This one pushes my buttons constantly, though it’s not my little Button-Pusher: it’s other parents.
If your child is on a bike or a scooter, please, please, make them wear a helmet. It’s that simple. Buy a helmet. Put it on them.
When I was little, no one wore a bike helmet (adults or children) and I don’t think scooters even existed. In the Tour de France, arguably the most famous cycling event in the world, helmets weren’t compulsory until 2003, and even then, if a climb was at least 5km long they were allowed to remove them! But the point is, they eventually made it a legal requirement for the safety of the riders.
I’m of course not trying to compare your three year old scooting around the park, or home from school with a pro-cyclist. Or even with commuter-cyclists who negotiate busy rush hour traffic each day. But kids (I think with the absence of adult anxiety) are naturally adventurous and pick up some serious speed on bikes and scooters. And all it takes is one un-seen stone or bump in the road for them to career off. Most of the time, they’ll bounce straight back up and all they’ll be left with is a scraped knee. Most of the time it’s fine. Most of the time, it doesn’t happen.
But it could. A child could hit the ground headfirst.
But kids bump their heads all the time yes? Heads are tough, kids are resilient! And a bump on the head isn’t the same as crashing into a car on the road is it? And it’s not a legal requirement in this country for an adult to wear a helmet is it?
Well, that’s an interesting one, as no, there isn’t any legislation in place in the UK (despite the fact that a Cochrane Review on helmet use concludes “Helmets reduce bicycle-related head and facial injuries for bicyclists of all ages involved in all types of crashes, including those involving motor vehicles.”). And though there are over 190 countries in the world, only two (Australia and New Zealand) require (and enforce) universal use of helmets by cyclists (though partial rules do apply in other countries). It seems legislating for compulsory helmet use is the subject of much debate, with much opposition based largely on considerations of overall public health. Many point out that in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands, they have a strong cycling culture but some of the lowest levels of helmet use (though many counter-argue that they have better cycling infrastructure in the form of dedicated cycle paths and lanes, and protected intersections).
But my child is cycling in the park, or scooting on the pavement when we travel home from school – not negotiating cars, buses and lorries around Piccadilly Circus! Well, you’re right, they’re not scooting or riding on the road, and perhaps statistically speaking, they’re unlikely to suffer a serious head injury. This is just one parent’s opinion, and I do acknowledge that kids’ helmets, like many things kid-related, are expensive, and that lots of children hate wearing them. But for me this is a no-brainer. It’s like brushing your child’s teeth: it’s not a legal requirement but it makes good sense to teach them to look after their teeth. It’s like getting a toddler to eat vegetables: persuading them to ‘just please try the broccoli’ is like repeatedly banging your head against a brick wall, but we all know it’s good to encourage them to eat healthily, so we keep trying.
So I think it’s simple: if your child is riding a bike or a scooter, please put a helmet on them. It won’t hurt them to wear one, but it might help them.