Earlier this month Jersey introduced a law requiring children less than 14 years old to wear helmets while cycling.
Before the vote, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory produced a report for Jersey to help inform the policy decision and "provide an independent evidence review to the States Greffe Environment Scrutiny Panel."
TRL reviewed literature relating to the proposed legislation and assessed its likely effects on cyclist injuries and cycling activity.
TRL concluded that legislation requiring the wearing of cycle helmets in Jersey will prevent head and brain injuries, especially in the most common collisions that do not involve motor vehicles, such as falls or tumbles over the handlebars. The report did not consider whether compulsory helmets for pedestrians and the occupants of motor vehicles would also provide safety benefits.
The TRL report found that cycle helmet legislation leads to reductions in cyclist injuries in all ages of cyclists, although helmets are particularly effective for children.
Richard Cuerden, Technical Director for Vehicle Safety at TRL and an author of the report said:
“There is no doubt that cycle helmets are effective in a crash, although some anti-helmet advocates still argue the opposite. The other debates surrounding cycle helmets and arguments frequently made against them include, they put people off cycling and this results in a net health disbenefit; and some even argue that helmet wearing increases the risk of an accident. These are extremely serious claims and the literature surrounding these issues was considered very carefully.”
TRL reported that current evidence does not offer support for the assertion that cycle helmet legislation leads to large reductions in cycling participation that outweigh any potential injury reduction benefits through a corresponding reduction in health benefits. If reductions in cycling activity are observed they are likely to be small and short term.
“Firstly, it is not true to state that the accident rate has been proven to be higher for helmet wearers per km of travel – this is simply not an accepted fact.
“The very large reductions in cycling activity cited by opponents of cycle helmet legislation are based on early analyses of observations of cycling rates in Australia in the 1990s, which subsequently have been shown to be statistically flawed. It is also important to remind ourselves that cycle helmet designs were very different in the early 1990s to those currently available, in terms of materials, ventilation, coverage, comfort and even styling.”
TRL says its report for Jersey "raises important questions for the rest of the UK – How can cycle helmet wearing rates be increased to help reduce head and brain injuries suffered across all regions of the British Isles? Should the Jersey compulsory cycle helmet wearing legislation be copied elsewhere? If so, for what ages of cyclists?"
“Cycle helmets are effective, but it is equally important to actively identify and improve other casualty reduction measures too, including road design – especially at junctions, cyclist conspicuity, cyclist and other road users training and behaviour, enforcement, the crashworthiness of other vehicles and new accident avoidance technologies. I believe it is clear that cycle helmets are an integral part of a safe system approach, which in my opinion should seek to promote and increase the rate of cycling whilst setting stretching casualty reduction targets, ultimately striving towards zero deaths and serious injuries.”
Cuerden's report also said:
"Jersey authorities should continue to promote improvements to cycle safety in other ways if they wish to encourage more cycling; for example the enforcement of vehicle speeds..."
Jersey – a British Crown dependency and not part of the UK as claimed by TRL – has not put in place any such measures.