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Road safety group runs mandatory cycling helmets poll... 85% reject proposal

"It would be fair to say our latest reader survey, on whether cycle helmets should become compulsory, elicited a strong response," the organisation concluded after just 14 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposal...

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.

> Conservative MP cites "safety" and attempts to reignite cyclist helmet debate

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.

Woman cycling in Hyde Park (copyright Simon MacMichael)

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.

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

"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.

Cyclists at traffic lights, London © Simon MacMichael

"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.

Helmet campaign (Bedfordshire Road Safety Partnership)

 

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.

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21 comments

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 4 months ago
5 likes

It suddenly dawned on me that this is all about risk perception.

Someone trips down the stairs and smacks their head, its deemed a freak accident.

Someone falls off their bike and hits their head, its deemed an inevitable consequence of doing a high risk activity.

Until we beat down this positioning of cyclin being a high risk activity, we are going to continuously face these calls for safety mitigation.

Problem is that there are too many people with a vested interest in maintaining the dangerous sport image. 

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Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
0 likes

YES! An article on helmets. 

Ofc people are going to not want mandatory helmets, that means every little trip, however short, would theoretically require a helmet. Not going to happen

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eburtthebike | 4 months ago
9 likes

Road Safety GB deliberately set up a biased poll, with the expectation that the results would be overwhelming for helmet compulsion, but they are surprised that their educated respondents voted against.  They did not make any attempt to inform their audience of the facts, they just presented the choice of helmet compulsion or not, without putting it into context or providing information about what really makes cycling safe.  It is clear that the organisation is biased, misinformed and motor-based, and not really interested in the safety of cyclists, just in diverting attention from the cause of the danger.

Like BHIT, THINK and various other car-based "road safety" organisations, they haven't got the faintest idea what they are talking about, seeking only to blame the victims for not getting out of the way of drivers.

Great that we've got a government which confesses that it is the government for drivers.  You don't count, you're a cyclist.

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OldRidgeback replied to eburtthebike | 4 months ago
4 likes

I was one of those who contributed to the poll. I did not vote for compulsory helmet use for cyclists as I've seen the research and also what has happened in Australia.

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Slug-a-lug | 4 months ago
2 likes

Personally, I can't think of any reason why a cyclist would want to ride without a helmet (but then, unlike many of you, I am quite capable of falling off without the assistance of a close-passing motorist). No... Wait... Just thought of one: being told you must wear one! Perhaps they should try to make them illegal?! 🤔

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brooksby replied to Slug-a-lug | 4 months ago
10 likes

If we still had post counts on here, I would wager that your post-count is close to 1...

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Rendel Harris replied to brooksby | 4 months ago
8 likes
brooksby wrote:

If we still had post counts on here, I would wager that your post-count is close to 1...

In this incarnation, anyway...

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eburtthebike replied to brooksby | 4 months ago
4 likes
brooksby wrote:

If we still had post counts on here, I would wager that your post-count is close to 1...

That many?!

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Backladder replied to Slug-a-lug | 4 months ago
5 likes

Perhaps if you found them hot, noisy and uncomfortable and realised that they hindered your perception of traffic around you you might have a different opinion?

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Benthic replied to Slug-a-lug | 4 months ago
4 likes

For the same reasons that pedestrians, bus passengers, train passengers, motorists etc. don't wear them.

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wtjs | 4 months ago
5 likes

The value of these polls is that they encourage the usual suspects to crawl out of the woodwork to support the victim blaming which is behind the campaigns for mandatory helmet legislation- we already know who they are anyway, but it's useful to have it confirmed. So says someone who almost always wears a helmet while cycling.

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hawkinspeter replied to wtjs | 4 months ago
6 likes
wtjs wrote:

The value of these polls is that they encourage the usual suspects to crawl out of the woodwork to support the victim blaming which is behind the campaigns for mandatory helmet legislation- we already know who they are anyway, but it's useful to have it confirmed. So says someone who almost always wears a helmet while cycling.

It's striking that you feel that you have to justify your opinion with your helmet wearing status. It's also astonishing as to how "helmet bullying" is seen as perfectly acceptable in society - phrases such as "that idiot's not even wearing a helmet" are seen as a wise contribution to road safety by those who don't know anything about the topic (especially whilst being employed by the police or hospital services).

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Simon E replied to hawkinspeter | 4 months ago
3 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:

It's also astonishing as to how "helmet bullying" is seen as perfectly acceptable in society - phrases such as "that idiot's not even wearing a helmet" are seen as a wise contribution to road safety by those who don't know anything about the topic (especially whilst being employed by the police or hospital services).

