Nottingham politicians: Cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and carry lights

MP and councillors to lobby for helmet compulsion bill also want to ban BMX bikes on public roads

by Sarah Barth   November 1, 2012  

Children cycling - pic credit European Cyclists Federation

Politicians in Nottingham are lobbying for all cyclists to be forced to wear helmets by law, and fix lights to their bikes, following a spate of cyclist deaths in the area.

Nottingham North MP Graham Allen and a number of local councillors are to travel to Westminster next week to make their case on the following points:

 - All cyclists must wear helmets and all bikes must be fitted with lights

 - All new bike sales must include helmets, reflective clothing and lights

 - BMX bikes should be banned on public roads as some do not have brakes or lights fitted, and should be only used on tracks.

 - More training, particularly in schools, and more money for dedicated cycle paths

The delegation will tell Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Stephen Hammond, that seven people died on roads in the area this year, compared to two last year.

Graham Allen MP told This Is Nottingham: "These figures are just not acceptable. Cycling may be a green means of transport but steps need to be taken to ensure that cyclists are safe.

"I don't want to discourage cycling and we have some excellent cycle facilities in Nottingham. I want to see more dedicated cycle paths which are traffic-free and safe.

"I believe that we must all be responsible road users; motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. There must be greater awareness among motorists that there are other modes on the roads and they must drive appropriately. Cyclists must be seen. I think these four points coupled with an awareness campaign will have a big impact."

He added: "Our generation used to do the cycling proficiency course at school. We were issued with the Highway Code, tested and got a badge. Whatever happened to that?"

Councillor Ian Morrison added: "The latest trend to sell fixed wheel bikes without brakes is simply immoral."

In Jersey, laws to make helmets compulsory either for all cyclists in public places or just for under-18s were proposed to the island’s parliament, the States, by Deputy Andrew Green, a long-time campaigner for compulsion after his son suffered a brain injury after coming off his bike in 1988 when he was aged nine.

The motion to make it compulsory for all cyclists was defeated by 25 votes to 24, while that in favour of applying it to under-18s was carried by 32 votes to 16.

But in Northern Ireland, a bill to make helmets compulsory ran out of time, amid widespread lack of interest for the move.

Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns Director told Road.cc: “Neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin – the two biggest parties in the Assembly - were interested in the Bill. The DUP felt that this would be legislation intruding into areas of life where it doesn’t need to go especially as they accepted that cycling is not a particularly dangerous activity. They also took on board our evidence that compulsory helmet use would seriously undermine cycle sales and the cycle tourist industry.

And a study from Norway this year also suggested that mandatory helmet laws actually discourage the safest cyclists in society from taking to the roads.

Meanwhile, Cambridge Cycling Campaign will next week debate whether to withdraw backing for events that promote the wearing of cycle helmets and high visibility clothing, because "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."

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Graham Allen MP told This Is Nottingham: "These figures are just not acceptable. Cycling may be a green means of transport but steps need to be taken to ensure that cyclists are safe.

Easy-peasy.

* Enforce speed limits
* Enforce red lights
* Enforce careless and dangerous driving law and ensure those found guilty serve prison sentences and are banned from driving for life
* Enforce cycle lanes and ASLs
* Enforce the law on motor insurance, MoT and VED

When you've got drivers to behave themselves, then start thinking about what their victims need to do.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
1st November 2012 - 21:10

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Point 4:

Quote:
More training, particularly in schools, and more money for dedicated cycle paths

I agree with (although with the caveat that the dedicated cycle lanes are actually properly designed rather than the council tipping some green paint over a few potholes and saying "there you are, have a cycle lane")

The rest of it is classic politician trying to get a few column inches or maybe just someone opening their mouth before engaging their brain.

posted by crazy-legs [437 posts]
1st November 2012 - 21:45

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I partly agree - lights anyway. I have nearly hit or been hit on my bike on a few occasions in the past week (since the clocks changed) by cyclists, always young men wearing black clothing, on bikes with no lights. Some were on quite busy roads; some on the pavement (one nearly ran me down when I was out running). I usually shout something along the lines of 'get some lights' but of course it's not just that - lights, a bit of reflective gear, a sensible attitude to road safety... sigh. Perhaps I'm just getting old.

posted by RuthF28 [87 posts]
1st November 2012 - 22:30

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Ok, so why am I not allowed to ride my BMX on the road? It has a brake and is completely functional.

