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France makes cycle helmets compulsory for under-12s - and wants kids to nag their parents to wear one too

New law comes into force on Wednesday - but campaigners say it is "nonsense" that it will improve safety...

If you live in France or are planning on holidaying there this summer with your family, be warned – as of this Wednesday, parents of a child aged under 12 years riding a bike while not wearing a cycle helmet face a 90 euro fine, and politicians want kids to nag grown-ups to wear one, too.

They can also be fined if they carry a child on their own bike who is not wearing a cycle helmet, with the government expressing the hope that there could be wider uptake of cycle helmets among adults too as kids question their parents as to why they are riding without protection on their head.

Government road safety chief Emmanuel Barbe described the law, announced last year and taking effect from 22 March as a “soft measure,” reports le Parisien.

But he said that it would “also have an educational value for parents. If a parent doesn’t wear one, the child will ask, ‘Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?’ We want to pass the message along through the voices of the children.”

Olivier Schneider, president of the cycling campaign group the Fédération des usagers de la bicyclette (FUB) said that while it wasn’t opposed to the law, “any hope that this will improve the safety of cyclists on the roads is nonsense.”

He pointed out that just one child aged under 12 had been killed riding a bike in France last year. “A real road safety measure would be to include cycle training on the primary school curriculum, to teach how to ride a bike on the street,” he insisted.

He added: “It also sends the message that cycling is dangerous. If you make helmets compulsory for cyclists, then why not for car passengers or people going up or down stairs?

“Each year 400 people fall downstairs and suffer acute cranial trauma.”

Several other European countries have compulsory helmet laws that apply to children, while Spain requires anyone riding a bike outside urban areas to wear one, except when they are riding uphill.

Earlier this month Bosnia & Herzegovina repealed its requirement for all cyclists, irrespective of age, to wear a cycle helmet, the first country in the world believed to have overturned such wide ranging legislation on helmets.

> Bosnia & Herzegovina repeals cycle helmet law

Opponents of mandatory helmet laws, such as those in Australia, where all riders have to wear them say that the legislation deters people from riding a bike and therefore have a negative effect on overall public health.

> More on the helmet debate here

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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9 comments

Avatar
Colin@cycling | 6 years ago
2 likes

https://forum.cyclinguk.org/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=111335

Quite bit of discussion and information is provided,

e.g. 'A recent report indicated that cyclists wearing helmets had more than twice the odds of suffering an injury than cyclists not wearing helmets, whether riding for transportation or recreation, see Porter AK, Salvo D, Kohl HW, Correlates of Helmet Use Among Recreation and Transportation Bicyclists, AJPM 2016' and

'In New Zealand, from 1989 to 2011, average time spent cycling (on roads and footpaths) fell by 79% for children aged 5-12 (from 28 to 6 minutes per person per week) and 81% for 13-17 year olds (52 to 10 mins/person/week).
Adult cycling declined from 8 to 5 minutes/person/week then trended back up to 8 minutes. Graphs of cycle use over time provide strong evidence that the requirement to wear a helmet discouraged cycling. The reductions in cycling were accompanied by increased injury rates. Between 1989 and 2012, fatal or serious injuries per million hours of cycling increased by 86% for children (from 49 to 91), 181% for teenagers (from 18 to 51) and 64% for adults (from 23 to 38).'

 

 

 

Avatar
atgni | 6 years ago
0 likes

90 euro fine.
How much for running over a cyclist?

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet | 6 years ago
3 likes

Given the massive amount of head injuries in cars, maybe car drivers need to start wearing helmets.

Simpson Bandit for me.

Avatar
Colin@cycling | 6 years ago
4 likes

Evaluation of Australia's bicycle helmet laws, The Sports Science Summit, O2 venue London UK http://www.cycle-helmets.com/au-assessment-2015.pdf   provides some useful information.

France should have a public inquiry and look closely at the evidence. The evidence suggests children will be discouarged from cycling, e.g. For Australia there was strong evidence of cycling reducing in parts of the country following legislation, e.g. In Melbourne, road surveys revealed 30 more teenagers wearing helmets compared with 623 fewer cycling. In NSW, surveys showed 569 more children were wearing helmets compared with 2658 fewer cycling. For New Zealand, cycling usage reduced by 51%.

Erke and Elvik 2007 examined research from Australia and New Zealand and stated: "There is evidence of increased accident risk per cycling-km for cyclists wearing a helmet. In Australia and New Zealand, the increase is estimated to be around 14 per cent." The findings were based on six reports, four from when legislation was in place.

 

Erke A, Elvik R, Making Vision Zero real: Preventing Pedestrian Accidents And Making Them Less Severe, Oslo June 2007. page 28 https://www.toi.no/getfile.php/Publikasjoner/T%C3%98I%20rapporter/2007/889-2007/889-2007-nett.pdf

 

Avatar
davel | 6 years ago
3 likes

"Spain requires anyone riding a bike outside urban areas to wear one, except when they are riding uphill"

WTF - this is like one of those mediaeval laws rumoured to still exist in places like Chester and York. The epitome of unenforceable, surely: seems the product of a proper gerrymandering.

'No, m'lud, the incline was about to hit 1°... No? OK, then I'd just passed a goat wearing a fedora so assumed I was in a town'...

Avatar
drosco | 6 years ago
3 likes

Do we have to have this conversation all over again...

Avatar
burtthebike replied to drosco | 6 years ago
7 likes
drosco wrote:

Do we have to have this conversation all over again...

As long as we have idiots making laws when all the evidence contradicts them, then yes, we'll be having this conversation over and over again.

Avatar
drosco replied to burtthebike | 6 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:
drosco wrote:

Do we have to have this conversation all over again...

As long as we have idiots making laws when all the evidence contradicts them, then yes, we'll be having this conversation over and over again.

Lucky us!

Avatar
burtthebike | 6 years ago
4 likes

Hard to believe that just as one country removes its helmet law, another country adopts one.  Olivier Schneider is of course right, and this has nothing to do with making cycling safer.  The only real question is why the government have introduced it, apparently without bothering to look at the data.  I'm not sure if it's comforting or not to find out that it's not just our politicians who are more convinced by opinion rather than data.

Look forward twenty years and the great French obesity/diabetes epidemic because kids won't ride bikes any more, and they won't when the grow up either.

Incredibly short sighted, counter-productive and just plain stupid, especially when two reports came out last week telling us that we need massive expansion of cycling to prevent modern illnesses caused by our sedentary life styles.

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