Volvo introduces helmet to protect against Volvos

Volvo XC90 Ocean Race

In News & Events on the Dutch Volvo website:

Bij Volvo staat veiligheid voorop. Niet alleen van de mensen in een Volvo, maar ook van iedereen eromheen. Daarom introduceren we nu de POCito: de Volvo onder de kinderfietshelmen.

Translation: At Volvo safety comes first. Not only for the people in a Volvo, but also of everyone around it. Therefore we now introduce the POCito: the Volvo amongst the children’s bike helmets.

Am I being simplistic in seeing this as essentially the same as Smith & Wesson introducing and promoting children’s bulletproof vests to protect them from the guns they make?

Volvo continues in their press release to explain that each year in the Netherlands 35 children under 12 die “in traffic”. They don’t qualify whether this gruesome statistic has anything to do with bicycles, but actually that’s fairly irrelevant: Deaths and serious injuries amongst children while cycling are almost entirely inflicted by automobiles. As Mikael Colville Andersen frequently comments: They’re conveniently “ignoring the bull in the china shop.”

Later in the same press release Volvo explains their promotion of mandatory helmet laws in the Netherlands. From a business perspective it’s the obvious choice. The Dutch city planners widely recognize the danger that automobiles present to other street users and have been working hard for decades to minimize it. The primary safety tactics include excluding and slowing automobiles, and separating autos from bicyclists and other road users. This has very successfully led to both the safest roads in the world and the highest cycling rates. Promoting or enforcing helmet use, on the other hand, has shown to reduce cycling rates while safety gains are debatable at best.

Though we should always strive for improvement cycling is already mighty safe here in the Netherlands. Let’s just briefly look at Amsterdam, the capitol city in rough numbers:

  • Amsterdam counts 750,000 inhabitants.
  • The average person, all ages considered, cycles year-round approximately 2.5km per day.
  • In an average year there are six cycling related deaths in the entire city of Amsterdam.
  • Thus…

  • Amsterdammers cycle 684,375,000 kilometers per year.
  • There is one death per 114,062,500 km cycled.
  • The average Amsterdammer cycles 900km per year but not everybody cycles; Let’s assume that an adult daily cyclist averages twice the average distance: 1800km/year.
  • This daily cyclist will, on average, die from a cycling-related incident once per 63,368 years.
  • As noted in an earlier post

  • You’re more likely to die of murder in the US than by cycling in the Netherlands.
  • You’re more likely to die by drowning in the Netherlands than by cycling.
  • Heck, we can even go further and note that universal helmet use would indeed probably prevent death in a couple of those six yearly incidents, but certainly not all of them. And then there’s that other pesky problem: It’s been demonstrated that helmet laws and promotion decrease cycling rates and reduced numbers of cyclists increase the danger of cycling. So aside from deflecting some blame what does Volvo expect to accomplish through widespread helmet use?

    Cartoon by Wulff Morgenthaler via Copenhagenize.

    My excuses for the lack of precise numbers and supporting statistics; There’s an impatient toddler tugging on me and it’s time to head to the office. But I can assure you I didn’t pull the above facts out of a hat or sleeve. If you want to investigate further there are plenty of numbers to be found elsewhere in this blog and far more on David Hembrow’s excellent blog.

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    78 Responses to “Volvo introduces helmet to protect against Volvos”

    1. Erik Sandblom Says:

      Well said Henry! Cycling among school children in Sweden has been halved since 1988, when they started helmet promotion. Eerily, I seem to be the only one in Sweden talking about it! Mikael has written about it here:
      Copenhagenize: Fewer Swedish Kids Cycling

      Here’s something about it in Swedish:
      Allt färre barn cyklar eller går till skolan –

    2. Brent Says:

      Are there statistics showing cycling deaths from head injury crashes not involving cars?

    3. Marion Says:

      The Fietsersbond (Cyclists Union) has written a few statements about the helmet (they are firmly against them). They say, among other things:

      \Het grootste aandeel hoofdletsel onder fietsers valt niet bij kinderen, maar bij pubers en jong-volwassenen (15-19 jaar en 20-24 jaar). Dit betreft voor een (onbekend) deel letsel dat veroorzaakt is door sport op de fiets (mountainbike) en niet in het verkeer.
      Bij kinderen met hoofdletsel als ‘fietser’, gaat het voor een aanzienlijk deel om kinderen die uit kinderzitjes vallen (met name bij in/uitparkeren fiets)
      Veruit de meeste doden en zwaargewonden onder fietsers worden veroorzaakt door aanrijdingen met auto’s. Het dragen van een helm beschermt hiertegen nauwelijks.\

      Translation: \The largest group headinjuries (among cyclists) are not children but teenagers/young-adults (15-19 and 20-24) and exists for a part of sportinjuries (mountainbiking) and not from traffic accidents.
      What children are concerned, a large percentage of their injuries are not gotten as ‘cyclists’ but as they fall out of child seats on bikes (when the bicycle is parked/taken out of cyclingstand)
      Cyclists deaths and injuries are for the most part due to traffic accidents with cars and helmets do not or hardly protect against these.\

      So, the message seems to be: stay separate from cars and be careful that your excitable toddler does not fall out of his bike seat when you’re parking your bike.

      As for mountainbiking… I wonder how many American teenagers get hurt/injured/killed because of rollerskating and skateboarding…

    4. henry Says:

      Thanks for filling in those missing details. My anecdotal experience at our bike shops is the same. We frequently hear of kids falling from parked bikes while parents are busy loading up the family and groceries. This is one of the primary motivations for purchasing a bakfiets.