There is a case for enforcing rules that disallow bicycles with no brakes from being used on the road. And that applies equally to fixies.

Otherwise, it's the usual tired old crap from someone who doesn't understand the issues and who hasn't bothered to do any research before coming up with a totally misguided policy.

I expect a few years ago he was saying women shouldn't wear short skirts.

I found his email address quite quickly using Google. I suggest others do the same and send him an email pointing out that his campaign for cycle safety is missing the point.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [1941 posts]
1st November 2012 - 22:44

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Why is it that I am already expected as a cyclist to be lit up at night like blackpool sea front, when by law and by common sense we should only need to be seen from the back via a red rear light, to see and be seen by a bright front light and if you are sensible some reflectors so as to be seen from the side. To put on a helmet and if your local dogooder were to get there way, a ballistic nylon jump suit and bubble wrap! All this so that when some inpatient intolerant or total incompetent (I did not see you!!!) driver knocks you off you can then claim the higher moral ground! No no helmets wont work if you a hit by a car HGV bus (you make the list) doing 30mph, More lights seem to make no difference, I have tried this approach and sill regularly getting carved up like a Sunday joint! What we need proper infrastructure and driver training!

posted by 60kg lean keen ... [52 posts]
1st November 2012 - 23:19

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My response on this to a comment on the thisisnottingham.co.uk website suggesting that cyclists and traffic just can't mix on heavily used roads is;

Cyclists and motor vehicles can mix on heavily used roads. The thing cyclists can't mix safely with is motorised traffic that is driven by inconsiderate people, who are careless, who assumes they can pass cyclists at any time, who don't adjust speed appropriately and who assumes that roads are built and provided for the uninterrupted flow of motor vehicles. No cyclist, pedestrian or other motorist should have to mix with that sort of pillock-driven traffic.

The real problem is that those kinds of motorists are allowed to behave in those ways with little chance of being corrected or punished unless they happen to kill someone, and then if it is a cyclist they can expect a few months without driving and a fine of a bit less than a week's wages.

Helmets, hi-viz, separate lanes and training for cyclists are not the answer.

Everyone shies away from the real answer, the hard reality is that drivers need to learn to drive properly, to behave properly and, with proper enforcement, be properly punished when they don't.

I'm not anti-motorist, I am anti-idiot drivers.

Simple really.

Shay

posted by shay cycles [169 posts]
1st November 2012 - 23:53

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My response is... unprintable.

posted by FMOAB [217 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 1:19

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don't we already have laws for this? two effective brakes, lights after dark, that sort of thing?

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [560 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 8:21

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I wonder if someone was to actually do some research into the Spate of cyclist deaths in that area what they would find? ie who was at fault, who was speeding/driving inappropriately given the conditions, who was driving with undue care and attention. I agree with him something needs to be done! as others have already said, better driver training, better enforcement of the law etc etc Blame the OFFENDERS not the VICTIMS

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [484 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 8:42

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More proposals from people who don't ride bikes. Helmet or not we're still the most vulnerable road users and yet we are constantly being compelled to carry the burden of protecting ourselves.

I wear a helmet but I'm aware there isn't any data which proves this should be a legal obligation. It should be a personal choice. As for forcing all new bikes to be sold with helmets and lights - what!!??

Educate drivers, build proper infrastructure and enforce the highway code. It's already happening but the tougher and more congested driving becomes then the sooner a percentage of drivers will become cyclists and learn that despite the political bulls*** and the hostile environment, cycling is still the best way to travel.

