A third attempt to introduce mandatory helmet laws in the UK has failed. The Private Member’s Bill, Cycles (Protective Headgear for Children), failed to make it to a second reading as none of the major parties offered their support.
While we are strong supporters of everyone’s right to wear a helmet if they choose, this bill clearly shows how helmet laws hurt cyclists’ safety by focusing on the wrong issues.
By singling out cycling while ignoring all other activities with similar risk profiles, such as walking and driving, helmet laws send a strong message that cycling is considerably more dangerous than the safe and healthy activity it is. The law would also appear to be completely ineffectual – it only required proof of helmet ownership within 28 days to avoid a fine.
Most troubling however, is that the MP who tabled the bill has never introduced a Private Member’s Bill requiring measures to reduce the risk of cycling on roads, such as slowing down motorists. Effective risk management requires that a hierarchy of actions be taken to address safety issues:
- engineering controls
- administrative controls
- personal protective equipment
Mandatory helmet laws are the last option government should be considering, and only once it has exhausted all other alternatives.
In a stark contrast with Australia, no political party or cycling organisation in the UK supports mandatory bike helmet laws. Isn’t it time we admit what the rest of the world knows: that helmet laws hurt cycling and fail to make it safer. End bike helmet laws now!