Useless Cycling Helmets.. even though they’re ‘British Standard’

So we’re supposed to wear polystyrene helmets to ‘protect us’, otherwise we’ll be regarded as ‘negligent’ in law, so why are cycling helmets so bl**dy useless? What is the point of a helmet with a British/European Standard that is downright cr*p?

These are the terrible ‘standards’ recommended for cycle helmets:-

“BS EN 1078:1997 (European Standard)
BS 6863:1989 (British Standard, being replaced by the European one)
SNELL B.95 (American Standard)

If your cycle helmet receives any hard knocks or you have an accident in it, you should look to replace it. You may not be able to see any damage but its effectiveness could be seriously reduced. Otherwise your helmet should last you for approximately 5 years.”

This is from Wikipedia:-

“EN 1078, entitled Helmets for pedal cyclists and for users of skateboards and roller skates, is a European standard published in 1997. It is the basis of the identical British Standard BS EN 1078:1997.Compliance with this standard is one way of complying with the requirements of the European Personal Protective Equipment Directive (PPE; 89/686/EEC)

EN 1078 specifies requirements and test methods for bicycle helmets, skateboard and roller skate helmets. It covers helmet construction including field of vision, shock absorbing properties, retention system properties including chin strap and fastening devices, as well as marking and information.

The standard’s key features are:

Test anvils: Flat and kerbstone
Drop apparatus: Guided free fall
Impact velocity, energy or drop height flat anvil: 5.42–5.52 m/s
Impact energy criteria: < 250g
Roll-off test: Yes
Retention system strength: Force applied dynamically. Helmet supported on headform.
A derived standard, EN 1080, covers helmets for young children. It addresses problems associated with the strangulation of children playing while wearing helmets.”

So why don’t we have helmets that work properly? Why don’t courts get helmet companies to improve? If a kettle is unsafe, then you blame the kettle company. Maybe the helmet manufacturers should be sued for not protecting cyclists’ heads. Horseriders and motorcyclists have better helmets. Our cycle helmets are not designed for bike commuting!

1997? Isn’t it time it was updated then?

Now just look at the Standards for Riding Hats from a website I from

“Modern technology has enabled manufacturers to produce hats which are very strong, lightweight and extremely comfortable to wear. There is however a wide variety of colours, shapes and types to fit every riding discipline, with a similar array of standards to match. Following is an overview of the current standards as well as a summary of those that have now become obsolete and may not therefore be accepted in competition, depending on the discipline.

Current standards
BS EN 1384:1997
This standard replaced both the riding hat and jockey skull British Standards. It is exactly the same as EN 1384: 1996 published by the Centre for European Normes in Brussels. This standard may be found prefixed by other initials belonging to the country testing the helmet, e.g. DIN EN 1384:1997. Certain people demand BS EN 1384 because the helmet has been tested in Britain. Though in theory there should be no difference, Germany and Italy have approved helmets that would have failed if tested in Britain. To resolve these differences, a more explicit wording of the standard is being devised.

This European standard is a major leap forward over the previous British standards. Though the height from which helmets are dropped has been reduced, the injury allowed to the brain has been reduced by nearly 40% and bottom edge protection is now required. Chincups have also been banned. All organisations allow this standard to be worn during competitions.

PAS 015:1994
This standard is BSI’s enhanced EN 1384 standard and was introduced at the formal request of the BHS following a number of serious accidents. Though it predates BS EN 1384 by nearly 3 years, it provides improved protection to the crown and the intermediate areas which together account for 75% of most general riding impacts. As the test line is lower at the front, it tends to lead to slightly bulkier helmets. Most organisations recommend this level of protection.

PAS 015:1998
With the official publication of EN 1384 certain differences occurred between PAS 015 and EN 1384 which were not foreseen in 1994. This revision removes those differences as well as addressing new areas of protection which were found in most existing PAS 015 models. Namely – crush resistance and prevention of brain injury when landing on an edged surface. Due to initial problems with more rigid, chincupless helmets, a stability test is also included to limit excessive movement during wearing or a fall.