JaseCD

posted by jasecd [117 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 9:46

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All those riding bikes without brakes are already breaking the existing law. The answer to that isn't "more laws". As for the rest- is he suggesting that all bikes should have lights mounted (and charged) 24/7 year round? Tit.

posted by Al__S [419 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 9:52

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So before attempting to ban them, legally define a 'BMX' ... without including any other 20" bike.

Oh, and good luck getting the 'reflectors and bells' SI addition to CEN ammended and passed so all bikes are sold with lights )

Enforcing lighting use on bikes (if it's dark!) is no bad thing, but helmets, well it pops up from time to time but I can't see it getting passed.

Also, "The latest trend to sell fixed wheel bikes without brakes is simply immoral." - It's illegal already by CEN and trading standards, unless it includes prominent warnings that the bike is for closed-track use only. They need to do some research..

Oldridgeback, I found his email but it bounced back, same for Stephen Hammond. Care to share?

posted by james-o [178 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 9:52

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There's a single good point- funding for Bikeability being massively increased would be a good thing.

posted by Al__S [419 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 10:07

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Yep definately the victims fault,

and how does buying a bike with helmet work, I have a helmet, I appreciate the concern but better enforcement of what we already have is required not more legislation.

posted by georgee [119 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 10:28

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Quite a reasoned argument from the Right Hon. Mr Allen. I would like to add one other element to his putative bill:

- all nottingham cyclists should be fitted with flak jackets, body armour and a cow-catcher on the front of their bicycle, what with it being the stabby-stabby-gunshot capital of the UK

I like the way it says '..is to travel to London next week' as though it's an epic mission and they very rarely get out of the East Midlands. Some sort of latter day Dr Foster. Steady out there, chaps! There's people riding iron horses! Untethered!

posted by pj [135 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 10:32

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"Cycling may be a green means of transport but steps need to be taken to ensure that cyclists are safe."

Yes, but the inevitable call for compulsory lights, bells, helmets and hi-viz are NOT the answer.

"I don't want to discourage cycling and we have some excellent cycle facilities in Nottingham. I want to see more dedicated cycle paths which are traffic-free and safe."

But good ones cost money, real money. So you can scrap that. And does he genuinely want to encourage it? It reads like he wants to get cyclists out of drivers' way.

"The latest trend to sell fixed wheel bikes without brakes is simply immoral."

Immoral? Like unmarried mothers were in the 1960s or being homosexual was in the 1980s. What does it say about brakeless bicycles in the Bible? FFS!

Are these things really the most important issues on the agenda? Above tackling drivers who are uninsured, mobile-toting or drunk? Pull the other one. And what about more bans and training/restests for drivers that are shown to have caused a collision instead of a derisory £95 fine?

The words "easy" and "target" spring to mind.

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posted by Simon E [1779 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 10:39

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The Great Nottingham Bungle (a comic tragedy by qwerky)
Scene 1 - Nottingham council meeting. Graham Allen MP and his councillors review their latest road safety statistics.

Graham Allen: Right lads, these pesky cyclists are dropping like flies, ruining our statistics and making us look bad. What can we do about it?
Councillor 1: Errm, prosecute those that kill them?
Graham Allen: Don't be silly, we can't prosecute drivers, I drive a car and one of the blighters might get in my way. What would happen then? We can't go around prosecuting MPs.
Councillor 2: We could just get rid of the cyclists.
Graham Allen: We can't ban them, we have to look like we care about them because of Bradley Wiggins and the Olympics.
Councillor 1: How about this? Lets just make them not want to cycle.
Graham Allen: What do you mean?
Councillor 1: We put them off cycling by making up lots of new rules, but because we have to look like we care, we say the rules are for their own safety.
Graham Allen: Brilliant! Right lets see; what stupid rules can we make up that will put people off?

posted by qwerky [126 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 10:46

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"All new bike sales must include helmets, reflective clothing and lights"

Would I need a letter from my mum saying I already have some at home?

"BMX bikes should be banned on public roads as some do not have brakes or lights fitted, and should be only used on tracks."

