Could The Pope of Bicycling Be Wrong?

Background Reading

Stats from SWOV of the Netherlands

How many cyclists sustain head/brain injury?

Annually, in the Netherlands, approximately 67,000 casualties of cycling crashes are treated at a first-aid department (Source: Injury Information System LIS), 8,000 cyclists are admitted to hospital (Source: National Medical Registration LMR), and 190 people die as a consequence of a cycling crash (Source Statistics Netherlands – Unnatural deaths). Of the seriously injured bicycle casualties2 admitted to hospital, a third were diagnosed with head or brain injuries (32%). Head injury is the general category and generally implies brain injury, but sometimes there is head injury without brain injury.

  • Of the cyclists with serious injury who are admitted to hospital following a crash with motorized traffic, almost half (47%) are diagnosed with head/brain injury. After crashes not involving motorized traffic this is the diagnosis for just under one third (29%) of the cyclists.
  • Proportionally, head/brain injury occurs most frequently among children and young people. In crashes with motorized traffic more than 60% of the young seriously injured cyclists (0-17 years old) have sustained head/brain injury; in the case of crashes not involving motorized traffic, the percentages range from 33 to 56% for these age groups (compared with the 29% average).
  • Approximately three-quarters of all head/brain injury sustained by are the result of crashes not involving motorized traffic. For young children (0-5 years old) as many as nine out of ten head/brain cyclist-only crashes, i.e. crashes without another road user being involved, or crashes into an object.
  • The risk of head/brain injury in crashes not involving a motor vehicle is particularly high for children in the age groups 0-5 and 6-11 years old; for cyclists over 65 the risk increases rapidly as they get older.

And more from the same paper:

Research has shown that a bicycle helmet offers protection against sustaining serious head or brain injury in crashes. The most reliable estimates indicate that at speeds of up to 20 km/h helmets reduce the risk of head injury by 42%, the risk of brain injury by 53%, and the risk of facial injury by 17%, whereas they increase the risk of neck injury by 32%. These estimates are partly based on research carried out in countries like the United States and Australia, where standards for bicycle helmets are stricter than they are in Europe and can offer protection at higher impact speeds.

Qualified by this  

The European standard for bicycle helmets is not as strict as the standards in, for example, the US and Australia. At the present European standard the helmet is adequate in cyclist-only crashes, but offers insufficient protection in crashes involving other road users (Kemler et al., 2009). Therefore, the effectiveness of these non-European helmets cannot simply be compared with the helmets used in the Netherlands.

Stats from the Canadian Institute for Health Information

Cycling injuries are by far the most common injury from Canadian summer sports and recreational activity, accounting for half of all hospital admissions in this category. In 2009-2010, 4,324 Canadians were hospitalized as a result of a cycling injury, with close to half of these injuries occurring in June, July and August.

While the annual number of cycling injury hospitalizations remained relatively stable between 2001–2002 and 2009–2010, the number of cycling-related head injuries decreased significantly, from 907 to 665, over the same period. Among the most severe cycling injury admissions of the past decade (those requiring admission to a special trauma centre), 78% of those hospitalized with a head injury were not wearing a helmet when their injury occurred.


Evidently the Dutch have their fair share of injuries while cycling. True too is the fact that sometimes the folks who wrap themselves in the cloak of cycling advocacy are as dumb as stones.