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Scotland’s active travel minister criticised again for lack of helmet

Critics say Patrick Harvie should “set an example” after he was pictured at school Bikeability session

Scotland’s active travel minister, Patrick Harvie, has once again come under criticism for not wearing a cycle helmet

Harvie was appointed the Scottish Government’s minister for zero carbon buildings, active travel and tenants’ rights after the Green Party, for which he is MSP for Glasgow, entered a shared agenda agreement with the Scottish National Party in August.

> Huge boost to active travel in Scotland as SNP and Greens pledge to spend nearly £60 per person per year

However, opponents have been quick to seize on the fact that he cycles in everyday clothes rather than hi-viz clothing, and without a helmet, to try and score political points against him.

Their latest opportunity came on Friday when he attended a Bikeability session in East Renfrewshire and posed for pictures with schoolchildren undertaking cycle training, with the photos posted to Twitter by Transport Scotland.

Graham Simpson, the Scottish Conservatives transport spokesman, quoted in the Scottish Sun said: “If Patrick Harvie is going to tag along with children for a quick photo while they are doing Bikeability training, the least he could do is to abide by the same rules as them.

“He doesn’t have to wear a helmet but, quite frankly it’s no big deal to put one on if he is going out with a group of youngsters.

“Patrick needs to know when to stop posturing and be responsible.”

He was also criticised by Neil Greig of the charity IAM RoadSmart, who said: “Yet again Mr Harvie has failed to set the right example as a Scottish Government minister.

“A helmet is a vital piece of safety kit, especially for children as their skulls are not yet fully formed. Encouraging people to consider active travel options requires positive role models who practice what they preach.”

In September, after he was pictured at Glasgow Pride riding his bike bare-headed, Harvie said that wearing a cycle helmet was “not my style” and made him feel as though he were participating in an extreme sport.

And in response to the latest furore, a spokesman for Transport Scotland insisted on whether or not to wear a cycle helmet “is a matter of personal choice, not a requirement.”

He added: “The Highway Code recommends wearing a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened, if cyclists choose to do so.”

Under EU and UK safety standards, cycle helmets are rated to protect against a head injury in a fall from a bike at a very low speed – and not to protect against injuries sustained in a collision with a motor vehicle.

Successive governments have rejected calls to make them compulsory, and campaigners say that the focus on the issue distracts from other ways in which the roads could be made safer for cyclists, with Chris Boardman, for example, telling in 2014: “I think the helmet issue is a massive red herring.

> Chris Boardman: “Helmets not even in top 10 of things that keep cycling safe”

“It’s not even in the top 10 of things you need to do to keep cycling safe or more widely, save the most lives,” he added.

Simon joined 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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Backladder replied to giff77 | 2 years ago

Scottish Cycling and Cycling Scotland are two very different organisations and the Bikeability website suggests that it is different from either and that helmet use is driven by the schools rather than by them however if you work for or with them you may know better who they actually are.

giff77 replied to Backladder | 2 years ago
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Cycling Scotland takes responsibility for the Bikeability scheme in Scotland and has branded it as Bikeability Scotland. Bikeability in effect is solely responsible for England as there is a Welsh branded scheme as well. Meanwhile Northern Ireland continues to run the Cycling Proficiency Scheme and this is a government run scheme as opposed to being a charity like BikeAbility. 

have a look at the Cycling Scotland and you will see the reference to Bikeability Scotland. Also if you Google Bikeability Scotland you are taken direct to CS

Sriracha | 2 years ago

I'm betting most of his critics believe a helmet protects against the dangers posed by motorists (won't someone please think of the children). At which point they can breathe a sigh of relief that they don't need to do so much to eliminate that danger.


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