Should bike helmets be compulsory? Lessons from Seattle and Amsterdam

Every day, Elizabeth Kiker cycles to her work through the streets of Seattle. As the executive director of a big bicycle club, she wants to show people that you don’t need fancy gear to ride a bike – so she rides in her skirt and office shoes. But she does wear a helmet. If she didn’t, she would risk a $102 (€90) fine. Five thousand miles to the east, Marco te Brömmelstroet cycles to his job as director of the Urban Cycling Institute of the University of Amsterdam. The wind is blowing freely through his hair. “Cycling without a helmet is something I take for granted, I never give it any thought,” he says. “But it does amplify the feeling of ultimate freedom.” In Amsterdam, adults don’t wear helmets while riding city bikes – they don’t even consider it an option. Helmets are mainly worn by tourists and expats, whom the Dutch regard with bemusement, even ridicule. They know their country is a very safe place to ride a bike: in the Netherlands, the number of cyclists killed per travelled mile is the lowest in the world. Read on here.