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Road safety campaigners Brake want to see mandatory helmet-wearing

A mandatory helmet with every Boris Bike. That’s the call from Brake, a UK charity campaigning to halt both “the worldwide carnage of people being killed and maimed on roads” and “the high levels of carbon dioxide emissions caused by road vehicles”

Brake cites the six people injured since the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme began as evidence that helmet wearing should be compulsory for those using the bikes.

“We support mandatory helmet use for all cyclists across the board” Brake spokeswoman Julie Townsend told road.cc. “We support schemes that promote safe cycling and walking but we would prefer to see investment in safe cycling paths that allow people to walk and ride separated from traffic rather than a scheme that allows people to hire a bike and ride through busy London streets without ensuring they have the appropriate safety gear.”

A TfL spokesman said it was up to individual cyclists to decide whether to use a helmet. He told the Press Association: "There have been six incidents where a cycle hire user has been injured since the scheme launched on July 30. This should be seen in the context of the 750,000-plus cycle journeys that have been made on the hire bikes to date.

"The use of cycle helmets in the UK is not a legal requirement, which means it is up to each user to decide whether or not they wish to wear one. In addition, for a helmet to be effective it has to be the appropriate size and fitted properly.

"TfL encourages cycle hire users to consider wearing helmets, as is stated in the scheme's code of conduct."

Meanwhile, evidence from Melbourne in Australia suggests that mandatory helmet use can severely restrict the uptake of bike hire schemes. After two months of operation the scheme there was renting out just 70 bikes per day.

Another Australian city, Brisbane, where helmet use is compulsory, is now faced with the prospect of a similarly slow uptake of its upcoming CityCycle scheme. The Brisbane Courier reports that the city council is investigating options for users to buy or rent helmets "from approved retailers, at an affordable price." But, reports the Courier, the council has been unable to provide the details of how such an arrangement will work.