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March 19, 1997

Do Bicycle Helmets Protect, and Should They Be Mandatory?

Author Affiliations

Austin, Tex

JAMA. 1997;277(11):883. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540350033023

To the Editor.  —As a long-time bicyclist, I feel that the recent articles on bicycle helmets and head injuries promote a 1-dimensional view of bicycling as a cause of injury.1,2 Also, it is likely the articles will be used as ammunition to promote harsh and punitive mandatory bicycle helmet laws. These articles do not acknowledge the public health, environmental, and economic benefits resulting from bicycling, the importance of bicycles as a mode of transportation, and the harm that results from reduced numbers of bicyclists when use of bicycle helmets is mandatory.Every injury or death is tragic. However, for every bicycle-related death, there are more than 40 automobilerelated deaths and most of the bicycle-related deaths are caused by collisions with motor vehicles. Similarly, in Texas it has been shown that bicycling causes only about 2% of reported traumatic brain injuries.3 Based on reduced injuries and fatalities, there is