child seat behind them, blocking the wind from the child.

In Denmark, organisers of a car race in Århus had a public relations stunt where they gave away helmets and reflective vests to cycling children at the start of the fall school term. And an organisation called the FIA Foundation gives money to the World Health Organisation's campaign for bicycle helmets. FIA Foundation was started by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, which organises motor sport clubs.

  Italian car maker Fiat had a competition to promote their new car. Contestants were invited to send in their design for a bicycle helmet. The helmet had few and small holes to be graphics-friendly and to avoid the feeling of wind in your hair. Toyota's brand Scion sponsored an exhibition and sale of bicycle helmets in Vancouver. French car maker Peugeot is sponsoring an early-morning cyclosportive in Stockholm, which is only open to helmet-wearers.

Photo Marc van Woudenberg/Amsterdamize
It's like soo dangerous man. Photo Marc van Woudenberg/Amsterdamize

The Canadian Automobile Association says "You should wear a helmet every time you ride a bicycle" but makes no mention of car helmets.  The British Automobile Association distributed free helmets and hi-viz vests to cyclists in London.

Also in England, GEM Motoring Assist even wants there to be a law for all cyclists to wear a helmet. A leaflet about road safety from GEM shows cyclists with helmets and hi-viz vests, but the brake cable on the child's bike is disconnected. Maybe to GEM, helmets are more important than brakes! They also sponsor the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, B-Hit, giving them money. Even the British petrol station chain Jet writes in a press release that cyclists should be required by law to wear helmets. Jet is owned by ConocoPhillips, the oil company.

Not all English road lobbies are into helmets. The CTC, the British national cyclists' union, are against helmet laws but also helmet campaigns. The CTC says the big problem is the fact that 45 000 people die of heart problems every year in the United Kingdom. Everyday exercise would have saved many of them. 

New Zealand already has a helmet law, but the Cycling Activists' Network says the law is not working and needs to be reviewed.

The Scottish cycling organisation Spokes has decided not to advertise cycling events where helmets are compulsory. Spokes says these helmet policies deter participation in cycling and give a false sense of security to those wearing helmets.

It's heart-warming that the car industry cares so much about cyclists. Just a little strange that attentiveness doesn't extend to their own. Maybe they're jealous because cyclists live longer.


Centre for Automotive Safety Research: CASR Headband. University of Adelaide

The development of a protective headband for car occupants
Head injuries to car occupants resulting from crashes on Australian roads are a major cause of death and permanent brain damage. … Protective headwear, similar to a soft shell pedal cycle helmet, is estimated to be much more effective than padding the car in preventing cases of fatal brain injury and in improving the outcome in cases of severe brain injury.

VTI, Trafikskador 1998-2005 enligt patientstatistik
Se tabell 12b, Fördelning av vårddagar efter huvuddiagnoser och trafikantgrupp.

The fatal injuries of car drivers. Ndiaye A, Chambost M, Chiron M.
3.4. Injuries responsible for death 
 The injury description was sufficiently complete to explain the death of 287 casualties with at least one AIS 4+ injury. These injuries were 478 in number and are described in detail in Table 3. The four most frequently affected areas were the thorax (62% of casualties), the head (49%), the abdomen (10%) and the spine (9%).

Cykla lugnt och säkert i sommar. Volvia – Barnsäkerhetsbloggen
Små barn har svårt att få till sig andan när det blåser.

Volvo introduceert kinderfietshelm

Volvo gets behind cycle helmets for kids – BikeBiz

”Eco Fashion” by FIAT 500 & VOGUE

The Prohab Helmet Show recap

Classic Race giver skolebørn tryghed - Danmarks Radio

Foundation backs WHO helmet initiative – FIA Foundation

Stockholm Bike
Sthlm Bike är ett motionslopp utan tidtagning som vill ge cyklister möjligheten att uppleva ett tyst Stockholm en morgon i september. Loppet sponsras av Peugeot och hjälm är obligatoriskt.

Compulsory cycle helmets UK initiative – GEM Motoring Assist

Motoring organisation backs cycle helmet compulsion – BikeBiz

AA to distribute free bicycle helmets in London – BikeBiz

CAA Bike Safety
Cycling is a reasonably safe activity that millions of us enjoy, but every year many cyclists die after a crash or collision. Most die because of head injuries. Many more suffer permanent brain injury. You should wear a helmet every time you ride a bicycle.

”Millions of children at risk” by not wearing cycle helmets, says fuel firm – BikeBiz

Cycle helmet promotion: a dangerous distraction. Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC)

CAN and Cycle Helmet Legislation – Cycling Advocates’ Network of New Zealand

Cycling body withdraws support for events that encourage the use of safety helmets - The Scotsman

ERIK SANDBLOM 2012-10-11        #21338
Here's a little more about Scottish cycling organisation Spokes and their policies regarding helmet promotion. Perhaps something for other organisations to look into and emulate.

