More than half of adults don't wear helmets when they cycle, according to a new study by the Canada Safety Council.

"Head injuries account for a stunning 80 per cent of bicycle fatalities," says Emile Therien, head of the council which surveyed 1,000 adults across the country over the telephone.

The survey found:

  • 52 per cent of adults who ride bikes never or rarely wear a helmet
  • about 40 per cent wear helmets most of the time
  • 84 per cent of parents say their children wear a helmet when cycling
  • 79 per cent of parents say their kids wear a helmet when inline skating

Deaths from cycling have dropped since 1990 when 106 people were killed. By 2000, it had dropped to 42. Much of the decline is attributed to increased helmet use among children.

The problem is, the adults aren't following their children's lead.

Therien says parents who wear helmets tend to make sure their children also do the same.

The study discovered those who don't wear helmets tend to be: male, under 34, live in rural Canada and have lower income levels. Their children don't wear helmets either.

For women, the main reason for not wearing a helmet was appearance and for men, it was discomfort.

"The poll found that 97 per cent of Canadians realize helmets prevent serious injury," said Therien. "Yet a lot of people simply won't go to the trouble of wearing one."

British Columbia, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have legislated the use of bicycle helmets for all cyclists. In Alberta and Ontario, helmets are mandatory for those under 18. The study found the use of helmets in all sports in those provinces was higher than those without mandatory helmet laws.

"We need to convince Canadians to translate their knowledge into action."

The survey was conducted by Ispsos-Reid and is considered accurate within plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.