Prevention Is the Best Medicine
In cycle-friendly cities in Europe like Copenhagen, Amsterdam and other places where the modal share of cyclists on roads has traditionally been high (and continues to increase), helmets are not required by law and are rarely used by people riding bikes due to the extensive dedicated cycling infrastructure that exists in these cities.
But you'll find most bicycles used for commuting and getting around town equipped with another safety device: a bell.
Hot Topic: scientific research has shown helmets actually discourage bicycle use (Photo: velo-am-ostbahnhof.de)
In 1990 Australia was imposed impose uniform national mandatory bicycle helmet legislation.
In Europe, where the number of trips made by bicycle is generally higher than in North America, helmets are a relatively rare sight, more often used by child and recumbent riders.
Heads Up: be sure your helmet fits and sits correctly (Graphic: vangelisti.com)
In Canada, the use of a helmet is mandatory for all ages in some provinces and territories including British Columbia and in other jurisdications mandatory for those under 18 years of age, as in Ontario. [Strangely, lighting on bicycle is not (to the best of the author's knowledge) a legal requirement like it is in Germany.]
As of November 9th, 2007, residents of Ontario, Canada no longer have to pay provincial sales tax on helmets and bicycles purchased after December 1st to help encourage people to get active. A sales tax break on helmet purchases is something that should be demanded of governments worldwide from those needing or wanting to use a helmet.
A word of caution in buying a hardshell helmet: a damaged helmet can still look perfectly fine on the outside while the inner protective layer is damaged. So be sure to examine the shell carefully, especially when buying a helmet used.
Any bicycle certified, marketed and sold as being 'street legal', that is, complying with local, state or federal traffic laws must be equipped with, aside from proper lighting and reflectors, a bell.
Bicycle helmets, on the other hand, should not be mandatory for adults on the road, especially given the results of research from Bath University in the UK that concluded that cyclists who wear protective helmets are more likely to be knocked down by passing vehicles. Further, helmet purchases should be not be taxed to further encourage utility cycling, that is, non-recreational usage including commuting, shopping and city logistics.
Ears Covered: cycling in winter demands that the ears are protected from the cold (Photo: makezine.com)
It's very important to keep your ears and head covered while riding in winter conditions. See the all-weather cycling page for more tips on keeping warming while cycling in the cold.
Air Filter: an anti-pollution mask helps commuters and cycle tourists alike (Photo: totobobo.com)
Contrary to popular belief, commuters inside slow-moving cars are actually exposed to far higher levels of air pollution in peak traffic times than those using any other form of transport including cycling, Australian researcher have found. Car drivers and passengers face pollution levels inside their vehicles that are two to three times higher than those experienced by pedestrians and cyclists in the open air, the study found.
Still, in more polluted cities and countries where smog and air quality are of concern, you should strongly consider the use of an anti-pollution cycling mask to filter air particulate matter and to breathe better especially when regularly commuting by bike longer distances or cycle touring.
laws, regulations, by-laws, safety, comfort, personal protective devices, helmet, certification, EN 1078