MP's bill to make cycle helmets compulsory for under-14s fails

Bill shelved after failing to get second reading in House of Commons

by Simon_MacMichael   November 8, 2011  

White cycle helmet

A Liberal Democrat MP has failed in her attempt to introduce a law that would have made it compulsory for children aged 13 years and below to wear helmets while cycling. The proposed legislation, officially the Cycles (Protective Headgear for Children) Bill 2010-11 will be shelved after it failed to receive a second reading last week.

Annette Brooke, MP for Mid Dorset and Poole North, had presented her bill to the House of Commons in July, but the planned legislation seemed doomed from the start since it contradicted government policy, as well as that of her own party, not to introduce helmet compulsion.

At the time, Ms Brookes said: "The law will not criminalise those cycling without helmets, instead requiring proof of purchase of a helmet within 28 days to avoid a fine.

"We have a duty to protect our children, and the Cycles (Protective Headgear for Children) Bill will do just that. Brain injury devastates the lives of individuals and their families. Children are at a higher risk because not only are their brains not fully developed but they are less experienced at cycling and on the roads in general."

The bill had the support of groups including the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, road safety charity Brake, the British Medical Association, the Child Accident Prevention Trust and the Child Brain Injury Trust.

Cycling campaigners were opposed to the proposed legislation, with CTC’s campaigns director Roger Geffen saying at the time: "Where attempted elsewhere, enforcing a legal requirement to wear cycle helmets has led to dramatic reductions in cycle use – typically around a third, but with much higher reductions among children teenagers. This amounts to a serious loss of cycling’s health, environmental and other benefits."

He continued: "Helmet use in Britain remains relatively low, particularly among more disadvantaged areas and social groups. Policing helmet laws would exacerbate tensions with the police in these communities, while the money involved would be better spent tackling road traffic offences which cause danger, rather than blaming the most vulnerable road users for not wearing protective headgear of doubtful effectiveness."

13 user comments

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"...the money involved would be better spent tackling road traffic offences which cause danger..."

Quite.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
8th November 2011 - 15:07

3 Likes

So its healthier to crack your head wide open than not to cycle at all?? ...Interesting

posted by DofeDome [23 posts]
8th November 2011 - 18:09

2 Likes

Coleman wrote:
"...the money involved would be better spent tackling road traffic offences which cause danger..."

Quite.

Seconded.

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [203 posts]
8th November 2011 - 18:24

0 Likes

DofeDome wrote:
So its healthier to crack your head wide open than not to cycle at all?? ...Interesting

Why deal with the result? Its often too take by then. Deal with the causes (drivers not looking, going too fast and close, cyclists who ride like idiots through pedestrians on crossing, etc).

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [203 posts]
8th November 2011 - 18:25

2 Likes

DofeDome wrote:
So its healthier to crack your head wide open than not to cycle at all?? ...Interesting

No, it's healthier to cycle and not crack your head open – the usual outcome of cycling – than to not cycle.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7378 posts]
8th November 2011 - 18:27

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DofeDome wrote:
So its healthier to crack your head wide open than not to cycle at all?? ...Interesting

Actually yes. The health benefits of cycling extend your life expectancy by 20 time more than the risks shorten it. And if Boris Bike riders can manage 8 million journeys so far without one of them "cracking their head open" you can quickly come to the conclusion that "cracking your head open" is an extremely rare event. You are far, far more likely to "crack it open" as a pedestrian or motor vehicle occupant.

posted by Tony [66 posts]
8th November 2011 - 19:53

2 Likes

The previous comments about "cracking their head open" is typical of the scaremongery associated with helmets.

Can anyone actually quote figures for the number of under 14s that have received head injuries that a helmet would have otherwise prevented.

posted by NickWi [9 posts]
8th November 2011 - 22:12

1 Like

NickWi wrote:
Can anyone actually quote figures for the number of under 14s that have received head injuries that a helmet would have otherwise prevented.

No, because no-one can be sure a helmet really makes much difference. The forces used in tests are not the same as those in the real world and, short of hitting a large enough sample of real people with a brick or other unyielding object, we probably won't know.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1963 posts]
9th November 2011 - 10:44

3 Likes

"Aaah - but my grannies sister knows someone whose son fell off his bike and would have died! Luckily he was wearing a helmet and it was very slightly scratched."

posted by mad_scot_rider [548 posts]
9th November 2011 - 15:53

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hmmm the only time I cracked my head open was while getting on the wrong side of a boot when at the bottom of a ruck. If only I had worn a helmet at the time Devil Devil

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1052 posts]
9th November 2011 - 17:43

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"The law will not criminalise those cycling without helmets, instead requiring proof of purchase of a helmet within 28 days to avoid a fine."

Yeah, that sounds a fabulously enforceable idea. It doesn't entirely surprise me that someone who thinks 'duty to protect children' = 'making them wear helmets' (rather than, for example, providing them with somewhere safe to cycle ...) is also able to think of such a cock-arsed way of making law.

timlennon's picture

posted by timlennon [227 posts]
9th November 2011 - 17:44

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Simon E wrote:
NickWi wrote:
Can anyone actually quote figures for the number of under 14s that have received head injuries that a helmet would have otherwise prevented.

No, because no-one can be sure a helmet really makes much difference. The forces used in tests are not the same as those in the real world and, short of hitting a large enough sample of real people with a brick or other unyielding object, we probably won't know.

My point exactly. Laws should be made for a good reason, not because someone had a political or personal agenda to follow. If Annette Brooke has some hard evidence let’s see it.

posted by NickWi [9 posts]
9th November 2011 - 19:14

2 Likes

Just look at what happened in Australia when they made helmets compulsory.. it was devastating. Don't blame the victims, make the roads safer!

posted by elstado [17 posts]
10th November 2011 - 13:52

2 Likes