      Concerning your open mountain biking, skateboarding etc question: I’ve read a few times that the accident and injury rates are very high in places where cycling is primarily a sport, but most incidents are basically self-inflicted and don’t involve motor vehicles. The mixing of cycling as a sport and cycling as a means of transportation makes the comparison of cycling safety statistics across countries very difficult… at least if the Netherlands or Denmark are concerned, and they usually are.

    5. Dave Says:

      Even if you look at a city like Portland, OR – we usually have less than 5 cycling fatalities in traffic per year. Granted, we have much fewer trips by bicycle than in Amsterdam, but I would venture that the average distances traveled are probably greater (due to our city being much more spread out). I think you could say that every single one of the bicycle fatalities in traffic in Portland involves a collision with a car. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone dying in a non-sporting situation who wasn’t hit by a car.

      This all highlights two things.

      1.) Even in a city like Portland, cycling is not objectively dangerous.
      2.) Helmets are a marginal safety measure. Preventing high-speed (above 10mph/15kph) collisions with automobiles is the way you are really going to save lives.

      In a sense, it’s kind of nice of Volvo to do this, as it makes it just that much more obvious what the real motivation for helmet promotion/legislation often is.

    6. Marion Says:

      Re the difference between cycling as a sport and cycling as day to day transportation, this is exactly why those helmets seem so silly to me. They’ve been developed originally for cycle racers. Since those cyclist a) go faster, b) lean over their handlbars (different point of gravity), c) have their feet clipped to their peddles and d) often cycle very close together, it would make sense to wear a helmet. Because if somebody clips you, chances are you will fly arse over tit and take half the peloton with you. You might even fall on your head. Helmets were made to slightly reduce
      Ordinary people on ordinary bikes do not fall on their heads. You fall on your hip, you might graze your elbow or hand, but your head will not come even near the ground! (and please, let nobody tell me that I *might* hit the curb or some mysterious piece of street furniture. That is such a billion to one chance, the chance of being hit by lightening is far greater, and no way am I going to go through life wearing some tinfoil lightning conductor or my head, just ‘to be certain’.)

      Now, lets take that racing = helmet/ transportation = no helmet to cars.

      Nascar racers, what do they wear? Flameretardant suit and… *dum dum dum* A Helmet!! But do ordinary people, who use their car to get groceries or commute to their work suit up in a flameretardant suit and helmet? No, of course not. While the chances of getting killed in a car-to-car accident if far greater (here in the Netherlands at least) than in a bike-to-car accident.

      So why doesn’t Volvo try to sell helmets to their own drivers? Eh?

    7. Dave Says:

      @Marion: thank you. it’s good to know there are people somewhere in the world who can still think rationally about this subject.

    8. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Dave Van Portlandize – Thanks for defining everything above 10/15 as “high speed”. I hope that DOT notices.

      Everyone, I have a few more thoughts and links related to this on my Blog…

    9. Dave Says:

      😀 I figure that’s about the point where, if you go faster, the risk of serious injury to someone you hit climbs significantly, so really that is probably what should be considered “high speed.”

      I wish more people thought that way.

    10. Luc Says:

      My 7 year old daughter and I were riding my bicycle here on 7th ave in Manhattan. We were cruising happily at some speed in low traffic by a sunny evening. We were both wearing our helmets as we always do. She was sitting on a small seat on the top tube fo the frame as usual. Suddenly, without warning or apparent reason the fork collapsed blocking the front wheel and throwing both of us over the handlebar onto the roadbed. No collision, no bump no pot hole. Nothing but, (I guess) a faulty fork, or perhaps my daughter’s foot got caught into the spokes, but I can’t imagine how this could have happened without her foot being broken or even significantly bruised.
      Anyway she lost her two recently grown top incisive teeth and I had a few scratches and contusions. But we survived. I later checked the helmets. both were badly scratched and cracked at the front, evidence of a significant shock. I can only shiver imagining what that shock would have done to our skulls and brains.
      Drivers (taxis!) are pretty ruthless around here, but the only accident I had was not due to careless driving or road rage. It could have happened anywhere.

      Conclusion: cars are often putting us cyclists at risk, but bad falls happen even without collisions. I probably wouldn’t be writing this, and looking forward to hug my daughter in a couple hours had we not be wearing helmets that day.

    11. Erik Sandblom Says:

      Luc, glad you’re alright. Scary story. A government agency in Sweden actually did a test of bicycles, and broken forks were one of the problems. As I recall it was the cheap bikes that broke because they used low quality steel. There are so many more sensible things governments could do besides talk about helmets.

    12. Marion Says:


      No, it didn’t. See:

      A helmet is a fragile piece of equipment. On seeing a damaged one, it is easy to assume that a serious injury has been prevented. Cycle helmets split very readily, and often at forces much lower than those that would lead to serious head injury. Helmets work by absorbing impact energy through the crushing of an expanded polystyrene liner. Once compressed the liner stays compressed. It does not bounce back to its original form like reusable helmets for some other activities. If a helmet splits before the liner has partially or fully compressed – and this is often the case – then it has simply failed. It will not have provided the designed protection and may in fact have absorbed very little energy at all.

      If a helmet splits after fully compressing, it will have reduced initial forces to the head, but thereafter it will afford no further protection and any residual energy will be transmitted to the brain. Cycle helmets fail catastrophically, not gradually, so it is a mistake to believe that they provide useful, if reduced, protection at higher velocities. In high impact crashes, such as most that involve motor vehicles or fixed vertical objects like concrete barriers and lamp posts, the forces are so great that a helmet will compress and break in around 1/1000th of a second. The absorption of the initial forces during this very short period of time is unlikely to make a significant difference to the likelihood of serious injury or death.

    13. DrMekon Says:

      I once fell off (1 1/2 somersaults) at 35mph on my mtb. My helmet was crushed and I temporarily lost 6 months memory.

