With the school half term holiday next week, many youngsters will be out on their bikes.  Although cyclists have a duty to act sensibly and safely on the roads, motorists are asked to be mindful that there may be more bikes than normal about.

Equally, with the amount of daylight reducing rapidly, as winter approaches, it is vital that cyclists get prepared and wear appropriate clothing to make themselves visible to other road users.

Over the last two years (October 2009 – September 2011), West Midlands Ambulance Service attended over 300 incidents involving cyclists.  Sadly, in some cases, the injuries sustained had tragic consequences.

However, for many more, the level of injury was significantly reduced due to the cyclist wearing a helmet.  Wearing one doesn't mean you can be reckless; far from it.  What a helmet will does is provide some protection for your face, head, and brain in case you come off your bike fall down.

There are some people who have their helmet to thank for their reduced level of injury.  For example the ambulance service was called to a man who had fallen from his bicycle in Ellesmere in Shropshire.  Although he was wearing a helmet, it was badly damaged and the man was initially knocked unconscious.  The responder who was first on scene said that without the helmet he could have been significantly worse. She added that his friend wasn`t wearing one and got a real shock and vowed to wear one in future.  The man was released from hospital later in the day.  Other examples include: 

  • A man in his 40s who was airlifted to hospital from Evesham in Worcestershire who had a head injury that could have been a lot worse had he not been for wearing a helmet. 
  • A 50 year old man who had his helmet to thank for not suffering more serious injuries when he was in collision with a car in Cannock

Sadly some people who don’t wear helmets are not as fortunate:

  • A 60 year old man who was airlifted from Rugby who had suffered a severe head injury after an incident with a car.
  • A 17 year old from Coventry ended up in hospital after suffering a serious head injury after a collision with a car – he wasn’t wearing a helmet.
  • A cyclist was taken on blue lights to the Regional Trauma Centre at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham after a collision with a car in Stirchley – he had suffered a broken jaw and other head injuries – no helmet was worn
  • A cyclist in Wolverhampton suffered multiple injuries after a collision with a van.  No helmet was worn.

West Midlands Ambulance Service Medical Director, Dr Andy Carson, said: “While wearing a helmet does not reduce the risk of injury entirely, it does significantly reduce the extent of injury due to impacts to the head, particularly with children.

“Research published on the British Medical Association shows that helmets significantly reduce the risk of head injury, brain injury and those to the upper and mid face. 

“Cycle helmets do not need to be expensive but could make the difference between life and death.  The cost is surely a price worth paying.”

A high profile supporter of cycle helmets is former Olympic rowing gold medallist James Cracknell.  In July 2010, he was cycling in a charity event near Phoenix in Arizona when he received a direct hit on the back of his head from the wing mirror of a fuel tanker which was travelling at around 70mph. 

James suffered two skull fractures leaving his brain swollen and bruised.  Even today he has not fully recovered.  In his own words: “If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, I’d be dead!”  Find out more by watching his video:  

Practical help and Advice

Helmets can help prevent a head injury if you fall from your bike.  It should be a snug fit and positioned squarely on your head - sitting just above your eyebrows, not tilted back or tipped forwards.  Make sure that it is securely fastened by straps, which aren't twisted, with only enough room for two fingers between your chin and the strap

Other helpful hints for cyclists

  • Light-coloured or fluorescent clothing that helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light.  At night, wearing reflective clothing and/or accessories, like a belt or arm/ankle bands, in the dark can make a huge difference
  • If you use your bike at night or when visibility is poor, you must fit a white front light, red rear light, have a red rear reflector and have amber/yellow pedal reflectors - front and back on each pedal
  • Stay alert and don't listen to music or use a mobile phone while cycling – distractions cause accidents
  • Make sure that you know what the Highway Code says about cyclists and how they should react and behave amongst motorists

You can find out more information about cycle safety at these links:

You can also find out more on Twitter by using the hash tag #wearahelmet


Missions completed since 1991: 50,563 | On average we airlift a child every four days | Road traffic collisions make up around 35% of the incidents we attend | The service airlifts on average four horse riders each week.