Amsterdam photo of the day: no helmets


The bicycle traffic in Amsterdam is insane. We saw hundreds of people (at least) everyday on bikes. I saw one person — one — wearing a helmet, and that was a small girl, maybe six or seven, on her own bike. No one wears helmets, not even toddlers in baby seats on the back of their parents’ bikes. Do people just not have accidents, or is there an abnormally high number of cyclists suffering traumatic brain injuries in the city?

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Tue, Feb 11, 2014 1:32am

Most likely they learn at a young age how to ride safely and are a lot stricter about recklessness. Plus, they don’t have as many cars to dodge as in the U.S.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014 7:10am

Cycling is a big part of Dutch culture and the bicycle is the primary mode of transportation for many or even most inhabitants of Amsterdam (speaking from experience here). Dutch children around the country start learning to ride a bike at a very early age, around five or six, so they can ride to primary school themselves. Moreover, there are many Dutch traffic rules that favour cyclists over car drivers, which inspire caution, whereas in the USA the car driver appears to be the dominant species that displays the entitled behaviour you’d expect. Naturally, accidents involving cyclists do happen here, too. I don’t have any data readily available, but I did find

Bicycle helmet laws by country. (Incidentally: is it true that not all US states have helmet laws for motor cyclists? Now that’s just plain weird…)

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Jan_Willem
Tue, Feb 11, 2014 10:16am

Motor cyclists who don’t wear helmets make *excellent* organ donors.

reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Tue, Feb 11, 2014 3:07pm

Then there was the helmet-less motorcyclist who died at an anti-helmet protest…

Tue, Feb 11, 2014 11:28am

There is actually no good evidence that helmets make road cycling safer, with the possible exception of young children. Most cycling incidents that cause injury don’t involve head injury; the ones that do tend to be forceful enough (e.g. being run over by a lorry) that a light piece of plastic really doesn’t make a blind bit of difference.

At the same time, normalising the idea that cycling is a thing you should wear a helmet to do makes people less likely to cycle, because they perceive it as dangerous. After Australia brought in compulsory use of helmets, cycling dropped 25%, with consequent detrimental effects on people’s health. And yet the number and severity of injuries to cyclists stayed the same. When cycling is rare, drivers aren’t as used to them, and are more likely to run into them.

But we are living in a state that likes to regulate things “for people’s own good”, and I expect compulsory helmets will come to the UK.

Tue, Feb 11, 2014 2:39pm

I’m Dutch and me and everyone I know have been on bicycles all our lives. I only know one person who’s had a serious headinjury. I do know people who had a broken leg, arm, hip, wrist, collarbone and even a broken jaw because of a fall of the bike. Because everyone cycles we have a lot of experience of falling of our bikes (especially during the winter) and so we know that on a regular low speed bicycle you’re not likely to fall on your head. Keep in mind that most of our cyclepaths are segregated from motorised traffic so it’s not very likely you’ll collide with a car and bicycles have right of way. Anyway, here’s a youtubeclip with a lot of Dutch people falling of their bikes so you can see for yourself;

Wed, Jan 13, 2016 7:21am

I have a 13 year old. My rule was 13 then you can decide but the day after my daughter had her 12th birthday that she could decide. That was one week ago. The said she wanted to be like me so she decided to throw her helmet away meaning we have no helmets in our house but what we do have in our house is headbands. It actually looks very cool when you are riding it with with blond hair. She got all the cute boys. I have the exact same headband. My daughter and I live in San Francisco and my husband lives 5 miles away and he has a rule that you always have to wear a helmet if you want to ride. So when I drop her off we bike through downtown San Francisco and she never gets to ride because she never brings her helmet when I drop her off. Then when I pick her up we get our headbands and ride home. She refuses to wear a helmet ever and she got that from me and she will always have my kind of mind.