The French Senate this week debated whether wearing a helmet while cycling or using electric scooters should be made mandatory for all adults.
Legislation already makes it mandatory for children under the age of 12 to wear a helmet when riding a bike, but the proposed changes would make it the case for all.
France has enjoyed a 'bike boom' since the pandemic, with Paris in particular benefiting from improved infrastructure and temporary cycle lanes.
In February, figures from the city's government found that new cyclists account for almost 60 per cent of pop-up cycle lane users, and that the amount of women cycling has risen by 41 per cent.
> Six in ten users of pop-up bike lanes in Paris are new to cycling, says city’s government
However, on Thursday a motion brought forward by Senator François Bonneau of the Centrist Union Group 'Union centriste' proposed to make helmets mandatory under the banner of improving user safety.
Lawbreakers would be subject to a €135 fine, and the rules would cover use of e-scooters as well as bicycles.
In the proposal, Senator Bonneau said: "Only 31 per cent of cyclists wore a helmet in 2020, according to [road safety group] the l'Observatoire national interministériel de la sécurité routière.
"Cycling deaths have increased by 21 per cent since 2010, and the number of people injured on EDPMs has increased by 40 per cent in one year: 62 per cent were not wearing a helmet."
He also emphasised that helmet usage is considerably higher (86 per cent) for private use than self-service hire bicycles (9 per cent).
However, the proposals have received significant criticism from cycling associations who believe the debate is a waste of time, and that mandatory helmets is a "false good idea".
Françoise Rossignol, president of the urban cycling group le Club des villes et territoires cyclables, emphasised road safety is closer linked to the speed of vehicles and visibility of cyclists, not whether the individual wears a helmet.
"It is certainly not [anything to do with] helmets, which are actually a barrier to the practice [of cycling]," she told French business news outlet BFMTV.
Green party politician Senator Jacques Fernique also expressed opposition to the proposals, saying: "We don’t want this to become a legal thing. Imagine seizing someone’s bike or e-scooter just because the rider isn’t wearing a helmet!"
It is not the first time the issue of mandatory helmets has been raised in France. Back in 2016, Senator Hervé Maurey said it would make riders safer.
> French senator calls for compulsory helmet law
In June 2019, the Assemblée Nationale voted against a mandatory helmet law.
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