Helmets feedback & factsheet - Spokes

Spokes advertising policy

ERIK SANDBLOM 2012-10-13        #21342

Car manufacturer Renault has this poster at a London school cycle shed telling children to wear helmets and reflective arm bands when cycling. Photo Tim Lennon @lucullus

ERIK SANDBLOM 2012-10-18        #21346
Renault is giving out material on traffic safety to schools. In their press release they quote a happy teacher who says the children have learned to "not be a clown when crossing the street" and to wear a helmet when cycling or roller-skating.

12 millions de jeunes sensibilisés ā la sécurité routičre via le programme « Sécurité pour tous » - Renault

This article has now been translated into French:

L’industrie automobile se préoccupe plus du casque vélo que du casque pour automobiliste -

ERIK SANDBLOM 2013-04-23        #22277
Oil company Shell Nederland is sponsoring a bicycle helmet campaign for children in the Netherlands.

VVN en Shell starten ‘Helm op je Hoofd’-campagne

VALéRIE BOOR 2013-06-20        #22471
Research shows helmet wearing cyclist has higher collision risk with overtaking cars

Isn't the car industry a wonderful world of conflicts of interests? Not only because of the reported research in, and development of, car helmets leading the car industry to invest in bike helmets rather than car helmets. This in itself is interesting to say the least. It gets a bit stranger still if you consider the research from the University of Bath, which seems to show that wearing helmets actually heightens the risk of cars passing by more closely - and therefore heightening the risk of accidents. For more information on this research, please start at:

ERIK SANDBLOM 2013-06-20        #22472
Thanks for your comment Valérie. It all comes back to cars. A big helmet study says that 90% of cyclist deaths involve cars, and recommends cyclists should wear helmets. Says it all I think.

Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists. Cochrane Library

An interesting study from Norway shows that people cycle slower after they remove their helmets. People are not machines, so you can't just slap on protective equipment without considering the psychology.

Risk compensation and bicycle helmets.
Routine helmet users reported higher experienced risk and cycled slower when they did not wear their helmet in the experiment than when they did wear their helmet, although there was no corresponding change in heart rate variability. 

ERIK SANDBLOM 2014-06-12        #23320
Some more links on Shell giving away helmets at schools in The Netherlands, the worlds safest country for cycling.

VVN en Shell starten ‘Helm op je Hoofd’-campagne

Gratis fietshelm voor Zoetermeerse schoolkinderen. Fietsberaad

ERIK SANDBLOM 2014-08-25        #23391

Helmet ads fit so well with car ads. This newspaper makes a lot of money from car ads, and sells bicycle helmets to anyone with their loyalty card. Göteborgs-Posten 23 august.

ERIK SANDBLOM 2015-01-07        #23809
Volvo has developed a bicycle helmet with a car detector (so far it only detects Volvos). The helmet has a special blinking light that comes on when a car is detected nearby. Volvohjälm varnar Volvoförare för cyklister (som bär Volvohjälmen). Cyklistbloggen

ERIK SANDBLOM 2016-05-22        #23966
The American Automobile Association says that cyclists should wear helmets, and notes that 60% of cyclists killed were not wearing a helmet. They omit that 100% of car drivers killed weren't either.

Why bike helmets are the last thing we should be worrying about. Treehugger

ERIK SANDBLOM 2016-05-22        #23968

Newspaper editors: Don't be shy! Place your scaremongering helmet article next to a glowing review of the latest car. Front page of Dagens Nyheter, May 21st 2016.

ERIK SANDBLOM 2016-08-02        #23990

The director of Motorförarnas helnykterhetsförbund (The Swedish Car Driver's Association of Teetolers) writes a letter to the editor of the newspaper Mitti, telling cyclists to wear helmets.

ERIK SANDBLOM 2017-04-26        #24085
The Finnish Automobile Federation says the Finnish bicycle helmet law should be made more strict.

Bära cykelhjälm kan bli frivilligt. Hufvudstadsbladet
Instanser som Trafikskyddet, Automobilförbundet, Institutet för hälsa och välfärd (THL) och Utbildningsstyrelsen vill införa hjälmtvång.

ERIK SANDBLOM 2017-05-26        #24098
Helmets are the most important safety factor for cyclists, according to car lobby Motormännen.

Hjälmen är så klart viktigast, den är det numera lag på för barn upp till 15 år, men den gör enorm nytta även på oss vuxna.

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