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“If mandatory safety measures are acceptable for car drivers, they should surely be acceptable for cyclists”: MP calls for cycling helmets to be made mandatory

Conservative politician Mark Pawsey was backing a campaign led by his constituent, Oliver Dibsdale, who suffered a serious brain injury after falling from his bike in 2015

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”.

> Government shuts down mandatory cycling helmets question from Conservative MP

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.”

> Cyclists wearing helmets seen as "less human" than those without, researchers find

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.

> Why is Dan Walker’s claim that a bike helmet saved his life so controversial?

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”.

> "Not at all surprised": Cyclists react to research showing riders wearing helmets and high-visibility clothing seen as "less human"

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 in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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72 comments

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hutchdaddy | 1 year ago
0 likes

This is so typical of the car centric persons thoughts in that they forget that drivers are not the only people in a car. Everything is a burden on the poor driver.

Just a wee reminder that seat belts are not just for drivers...It's almost delivered like a joke with a punchline, makes me shiver everytime I watch it.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=mKHY69AFstE
 

 

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alansmurphy | 1 year ago
0 likes

Aren't helmets tested to withstand an impact at around 20mph?

I would gladly wear a helmet if black boxes were fitted to cars limiting them to 20mph. Surely this is the only way to prevent an incident and make mandatory helmets useful

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ShutTheFrontDawes replied to alansmurphy | 1 year ago
0 likes
alansmurphy wrote:

Aren't helmets tested to withstand an impact at around 20mph?

I would gladly wear a helmet if black boxes were fitted to cars limiting them to 20mph. Surely this is the only way to prevent an incident and make mandatory helmets useful

The relative velocity between the helmet and an object (e.g. ground) is not related to the relative speed between a wearer and another vehicle. A high relative speed can be present even if a collision occurs at low speeds, or even without a vehicle or other 3rd party at all (and vice versa).

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hawkinspeter replied to alansmurphy | 1 year ago
2 likes

alansmurphy wrote:

Aren't helmets tested to withstand an impact at around 20mph? I would gladly wear a helmet if black boxes were fitted to cars limiting them to 20mph. Surely this is the only way to prevent an incident and make mandatory helmets useful

From https://www.rospa.com/rospaweb/docs/advice-services/road-safety/cyclists/cycle-helmets-factsheet.pdf

Quote:

Cycle helmets must adhere to standard EN1078, which states that a helmet must be designed to withstand an impact similar to an average rider travelling at 12mph falling onto a stationary kerb-shaped object from a height of one metre.

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Benthic replied to alansmurphy | 1 year ago
0 likes

About 12 mph into a stationary object. 

It's only about 17 mph for a Formula 1 helmet.

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Michael B | 1 year ago
1 like

I wear a helmet, but that's habit and spousal pressure, what I do find is that is gives me confidence, totally false, when hitting 40mph downhill. If it becomes mandatory it will be interesting to see what the punishment for non compliance will be.

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OldRidgeback | 1 year ago
3 likes

Going by the MP's thought processes, he's lacking in the brain department.

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Carior | 1 year ago
7 likes

Well - in fairness, for a motorist to see me as "less human" he has to have at least seen me - which would be a good start! budum chi!

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marmotte27 replied to Carior | 1 year ago
0 likes

True that.

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HoarseMann | 1 year ago
9 likes

This accident was caused by his foot slipping off the pedal. You could just as well argue for compulsory clipless pedals to prevent a future occurrence. Also, this incident happened on Hillmorton High Street, which appears to be a fairly busy road with no cycling infrastructure - was this a contributing factor?

A very sad and unfortunate freak accident, that I'm sure the individual concerned would not want to happen to anyone else, so I can fully understand their view. In this particular case, a helmet may have helped reduce the severity of the injury.

However, the wider implications for compulsory helmet wearing are well known to outweigh the benefits.

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jh2727 replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
7 likes

I new a woman who slipped on the small set of concrete steps outside her house - she hit her head and died. Perhaps non-slip footwear should be mandated.

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Benthic replied to jh2727 | 1 year ago
2 likes

Mandatory pedestrian helmets too.

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Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
3 likes

.

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Hirsute replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
2 likes

I'd hope the focus is on mandatory and as Steve K points out the logical fallacy of equates a 10kg bike with a 1.8T car.