      I once fell off jumping down a 10 step set of stairs on my BMX. I wasn’t wearing a helmet, and my head it the concrete very hard. It was sore, but I was uninjured.

      Neither of these things tell anyone else anything about whether they should wear a helmet. I hope nobody uses their anecdotes to force me to change my behaviour when I can make an informed decision for myself.

    14. Norma Says:

      As far as childsafety on bicycles is concerned the number one injury among small childeren in the Netherlands (4400 a year according to this article )
      is a broken foot because the foot gets caught into the spokes.

      The Volvo intiative is like carrying water to the sea (as the Dutch expression goes) in the Netherlands. Our lawmakers and their kids have been cycling without helmet their entire lives. I doubt they will ever make helmet use mandatory.

      Also, search for ‘fiets vallen’ or ‘val van de fiets’ on youtube. You’ll find lots of clips of Dutch kids falling of their bikes for fun. Like these:

      They’re completely confident they’re not going to hurt their heads.

    15. Marion Says:

      Well said, DrMekon!

      It’s just the illogic of these ‘arguments’ that make my blood boil… You might as well strap a basket of eggs to your head… Hey, that’s a thought! We could market it with the same agressive guilttripping as they do with bicyclehelmets. “Your child’s head is as fragile as an egg”, we would tell the customers, “Protect your children! Aren’t they the most important thing in your life? And what about you? Don’t you love your brain? You are a *criminal* unless you carry eggs on your head!”
      So you’ve convinced them to wear elaborate hoodies filled with eggs where ever they go. All brightly coloured, of course. Wouldn’t do to look silly, would it. Then, whenever the egg-wearing fool trips over a tile or something, and he sits there with raw egg streaming round his face, you will have another convert to Egg-safey, never mind that the force needed to break eggs hardly scratches your skin, let alone breaks bones or concusses brains.

      Argh! Think, people! And consider this: those 35 bike deaths a year in Amsterdam are *nothing* compared to the total deaths from household accidents (falling of stairs, tripping over tiles, slipping on the kitchen mat) that Amsterdam sees in a year, or from choking on peanuts or the total deaths of cardrivers. Not to mention the deaths of *pedestrians*. (hm. Maybe pedestrians should wear eggs on their heads as well, to keep them safe. Yes, I have a chickenfarm. Why do you ask?) The 35 cycle deaths aren’t even specified. How many were drunk? (you could wear a helmet, get pissed and swerve over the road and get killed, or ride into a gracht and drown) How many were fractious children in bikeseats that squirmed just too much as mommy was parking her bike? (children die from fallling from their *stroller* – should *they* be wearing helmets?) How many were killed because of the ‘dead angle’ beside lorries (new Dutch law: lorries need to carry ctv cameras so they can see into the dead angle, but still, bicycles and lorries should’nt mix. No helmet could protect you from what is, essentially, an infrastructure problem)

      I could go on and on, and be really boring… (some might say that I already AM boring) so I will stop. I will just say one thing more: a bicycle helmet is not a magic feather. It will not protect you from all harm. You might *feel* safe with it, but its a false subjective safety. It will not protect you against a car. *It was never designed to do so*.

    16. Erik Sandblom Says:

      Marion, Henry writes “six cycling related deaths in the entire city of Amsterdam.” Not 36! And cycling deaths are often car-related.

      Apart from that point taken. Here’s another anecdote (scroll down):

      Did this helmet save my life? Or is it just a fragile piece of junk?

    17. Marion Says:


      Oops, sorry, I confused the national number (according to the Fietsenbond) with the Amsterdam figure.

    18. Todd Edelman Says:

      Guys and gals, I think it is important to consider, first of all, how yesterday’s election in one of the world’s most cycle-friendly nations will affect the cycling sector.

      Second, regarding this helmet stuff, it is good to not let emotion rule us, nor speak in absolutes.

      Luc: It goes without saying that I am glad your daughter and you did not get too badly injured. I am nearly positive that we all think that there are situations where helmets can help.

      But, to be frank, I am curious about how you feel about giving a technical evaluation about your helmets when you apparently still don’t understand what happened with your fork.

    19. ten Says:

      I’m just going to add my +1 to the need to re-define ‘high speed’ – piloting a tonne of metal at anything above 20 or so kmh seems pretty high considering the damage it could do to anyone it hits.

      Riding my bicycle the other day a woman was following me (in her car) while eating a sandwich….

    20. Norma Says:

      Dutch royals cycling without helmet during a public event to promote cycling in a country where helmet use is mandatory (Canada).

      Go royals! :-)

    21. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Norma: Great link, but whilst these royals may be defying a belief held in other parts of the country, they were not breaking any laws. Alberta only requires helmets for cyclists under 18 and also it is my understanding that any such laws would be decided on a provincial basis (U.S. states decide the same or similar issues, and in fact I think the helmet laws in Australia are state-by-state).

      But the good news is that many provincial Canadian lawmakers seem to “get it” about how helmet laws are counter-productive. See

    22. Andy in Germany Says:

      A few months ago an aquaintance fell on his bike and landed in a coma. Everyone who told us about it made sure I heard he WAS wearing a helmet. Then I had this conversation with a friend:

      Friend: Why don’t you wear a helmet?
      Me: I’m not convinced they really make any difference, and I want people to see cycling is safe.
      Friend: But what about XXXX? He’s in a coma now. So you should wear a helmet.
      Me: Er… he was wearing a helmet.
      Friend: Yes, but look how much worse it could have been if he wasn’t.
      Me: Er…

      This from a very smart engineering student. Big Hemet have really done well.

