Do Bike Helmet Laws Cause More Harm than Good?

A while back, I wrote about the hypothesis that car seat laws actually reduce the number of children, such that there may have been considerably more children not born due to car seat laws than have been saved by them.

Are bicycle safety laws similar? Quite possibly. In what appears to potentially be another case of unanticipated consequences, mandating helmets reduces the number of people riding bicycles.

This reduces exercise (it doesn’t seem that people simply replace cycling with jogging), which is generally accepted to be a bad thing from the health perspective. Additionally, fewer cyclists seems to make being a cyclist just generally a bit more dangerous, presumably because folks driving cars are less accustomed to watching out for them.

So, the argument is thus: By reducing the amount of people bicycling, helmet laws decrease the overall amount of exercise in the population, causing increased health problems (and presumably more premature deaths).

Note that the argument is not that bicycle helmets are not useful. Rather, it’s an argument that the net result of mandating their use may do more harm than good.

Just a weird idea on the internet? Well- maybe- but it’s one with some scientific papers behind it, not just blog articles.

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