Should pedestrians wear helmets?


From the blog

Should pedestrians wear helmets?

Posted 2 October 2009 11:06 by martin

We came across this piece from last year on the Copenhagenize blog (“For the love of bicycle culture. 100% independent advocacy. From Copenhagen”).

There's a very active debate in Denmark (as here) about the whole helmet/no helmet debate when biking.

So Copenhagenize thought they'd put a question to the head of the Danish Pedestrians' Union:

Question: I can see that the statistics show that pedestrians are at risk from head injury. I can also see that the Danish Traffic Safety Board and Danish Cyclists' Union are currently attempting to promote bike helmets. Does the Danish Pedestrians' Union have plans for promoting helmets for pedestrians so we can reduce the number of injuries in traffic? Pedestrians are at a higher risk than cyclists. Wouldn't it be a good idea?

Answer: Hi, Mikael. No, we haven't considered promoting helmets for pedestrians on the street. There are several reasons [choose freely];

1) We haven't even thought about it.

2) People who are injured in solo-accidents usually get injured in their home instead of the traffic. So people should probably wear helmets in the shower, instead.

3) Our primary goal is to get all the different players in traffic to obey the traffic laws so that traffic accidents become, in theory, impossible.

4) It ruins your hairdo.

5) You can't pull your rain hood over the helmet.

6) We risk changing peoples' attitudes and making it look like it isn't that dangerous to hit pedestrians – “But they have helmets on!”

In the big picture you shouldn't expect us to inconvienence pedestrians with this kind of promotion in order to 'save' them from the stupid mistakes made by drivers/riders of vehicles in traffic.

Actually, I think that motorists would stop hitting pedestrians immediately if it became widely known that pedestrians will explode with a large BANG and scratch the paint job on the car.

Best regards,

Dansk Fodgænger Forbund – Mikael le Dous

A little satire excusable in this debate, or are the issues too serious?

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  1. Amanda says:

    October 13th, 2009 at 1:17 pm (#)

    What a breath of fresh air…only wish the helmet/no helmet debate here was so civilised. I'll wear one on my bike around town when they become compulsory for all pedestrians too! They'd be very handy for protecting against pigeon/starling/seagull deposits as well as in collisions.

    These are serious issues though but the debate in the UK only highlights most people's warped sense of risk assessment and a tendency to try and stop people making their own decisions about which risks to take/or not by wanting to force them to wear helmets but not addressing the underlying problem that causes so many accidents – the horrendously selfish and agressive attitude of many UK road users (including peds and cyclists!).

    Like the idea of the shower helmet though – someone should develop one that combines with a shower cap…a gap in the market there for any budding designers?

    Off to try and walk calmly around central London…

  2. Henrik says:

    October 19th, 2009 at 12:20 pm (#)

    I do hope this is a joke !! Ja, danskerne….

  3. Richard Burton says:

    October 20th, 2009 at 9:02 am (#)

    V interesting, and it has been known for some time that pedestrians have an equivalent rate of death per distance travelled as cyclists, So if cyclists should wear helmets because of the risk, so should pedestrians, as the risk is the same.

    Most helmet promotion is done by non-cyclists, especially Health and Safety people. I've just had some interesting e-conversations with UK H&S people, most of whom appear abymally ignorant of the facts and institute helmet rules based on nothing other than opinion, something I challenged as being completely unprofessional.

  4. Chris says:

    October 25th, 2009 at 5:40 pm (#)

    2 cyclists I know would have had serious head injuries at least, only for their helmets……but I don't know any pedestrians who've had the same experience.

  5. Ali says:

    October 25th, 2009 at 5:48 pm (#)

    Here in Cambridge the biggest danger to pedestrians is cyclists riding at high speed on pavements not designated as shared paths, cycling the wrong way down one way streets in town (usually with no lights), jumping red lights etc etc. I'm not sure helmets for pedestrians would help…

    On a different but related issue, as a cyclist and a driver, something that really puzzles me is the number of cyclists I see wearing a helmet but not using bike lights. What's the psychology behind this?

  6. Humpt Dumpty says:

    October 25th, 2009 at 6:27 pm (#)

    There is only one right answer ……….

    3) Our primary goal is to get all the different players in traffic to obey the traffic laws so that traffic accidents become, in theory, impossible.

