A road safety group said its poll on whether cycle helmets should be compulsory "elicited a strong response", with 85 per cent of respondents rejecting the idea that cyclists should be required to wear helmets.
Road Safety GB is a national road safety organisation in association with 'THINK!' and local government road safety teams. The body was recently accused of "victim-blaming" for its promotion of a cycling helmet campaign and last week published an opinion piece by a Conservative MP calling for mandatory helmet laws here in the United Kingdom.
Off the back of that piece, during which Mark Pawsey insisted he "will continue to call for a change in the law" despite his own party's government repeatedly shutting down the idea, the road safety organisation ran a poll on the idea, questioning readers on whether they believed such legislation should be introduced.
The poll made our live blog last Wednesday as campaigners accused the group of "dangerous framing" and ignoring the primary cause for cycling injuries and fatalities on the UK's roads, one saying: "If all you're pushing is bike helmets and hi-vis, you're not really interested in the safety of the most vulnerable road users."
In response to the poll, "a staggering 1,102 votes" were counted "as well as causing strong debate on social media", with the results of the survey "pretty overwhelming".
"Some 85 per cent of respondents rejected the idea of mandatory cycle helmets, with 14 per cent in favour. Just one per cent were not sure," the road safety organisation announced.
Following the publication of the results, Road Safety GB also acknowledged some of the arguments often heard in the discussion — on one side, arguments about safety benefits of helmets. On the other, evidence from countries where helmets are mandatory referencing the large numbers of people deterred from travelling by bicycle as a result, as well as the fact that some of the countries with the highest cycling levels in the world, such as the Netherlands, record lower helmet use levels.
"Some studies suggest helmets can contribute towards greater injury in the event of a collision," Road Safety GB said. "But when it comes to whether cycle helmets should be mandatory or not, those who oppose the move say the most important factor is the impact on the number of people cycling.
"In the year following the introduction of legislation for compulsory helmets in New South Wales (Australia) there was a 36 per cent reduction in cycling levels. Meanwhile, it is estimated that a total of 136,000 adults and children in New Zealand – nearly four per cent of the total population – stopped cycling immediately after the introduction of cycle helmet legislation in 1994.
"Looking at it from the other end of the stick, countries with the highest levels of cycling, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, record the lowest levels of helmet use in the world. Instead, these countries are heralded for delivering well-connected and high quality dedicated infrastructure, public awareness and understanding of cycling, and a culture where most people cycle regularly."
In December, the Department for Transport answered a question on the matter of mandatory helmets by insisting it has "no intention" to make wearing one compulsory, adding that it had been considered "at length" during the cycling and walking safety review of 2018.
"The safety benefits of mandating cycle helmets for cyclists are likely to be outweighed by the fact that this would put some people off cycling, thereby reducing the wider health and environmental benefits. The Department recommends that cyclists should wear helmets, as set out in the Highway Code, but has no intention to make this a legal requirement," the DfT concluded.
Last month, Road Safety GB came under fire for promoting a local road safety group's helmet campaign, with accusations of "victim-blaming" heard about the advert which told the story of a cyclist called Ted who, "Whilst riding real quick, he hit a big stick, and now he's in a hospital bed".
Critics said the campaign would have been better served targeting the source of road danger for cyclists, rather than simply encouraging personal protective equipment.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.