    23. Frits B Says:

      @Todd: “Guys and gals, I think it is important to consider, first of all, how yesterday’s election in one of the world’s most cycle-friendly nations will affect the cycling sector”. It’s a mystery to me how a change of government (and believe me, it won’t be much different from the former) could affect the cycling sector. Please explain …

    24. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Frits B: Sorry, I meant COULD affect the cycling sector. Some thoughts:
      + Huge increase of support for PVV – even if they are not in government – could decrease support for things like cycle-assimilation for immigrants.
      + Conversely, IF immigrants are kicked out – and I do not support Wilders’s ideas about this – will any Dutch cycling habits be exported?
      + OR in fact will the election mean that there is more support for these programmes, since PVV is rather pro-assimilation in a way.
      + General idea of right-liberals is to decrease role of government, so how will this change support?
      + Groen-Links moved up from 7 to 10 seats, and if they are in government will it balance out any of the above which transpires (I noted that cycling was not mentioned in their transport agenda on their website.)
      + If you have more info on how there could be affects, please enlighten us.

    25. Marion Says:

      According to a study of the Fietsberaad, non-native Dutch (immigrants) cycle very rarely because it does not have the same status in their culture as it has in Dutch culture.

    26. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Marion: Yes, I know. So let’s meet with Henry over some herring, frites and what not and work on that.

    27. Colin Clarke Says:

      Even helmet promotion can result in more harm than good.

      Health and safety assessment of state bicycle helmets laws in the USA

      There are more than 60 million children under 16 years of age in the USA and about half have been subjected to state bicycle helmet laws. Survey data, 1998 to 2007, shows cycling reduced by 29.9% for 7-11 year age group. This assessment focuses mainly on fatality and health data and estimates the outcome. The findings show that helmet laws can result in 120 times more harm than the intended good and helmet promotion 12 times more harm. States with helmet laws, compared to those without, did not show significant improvement. It is estimated that between 1020 – 2040 premature deaths per year will occur due to helmet laws.

    28. Frits B Says:

      – Cycle assimilation is not dependent on political views. Either immigrants take to the bike or they don’t. To North-Africans and people from the Antilles, in particular the young men, a bike is for poor people. But my newspaper is delivered by a Pakistani girl, on a bike. It may take a few generations to change this perception; girls are quicker in adjusting. They do better in school, too.
      – Immigrants will not be kicked out (if only because most of them already have a Dutch passport). What needs to be addressed are the admission criteria which should be more along the lines of the USA, Canada and Australia; this is what Wilders always points out. But if immigrants were to be deported to their countries of origin, what Dutch cycling habits would they take with them apart from ignoring all traffic rules? I don’t think the many Dutch migrants to Australia have remained avid cyclists. They assimilate :-).
      – Support for which programmes? Bike paths etc. are part of the normal roadbuilding programmes. Bike training for children is part of the educational programme. I don’t see what might change there. Business as usual.
      – A decreased role of government is just wishful thinking in this essentially socialist country. There may be small cuts in spending here and there, and some simplification in paperwork, but nothing significant. I live in Assen, a quiet town in the North much praised by David Hembrow, where the VVD is much in favour of cameras in the inner city whereas the entire political left is against. Totally against the grain.
      – GroenLinks are represented in local government only so far: Nijmegen (“Havana on the Maas”), Utrecht, Amsterdam. The party isn’t big enough to take part in state government, and I seem to remember that until now they usually preferred to stay in opposition. And bicycles are not in their programme; I doubt that you will find them in any other party programme. There is no need to promote them in this country. You have been here, you know what the streets are like. Bikes are as normal as walking shoes or raincoats.

    29. henry Says:

      Todd and Frits B,
      A bit of relevant anecdotal evidence: When I worked for (Dutch) Philips in the US for several years NONE of my hundreds of Dutch expat colleagues continued to cycle for transportation, and that was in the quite bike-friendly SF Bay Area (Palo Alto and Sunnyvale for those familiar). Most bought the biggest, coolest car they could (which they never could afford in Holland) and got fat driving around.

    30. Brent Says:


      Your observations confirm my experience with the handful of Dutch (and Danish) people I know here in Los Angeles — none of them rides at all. Your observations also reinforce the idea that Holland’s great treasure lies in its infrastructure. True, bicycles are part of the culture, like clogs and stroopwafels (“Bring my bicycle back!”), but it may be equally true that the Dutch ride because the alternatives aren’t that compelling, slower or more expensive or whatever. The great mystery for the rest of the world is how the Dutch made that happen.

      Last October, Hans Voerknecht, described as a “Dutch bicycle activist,” had this to say to an audience in Portland, Oregon:

      “One of the things is, if you would ask the Dutch public, ‘Would you rather pay less tax on your cars and pay less tax on your fuel,’ everybody would say ‘Oh yes!’ But the thing is we don’t ask them!

      “You shouldn’t ask all the time, ‘Do you want to spend money?’ Of course they say no. The thing is, if people are so narrow-minded, you need politicians… Democracy is not about doing the will of the people; it’s about choosing the best men and women out of the people who make the wisest decisions.”

      I have to say that this view of democracy sounds wrong to my American ear. It’s vaguely paternalistic and elitist. Still, it has its advantages, and perhaps the proof is in Dutch bicycle infrastructure. I don’t know whether Voerknecht’s idea reflects political opinion of the Dutch public at large, but the attitude could form at least part of the mystery of how the Dutch did it: the Dutch put more faith in their elected representatives than Americans, and those representatives took a kernel of culture and made large with it.

    31. Erik Sandblom Says:


      It might sound vaguely paternalistic and elitist, but I think Hans point is to stay on message and emphasise the goal you want to achieve. In Sweden, the centre-right government has lowered lots of taxes in the past four years, but the gasoline tax was increased slightly even though it’s at about 100% if you count carbon dioxide tax, energy tax and VAT/GST. When it comes down to public finances, cutting the gas tax is way down the list of priorities.