ASTM F 1163
This American standard is the one used by Americans who feel the need for a safety helmet whilst riding (sadly less than 1 in 8 riders). The main reasons for helmets being promoted to this standard are:-

helmets are allowed larger ventilation slots
helmets are tested using a hazard anvil (now incorporated in PAS 015:1998
The argument about ventilation slots is fiercely debated and revolves around why there are no penetration injuries with existing helmets. Is it because there is a penetration test to simulate branches and sharp objects or is it because there are never any such accidents? Statistics on wearers of this type of helmet are sure to eventually decide this issue.

SNZ indicates the Australian /New Zealand test house.

Obsolete standards
BS 6473: 1984
Was the standard which replaced the first riding hat standard (BS 3686) and was the standard used for headgear with permanent peaks.

This was the second revision of the standard designed for race jockeys and their headgear called jockey skulls. Both these standards were withdrawn in 1997 and are no longer seen as suitable by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) for employed, self employed and loan schemes, except during competitions run by organisations which allow this standard e.g. Showing and Dressage.

The Kitemark
The kitemark is the registered trademark of the British Standards Institute and can only be affixed to products certified by them as meeting the required standard. The standard itself is a public document and can be printed on any product if the manufacturer believes it complies.
The kitemark’s guarantee of compliance is backed up by a system of regulation which includes:
Design approval
An approved Quality Control System of Manufacture
A regular audit of helmets produced and the quality system used
Testing of representative samples priory to release of the production batch
All testing is overseen by BSI
There is always slight variance in materials which can produce differing test results. All manufacturers have occasional test failures which prohibit helmets being released onto the market place and so justifies the expense of regular testing.

BSI Standards
The foundations were laid for the world’s first national standards organisation in 1903. This was a voluntary body, formed and maintained by industry, approved and supported by Government for the preparation of technical standards. The need to indicate to buyers that goods were ‘up to standard’ led to the British Standard Mark – to become known later as the Kitemark. It was first registered as a trade mark for tramway rails. An extension to its activities in 1930 led to a change of name to its current British Standards Institution (BSI).

The first riding hats to hold the Kitemark were seen in 1963. The Technical Committee responsible for agreeing the hat standard is made up of technical representatives, doctors and manufacturers including a BETA representative. The standards are voluntary, manufacturers do not have to pursue them except where Government legislation insists that they do.

Safety Equipment Institute (SEI)
SEI is an organisation similar to BSI in the USA which was set up to test the claims of manufacturers that their product met the claimed standard. Its system or regulation includes:

Design approval
Audit testing of product following a complaint and subsequent recall of the defective product if required.
CE Mark
This mark was introduced to allow government officials a way of ensuring that products entering a European country met the basic safety requirements of Europe.

Its system or regulation includes:

Design approval
A requirement for a system of quality control by the manufacturer.
Unfortunately it can be only too easy for manufacturers to mark goods which sometimes fall below the required standard. We can see this by the all too frequent recall notices for toys, which has used this system since 1989”

Notice that PAS 015 1998 says ‘crush resistance and prevention of brain injury’ and PAS 014 1994 says it protects ‘75% of most general riding impacts’ . Now, I wonder what percentage have ‘cycling’ helmets got?

By the way, if cyclists don’t want to wear helmets with better protection, that is up to them but some cyclists do want to wear better helmets, not the kind of cr*p cycling helmets we have now.

With regards to the Smith v Finch 2009 case, lawyers Leigh & Day state in their website:-

“Penny Knight, head of Leigh Day’s cycling and sports injury team, comments:

Although at first this case looks as though it gives the upper hand to liability insurers in relation to the issue of contributory negligence related to the non-wearing of a cycle helmet, in fact it re-affirms the point that if the insurer wants to raise such an argument then they must have the evidence to back it up. This remains a question of fact in each case as there is no clear cut medical opinion to show that wearing a helmet will always reduce or eliminate injury. Liability insurers need to get their evidence in order to succeed with this and until they do cyclists should not feel forced into accepting a reduction in compensation simply because they chose not to wear a helmet.

Penny Knight is head of the cycling and sports injuries team at law firm Leigh Day & Co who represent members of British Cycling and the British Triathlon Federation who are injured in road traffic crashes and other incidents.”


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