Fear of 'helmet hair' puts women off cycling

Fear of 'helmet hair' puts women off cycling

by Tony Farrelly   September 19, 2008  

Helmet hair!

According to a new poll by YouGov 27 per cent of women aged between 18 and 34 were put of cycling to work because they were concerned that their hairstyles would be runed by wearing a cycle helmet – resulting in 'helmet hair', 19 per cent did not want their work colleagues to see them without make up.

The research commissioned by Cycling England also found that 58 per cent of 18 to 34 year old women also said they would not cycle to work because they did not want to arrive sweaty while 38 per cent did not want to carry a change of clothes, and 38 per cent of said they would not cycle because there was nowhere to shower at work. 50% of 18-34 year olds said they would also be worried about getting wet in the rain

Although concerns about appearance are most prevalent in the 18-34 age group, they are replicated across women of all ages. Safety concerns are also a factor: 53% of women say that safety is an issue and 42% say they lack the confidence and skills to cycle on the road. When asked what would make them feel more reassured about cycling on the roads, a quarter (26%) would consider cycling if there were shower facilities to freshen up at work and 16% would be more likely to cycle if they had received proper cycle training to equip them with skills and confidence.

The poll found that women were three time more likely to cycle indoors on an exercise bike, than cycle to work (14 per cent versus 4 per cent), this seems to echo the government's own figures which suggest that men are three times more likely to ride a bike than women. Cycling England say the poll's findings suggests that the perceived effect of cycling on appearance, together with a lack of confidence in cycling on the road, is behind this gender imbalance.

Two thirds of all women never cycle and just two per cent ride a bike every day, according to the poll. Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, said: "It's very worrying that we have such a gender imbalance when it comes to cycling in this country. "This research highlights some of the perceived barriers that prevent more women cycling, such as showers in the workplace. "Women, and in particular mothers, have a key role to play in encouraging greater take up of cycling in general - so it's vital we get more women on their bikes."

The YouGov study found that 53 per cent of all women were concerned about safety on a bike, while 42 per cent said they lacked the confidence and necessary skill to cycle on the road.

When it comes to female cycling, the UK is behind mainland Europe where male and female cycling rates are broadly equal. A number of initiatives are now in place to inspire and encourage more women and girls to take up cycling. Exeter-based Emma Osborne, a Sustrans Bike It Officer, has run a successful project called Beauty and the Bike to show teenage girls that cycling has a key role to play in looking and feeling good.

Emma Osborne said: "Cycling from A to B doesn’t have to mean you arrive dishevelled at your destination. In fact cycling is one of the best things you can do to promote health and wellbeing. Cycling doesn’t have to be a race – you can take it at your own pace without having to work up a sweat or don Lycra cycling wear. A total of 1,099 women were interviewed for the YouGov poll

8 user comments

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Thinking

D's picture

posted by D [2 posts]
10th January 2009 - 20:19

1 Like

I am a non-believer in the whole helmet thing, I ride hundreds of miles a week, and never wear a helmet.

For some reason it has become a given that if you're not a mental case, you must wear a cycle helmet when riding a bike in this country (and even worse in the US). If you go to, say, Munich or Amsterdam, people are riding bikes as a normal means of transport to and from work, the shops, the bars and restaurants. They are dressed in normal clothes and rarely have helmets, yet they are not nominated for the fabled Darwin awards (my pet peeve that is quoted at us non-helmet wearers).

I firmly believe that cycling should be promoted as a safe and stylish means of transport for all (I spotted some very chic cyclists in Munich). The insistence that a helmet must be worn to ride a bike gives a message that it is inherently unsafe, whereas it's safer than being a pedestrian or doing DIY in your own house, neither of which seem to muster such a desire in the general population to wear protective clothing.

In the end, the more people ride bikes of whatever type and for whatever reason, the safer we will all be as cyclists. I'd love to see droves of people on Pashleys, riding to work and the shops, etc.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [649 posts]
10th January 2009 - 23:19

3 Likes

Have you said anything controversial? I'can't see anything to get hot under the collar about, makes perfect sense to me… but then I am a hamster
Nerd Nerd Nerd

Spinning on a wheel

Hammy's picture

posted by Hammy [97 posts]
11th January 2009 - 18:22

3 Likes

But your right Hammy, and it doesn't seem controversial to me. But saying you don't wear a helmet on many cycling forums, and US ones in particular seems to get an amazingly emotional reaction.

Often the pro helmet lobby seem to feel that non helmet wearers are risking the life of their children by setting this awful example, and of course we will certainly die a hideous death for our stupidity. This can be proved by the amazing amount of people who either themselves or a friend were saved from certain death by the polystyrene of their helmet.

Still helmet manufacturers do well out of it, £100 for some packing foam and 0.5mm of plastic shell, money for old rope as far as I'm concerned.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [649 posts]
11th January 2009 - 21:08

2 Likes

I'm with you two.

I don't normally wear a helmet except where I think there is a possibility of me falling off, (that's all they are designed to protect you from anyway, and low speed falls at that) So I wear one mountain biking where there's a greatly increased risk of falling off - well there is the way I do it anyway.. And I wear one if I'm riding in a groups because, again, there's a greater risk of falling off. The only other time I wear one is if I think weather or the condition of the roads I might be riding over will increase my chances of a spill – so the ice we've had over the past few days mean't I wore it - once.
I'm under no illusions as to the level of protection it might give me in a collision with a car - none so I hardly ever wear one on my daily commute.

Oh, and they play havoc with your hairstyle.

Bottom line is cycling is just not as dangerous as it looks.

On a bike somewhere…

thebikeboy's picture

posted by thebikeboy [138 posts]
11th January 2009 - 21:36

2 Likes

Not because i think cycling is inherently dangerous, or that i'm immune from danger if i wear one, but for these reasons:

1) it *is* a good example to my children, who cycle slowly and fall off a lot onto the ground: exactly what a cycle helmet is primarily designed to mitigate.

2) i dunno, it just seems that since bike helmets exist, and are comfortable to wear and light and don't look like pudding basins any more, and are competently designed and thoroughly tested, if i do fall off and bash my head it's likely to do more good than harm to be wearing one.

i buy cheap to mid-priced helmets (£30 for the last one) and they last me four years on average. 62p a month? it doesn't have to very much improve my chances in a fall to justify that kind of expenditure. so far the helmet people are up on the deal. but then, so are my car insurance people. and my buildings and contents people. and my health people. but not my washing machine people Smile

i don't have much hair, so that's not really an issue for me. and i don't think of wearing one as a 'stance', any more than i would if i chose not to.

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [303 posts]
12th January 2009 - 11:18

1 Like

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet

not, i'd wager, written by the pro-helmet lobby Smile

purplecup's picture

posted by purplecup [232 posts]
13th January 2009 - 9:43

1 Like

Read like a model of scientific rigour and objectivity to me.
Nerd Smile Smile

Did wonder how old some of it was, do all Specialized helmets still reach the SNELL standard?

Denzil Dexter's picture

posted by Denzil Dexter [140 posts]
13th January 2009 - 16:03

1 Like