Environmentally-unfriendly it may be, but a thin polystyrene shell has at least one advantage over papier mâché when it comes to the fabrication of headgear for cyclists – it won’t turn into a pulpy mass when exposed to rain or sweat. Other than that it is equally useless, and for this and numerous other reasons we should consider banning cycle helmets from Britain’s roads.
Cycle helmets offer no impact protection in collisions at speeds in excess of 15 kilometres per hour, which is equivalent to a fall onto a hard surface from a stationary position. They can even increase the risk of brain damage in accidents that lead to a sharp twisting of the skull. As for psychological effects, helmets may also significantly increase the danger to cyclists by giving them a false sense of security.
And to cap it all, there is strong anecdotal evidence that cycle helmets interfere with the cognitive function of celebrity cycling champions when called upon to give media interviews following races and the aftermath of terrible tragedies about which we so far have very little information.
It may be difficult to hear anything above the din of online anti-cycling chatter today following the death of a cyclist near the Olympic stadium, and I imagine that much of the hot air emanates from sports fans who only yesterday were cheering on Wiggo the Wonderful. But if you listen carefully, you may just hear the sound of six million Danes and 17 million Dutch laughing at their cousins across the North Sea. Cruel, I know, but we only have ourselves to blame.