Why The Dutch Don’t Wear Bicycle Helmets

When blogger Lucy Seip fell in love with “a Dutchie” and moved with him from the U.S. to his home country, one of the first things she noticed was that people don’t wear bicycle helmets! As a mom of three, safety is perpetually on her mind, which is why she put on her detective hat and took a look at this phenomenon.

Why don’t her new countrymen and women ride bikes with nothing more than sunshine overhead?

Lucy discovered some of the reasons for having this collective perspective.

4 Reasons The Dutch Don’t Wear Bike Helmets

1. The Dutch are extremely aware of their surroundings. Unlike U.S. society where distractions are everywhere and people have become conditioned to them, the Dutch stay focused on what’s going on around them rather than electronic devices and common diversions.

2. Kids receive traffic and safety instruction from age 5. While kids in other nations are busy playing with dolls and watching their device screens, Dutch kids are mastering the nuances of red v. green traffic lights, the importance of obeying regulations and other critical lessons in traffic safety.

3. The Dutch consider helmets to be ineffective. According to traffic consultant Theo Zeggers, “If you are hit by a car on your bike no helmet will protect you.” His research has proven that bike helmets that protect again dangerous impacts at high speeds have not yet been invented, and he has the data to prove his point.

4. On average, every Dutch citizen spends 70 minutes weekly riding their bikes to do everything from run errands and commute to work. It’s part of the Dutch lifestyle and consciousness. They believe that getting all that fresh air helps them live longer!

Photo by P. Bc on Unsplash

Why create a culture of fear if it’s unnecessary?

Blogger Don added his own perspective after learning that the Dutch are helmet-averse. He conducted additional research of his own and reached these conclusions:

  • Dutch traffic planners consciously made the decision not to require helmets because they feared people would perceive bicycling as so dangerous, “they are likely to get the impression that cycling is too dangerous or uncomfortable and stop doing it altogether.”

  • Further, if cyclists become fearful of riding, there’s a supposition that the Dutch will start driving cars, resulting in increases in injuries, pollution, noise, accidents, and congestion.

  • For an uber-healthy nation, turning to sedentary transport and away from biking could provoke more health crises, including heart attacks and conditions regularly offset by people committing to daily exercise.

  • City planners understand Dutch cycling proclivities, so they design streets, roads, trams, and walkways around the nation’s commitment to its bicycle-obsessed society.
Photo by Jace & Afsoon on Unsplash

It’s an attitude and way of life, too

When American Dan Kois discovered the wonders of bike-friendly Netherlands, he was shocked to discover than Dutch cyclists had no fear of cars, so when his daughter asked where her helmet was on the day the family rented bikes in Delft, he tried to explain that the Dutch don’t wear them.

Kois quickly concluded that Dutch society looks upon bicycle transport as sacrosanct and it’s the automobile drivers who are considered “second-class citizens.” Even the Kois kids noticed the reciprocal agreement between Dutch cyclists and motorists in a nation that’s home to 18 million citizens and 22 million bicycles.

“Even though nobody wears bike helmets in the Netherlands, the fatality rate there is six times smaller than that of the United States,” Kois said in his revealing article for “The New Yorker.” How is that possible? Kois concluded that the Dutch subsume the needs of individuals to the needs of the community.

Translation? According to Angela van der Kloof, cycling expert and project leader with the Delft mobility consultancy, “From a young age in the Netherlands, we’re trained to take note of others.” Given this generosity of spirit and respect for individual welfare, is it any wonder the Dutch feel no need to wear bike helmets?

1 thought on “Why The Dutch Don’t Wear Bicycle Helmets”

  1. Okay, so if you are hit by a car, your helmet might do little (NOT nothing) to protect you. But I would like to see the evidence showing that, if you come off your bike and land on your head, as I did on a cycle path a few years ago, my helmet was not a factor in preventing any major injuries.
    I am a careful cyclist. I always use cycle paths were available, am aware of my surroundings and obey traffic regulations, and yet I ended up on my head.
    I will not be cycling bare-headed unless I see evidence that wearing a helmet in an accident leads to more severe injuries.

    Reply

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