      Hans might also have been implying that once you have a high bicycle modal share, people will recognise it as a valuable thing worth being preserved.

      By the way, I think minimum car parking requirements should be abolished from local building codes. Builders and their customers can figure out for themselves how much car parking is needed (and worth it).

    32. Colin Clarke Says:

      NL has about 16 million population with a density of about 466 per sq km.
      The villagers , towns and cities are fairly well spread across the country. Building good cycling facilities with 466 people supporting each sq km on average and having many medium to small towns all adds up to cycling providing a useful means of travel, plus being flat in general terms.

      They also have low speed limits, low drink drive limits and generally try ot make it safe for cycling.

    33. Frits B Says:

      @Colin: “adds up to cycling providing a useful means of travel”. You forget to mention that laying a cycle path is cheap. If cyclists on a popular route were to use a conventional all-purpose road, extra lanes would be required also suitable for cars. Do your sums :-)

    34. Tad Salyards Says:

      This is a great article and conversation, but it largely consists of people preaching to the choir. My question is how do those of us living in “Anglo fear zones” sell these ideas to those already indoctrinated by the seductive and easy message of fear? I’ve tried reason and it doesn’t work. Must we match fire with fire and craft a message that also plays on emotions?

    35. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Tad: I dunno, I think a lot of people who think they are pro-choice on helmets need to be more honest about how much they actually promote them by example, or by not deconstructing the associated imagery.

      In an advert or campaign, there is nothing wrong with playing on emotions and long as it leads directly to well-presented information which is appropriate for that viewer.

    36. Colin Clarke Says:

      A few points people may understand,

      Helmet laws can discourage cycling and even helmet promtion.

      Dr Hillman from the UK calculated the life years gained by cycling outweigh life years lost in accidents by a factor of 20 to 1.

      The ECF (European Cycling Federation) stated “the evidence from Australia and New Zealand suggests that the wearing of helmets might even make cycling more dangerous,”

      On balance the case for helmets is not conclusive because several reports contain details which raise serious doubt whether helmet wearing improves safety overall., view below.

      Robinson DL; Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws; Accid Anal Prev, 28, 4: p 463-475, 1996
      Clarke CF, The Case against bicycle helmets and legislation, VeloCity Munich, 2007. .
      Curnow WJ, Bicycle Helmets: A Scientific Evaluation, Transportation Accident Analysis And Prevention,

      If a cyclist not wearing a helmet is injured due a motorist being at fault, the cyclist may be offered less compensation compared to a pedestrian or indeed a motor vehicle occupant who sustain head injuries. Discrimination in receiving fair compensation results from cycle helmet laws.

      Health , safety and fair compensation plus civil liberties are some of the reasons why people do not like helmet laws

    37. Kim Says:

      It is very worrying to find a car manufacture promoting cycle helmets. Volvo in particular have long been noted for promoting their car on the level of protection offered to the occupants of the car and the noted habit of the drivers endangering other road uses because they feel safe! This can only be seen as a clinical ploy from a major a motor manufacture to make money by frightening people go don’t buy their other products.

    38. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Kim: You are probably familiar with this but anyway

    39. Kim Says:

      Interestingly a Dutch study has just been published which shows that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks, cycling is something which should be encouraged not discouraged!!

    40. Colin Clarke Says:

      The Volvo web site shows details of their range of vehicles. It could be helpful to know the horizonal distance from the front of the vehicle to the centre of the steering wheel. At junctions, the shorter the front end the better for seeing motorcyclists, cyclists and all other road users.

      Volvo could help improve road safety by designing cars to be no more than 1.7m steering wheel to bumper. Accidents due to motorists not seeing others at junctions could relate vehicle specification to accident rate.

    41. Daniel Sparing Says:

      congrats on the article! well said, and shame on Volvo.

      I hope they manage to stay far from the country which has been so sane and far from the helmet hysteria issue.

    42. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Daniel, sadly, the Helmet Disease is spreading from the South:

      From that and other research it seems like they are being clever and focusing on promotion, rather than changing the law.

      At Velo-City in Global the Dutch delegation included the Province of Zeeland and they had this fear-mongering monster walking around promoting helmets

      I can assume that ECF was not happy about it… and to be fair, when – at a press conference – I asked Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK, NYC transport commissioner) and Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard (Copenhagen Vice-Mayor) about helmet promotion, the latter said he recognized that having too many requirements – I don’t think he was talking about regulations, per se – made cycling difficult. On the other hand JSK said she supported helmet promotion, and avoided my question regarding the well-known Australian Helmet Effect. I had asked her about the following slide which she showed during her plenary speech a few minutes before:

      Anyway, I have what I think is a good response to the “Zeemonster” and anyone in NL who wants to help should contact me off-list to see if it can be actualized.

    43. Daniel Sparing Says:

      @Todd yeah I have seen the Zeeland topic on the Fietsberaad site, not good news.

      although i was pleasantly surprised how rarely you had to get into a helmet (or vehicular cyclist, for that matter) debate in Copenhagen at the conference!

      Full disclosure: i had been pro-helmet once, too. but then i did my research. this second step is missing for so many people e.g. those comparing helmets to safety belts.

