There is lots of talk about how easy and enjoyable it is to bike in Europe, but in videos I rarely see anyone with a helmet. (And Rick - next time you go down that luge in Bavaria -- protect your noggin!) If you rent a bike, can you rent a helmet? Bike fans, do you bring your own? Thanks for your insights!
No and no. If we are doing an organized tour, will bring own including shoes, etc. but for casual riding we don't worry about helmets. Europe is not as annal over "safety issues" as many in the US.
At times, I've taken my helmet, while other times relied on the bike rental firm supplying (sometimes no charge, sometimes surcharge)a helmet. Check with the firms in advance as to availability. Of my two crashes, both were at very slow speeds, and in the one instance oh so glad I was wearing a helmet. Crashes happen.
"but in videos I rarely see anyone with a helmet." I see people wearing helmets all the time, but there's a strange dichotomy. The cyclists who commute through cities streets (quite often, students), who stand the greatest risk of a head injury, rarely seem to wear a helmet. Yet on the bike paths that criss-cross the countryside, often far removed from automobile traffic, the recreational cyclists almost invariably wear their helmets.
We rented bikes in Italy with a group and the company provided helmets. I don't know if they were required, but everyone was encouraged to wear one.
In France only the tourists wear them. Which included me! I brought mine. They are probably available for rent most places.
In Sweden, children under 15 are required by law to wear helmets. They haven't yet extended the law to adults, but a Swedish company has designed a new kind of helmet that looks like a big turtle neck, but uses sensors to inflate an airbag for your head in an accident: Hövding Bike Helmet See a video of it inflating here
I have taken some city bike tours in Paris and one in London. Helmets were available to use, but no one did, think we were more afraid of cooties then head injurys. I can't imagine anyone wearing a helmet on a luge,, they are not as dangerous as you think. My 11 yr old was on one ( on a RS tour as a matter of fact) with another child and it went off the tracks, they just laughed and picked it up and walked down hill. The track is inset into ground and it surrounded by grass.
I posted early about bicycling in the Netherlands. One morning we saw a young mother on a bike with a very small infant strapped to her chest, a small boy in a front carrier and a little bigger boy strapped in a rare seat with a five year old (?) riding a small wheel bike along side her - all moving at a good clip across the plaza and none wearing a helmet. In the US she would have been arrested for child endangerment.
Laura - that is the most amazing thing! It was worth posting the question just to learn about inflatable bike helmets!
I don't recall seeing anyone of any age wearing helmets in the cities of the Netherlands last fall, and I've never seen so many bike riders anywhere. What was most interesting was the design of many of the bikes...some had huge bins attached in the front...I think one could fit his whole family in the bin if he were so inclined!
Please consider wearing a bike helmet.... I lost a work colleague this way in 2009! He had not gone 10 meters down the road from his home when he came off his bike and cracked his head on the kerb stone. He was DOA at the hospital - if he had been wearing a helmet the outcome might have been different. It was a quiet well kept suburban road and no one else was involved, nothing at all to suggest danger.
The main reason we go to Europe is to do bike tours. We bring our own bike, and always bring our helmets. We end up carrying them on, usually using the chin straps to attach to our carry on luggage handle, or the strap of a shoulder bag. I can't imagine riding a bike without a helmet! If you are just doing a day trip, I'm sure you can rent a helmet from the company. Like someone else said, I'd be afraid of cooties, but still wouldnt' ride without one. Europeans still don't use helmets like they should. Even a few years ago you saw riders in the Tour de France without them - so silly! On Sundays in Italy we would see riders totally decked out in fancy jerseys and bike shorts, with expensive bikes and NO helmet...??
Although we never bother using helmets, I can give you some limited reassurance on availability based on day rental of bikes in Berlin, London and Lake Como. All the bike rental shops we used offered helmet hire (at a small extra fee I think - although in Berlin they might have been free since I recall them being handed to us without asking and us handing them back). However, if you mean to use some of the various city bike sharing/short-term hire schemes where you pick up a bike from a rack using a credit card, then I don't know if any come with helmets (but I've only used in a couple of places). So for these you would need to find a shop willing to hire just a helmet rather than a helmet + bike (and I'm not sure they will), or bring your own.
"Even a few years ago you saw riders in the Tour de France without them -" Before they changed the rules a few years ago, the riders were allowed to ditch their helmets at the end of a stage if the final stretch consisted of a long climb.
One of my (very experienced) cycling friends was stopped at a traffic light. Put his foot down on the curb. Missed the curb and fell down. He was wearing a helmet. Cycled home and complained to h is wife he had a headache. She insisted that he go to the doctor. At the doctor's office, they wheeled him across the street to the hospital where they operated on his brain. Fortunately, he survive3d to cycle for many more years. .
After starting up from a stop at a traffic light, another friend hit a grate wrong and flipped over the handlebars. This easy mistake even though she was a long time League of American Wheelmen board member and an Effective Cycling instructor. The helmet saved her from serious injury.
Frank reminds me of a classmate I had in elementary school. Andy always thought he was invincible and that only sissies used precaution. One day in PE, he was being his usual show off self, running around to show how fast he was, when he smacked HARD right into one of the basketball nets. Needless to say he had to be taken to the nurse and was out for a few days. Lesson learned. WEAR A HELMET folks. Just because some Europeans don't make a habit of it doesn't mean you should follow.