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Helmet or no helmet when biking?

January 2016


We were at the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) this morning to help defend our proposal for a bike sharing system. UP Bike Share is an initiative coming out of a group of students from various programs in their respective colleges at the University of the Philippines Diliman.

One question that was raised among the technical panel to whom the proposal was presented for evaluation was concerning safety of people participating in the bike share. One panelist asked if cyclists were required to wear helmets. We replied that those participating in the bike share were not required to wear helmets and that despite helmets being available few, if any, borrowed the available helmets. I mentioned that there was an article I came upon before that stated the requiring people to wear helmets discourage biking. It seems a coincidence that as I browsed my Facebook just now, I found a link to that very same article I mentioned in a meeting earlier today:

To encourage biking, cities lose the helmets [by Elisabeth Rosenthal from The New York Times, Sunday Review, September 29, 2012]

The article makes a lot of sense especially the observation that requiring helmets seem to send the message that it is dangerous to bike. People associating danger with biking with helmets tend to opt out of biking. I recall that in Japan before, I didn’t have a problem biking in urban areas and helmets were not required. Of course, drivers of vehicles in are very admirable by the way they drive safely and respecting other road users’ right to the road. Instead of having a campaign to require helmets for bikers perhaps efforts should be focused on how to make our roads safer for all users including bikers and pedestrians.


  1. Tom Brown says:

    Great article. I was always open to this discussion but after seeing first hand a helmet saving my little brothers life my opinion quickly changed. The car pulled out at point blank range so was unavoidable but…… I can see the argument for urban commuters however why wouldn’t you wear a helmet? You don’t get in a car expecting to have a crash but you still but you still belt up.

    • d0ctrine says:

      I guess its best to be on the safe side so urban commuters should wear helmets. That’s certainly a necessity for bikers in many Asian cities where motorization is still on the upswing.

  2. CJS says:

    I’m not that familiar with the system but if they are already sharing bikes, why not also share helmets? But of course, you can’t deny the effect of giving requirements. I think people get discouraged because it is imposing. So to circumvent the problem, rather than make it a requirement, why not make it into some sort of awareness campaign? That usually gets positive attention from people. Compare imposing vs encouraging? Just my two cents.

    • d0ctrine says:

      The bike share is in a university with not so much motor traffic so I guess people felt it safe enough to go without helmets. The people behind the bike share do orient subscribers about safety including helmet use.

      • CJS says:

        I see… But for something that I just thought about, why not something between imposing and encouraging? Maybe, sure, you could make it that helmets are not required. However, not wearing one will mean that they will take personal responsibility for any injuries that may result by not doing so. Make it so that they will be liable for their own mistake. You are technically not imposing as you don’t require it. But you are somewhat encouraging it. So somewhat halfway? lol

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