    44. Todd Edelman Says:

      @ Safety belts, shmafety belts:

    45. Colin Clarke Says:

      Wearing a bike helmet might not make you any safer

      Read more:

      article at
      Evaluating bicycle helmet use and legislation in Canada, 2009.…ssment.doc
      Health and safety assessment of state bicycle helmets laws in the USA

      A known connection between helmets and death is that helmets have strangled a few young children who were wearing helmets whilst playing but not when actually cycling. see for an incomplete list

    46. soraya Says:

      Speaking as an ordinary bicycle rider and speaking on behalf of many of our local customers (women in particular) here in San Francisco. Many who purchased our bicycles also purchased helmets but have since decided not to wear helmets here. They feel safer without the helmet. Here were some reasons: They ride with more caution and awareness without a helmet. They hear better. They feel the cars and buses are more careful riding around you when not wearing a helmet. They love the wind in their hair (probably irrelevant). Now there is no statistical value to this. Many of our customers just share their experiences on their bicycles and why their decision to not wear a helmet. I’m on the fence. I have ridden my bicycle for years without a helmet but when i feel the heat of the bus riding on my rear or the cars zooming around me with my son in the back i must admit that i do think of it more often. Still on the fence though. May be different if we had the infrastructure that Amsterdam has for bicycles.

    47. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Soraya: First of all your website is great. Nice and clear.

      I actually wish all of that which you mention – including feeling the wind in your hair or indeed on your hairless head – could have more concrete statistical value. In other words, I wish more researchers were looking for things like that. There has been a bit on how drivers behave around the helmeted vs. “natural-headed” :-) but to my knowledge not much about the rest. I mean for this to add to arguments for and against helmets for more technical reasons, but also including decisions to ride or not in relation to the Great Australian Helmet Law.

      I am pro-choice on helmets. For a good example of this I refer people to the following from C.I.C.L.E. in Los Angeles (my hometown). I hope it might also help your customers, no matter the length of their hair:

    48. Frits B Says:

      Slightly OT: Dutch journalist and TV presenter Mart Smeets comments on this year’s Tour de France (he has been doing so since the beginning of times) and at the end of each day sits with two guests in a picturesque place. Last week he had Roger De Vlaeminck and Servais Knaven. Servais is still active, Roger is in his sixties and had his prime time in the 1970s. Very successful but unfortunately having Eddy Merckx as a rival. Yet he said he had competed in some 1,500 races of which he had won 509. There was the inevitable footage which mostly showed Roger racing without a helmet. When asked Roger said that at the time helmets for racers were only compulsory in Holland and Belgium, many racers simply rode without them elsewhere. He didn’t like helmets: they were hot, didn’t fit well enough, limited his vision and freedom of movement. He also had a lot of hair – still has, but not as long. Mart said but what if you took a fall? Roger: in all those 1500 races I’ve fallen maybe ten times, and when not on my head. There was evidence in the footage: Roger being carried off by medics with a broken leg but his hair no more tousled than usual. Now he was an champion “veldrijder” (cyclocrosser?) so he knew how to stay on his bike; he explained that in case of a fall in front of him he usually jumped over the victim. The looks on Mart’s and Servais’ faces said it all.

    49. Daniel Sparing Says:

      @Frits B “he usually jumped over the victim” thats funny :)

      Of course competitive cycling is very different from cycling as a transport, just like car racing differs from driving. I try to go “home” to Hungary for mountain bike races when possible, and helmets and lyrca seem reasonable there, not to mention i don’t use my omafiets or folding bike… But we want a lot more people cycling in our cities than “cyclists” :)

    50. Daniel Sparing Says:

      @soraya well it is reasonable that bakfiets riders don’t feel like wearing helmets, I wonder how hard it must be to fall off a (front) cargo bike onto the head :)

      While I am also sometimes afraid of buses (like a bendy bus overtaking me from the right while I cannot use that bus lane, while “normal” traffic on the left – not Dutch example), unfortunately helmets will not do much against a bus. Of course you have to formulate this in a little bit more comforting way to your customers :)

      The Dutch would never mix buses with cycling traffic; but if you must do so, you might took for Paris for some reasonable examples (wide enough lanes, good markings, obviously some education for bus drivers). For the latter, an example: in Perth (Western Australia), the commuter train company gave bikes to several hundred of their train drivers — who not only became healthier and happier etc etc, but became more tolerant to cyclists in and around trains.

    51. Colin Clarke Says:

      Victoria Auatralia, survey data following their helmet law;
      297 extra wearing helmets and 1110 fewer cyclists

      New South Wales, survey data following their helmet law;
      569 extra wearing helmets and 2658 fewer cyclists

      Main effect was to discourage cycling.

      Robinson DL; Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws; Accid Anal Prev, 28, 4: p 463-475, 1996

    52. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Colin, that is all useful, but it is clear that the whole thing has evolved, as I mentioned in my response in this thread on 8 July at 18:14. It seems that no one – at least in NL – is going to push for changes in legislation. In relation to this discussion we can say they are not pushing for “external behavioural censorship”:

      All the promotion by Zeeland via Coolie or Volvo itself a little further north, or just even partly with imagery like the Danish Cycling Federation and even the City of NYC, Transportation Alternatives (“Learn to Love that Helmet Hair”), and last but not least, the Bike League… is encouraging and even coercing “self-behavourial censorship”.

    53. Anders Says:

      I am from Copenhagen and when I compare the words being used in our helmet promotion campaigns and the data we got, two words spring to my mind:
      “Tar” and “Feathers” Lucky Luke style. Stuff like this from Volvo confirms it.

      Some of the great hustlers of the past will be turning in their graves, as they see how easy it has become.

      I consider a hot girl on her bike a bigger risk and I love them! :)
      They, along with their kids, will be the first to be feared and fashioned into becoming cardrivers.

      More kids use a helmet today

      – Fewer kids use a bike today.

      Safety around schools etc. is down, pollution is up, as is weight.

      I have been to Amsterdam and I love your city and people. You guys seem alot more aware of the hustler than us.
      Yeah, I am going to blame the cannabis for that. :)

      Isn´t it more or less a failed userpayment scheme in many places. Promote, maybe enforce, crap – taxes go to crappy infrastructure?

