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Government in Lisbon backs down after cyclists take to the streets to protest against planned legislation

Portugal has shelved plans to make cycle helmets compulsory for people riding bikes after a consultation was met with huge opposition by from the public.

The country’s government had proposed making cycle helmets mandatory under its 2020 National Road Safety Strategy, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).

Opponents of the proposal, launched over the Christmas period, held a march through the capital Lisbon, with 600 people taking part.

The country has long had a reputation for being among the most dangerous in Europe for road users, but saw a 37 per cent drop in fatalities from 2010-15 against an EU average of 17 per cent.

The number of cyclist killed on the country’s roads fell by 44 per cent from 45 in 2011 to 25 in 2015, despite big growth in the number of people riding bikes, says the ECF.

ECF policy officer, Ceri Woolsgrove, said: "Excellent lobbying activities in Portugal has seen some great results for cycling safety and promotion.

“Dropping the mandatory helmet proposal will remove a barrier to the uptake of cycling and the new road code will improve cycling safety.

“It is to be applauded that the Portuguese public authorities have listened to public pressure and cycling associations.

“We sincerely hope that this dialogue continues in order to improve cycling safety in the future, particularly regarding vehicle speeds which are a major road safety factor and are being reduced throughout Europe."

Several EU countries have mandatory helmet laws, sometimes restricted to specific age groups.

Portugal’s next-door neighbour, Spain, requires anyone riding a bike outside urban areas to wear one, except when they are riding uphill.

Last month, France made cycle helmets compulsory for children under 12 years of age.

> France makes cycle helmets compulsory for under-12s - and wants kids to nag their parents to wear one too

During the same month, Bosnia & Herzegovina, which is not an EU member state, became the first country in the world to repeal a law obliging cyclists to wear a helmet.

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.