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Possible that laws discourage those cyclists with the lowest accident risk

A new study from Norway suggests that mandatory helmet laws actually discourage the safest cyclists in society from taking to the roads.

The study aimed to find out why, despite helmet laws being introduced in countries like New Zealand and Australia, "no studies have found good evidence of an injury reducing effect".

The report by Aslak Fyhri, Torkel Bjørnskau and Agathe Backer-Grøndahl looks at responses from random sample of 1504 bicycle owners in Norway to questions about their cycling style, helmet use and accident involvement.

According to the abstract: "The results show that the cyclist population in Norway can be divided into two sub-populations: one speed-happy group that cycle fast and have lots of cycle equipment including helmets, and one traditional kind of cyclist without much equipment, cycling slowly.

"With all the limitations that have to be placed on a cross sectional study such as this, the results indicate that at least part of the reason why helmet laws do not appear to be beneficial is that they disproportionately discourage the safest cyclists."

So in plain English, speed-freak, accident-prone cyclists were quite likely to be already wearing a helmet BEFORE laws were brought in. As such, they are still having the same number of accidents that they had before, and the only real net result of helmet laws is fewer of the risk-averse cylists taking to the road at all.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.