    54. Daniel Sparing Says:

      @Todd Edelman (about this article )

      Re safety belts: I am reluctant to accept that safety belt promotion is just as bad as helmet promotion: there are two big differences:
      1) safety belts actually work (and there is scientific evidence)
      2) safety belts — unfortunately — didn’t discourage anyone from driving of traveling by car.

      Re government laws which affect only the person braking them: again, this is difficult.
      At first, if you cause a (car-to-car) accident and the other driver has a minor bruise or dies, it is not totally the same for you. (as safety belts work, although helmets don’t.)
      At second, I think that there are many behavioral changes which could lead to statistically significant societal benefits, but are not so direct on the individual level: like eating healthy etc. These globally positive behaviors (to which helmet wearing doesn’t belong, but maybe safety belts) could very well be promoted (if not enforced) by government.

    55. Todd Edelman Says:

      Remember, it’s all about marketing:

    56. Todd Edelman Says:

      ”We are very clear about the fact that our cars should not negatively affect other people at the moment of an accident. In addition, no unprotected road users should be seriously injured or killed.” –

      When I was 3 years old in 1969 my (then politically) liberal father bought a Volvo; in 1984 I crashed and totalled it. Nothing happened to me, and I do think for some time Volvo Cars was at least more honest than they are now about reducing road casualties from collisions (not emissions, and my father was also often telling me to make sure I put leaded gasoline in the car).

      More recently it has clearly become hubris. There are so many holes in their statement above, it is almost not worth discussing (please also see

      Unfortunately people are so addicted to automobiles that they will believe almost anything. One general issue is this \death proof\ myth ( which includes the bike helmet thing, and another is the energy issue exemplified by the electric car cult which is sucking more and more people in every day.

      So, what is an UNprotected road user? I guess a cyclist without a helmet, but also a pedestrian? Or are they talking about all road users somehow being \partners in road safety\, wearing not just helmets but military-grade GPS devices so that all the vehicles are tracking them? And so they can track all other vehicles? Will everyone walk around with heads-up displays (

      Please don’t get too irate, as this will present a near-future opportunity for an update of the game of \Chicken\, wherein pedestrians will jump in front of cars just to make them brake, or indeed vehicle drivers will aim at each other just to see whose computer brakes first. Yes even if both are driving about 70km/h on a two-lane rural road, for a combined speed of 140. Ja, right.

    57. Har Davids Says:

      I ride my bike in Rotterdam a lot and I don’t understand urbanites driving around in box-like cars like the Volvo. Volvo makes cars that are safe for their passengers, not for the ‘outsiders’, which seems to be a reason for some people to buy one, not really helping over-all road safety. You would have to wear a very big helmet to be protected from a collision with a Volvo, so this helmet is a cynical ploy. Do they really think people will buy their story about safety, when their cars are the danger we should be protected from?

    58. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Har: There are some differences in a collision between a cyclist or pedestrian vs., e.g. a small car with a sloping bonnet and something more boxy, but there is of course a much bigger danger from any vehicle going 50km/h vs. one going 30km/h. And of course vehicles can also go 0km/h, i.e. not be there at all!

      Oooh, I just got a great idea. Thanks for the inspiration.

    59. Daniel Sparing Says:

      @Todd be careful with this theory :), 0 km/h is rather the gridlock! Which might be safe but unpleasant and polluting.

      I might be too much a nerd but not be there at all is unknown speed… :)

    60. Daniel Sparing Says:

      David Hembrow has just done some great number crunching on the topic.

    61. Rebekah Says:

      lol. That cartoon is hilarious!

    62. Todd Edelman Says:

      If you’re on Facebook, please considering joining a related initiative.

    63. Todd Edelman Says:

      Don’t we want honest labeling on bicycle helmets?

    64. henry Says:

      Todd, I can’t say I’ve ever read the label on a helmet. What do they typically say?

      I just looked at my racing helmet. It says “Giro”. Seems honest enough since that’s the company that made it.

    65. Todd Edelman Says:

      Labeling as you describe is something mandated by the relevant consumer or safety authority. From years ago with a helmet bought in the USA I remember at least two labels on the inside: One said something about meeting SNELL standards and the other more general “This helmet does not protect against all foreseeable impacts”… and perhaps one more: “This helmet not intended for motor sport use”.

      I am at a loss as I don’t know if the labels have changed, but I doubt the main gist of them has, so let’s look at the 2nd and 3rd labels above:

      The first about foreseeable impacts is accurate but vague. The second is similar but more specific and tells people not to use them with mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and those small all-terrain vehicles (and this is illegal if not enforced in most places).

      Marketing and advertising – what people see before they buy a helmet or switch brands – might be more difficult to deal with, but still has to be truthful or at least not specifically misleading. One sees a label only after they buy a helmet.

      It seems to be quite justified to have more accurate labels inside the helmet indicating how and how not a helmet is tested, and also in the manual etc. which comes inside the helmet packaging. It might be good beforehand to determine not just if people know that helmets are not tested but also what they do or do not know. Clearly a new proposed regulation which mandates mentioning of the word “automobile” would get attacked. And excessive “lawyering” of this issue could lead to the definition of helmets as inadequate protection on shared roads under current conditions of e.g. too high speeds. Perhaps that would a good outcome, as we want safer roads to be primarily the responsibility of drivers at an individual level (rather than cyclists), and government bodies at a collective one (rather than the helmet industry, which cannot really protect cyclists as much as they imply.)

      In fact if they are more honest about helmets it could result – if you follow my logic above – in safer streets and a huge increase in cycling which means that smart companies will sell, for example, more locks! And perhaps fewer helmets. ABUS (just an example) is prepared for this, as they sell helmets AND locks.

      But really I would be pleased to just start a discussion and hopefully some research.

