Should cyclists be required to wear helmets by law?
13 December, 2017
Jesse Norman, transport minister, recently announced that a government consultation, set to commence in the New Year, will look at whether it should be compulsory in the UK for cyclists to wear helmets.
However there is some opposition from cycling campaigners, who argue that this detracts from the issues that should be addressed, such as poor road quality and dangerous drivers. They also think it will deter people from cycling.
So is there a need for this law? Or should it be left to cyclists to decide for themselves?
A recent poll by First4Lawyers found that 76% of people believe cyclists should be required by law to wear a helmet. If such an overwhelming majority thinks this should be the case, why is it that cycling campaigners are arguing differently?
Many argue that the data does not back up the need to make it compulsory, with Cycling UK arguing that ‘the effectiveness of helmets is not the black and white issue many think it is’.
Other campaigners, such as Olympic gold medallists Chris Boardman, say that helmets give a false sense of security to both cyclists and motorists, and Boardman’s mother was killed by a pick-up vehicle in North Wales last July, and he argues that ‘helmets do not make a significant different to people’s safety’.
In Australia it’s compulsory to wear cycling helmets and failure to do so carries a fine of up to £180 – something which campaigners say has actually caused a drop in the number of people cycling.
UK cycling campaigners argue that more needs to be done to protect cyclists from other road users, and to make roads safer for cyclists to use. Sam Jones, of Cycling UK, calls for national design standards to be introduced to improve cycling safety, such as those seen in London, and to avoid ‘dangerous cycling lanes being built.’
But the fact is, last year more than 100 cyclists were killed on Britain’s roads, with an additional 3,397 injured - an increase of 5% on the previous 12 months.
Despite cycling organisations’ opposition to the proposed law, there is evidence that shows they do help prevent deaths on the road, especially with slower moving cars. However, there is also a clear need for road surfaces to be improved and for more education for drivers on driving carefully around cyclists.
It appears that the roads can become a bit of a battle between cyclists and drivers, and there is a need for more harmonious relationships between the two road users. Both are welcome on Britain’s roads, but both need to take steps to make it safer. Discussions on both sides can only help bring about improvements, and the proposed review on making cycling helmets compulsory should therefore be welcomed by all.
Surveys do show that a large majority of Britain’s cyclists already wear helmets, especially in rush hour traffic, and with our research showing that 76% of people agree with that, we think maybe it is time to make it law.