A Conservative MP has called for the government to make wearing a helmet while cycling a legal requirement, and argued that if mandatory safety measures are acceptable for motorists, they “should surely be acceptable for cyclists”.
Mark Pawsey, the MP for Rugby, has introduced a compulsory cycle helmet bill into the House of Commons, due for a second reading in November, following a campaign led by one of his constituents, Oliver Dibsdale.
In 2015, the then-teenage Dibsdale suffered a serious brain injury after falling from his bike. Pawsey told the Commons today that the cyclist was informed by doctors at the time “that had he been wearing a helmet he may still have sustained an injury, but that it would have been far less severe”.
The MP continued: “He bitterly regrets his decision on that particular occasion to ride without a helmet. He has spoken to me in a very moving way about the impact that his injuries have had on his family, the guilt that he feels for the amount of time they have had to spend caring for him, and he very much wants to help other families avoid this fate, and this Bill will achieve this aim.
“Oliver makes the point that it will be far easier for parents to insist that their children wear a helmet if it becomes a legal requirement. He finds it extremely frustrating whenever he sees cyclists on the road without helmets, because from his personal experience he knows all too well the risk that they are taking.”
Addressing concerns that a mandatory bike helmet law would be difficult to enforce, Pawsey said: “While it would certainly create an additional burden on the police, it doesn’t strike me as being particularly difficult to enforce in comparison with other offences.
“If mandatory safety measures are acceptable for car drivers, they should surely be acceptable for cyclists. Now we know that cyclists are the most vulnerable road users.”
The MP also recounted in the Commons today that, during a recent family holiday, he initially declined a helmet while renting a bike. Pawsey claims that the person serving him “then looked me in the eye and asked me, ‘Just how many brains have you got, sir?’”
Pawsey’s Road Safety (Cycle Helmets) Bill is listed for a second reading on 24 November, but is unlikely – even if it were to achieve the required support in the chamber – to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.
Of course, Pawsey’s proposed piece of legislation isn’t the first time that compulsory bike helmets have been a topic of debate in parliament.
In December, the Department for Transport insisted that the government has “no intention” of making helmets mandatory, following a question from the Conservative MP for Shropshire constituency The Wrekin, Mark Pritchard.
In response to the MP’s question, minister of state for the department Jesse Norman said the matter had been considered “at length” during the cycling and walking safety review in 2018.
Norman, himself the Tory MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire, also added that while the Department for Transport “recommends that cyclists wear helmets”, the “safety benefits of mandating cycle helmets are likely to be outweighed by the fact that this would put some people off cycling”.
This latest attempt by an MP to reintroduce the ‘helmet debate’ into the Commons also comes in the same week that a new study from Australia – where helmet wearing is mandatory – found that an alarming number of motorists view cyclists wearing helmets and other safety gear as “less human”.
Of the 563 people surveyed for the study, conducted by Mark Limb of Queensland University of Technology and Sarah Collyer of Flinders University, 30 percent considered cyclists less than fully human, while cyclists with helmets were perceived as less human compared to those without, while cyclists with safety vests and no helmets were perceived as least human.
“Our findings add to this growing research, suggesting that cyclists wearing safety attire, particularly high-visibility vests, may be dehumanised more so than cyclists without safety attire,” the study concluded.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.