I’m very safety conscious in general, and so I always liked the idea of wearing a helmet when cycling. However I recently came across a few articles that made me think twice.
If you’re a cyclist, read through these two pages:
My take is that if you live in an area where motorists are well aware of cyclists (e.g. Amsterdam), and there might be potential obstacles that can snag your helmet, you’re probably better off without it. If, on the other hand, you live in a place where car drivers basically hunt cyclists (e.g. Malta) you’re better off wearing as much protection as you can. The same goes for competitive cycling anywhere. A fall at high speed will always be more dangerous if you’re not wearing protection.
In general, we need to keep working towards more bicycle awareness and creating more bike lanes (Barcelona is doing a great job at this), while also designing car traffic routes in a way that reduces potential crashes with cyclists. For example, while Barcelona is always increasing the number of bike lanes, there are some areas that are real death traps.
The most common ones involve a green light for car traffic to go straight or make a 90 degree right turn, while the bike lane on the right hand side runs straight on. Around 80% of the time I ride through such bike lanes, I have a lorry or car turn onto me by mistake. While the drivers lack awareness in such cases, the way the traffic system is designed certainly exacerbates this problem.