Cambridge Cycling Campaign will next week debate whether to withdraw backing for events that promote the wearing of cycle helmets and high visibility clothing, with a motion on the issue due to be debated at its Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Tuesday. The proposal follows a move earlier this year by Spokes, the Edinburgh and Lothian cycle campaign, not to promote events requiring participants to wear a helmet.
The motion, proposed by Simon Nuttall, a committee member and adult cycle trainer, and seconded by Heather Coleman, says:
Cambridge Cycling Campaign supports all cyclists as they go about their lawful business on the public road. We note that the law does not require helmets or high visibility clothing. The image of cyclists presented to the public has become so strongly skewed towards riders wearing those items that the legitimacy and status of those who do not wear them is being undermined. In order to help restore the balance the campaign reserves the right to decline to promote events or activities where helmets or high visibility clothing are required or implied.
The background to the motion published on Cambridge Cycling Campaign’ website points out that the image of helmet wearing, lycra clad cyclists seen on TV screens this summer during the Tour de France and Olympic and Paralympic Games does not reflect the reality of people using their bike to go about their daily business.
“It is getting harder to find pictures of ordinary looking cyclists wearing ordinary clothes in central government publications, local government publications and even holiday brochures,” it adds.
“There have been some exceptions such as Transport for London's 'Catch up with the bicycle' campaign, and after a long battle with Cambridgeshire County Council at last we have a photo on the front of the cycle map which is representative of the majority of Cambridge's cyclists.
“The time has come to put down a marker that sends out the message that we want ordinary everyday cyclists to be better represented in the media. The Lothian Cycling Campaign, Spokes, have taken a lead here and decided to stop promoting events in which helmets dominate.”
Councillor Martin Curtis, Cambridgeshire’s Cycling Tsar, told Cambridge News: “Our role is to promote safe cycling, so it would be wrong of us to do anything that didn’t promote the use of high visibility clothing or helmets.”
Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, disagreed, saying: “Cycle safety is best delivered by improved infrastructure, training for drivers and cyclists, and above all, by getting more people cycling.
“Simply insisting people wear helmets and hi-vis is not the answer to the problem, although of course people may well want to wear them.”
Earlier this year in an e-bulletin sent to members, Spokes said: “We are concerned at the creeping growth of semi-compulsion, for example charity bike rides insisting on helmets for young adults and government-funded websites picturing all or nearly all cyclists helmeted, thus creating a climate in which total compulsion could eventually happen.
“Helmet advertisers, promoters and government agencies bombard us with the benefits but, disgracefully, we are never told of the risks – although there is evidence on both sides, and crashes and injuries occur as a result of the risks of helmets.
“Compulsion, or one-sided promotion, is very wrong – even more so as they put people off the healthy choice of getting about by bike. Therefore, Spokes will not, after this [bulletin] issue, publicise charity rides or other events involving helmet compulsion. We call on all other organisations concerned about public health to do the same.
“Helmet manufacturers and sales outlets, in the interest of public safety, should have to make clear on boxes and in sales literature a helmet’s impact design speed (usually around 12mph) and the potential risks as well as benefits.”
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.