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Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw warns against forcing cyclists to wear helmets

By Echonews  |  Posted: November 30, 2012

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw warns against forcing cyclists to wear helmets

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Forcing cyclists to wear helmets would be "a public health disaster" Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw has warned.

The former Health Minister and himself a keen cyclist and said he cared deeply about the safety of bike-riders, but argued the compulsory measure would be counter-productive.

Other countries which had made cycle helmets have been made compulsory including Canada and Australia, had seen useage plummet, with a resulting negative knock-on effect for health.

Mr Bradshaw was responding to calls by a Conservative MP for cycle helmets to be made compulsory for children.

Alok Sharma said the safety benefits of helmets for children were clear and the Government should legislate to make them mandatory.

But Road Safety Minister Stephen Hammond told the parliamentary debate that while he was keen to strongly promote the use of helmets he would not support changing the law.

Mr Sharma acknowledged calling for compulsory helmet laws would be 'controversial'.

But he said: "The statistics on serious injuries to cyclists bear out why a cycle helmet is so important, especially for children."

Mr Bradshaw said he backed a range of measures to improve cycling safety, but this stopped at making the wearing of helmets compulsory, and called on those arguing for it to study the evidence.

He said: "I speak as a lifelong cyclist, a former chairman of the all-party group on cycling, a former Health Minister and someone who cares deeply about the safety of cyclists and young cyclists in particular.

"The reason why the House has repeatedly rejected the idea of compulsory cycle helmets is that, overall, it would create a public health disaster, and I will explain why.

"Wherever cycle helmets have been made compulsory - whether in Canada, New Zealand or Australia - that has had such a detrimental impact on cycling rates that the overall impact on children's health and the health of society as a whole has been deeply negative.

"By all means encourage, by all means exhort and by all means have campaigns, but please do not, based on the best intentions, pursue a policy that is deeply counter-productive and that will cause more premature death, more obesity and more ill health among young people.

"Cyclists are advised to wear helmets but legislation to make them compulsory is likely to reduce the number of people choosing to cycle and would not be in the interests of health".

The Minister said research demonstrated cycle helmets did have clear safety benefits and their use should be encouraged.

But Mr Hammond added: "We do accept this is a matter of (promotion) rather than compulsion.

"I agree anything outside of legislation which can promote wearing of cycle helmets, I will do."

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  • catherine_d  |  December 04 2012, 9:33PM

    With respect, Rosie, there has not been a single study that shows conclusively that cycle helmets prevent head injury. Helmets are sold with manufacturers' disclaimers to say that they will not protect the wearer in a road traffic accident. The most comprehensive study ever conducted, in Australia after the introduction of helmet laws, actually showed increased fatalities with increased helmet-wearing. Cycling has declined in Australia since the helmet laws were introduced, and a succession of surveys indicate that many more people would ride bicycles if it wasn't for helmet laws. Helmet laws mask the real issue which is that poorly designed roads and careless or aggressive driving kill cyclists irrespective of helmet use. The single biggest factor in cycle safety is having a critical mass of cyclists on the road. I always wear a helmet but I would be statistically less safe with compulsory helmet laws. This is why, to your surprise, cyclists and all major cycling organisations are against the introduction of compulsory helmet laws. If helmets improved cyclist safety, all these organisations would of course be unequivocally in favour. The fact that they are not in itself shows the weight of the evidence against helmet laws.

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  • rosie2010  |  December 04 2012, 5:57PM

    It's not only Australia, Canada and New Zealand where cycling helmets are law. South Africa as well and other countries have cycle helmet laws and it doesn't put off cyclists at all. Helmets prevent head injuries the same as safety belts in cars save lives. This has been proved. For a country that is so hot on health and safety issues and Ben Bradshaw's experience I am surprised that he is against cycling helmets being made compulsory.

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  • Jungle_Jim  |  December 04 2012, 4:41PM

    frostomax I would go as far as to say that the majority of car drivers (if not all) do not obey the rules. I have done a number of checks when travelling in Exeter and see as many cars ignoring red lights as cyclists. i am rather concerned that you believe the majority of failure by car drivers is down to carelessness (a road traffic offence) or ignorance (no defence) Better to knowingly break the law and be aware of the risks that do so in blissful ignorance whan in control of a tonne and a half of metal - that puts others at risk. BTW, the item is about crash helmets, which all of those on 2 wheels need to protect themselves when they meet one of these drivers.

  • frostosmax  |  December 04 2012, 1:11PM

    @Jungle_Jim You're quite right that proving you understand them doesn't mean you adhere to them, however, it is still a necessary test and where possible failure to adhere to these rules is punished. Equally I agree that there are a lot of drivers that do not follow the rules. I equally have a go at them and detest there presence on the road like I do cyclists that do not abide by the rules. The topic of conversation however was bad cyclists, not bad motorists, therefore I voiced my opinions on them. Also make no mistake, I am not claiming perfection here, I too have made mistakes, and like most of us on an empty road I've gone above the speed limit. The key difference though, is (In my opinion/experience) bad drivers normally commit such offences as a result of error or ignorance to rules (despite testing) more often as opposed to a blatant disregard for the rules. Cyclists however appear to know full well that they are in the wrong or shouldn't do it, but go ahead and do so anyway more often as opposed to making errors/mistakes.

  • Jungle_Jim  |  December 02 2012, 6:14PM

    Stuboy13: Motorcyslist have to wear helmets so, for the same reason, that law should be withdrawn. frostosmax: Unfortunately, proving you understanding the rules of the road doesn't mean you actually adhere to them, nor does it mean you are 'safe'. As is usual in these discussions, the mud-sligning tin-box drivers are generally as guilty of all the offences named (except perhaps the references to cycle lanes where car drivers have their own set of stupid behaviours)

  • dmortimer  |  December 01 2012, 10:25AM

    thankyou for your comment stuboy13 but i feel if we all went to a haberdasheri shop and got flourecent strips onto our helmuts we would all feel safe on the roads, this would stop us from being scared of the recklluss road activators and make us concentrate more on the official signs, much love d mortimer

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  • Stuboy13  |  December 01 2012, 9:18AM

    @ frostosmax - Fair enough

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  • frostosmax  |  November 30 2012, 3:49PM

    @Stuboy He probably doesn't read your posts, he uses Screen Reading software such Supernova, NVDA, JAWS. Maybe his VI is partial but enough to be registered as blind. Therefore makes use of Magnification software or simplification software, examples are ZoomText, and Guide. Google Access Technology, you'd be surprised just how many 'blind' people are more than capable of using a computer!

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  • frostosmax  |  November 30 2012, 1:57PM

    @Rob_Mac When you said Driver Education did you actually mean Cyclist Education? As it seems the majority of Cyclists on (and off and back on again) these days seem incapable of understanding the basics of road safety. Such as what Traffic lights are for, who they apply to and what there purpose is. When is it safe and appropriate to cut up car/van/lorry because you as a cyclist you must change lanes immediately without forethought or indication. Which side of a vehicle it is OK to overtake on, and when safe to do so. Why leaning on stationary cars stopped in traffic is not a good idea. How and when to change from Pavement/Cycle Path to Road safely, as opposed to "Just Doing It" regardless of what is already there. Motorists have to prove they understand the "Rules of the Road" prior to driving on them. Cyclists should have to do the same as the majority seem to either be clueless, careless, or ignorant.

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  • RAMBO1945  |  November 29 2012, 9:40PM


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