    66. Brent Says:

      My newer Giro helmet has more labels (they’ve added French) than the older one, and the language has changed a bit. They’ve also cut down on words. I can’t read the whole old label (it’s in bad shape), but the safety part says this: “This helmet is not for motor vehicle use. No helmet can protect the wearer against all foreseeable impacts.” The safety part on the newer label says this: “No helmet can prevent all injuries or death.” They both caution the user to read the manual.

      I’ve heard that U.S. DOT standards are more stringent than Snell or the U.S. CPSC standards, but I don’t know whether that’s true. My first helmet from the early 1980s was heavier and “beefier” than current ones. I read somewhere that they were safer, but I don’t know that that’s true either.

      I emailed Nutcase awhile back about where they sourced their web page’s safety stats. It turns out to be

      I haven’t done a full survey of all manufacturer’s websites, but the handful of sites I looked at usually promote “massive vents” and “airflow,” with almost no claim on protection. If I were in the helmet-making business, I’d probably do the same. Making any claims beyond meeting applicable standards is an invitation to a lawsuit.

    67. Colin Clarke Says:

      Helmet warnings should be provided

      The trading standards should include warnings at the point of sale and in advertisements or promotional material for helmets.

      1 There is evidence of increased accident risk of 14% per cycling-km for cyclists wearing a helmet. (Erke and Elvik 2007)

      2. Helmets are designed to protect the head from low impact injury at 12 mph or less. In fatal accidents the force of impact is considered to be so significant that generally most protection would fail.

      3 Accidental hanging to young children can occur while engaging in activities other than bicycle riding, helmets should be removed when not cycling.

      4 Neck injuries (usually low in number) may increase by an estimated 36%.
      (The 36% figure is from Attewell report CR 195)

      5 Helmets can easily break due to being made of low strength material.

      6 The case for helmets is far from sound and advice to wear them should be limited. Individual choice should prevail so that no one is discouraged from cycling.

      for more information see, Health and safety assessment of state bicycle helmet laws in the USA.

    68. josh Says:

      I have not read all of the previous comments so please excuse any obvious repetition or ignorance, but I have come to accept something that I cannot completely verbally describe regarding the act of wearing a helmet: The Brain and/or Spine has an innate ability to subconsciously react when life-death situations arise. The brain becomes accustomed to its own weight and size over time. When you put on a helmet, you add weight and size above the spine. Since most people who wear a helmet spend more time without one, the brain/spine is not acclimated to the additional weigh and size of its synthetic “head”. Therefore, a crash will almost always result in a blow to the helmet, leading to the inaccurate assumption that the helmet took a blow that the head otherwise would have taken.

    69. Todd Edelman Says:

      @Josh, you actually expressed that in a clear way, or at least it is good intro or teaser to this way of thinking. There is a lot more about it at and its related discussion group “cyclehelmets” on Yahoo! Groups.

    70. Todd Edelman Says:

      Now another Volvo dealer is giving out free bike lights to children and a spokesperson for the authority which tests cycling skills of kids is liking it:

    71. Frits B Says:

      Ha, Henk Scholten! Not the one half of the singing duo Teddy & Henk Scholten I suppose; he died in 1983 – no loss to humanity. Anyway, since every regular bicycle in Holland is required to have lights, and cyclists are supposed to use them which is an entirely different story, it might have been more convincing of this Volvo dealer to offer a free change to sensor lights that switch on automatically. Handing out cheap battery lights doesn’t do much good. Volvo cars have automatic lights, dammit, and run day lights, too. Why not follow their own company rules?

    72. Todd Edelman Says:

      Frits: I flew to Sweden to propose that all Volvos operate at slow speeds at night and the company used its private anti-aircraft… no, there is nothing convincing about this.

    73. Frits B Says:

      Todd: Flying to Sweden has no impact anymore. Their bosses are Chinese now :-).

    74. Todd Edelman Says:

      Marketing dept. is in Sweden.

      Anyway, this is boring. Hank, how about some new decals/stickers such as \Workcycles: Better for your head than a Volvo\?

    75. Erik Sandblom Says:

      Hi Henry et al, who are these people? It doesn’t seem to be the government but I hardly know any Dutch:
      Een helm helpt bij het voorkomen van hersenletsel door de kracht van de klap bij bijvoorbeeld een valpartij deels op te vangen.

      It upsets me that helmet propaganda seldom acknowledges that cycling is very healthy. Several studies show that cyclists live longer. That’s how healthy it is! They really are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    76. henry Says:

      The site only says:
      “We zijn een private stichting met bijna 30 jaar ervaring als Consument en Veiligheid.”
      (We’re a private non-profit met almost 30 years experience as Consumer and Safety”)

      “Het grootste deel van onze opdrachten komt van Nederlandse overheden en de Europese Commissie.”
      (Most of our tasks come from Dutch governments and the EU.)

      And below they add at the top of three bullet points:
      “Voor een fabrikant van helmen verzamelden we specifieke letselinformatie. Dat leidde tot een veiliger product.”
      (For a helmet manufacturer we gathered specific injury information. That led do a safer product.)

      So… If we follow the money it’s probably a reasonable assumption that their bike helmet promotion campaign is related to their working for a helmet company.

    77. Todd Edelman Says:

      SCOTLAND’S leading lobby group for cyclists “… wants helmet manufacturers to be forced to publicise both the benefits and the risks on packaging.” –

      I suggested this to Nutcase over a year ago and they did not respond directly – in fact soon afterwards they updated the b.s. part of their website with more b.s.

      So I wonder if there is any formal or legal problem with dealers adding information about this, either to boxes, or a display area..

    78. Todd Edelman Says:

      Norco Bicycles plans to “outfit every registered delegate [at Velo-city Global in Vancouver] with a new Lazer cycling helmet”…

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