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speculatrix replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes

But roughly 100kg of bike with rider and baggage

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Hirsute replied to speculatrix | 1 year ago
2 likes

Do you have no mass in a car and it has no fuel?

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Adam Sutton replied to Hirsute | 1 year ago
0 likes

If you add the usual bullshit form the likes of ktache, sure mate.

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Hirsute replied to Adam Sutton | 1 year ago
3 likes

He was taking the bs argument and applying it to other situations.
It's not an evidence based approach by the MP.

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Săndel | 1 year ago
12 likes

Since when are the safety measures acceptable for car drivers?
Most play with their phones while driving, many don't wear the seatbelt unless they see cops, most do not look before opening the door, most do not respect the distance between vehicles, most station and park their vehicles illegally, most have no respect for any kind of safety of anyone, not even themselves.

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Secret_squirrel replied to Săndel | 1 year ago
6 likes

Much as I like your rant - your seat belt point is not born out by the stats...  Most drivers and passengers do wear seat belts.

And the use of "most" liberally in your post exaggerates the problems you list.

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Săndel replied to Secret_squirrel | 1 year ago
2 likes

I state from what I see from the bike saddle, every day...

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speculatrix replied to Săndel | 1 year ago
5 likes

@Săndel

Here in the UK I wouldn't say *most* drivers ignore rules about parking on pavement/sidewalk, wearing seatbelts, driving *far*too* close, using phones *all*the time, *excessively* speed all the time etc.

I would say there's a significant minority who do some of these things regularly.

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Steve K | 1 year ago
12 likes

The MP's argument - as set out in the headline - is the logical fallacy which underlines so much of the anti-cyclist car-centric narrative in this country.  Bicycles are not cars.  Therefore, the argument "motorists have to do it, so why shouldn't cyclists" is illogical.  It's the same basis as the "road tax" and compulsory insurance arguments.

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Hirsute replied to Steve K | 1 year ago
4 likes

I was going to post the same !
"It's not fair"

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Sriracha | 1 year ago
17 likes

Mandatory safety measures for cyclists? I'm all in favour; reason says they should target the source of the danger rather than the victim. So let's start with a mandatory minimum 1.5m overtaking clearance up to 30mph, 2m above that speed. We could also mandate the creation of safe cycling infrastructure. And so on.

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ktache | 1 year ago
10 likes

But going by his logic mandatory cycle helmets would mean mandatory drivist helmets, and for passengers and indeed for pedestrians.

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kingleo replied to ktache | 1 year ago
14 likes

About seven times the number of pedestrians are killed falling down stairs in the UK than cyclists killed in road accidents, every year - it should be compulsory for pedestrians to wear crash helmets.

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chrisonabike replied to kingleo | 1 year ago
4 likes

It does look a bit like "if it saves one life..." there, indeed.  Unless the whole is being presented with supporting studies and rate data etc.?

Better to give a sensible answer to a silly question though.  Even if it's just a dismissal by Jesse Norman e.g. "we looked at this recently and we're not going back again".

Oddly enough one a Dutch safety research group has been having a go recently.  They make a much better case for extra encouragement.  I don't think they've connected *all* the dots - I don't think all the data sets can be related.  Their lengthy report is interesting though - they do look at rates of head injuries specifically.  They also point out that the greatest cause of casualties there are "single vehicle collisions" - crashing bikes or simply no / low speed falls - e.g. exactly the kind of incident where helmets can best mitigate consequences.

In the UK I believe - for fatal outcomes at least - crashes involving cyclists and motor vehicles outnumber those where there wasn't any other party (e.g. see PACTS report from 2020).  Of course there are a couple of other differences with NL...

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Cycloid replied to kingleo | 1 year ago
9 likes

`People drown in the bath : if only everyone wore a life jacket!

The fact is :- that life is risky, and we accept this as part of living. We cannot remove all risks.

The problem is :- that vulnerable road users are put at risk as the price society pays for motorists convenience when this is largely unnecessary.

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Adam Sutton replied to ktache | 1 year ago
0 likes

I mean, other than the fact that a car has protection built in. Multiple airbags, crumple zones, seatbelts, seatbelt pretensioners, and if relatively modern forward collision detection and automatic braking, then yeah your nonsensical point stands. Not to mention those driving as a sport where these devices are not present do wear helmets. Sure.

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