Danish call for helmet law thrown out

Motion to bring in helmets for under-12s defeated

by Tom Henry   June 22, 2009  

White cycle helmet

A proposal to introduce compulsory bike helmets for all Danish children under 12 has been defeated by the country’s parliament.

The Socialist People’s Party, with a smaller party called Radikale Venstre, put forward the motion on the grounds of health and safety, but lost it by 69 votes.

Cycling enthusiasts welcomed the Danish parliament’s decision, saying the party’s research into the safety aspects of cycling helmets was flawed, particularly in a country which is one of the safest, in cycling terms, in the world.

The decision mirrors a similar one taken in the UK in 2004, when the CTC successfully lobbied to prevent a law seeking compulsory helmets for 16-year-olds.

“International evidence also shows that making cyclists wear helmets leads to reduced cycle use - particularly among teenagers - thereby undermining efforts to maximise its health and other benefits,” the CTC says.

“You are in fact more likely to be killed in a mile of walking than a mile of cycling. Nor is cycling injuries particularly likely to be head injuries: a child injured while walking is more likely to suffer a head injury than a child injured while cycling. Pedestrians and car occupants suffer far more injuries which might be preventable through helmet-wearing than cyclists do.”

Karsten Nonbo, a Danish MP who voted again the motion, said: “We can try and imagine that if we pass this law making it illegal not to wear a bike helmet, what would that mean? Well, it would mean that children would always have to wear a bike helmet in places where the traffic laws apply.

“In other words, children would have to wear a bike helmet in camping grounds, they'll have to wear bike helmets on the sidewalk, they'll have to wear bike helmets on city squares, they'll have to wear them everywhere because it became law. I am quite sure that many people will stop cycling."

Copenhagenize.com, a blog which looks at cycling issues in Denmark and around the world, posted this comment: “At the end of the day a law criminalising children and their parents for choosing a healthy, life-extending transport option is perverse.

“The Culture of Fear's encroachment on our culture - especially relating to Danish cycling - is not welcome and we'd be best served to repel it.

“The vote in Parliament was a small stop in that direction. We're at a crossroads in Denmark. The bicycle is booming all over the world, but not here. We can either promote cycling or we can promote helmets. We cannot do both and we must decide quicksmart which direction we want to take.”