If you live in France or are planning on holidaying there this summer with your family, be warned – as of this Wednesday, parents of a child aged under 12 years riding a bike while not wearing a cycle helmet face a 90 euro fine, and politicians want kids to nag grown-ups to wear one, too.
They can also be fined if they carry a child on their own bike who is not wearing a cycle helmet, with the government expressing the hope that there could be wider uptake of cycle helmets among adults too as kids question their parents as to why they are riding without protection on their head.
Government road safety chief Emmanuel Barbe described the law, announced last year and taking effect from 22 March as a “soft measure,” reports le Parisien.
But he said that it would “also have an educational value for parents. If a parent doesn’t wear one, the child will ask, ‘Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?’ We want to pass the message along through the voices of the children.”
Olivier Schneider, president of the cycling campaign group the Fédération des usagers de la bicyclette (FUB) said that while it wasn’t opposed to the law, “any hope that this will improve the safety of cyclists on the roads is nonsense.”
He pointed out that just one child aged under 12 had been killed riding a bike in France last year. “A real road safety measure would be to include cycle training on the primary school curriculum, to teach how to ride a bike on the street,” he insisted.
He added: “It also sends the message that cycling is dangerous. If you make helmets compulsory for cyclists, then why not for car passengers or people going up or down stairs?
“Each year 400 people fall downstairs and suffer acute cranial trauma.”
Several other European countries have compulsory helmet laws that apply to children, while Spain requires anyone riding a bike outside urban areas to wear one, except when they are riding uphill.
Earlier this month Bosnia & Herzegovina repealed its requirement for all cyclists, irrespective of age, to wear a cycle helmet, the first country in the world believed to have overturned such wide ranging legislation on helmets.
Opponents of mandatory helmet laws, such as those in Australia, where all riders have to wear them say that the legislation deters people from riding a bike and therefore have a negative effect on overall public health.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.