Gordon Ramsay’s massive ‘purple potato’ injury reignites debate over bicycle helmets and whether they actually make cycling safer or more dangerous

Gordon Ramsay has urged cyclists to wear a helmet after an accident left him looking like a ‘purple potato’, but experts are divided over their effectiveness.

Research has shown that wearing a helmet drastically reduces the risk of serious injury and reduces the number of people killed in an accident.

But other studies claim that they actually increase the chance of an accident and the chance that you will suffer a life-threatening spinal cord injury.

Others argue that ordering cyclists to wear helmets is akin to victim blaming and distracts from measures that would actually improve safety, such as better bike lanes and safer driving.

The debate comes after Ramsay, 57, said he was “lucky to be alive” after being involved in a “really bad accident” while cycling in Connecticut, US.

Gordon Ramsay told how he was involved in a serious accident while cycling in the US

Ramsay urged his followers to always wear a helmet, although research on its effectiveness is mixed

Ramsay urged his followers to always wear a helmet, although research on its effectiveness is mixed

He suffered serious bruises to his body, but did not appear to have suffered any head injuries.

The TV chef urged his 17 million followers on Instagram and 7.6 million on X to wear a helmet, no matter how short the journey.

However, there is some debate on this topic.

For example, Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman has previously said that he would never advertise helmets or safety jackets for cyclists.

‘I want cycling in Britain to be like Utrecht, Copenhagen and more recently New York City: something everyday that people can do in everyday clothes, whether you are eight years old or eighty years old.

‘I want cycling to become something normal, something normal people do in normal clothes. Is that wrong?’

In an article for British cyclinghe argued that the Netherlands has an impeccable cycling infrastructure and the lowest number of victims in the world.

“I’m willing to bet that even those who swear by helmets and high-visibility clothing would feel comfortable ditching their body armor in such an environment,” he said. “And that’s the point; in Utrecht they have tackled the real dangers for cyclists.’

However, Ramsay’s plea is supported by a 2018 analysis by scientists at the Institute of Transport Economics in Oslo, Norway, who found that helmets reduce a cyclist’s risk of death in a crash by more than a third (34 percent).

Looking at data from 55 other studies, they concluded that helmets reduce head injuries by 48 percent, serious head injuries by 60 percent, fatal head injuries by 71 percent and traumatic brain injuries by 53 percent.

Their effect on facial injuries was much less, although they still reduced them by almost a quarter (23 percent).

While other studies have suggested that helmets can increase neck and spinal injuries due to their weight and the friction they cause when they bump and scrape against a road, the researchers said that cyclists who wore helmets were actually marginally less likely to suffer one of sustain these injuries.

The study, published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, found that helmets were most effective in single-vehicle crashes, likely because crashes involving other vehicles tend to be much more serious.

Overall, they said wearing a helmet while cycling was ‘highly recommended’, adding: ‘Cycling helmets have been consistently shown to reduce head injuries, especially serious and fatal head injuries.’

Ramsay suggested that his injuries could have been much worse if he had not worn a helmet

He showed his followers on social media the serious bruises he suffered in the accident

Ramsay suggested his injuries could have been much worse had he not been wearing a helmet as he showed off a huge bruise to his social media followers

The TV chef said he looked like a 'purple potato' after his 'very serious accident'

The TV chef said he looked like a ‘purple potato’ after his ‘very serious accident’

But Colin Clarke of campaign group Cycling UK has repeatedly argued that the benefits of helmets are overestimated and that their use can have negative side effects.

In a study presented at the National Road Safety Conference, he found that the popularity of cycling in New Zealand fell by almost 60 percent after helmets became mandatory. He argued that this explained the reduction in cyclist fatalities.

At the same time, the number of injuries, especially to the arms and upper body, among cyclists increased by 40 percent, indicating an increase in the number of falls.

He argued that this could be due to cyclists taking more risks when wearing helmets, to an imbalance caused by heavy helmets, or to the fact that vision is obstructed by some helmet designs.

He also claimed that discouraging people from cycling makes them less active and healthy and contributes to the global obesity crisis.

In another study, Mr Clarke found that the Netherlands has a much lower death rate among cyclists than other countries, despite using far fewer helmets.

He wrote: ‘The emphasis on helmets is unscientific and, more importantly, damages cycling and blocks the kind of cycling policies and infrastructure in successful cycling cities.’

Another 2019 study by scientists at Bath University found that drivers made riskier decisions near cyclists wearing helmets.

The researchers used an ultrasonic distance sensor to measure how much space drivers gave to cyclists with and without helmets in Salisbury and Bristol.

They found that drivers passed cyclists 3 inches closer while wearing helmets.

The researchers say this is probably because cyclists wearing helmets are perceived as more experienced and predictable, making them less likely to have an accident.

For the same reason, drivers gave male cyclists the least space on the road. The worst perpetrators of dangerously close overtaking were bus drivers and truck drivers.

The study, published in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention, said these quick assessments “can only provide a poor indication of the likelihood of a collision” and that drivers “need to be warned about the unreliability of the assumptions they make.”

Ian Walker, one of the researchers involved in the study, said Cyclist magazine: ‘I think it is inappropriate for people to be asked to buy and wear a device if the reason for doing so is because they have been put at risk by other people without their consent. ‘If people want to wear one because they’re afraid of a fall – especially mountain bikers – that’s a different matter, but there are obvious concerns about the first situation.’

Currently, wearing a helmet while cycling in Britain is not currently required by law.  Pictured here are cyclists waiting for traffic to change in London

Currently, wearing a helmet while cycling in Britain is not currently required by law. Pictured here are cyclists waiting for traffic to change in London

However, Gordon Ramsay’s dedication to helmets remains unaffected.

He posted a photo of his badly damaged helmet on Saturday to show how it had protected his head.

“Honestly, you should wear a helmet,” he said. ‘I don’t care how short the journey is. These helmets cost money, but are crucial.

‘Children must wear a helmet, even for a short ride. I can’t tell you how important it is to wear a helmet.’

Currently, wearing a helmet while cycling in Britain is not currently required by law.