I expect they should be carried on MPV's or SUV's to said non-existent tracks.

"More training, particularly in schools, and more money for dedicated cycle paths."

Agree on one thing at least. Mr Allen would need to talk to his councilor friends about that as they would be paying for it out of their local budget.

I'd also like to see all cars painted bright yellow, have lights on all the time and drivers to be drink/drug tested before being able to get behind the wheel of a 1+ tonne lump of metal and plastic. Phones to be made unusable from within a car and all passengers to remain silent. Oh and no radios either.

I don't want to discourage driving but I believe that we must all be responsible road users.

jaunty angle: bikes and communications
http://ragtag.wordpress.com

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posted by ragtag [137 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 11:02

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Whenever I see comments like this from politicians, I instantly envisage them as Alan Statham, Consultant Radiologist from Green Wing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIuZmv1E-H4

posted by zanf [381 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 11:48

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Since adult cyclists are slightly more likely than the population average to have a driver's license, I don't see what mention of the highway code is supposed to achieve. They should know it already and apply it to cycling. If they don't, then that reflects the complete inadequacy of our method of licensing people to drive dangerous vehicles quite apart from training cyclists.

I think most motorists' eyes would pop out of their heads if I showed them the bit of the highway code about overtaking vulnerable road users. They obviously don't recall it.

posted by HKCambridge [74 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 11:50

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My email to Graham Allen (allen.labour@gmail.com and/or allengw@parliament.uk ) if anyone else fancies getting in touch):

Dear Mr Allen,

I was very disappointed to read on the thisisnottingham.co.uk website that you are calling for new laws which will limit cycling in the UK. I applaud your intention to make cycling safer, but fear that your suggestions would be counterproductive and would reduce the popularity of cycling, and consequently increase problems for your constituents associated with reliance on motorised transport (e.g. isolation, congestion, obesity, pollution, fuel shortages).

Addressing each of your four points in turn:

1 - All cyclists must wear helmets and all bikes must be fitted with lights. The evidence for a net benefit for cycle helmets is far from clear, and accident rates have increased where helmet compulsion has been introduced. Cycle helmets are not designed to protect against impacts above 12 mph, and their effectiveness in collisions with motor vehicles is controversial at best (e.g. see www.cyclehelmets.org). Risk compensation by cyclists and motorists has been shown to increase the chance of having an accident while wearing an helmet. Moreover, the risks of sustaining a head injury while cycling are comparable with walking and driving, and much lower than for activities such as DIY or going to the pub (e.g Traffic Engineering & Control 2002 by Malcolm Wardlaw) - by calling for helmet compulsion, you misrepresent cycling as a hazardous activity which is likely to reduce participation and therefore the "safety in numbers" effect which lowers the risks of cycling.

Lights are already compulsory during hours of darkness, are you suggesting that they are also required during the day?

2 - All new bike sales must include helmets, reflective clothing and lights. My household owns 13 bikes - do we also need 13 helmets, 13 sets of high viz clothing and 13 sets of lights? As mentioned above, wearing helmets is not the solution that you appear to think it is. If proper lights are fitted, high viz clothing is somewhat redundant (otherwise there would be a parallel call for all cars to be painted with reflective paint). These measures also misrepresent cycling as a hazardous activity, when the opposite is true: the health benefits of regular cycling far outweigh the risks (e.g. Cycling: Towards health and safety. British Medical Association).

3 - BMX bikes should be banned on public roads as some do not have brakes or lights fitted, and should be only used on tracks. There is already a legal requirement for all bikes on public roads to have two working brakes. BMXs that don't (or that are unlit at night) are therefore already banned from public roads. Why should BMXs that are compliant be banned? If they are banned, how do you propose the average teenager will get to the BMX tracks? I suspect that either they won't bother going, they'll be criminalised by cycling (even with brakes and lights), or they'll be driven there by their parents, adding to the country's reliance on motor vehicles. While not designed for efficient transportation, BMXs are often a "gateway drug" to other forms of cycling, and should be encouraged for this reason (in addition to their value in their own right).

