This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 10th, 2007 at 1:03 pm and is filed under Helmet compulsion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
Tory MP Peter Bone wants all under 17s to be forced to wear helmets when cycling. He’s secured a Ten Minute Rule Bill on 16th October to argue his case.
10 Minute Rule Bill’s are used by backbench MPs to sound out support for a cause. The Government of the day usually opposes such Bills as a matter of principle and they very rarely succeed in getting true Parliamentary time. However, as a means of generating news and spin, they can be effective.
Bone became an MP in 2005 and has asked many questions in Parliament about cycle helmet compulsion. Bone is a backbencher with bite: he’s Secretary of the All Party Road Traffic Group.
Many motorists want cyclists to wear helmets because then they’ll be more “protected”. However, cycle helmets are lightweight and are not designed for impacts from cars. In 2006, Dr Ian Walker found that motorists passed closer to cyclists who wear helmets. However, Helmets.org believes cycle helmets do offer protection in car v bike smash “We have enough experience here with helmets and car crashes to have convinced the cycling community that the protection offered even in a car crash is real and not controversial.”
In Australia, cycle helmet compulsion led to a drop in the number of people cycling. Because less people cycled, there were less reports of injuries to cyclists, a stat used to promote the effectiveness of cycle helmets to decrease injuries. A Cochrane researcher has admitted helmet compulsion laws may make people give up on cycling (although, fret not, because a Canadian paediatrician, believes “they may take up in-line skating [instead].”
English MPs – especially those who don’t cycle – like to introduce “cyclist protection measures.” In 2004 MP Eric Martlew’s Protective Headgear for Young Cyclists Bill was launched in the Commons but was scuppered by Tory MP Eric Forth. In a parliamentary debate Martlew said those who opposed cycle helmet compulsion were “lunatics in Lycra.” This is softer than his previous condemnations: he called the Association of Cycle Traders “cycling fascists” for daring to ask why Martlew had threatened to expose one of the ACT’s member shops to the media for “putting cycle sales ahead of child safety.”
Bone started his parliamentary helmet compulsion campaign in September last year:
Peter Bone (Wellingborough, Conservative): “To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will bring forward proposals to make it compulsory for children to wear safety helmets when riding bicycles.”
Stephen Ladyman (Minister of State, Department for Transport): “We believe that it is sensible for cyclists, and especially children, to protect themselves by wearing a cycle helmet and it is our policy to encourage helmet wearing on a voluntary basis. At current helmet wearing rates, making them compulsory would cause enforcement difficulties and, without greater public acceptance, could have an adverse effect on the levels of cycling. However, compulsion remains an option that we keep under review.”
Cyclist Dr Peter Ward is often quoted in the media when cycle helmet compulsion is raised. He has said “cycling is no more dangerous than any other form of transport, but seems to be often viewed as unusually dangerous especially by non cyclists. Maybe this is because so few people cycle in Britain. In countries where many people cycle (Germany, Holland Denmark) safety is less of an issue. In Britain, Govt. figures (Road Casualties of Great Britain) reveals one is more at risk of being killed walking for a kilometre than cycling the same distance. Compared with car driving, cycling involves very similar risks. Is it reasonable to expect cyclists to don helmets when the risks they run are not higher than pedestrians or car occupants? In Australia, New Zealand and Canada large increases in helmet wearing have not resulted in less head injuries among cyclists.”
Calls for pedestrians to wear helmets fall on deaf ears.
‘Pro-safety’ campaigners scoff at suggestions that pedestrians need head protection yet are happy to argue for cycle helmet compulsion.
In her book Bicycling with Children, Trudy E. Bell wrote:
“Consider this chilling fact: a child doesn’t even need to be riding the bicycle in order to fall hard enough to incur permanent brain damage. If a child falls over from standing height even while stopped astride the bicycle, a direct blow to the temple could kill.”
Bell, like Bone and many others, fail to see that this sort of argument, by logical extension, means all child pedestrians should wear helmets as they frequently fall over from standing height.
MPs don’t campaign for pedestrian or car helmets. This kid’s auto helmet designed by Michael Fleming looks a lot like the ‘hair net’ cycling helmets of old, but has the addition of ear buds…
Fleming, a Houston attorney, said: “The time has come for the development of a helmet that protects children in automobiles. Too many children throughout the world are killed in car crashes because of head injuries. Too many of those who survive must face a future filled with the terrible pain and lingering symptoms of severe head injuries. A protective helmet like the one I have designed must be produced to confront this problem.”
To date, Peter Bone MP has not campaigned for children’s auto helmets. However, in July, he asked about cycle helmets again.
Jim Fitzpatrick, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Transport, replied:
“The Department is planning to commission a new research project on cyclists’ road safety in the autumn. This will include a new review of cycle helmet effectiveness. The research project as a whole is likely to take three years, but we are aiming to complete the review of cycle helmet effectiveness within two years, so by autumn 2009.”
Bone’s Ten Minute Rule Bill – Bicycles (Children’s Safety Helmets) - will be aired on Tuesday 16th October.
In his constitency newsletter, Bone said:
“My Bill will make it compulsory for children to wear cycle helmets when riding bicycles. It will ensure that MPs will be given the opportunity to debate the issue and have a vote on the matter.”
He said many MPs support a change in the law and that “local people” have also been supporting his campaign, citing “the new Wellingborough bike shop Cyclelife, which ran a competition for children to design the best cycle helmet and gave away a bike and a safety helmet to the winner.”
The owner of this bike shop, Darren Jayes, said he supported cycle helmet compulsion for children under 16 but doesn’t want “to put people off cycling.”
He said: “When riding with my children I wear my helmet and make them wear theirs, but when I’m just messing about by myself, I don’t wear a helmet, although I wear one when thrashing about in the woods.”
The Association of Cycle Traders feels compulsion is a bad idea:
“Whilst helmet compulsion might generate a short term uplift in sales for retailers we believe the long term impact will be an overall reduction in cycling which would negatively affect the retail sector,” said the ACT’s Mark Brown.
NOTE: Like many others, I’m pro-helmet, anti-compulsion. I wear one of my cycle helmets (road or MTB or, for BMX, potty) every time I cycle. My kids also have multiple helmets for all the cycle disciplines they take part in.