As one of the few cyclists who doesn't hold a strong opinion about helmets, I'm uniquely qualified to help you decide the issue. But not with statistics, or by trapping you like a fly in an essay of exquisitely spun logic. I offer, instead, a simple questionnaire. Please choose the most appropriate answer, then score yourself at the end.

1. Do you wear a helmet now?
A. Not when I'm reading. But come to think of it, most accidents do happen at home.
B. It depends on the terrain. Quiet country lanes, no. Escalators, yes.
C. Only for the first few weeks after I've had an accident; skull fractures make me clumsy.

2. How accident-prone are you?
A. My parents always tell me I was an accident. Does that count?
B. I don't trip over my own feet, as long as my shoelaces have been tied by somebody competent.
C. The NHS keeps a room on reserve.

3. What's the last accident you were involved in?
A. Voting New Labour.
B. Falling off bike while attempting to click into clipless pedals. (It happens.)
C. Door. Opened. Flew over. It's all fading to black. Rosebud.

4. Are you a cautious person?
A. I put stabilisers on my trike.
B. I don't buy a CD unless I'm pretty sure I like at least 3 of the songs.
C. I leap before I look. That's what suspension is for, innit? Besides, I like surprises.

5. Do you tend to obey traffic laws?
A. Yes, if the lights tend to be green.
B. Unless there's a perfectly good reason not to, which can then be explained to a police constable if the need arises.
C. It depends on what I feel to be the true intent of the traffic engineers.

6. How would you best describe yourself?
A. Meek. Gentle. Vegan. Possibly Aquarius.
B. Relaxed. Often prone. Cool to the touch. Possibly deceased.
C. Fearless. Headstrong. Daring. Unbalanced.

7. What's your marital status?
A. Legally wed to bicycle in C of E approved ceremony.
B. Happily married, but spouse must approve bicycle expenditures over two figures.
C. Single. Don't know which bike I'll be riding next. Don't much care, as long as it's fast.

8. If you presently wear a helmet, do you know how to put it on properly?
A. No, but my partner does.
B. Yes, of course. I'm not thick. And I appreciate that manufacturers put the visor in back; it stops my neck from getting sunburned.
C. Before I crash, right?

9. If you don't wear a helmet, what would induce you?
A. An ad campaign featuring that Opium perfume woman, but only if it's obvious she's at least thinking about a helmet, or it just wouldn't work for me artistically.
B. A personal testimonial beginning or ending "Thank God I was wearing a helmet."
C. Improved aerodynamics so insults fly right over my head.

10. Do statistics make the case for you (either way)?
A. Not really. The only numbers I pay attention to are the ones showing cyclists live longer than non-cyclists, lid or no lid.
B. Depends if I know one of those statistics by name.
C. Could you repeat the question? My retrograde amnesia is acting up again.

11. Do you believe in risk homeostasis?
A. I don't believe in discrimination of any sort.
B. You mean the theory that says the safer an activity is made, the more risks you'll take, thus negating any benefits? Never heard of it.
C. Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that every time I hold onto the back of lorries, they try to shake me off.

12. What best sums up your attitude about helmets?
A. Uncomfortable. Confining. Fetishistic.
B. Buying one gives me another excuse to go to the bike store.
C. I've found the straps can be used as a tourniquet.

All 'A's are worth 1 point each
All 'B's are worth 2 points each
All 'C's are worth 3 points each

0 points: Forgot to take quiz.
12-19 points: No helmet necessary. The damage has already been done.
20-29 points: Wear a helmet if it would improve your appearance, or if your significant other starts making too many hints about your last will and testament.
30-36 points: You should be wearing your helmet at all times, only removing it for the occasional CAT scan.

In the final analysis, if you think you should be wearing a helmet, you probably should.

Cycling Plus, February 2001

The Helmet War