4 - More training, particularly in schools, and more money for dedicated cycle paths. I couldn't agree more, although the reality of dedicated cycle paths is less than ideal. Most of this type of path in my area tend to be used as car parks, and even when clear generally offer less convenient routes than using roads.

While I agree with your aims to make cycling safer, the measures you suggest are likely to discourage participation by exaggerating the risks of what should be a commonplace and uncontroversial activity. It also seems odd to place responsibility on cyclists for the lack of care and attention shown by motorists. Cyclists are not intrinsically difficult to see, even when unlit or unreflective, but the attitude of many motorists means that sufficient care and space are often not provided. Instead of blaming the victims, I would urge you to call for more training for motorists, and better enforcement of traffic laws. The real elephant in the room is that motor traffic kills thousands of people a year, but there is a huge political reluctance to suggest that this might have something to do with the standard of driving in this country.

With best wishes,

Kaska

posted by kaska [10 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 12:15

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MPs and councillors are so powerless to achieve anything vote-winning these days and in the face of rebellious locals complaining about Town Hall Cuts, you can see why they'd be tempted to go for something that seems like such an easy win. I mean, who would complain about banning cyclists and those left being forced to dress up like moving targets?

posted by nick_rearden [858 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 13:05

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Also, re the recommendation from zanf above. I wish road.cc comments had a 'like' button.

posted by nick_rearden [858 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 13:09

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Yet again, victim blaming from a politician drunk on Top Gear and populism. Shame on a Labour man.

As 'most everyone above has pointed out, legally defining a 'bmx', let alone banning them, is bonkers; the fact that laws are already in place regarding brakes and lights serves to highlight Allen's ignorance of the issue. The helmet thing... let's avoid that discussion for now.

Irritatingly, this kind of pronouncement polarises debate when really, something does need to be done about the large numbers of cyclists who do themselves (and the cycling community) no favours by cycling without lights at night, hopping on pavements and running red lights (all the effing time in Manchester).

Ghedebrav's picture

posted by Ghedebrav [807 posts]
2nd November 2012 - 13:33

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Wearing helmets on bicycles should remain a personal choice outside of organised sports events where the organisers make the rules. There is no evidence that deaths caused by collisions with other vehicles, (the cause of most cyclist deaths) would improve if helmets were worn. One reason is that head injuries are not always the cause of death and the outcome of being hit by a heavy vehicle at speed would not be affected by a flimsy lightweight helmet.

Carrying lights during the daytime? Again this should be left to the cyclist. Occasionally I do take and use lights during the daytime, particulalry when I riding around Richmond Park at the weekend as there are so many idioot sundsy drivers more interested in the deer than in other road users. I 'feel' better if I at least make an effort to highlight my presence. No evidence it makes any difference.

Even today a guy in a Range Rover decided to overtake me while I was doing 18-21mph in a 20mph zone (no comments please) and he then decided to immediately slow to 12mph!! Completely pointless manoeuvre. Did he have an inkling how inconsiderate he was being? No. He didn't even look at me as I decided to pass him. There are thousands of drivers like that as we all know.

Taking BMX bikes off the road? I thought most BMXers used the pavements or is that just me? Joking aside, BMXers are just as entitled to use the road as anyone else on 2 or more wheels; skateboards, scooters, and the like. They should not expect to be hit by inconsiderate, ignorant, idiot drivers.