    Anything else including the wearing of helmets by anyone continues to give the right of way and popwer of decision to the motorist. What we need is highway codes that begin to shift the emphasis towards the rights of the cyclist and pedestrian and not the motorist.

  7. Trevor says:

    October 25th, 2009 at 7:05 pm (#)

    Hear! Hear! Humpty Dumpty.

  8. Jackie says:

    October 25th, 2009 at 7:18 pm (#)

    You're having a laugh; pedestrians wearing helmets!! Try getting cyclists to compulsorily wear high visability outfits. There's nothing worse than a psycholist wearing black in the dark. They are just asking to get run over

  9. Mikael says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 7:41 am (#)

    While the interview with the Danish Pedestrian Union is not at all satire – it's a sober interview with the head of the union, you could also consider this piece from Denmark Promotes Walking Helmets

  10. Jonathan Eyre says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 7:56 am (#)

    I think the safest thing to do would be to have someone walking in front of cars with a red flag and ban gears on bikes.

    Nice and gentle traffic…..ahhhhhhh

  11. Ann Warren says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 10:09 am (#)

    I read that someone's research showed that motorists give helmetted cyclists 10cm less room when passing. I can't remember whose research it was, but it confirms my own observations.

    Cycling is not intrinsically dangerous. Agatha Christie did not kill off her victims by making them fall off a bike – she did it by having them poisoned or pushed down stairs. Stairs are clearly intrinsically dangerous. Shouldn't there be a basket full of helmets of every size at the foot and summit of every staircase?

    Motor traffic is certainly dangerous. It kills pedestrians, cyclists, dogs, cats, motorists and all sorts of other wild animals.

    I disagree that it is possible to change human behaviour and persuade everyone drive or ride safely simply because they ought to obey the law. If you build roads for fast cars they will fill up with fast cars. We need more motor-free routes everywhere.


  12. K M says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 10:28 am (#)

    Are helmets not mainly useful for the bumps when falling off a bike as it is harder to find your feet? e.g. if there is a gust of wind / hit a curb, there is a bike in the way to get tangled in so you are less likely to catch yourself when falling and therefore more likely to bump your head. If a pedestrian falls, they are more likely to be able to cusion their fall. So I think helmets are useful for only this occasion for cyclists….to make roads safter – that is, as many have said, an issue of designing better, cycle and pedestrian friendly roads.

  13. AndresC says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 1:09 pm (#)

    Love the idea of the shower helmet.
    The issue boils down to risk. It is true that statistical studies have shown that car drivers give helmetted cyclists less clearance than non helmets.
    I know that I am old enough to choose freely – just as those motorists are old enough to choose how fast they drive and how close to other road users. They are also free to use their telephones [hand-free is a bogus argument as it is the level of concentration on the road, NOT the holding of a phone that impairs drivers' reactions] and blindly look at their Sat-Nav screen, rather than drive carefully.
    If you expect me to wear some hideous polyester fluorescent clothing and a helmet while I cycle, I expect drivers to drive at 10 miles per hour and pay attention to the road. It is a simple pay-off.
    As Humpty said above – the whole shebang is designed for morons in big cars with small ****s to do as they please and sod everyone else.
    Passive smoking ? What about passive exhaust inhalation ?
    Let's have some rights for cyclists.
    Pedestrians in helmets? Dear god, are you really serious??
    Maybe we should all just get into our beds and never get up again………..

  14. Steve says:

    October 26th, 2009 at 8:56 pm (#)

    In the UK, 6 times as many pedestrians suffer head injuries in road accidents compared to cyclists, which is understandable when youy consider more people walk than cycle.
    However, when you consider the fact that pedestrians spend only a tiny fraction of their time actually on/crossing the road compared to cyclists, the level of risk to a pedestrian on the road must be substantially more than a cyclist.
    Maybe it should be law that pedestrians wear helmets, given the high level of risk, OR, better still lets make the roads safe (slow down vehicle speeds) so that the accidents don't happen in the first place, after all a non-helmet wearing cyclist/pedestrian who does not have an accident is far safer than a helmet wearing cyclist/pedestrian who has an accident.
    PS, motorcyclists in the UK sufer 50% more head injuries than cyclists, despite the fact that there are far fewer motorcyclists than cyclists, the helmets they wear are of a substantially higher standard than cyclists, and helmets are mandatory – i.e. it hasn't helped motorcyclists.

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