The study aimed to assess the effect of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries given the ongoing debate in Australia as to the efficacy of this measure at a population level. We used hospital admissions data from New South Wales, Australia, from a 36 month period centred at the time legislation came into effect. Negative binomial regression of hospital admission counts of head and limb injuries to cyclists were performed to identify differential changes in head and limb injury rates at the time of legislation. Interaction terms were included to allow different trends between injury types and pre- and post-law time periods. To avoid the issue of lack of cyclist exposure data, we assumed equal exposures between head and limb injuries which allowed an arbitrary proxy exposure to be used in the model. As a comparison, analyses were also performed for pedestrian data to identify which of the observed effects were specific to cyclists. In general, the models identified a decreasing trend in injury rates prior to legislation, an increasing trend thereafter and a drop in rates at the time legislation was enacted, all of which were thought to represent background effects in transport safety. Head injury rates decreased significantly more than limb injury rates at the time of legislation among cyclists but not among pedestrians. This additional benefit was attributed to compulsory helmet legislation. Despite numerous data limitations, we identified evidence of a positive effect of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries at a population level such that repealing the law cannot be justified. © 2011 Elsevier Ltd.