What to do about the fact that drivers are the cause of most cyclist deaths? Improve driver awareness during their training and have them tested on it. Punish bad driving involving cycling collisions more severely; None of this lack of evidence bullshit about dangerous driving. Change the law to put the benefit of doubt in favour of the cyclist and pedestrian and not the motorist. Finally, provide better cycle training for kids that goes beyond the basics and eventually takes the teen cyclist into defensive cycling territory. Advance cycle safety training should be similar in approach to the defensive driving course I did, which, though I was sceptical, was one of the best courses I have done. I also did a substantial number of hours on motorcycle training, which taught me a lot about self-preservation that I use whenever I am on the road.

posted by BigBear63 [59 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 1:16

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There's no evidence whatsoever that forcing cyclists to wear a bit of plastic on their heads is an effective way of cutting cyclist's deaths on the roads. If politicians are sincere about cutting cycle related deaths they should put their money where there mouth's are and build more cycle lanes and introduce more traffic calming measures. The most effective ways to reduce cyclists' deaths on the roads are to separate cycles from motor vehicles and slow traffic down, as any motorist who's been on a Speed Awareness course will tell you.

P Gaynor

posted by pgaynor [3 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 9:28

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I do find us cyclists a funny lot.

The simple facts show that most cyclists are actually drivers as well.I am also prepared to bet that many of us have also seen some careless/inconsiderate riding by cyclists. If not, you are blind.

While I might agree that this MP is probably a prehistoric form of walrus, I get frustrated that we believe our own safety is created solely by asking someone else, drivers, to take responsibility for it. Yet when someone else suggests a way of us being safer, we cry that our safety is our own issue. You can't have it both ways.

Years ago woolly beanie hats were de rigeur on building sites. Now if you do that you won't be allowed to work. It doesn't matter how safe you promise to be or that you don't believe it will help, you can't work. Why? Because someone, rather sensibly, noticed that things get dropped due to carelessness and stupidity even onto peoples heads. No one says 'Don't force me to wear one of those! Make the guy who drops his hammer stop being so clumsy'. Yet cyclists say 'I don't want to wear a helmet. Stop drivers from hitting me.' While this would be ideal, it will ALWAYS happen eventually unless you completely segregate the two.

If you enter an organised ride, it is generally one of the rules that you wear a helmet, carry lights and have a bike in roadworthy condition. Anybody complained about that recently? No. Because its cyclists telling cyclists.

I have a responsibility to myself and those who care about me, to try and prevent hurting myself. I don't care if someone tells me to wear a helmet because I already do. I already use lights when its dark (why wouldn't you)and I have them on the bike all the time!

And just in case you're thinking that I don't understand about careless drivers - my brother in law was knocked off his bike two years ago suffering a severe head injury and has just had a 10 hour operation to try and correct a back injury he sustained in the accident; a good friend was knocked of his bike suffering severe brain injury which leaves his speech impaired. Both were wearing helmets; both are likely to have died without them.

Punishment for those who do wrong and self responsibility are two seperate issues. We need to deal with both.

posted by thehairs1970 [23 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 10:00

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Totally agree with thehairs1970's comment.

posted by fictional wilson [7 posts]
3rd November 2012 - 10:53

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To be fair to the Nottingham politicians in the recent local transport plan (LTP3 http://tinyurl.com/bsog9qr)they are quite honest and state:

The LTP2 period saw cycling levels decline by 3% since 2006 ... Nationally, cycling levels have increased over the same period.

Funding available for both capital (for infrastructure improvements) and revenue (for promotional activities) have been reduced. Given the local decreases in cycling levels and reduced funding levels, the target to reverse this trend and maintain the existing levels over the
next four years is considered challenging

Putting that together with the LTP3 proposal to spend £45m on road improvements, bypasses and the like compared to £450k on 'active travel' in the next three years, obviously the situation isn't going to improve for cyclists in Nottinghamshire and so self protection is the way forward.

posted by tarquin_foxglove [72 posts]
6th November 2012 - 16:11

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Kaska, Just thought you might like to know, I used your letter to address my concerns to Mr Allen. His office has responded by not responding, because I don't live in his const. I have replied to this stating that his proposals will affect me and other cyclists directly and think I deserve a reply. Still awaiting an answer.
I have no idea wether others used your letter/got the same brush off or even how you faired (assuming you live in Nottingham) It may be interesting to find out

Bob

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [484 posts]
13th November 2012 - 13:23

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