I've been subjected to 'helmet bullying' and similar remarks. Oddly enough, the cyclists that do it usually wear dark clothing and are likely to exhibit poor roadcraft. But they have an unshakeable belief that wearing a polystyrene hat is the key to survival while cycling on the road with cars, SUVs and lorries.

I also don't have any time for A&E staff etc who lecture about cycling helmets like they know lots about it (they don't, and should keep their ignorant opinions to themselves) while scapegoating politicians and self-proclaimed 'road safety experts' AKA pompous wankers only pronounce on the topic to make themselves look important.

I suspect that most the shitheads that voted 'yes' to compulsory helmets don't even ride a bicycle regularly. If they don't wear one themselves then they shouldn't be allowed to vote on something that doesn't affect them. If they wish to wear one when they cycle / walk / climb trees / take a shower that's fine with me, I'm all for freedom of choice. wink

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HoldingOn replied to wtjs | 4 months ago
2 likes

Imagine a world where cyclist's biggest safety problem, was whether or not to wear a helmet....

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SimoninSpalding | 4 months ago
4 likes

If this was an online survey carried out by the Daily Mail giving a mirror image of the result (which I guess it would) then I would dismiss it as a result of a biased, self selected group of respondents.

The fact that this was carried out by a road safety organisation online again means that it is a biased self selected group. The fact that the bias in this case is people who are interested/ know stuff about road safety still doesn't make it a valid poll.

The truth is opinion polls like this have no validity really, I want government to take the correct steps to improve road safety based on evidence of causes of harm and how to mitigate/ remove them. Most of the public (me included) are not experts in this field so don't bother asking us.

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hawkinspeter replied to SimoninSpalding | 4 months ago
8 likes

To be fair, this poll is nothing to do with road safety (no-one claims that helmets prevent collisions) but all about the click-bait.

It makes as much sense as polling whether pedestrians should have mandatory knee and elbow pads to protect them when they get knocked over by a driver.

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Hirsute replied to SimoninSpalding | 4 months ago
4 likes

They only asked one question and they did not want any nuance.

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Clem Fandango replied to Hirsute | 4 months ago
5 likes

You're thinking of the Brexit referendum....

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Squidfish replied to SimoninSpalding | 4 months ago
5 likes

If that were to happen based purely on facts and statistics, then motorists AND pedestrians would be required to wear helmets before cyclists, as both have a higher likelihood of head trauma

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Cugel replied to Squidfish | 4 months ago
7 likes
Squidfish wrote:

If that were to happen based purely on facts and statistics, then motorists AND pedestrians would be required to wear helmets before cyclists, as both have a higher likelihood of head trauma

Indeed - the list of everyday activities in which various liklihoods of serious head injuries occuring is a long list. Cycling is way down that list. 

So, I'm going to market "stair helmets" of various kinds for various degrees of stair climbing and descending dangers, which vary with age, decrepitude, stair-steepness or twist and so forth.

There will be heavy advertising, including the setting up of "concerned" organisations promoting these fine new life-saving helmets via the inducement of moralistic condemnations of the fools who refuse to buy at least three helmets (for different stairs they might encounter) by judges and nurses/doctors. New laws will be suggested that enforce the inclusion of such helmets and the racks on which to hang them with every new build having stairs or even a front door step. (Or a back one)

There will, as I mention, also be a need for helmet hooks at the top and bottom of all stairs, not to mention multi-helmet-selection carriers for those who enjoy going up and down stairs just for fun. The helmet will need to be renewed every 6 months or if someone accidently dents one with their thumb when putting it on or taking it off. More dosh safety.

My motive is, of course, to make loadsa money save lives and terrible injuries. I have already enlisted the aid of concerned MPS and newspap editors, via bungs pesuasive and logical arguments about the common good, copied from various purveyors of cycling helmets and yellow clothing.

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Jetmans Dad replied to Cugel | 4 months ago
6 likes
Cugel wrote:

Indeed - the list of everyday activities in which various liklihoods of serious head injuries occuring is a long list. Cycling is way down that list. 

Absolutely this. 

A very good friend of mine suffered a life-changing, traumatic brain injury slipping backwards of his front step while trying to unlock the door with an armful of Christmas presents. 

There are so many things that could be done to make cyclists and pedestrians safer around cars and these should be much higher on the list of priorities than making cyclists wear helmets. 

Mandatory helmet wearing is basically the authorities saying "You need to look after your own safety because we aren't going to". 

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