Spain set to make bike helmets compulsory amid law reform "designed to push cyclists off the streets"

Bicycle advocacy group ConBici slams measures including cyclists having to ride on right and children banned from riding on road

by Simon_MacMichael   March 5, 2013  

White cycle helmet

Spain’s national traffic authority is planning to make cycle helmets compulsory according to the bicycle advocacy group ConBici, which says that the proposal is one of a range of measures “that seem designed to push cyclists off the streets.”

Other proposals highlighted by ConBici include cyclists having to stay on the right-hand side of the carriageway, banning children from riding on the road unless accompanied by an adult, and the introduction of a system of fines that it says presupposes that “cyclists represent the same danger as motor vehicles.”

The cycling campaign group says that it received confirmation of the intention to make helmets mandatory from Francisco de las Alas-Pumariño, chief of statutory regulations at the Dirección General de Tráfico, Spain’s national traffic authority, who was one of the people responsible for drafting the proposals.

ConBici representatives were informed of the proposed measures while attending a road safety conference in Salamanca, and were told that they will be officially announced later this month once scrutinised by Spain’s ministry of the interior.

It adds that other than a few pages, cycling groups have not had an opportunity to look at the proposed text of the changes to the regulations.

In common with its counterparts in other countries, the campaign group is opposed to compulsory helmets for a number of reasons, which it says “is a deterrent to cycling, and gives the false message that cycling is a dangerous activity.

“The national traffic authority has not presented any arguments or studies demonstrating the need for compulsory helmets – unlike ConBici which has presented convincing arguments against compulsory helmets.”

Currently, under a law implemented in 2004 but reportedly seldom enforced, cyclists in Spain have to wear helmets while riding in non-urban areas unless the weather is too hot or they are going uphill. A law that required all cyclists to wear a helmet at all times would presumably be more strictly enforced.

It points out that making helmets obligatory for all cyclists will reinforce the mistaken perception that cycling is more dangerous than it actually is, as well as damaging municipal bike rental schemes found in cities such as Barcelona.

While it is the issue of compulsory helmets that is most likely to grab the headlines, other proposed measures are likely to set alarm bells ringing not just in Spain, but elsewhere.

One of those is the requirement for cyclists to “preferably” stay to the right of the carriageway, which ConBici believes would mean “that in the event of an accident and a subsequent court case, the cyclist must demonstrate his or her reasons for not being on the right of the lane – even if the motorist is at fault.”

It adds: “The bicycle will once again be considered a road obstacle, and the law will limit the amount of space that a bicycle can occupy on the road. Our proposed amendment to the law is the opposite: ‘Cyclists will preferably occupy the centre of the lane and when a motor vehicle approaches from behind the cyclist will, if safe for the cyclist, facilitate an overtaking manoeuvre by moving to the right of the lane. Drivers of vehicles must not intimidate a cyclist into moving to the right.’”

Other planned changes include that ban on children riding alone on the road, which ConBici warns will “mean cancelling projects encouraging children to travel by bike to school – some of which are supported by the national traffic authority,” and a reclassification of cycling offences as “serious” instead of “minor,” which it describes as “Yet another hammer blow for cyclists.”

ConBici acknowledges that some measures are to be welcomed, including that local authorities will have the power to allow cycling on the pavement, albeit with the stipulation that “the pavement is at least three meters wide, uncrowded, and cyclists remain at least one metre away from doorways.”

However, its conclusion of the reforms when taken as a whole is a damning one.

“These measures will push Spain further backwards, prevent the growth of sustainable transport, and only favour those multinationals that have dominated the vehicle and oil industries for decades,” it says.

ConBici adds: “In short, while there are a couple of positive points that reflect years of campaigning, these points are over-shadowed by several extremely negative proposals that will seriously damage cycling in Spain. Urgent reconsideration is needed.”

36 user comments

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You'd think they have better things to do what with their 20% unemployment etc.

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posted by mike_ibcyclist [36 posts]
5th March 2013 - 21:22

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paulfg42 wrote:
jimmyd wrote:
Seems to me Spain actually has got this right. There are some cyclists that are just dangerous and these rules will help control them.

How?

Mind control helmet implants Devil

posted by bendertherobot [253 posts]
5th March 2013 - 21:45

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I rode around Spain last year following the Vuelta. I have never before encountered such good, polite and respectful driving. I was almost always on the right, but the cars and trucks still moved over to overtake. It was great. I would hate to see that change.

I'm riding the 2013 Giro d'Italia for charity! Check it out and follow my progress live at www.tourletour.com

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posted by Tour Le Tour [91 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:03

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Depressing to see all the same old tropes about road danger rehashed in Spain.

Its the MOTOR VEHICLES that are dangerous! NOT the bicycles.

posted by drmatthewhardy [299 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:03

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jimmyd wrote:
Seems to me Spain actually has got this right. There are some cyclists that are just dangerous and these rules will help control them. As for helmets it's no different than a motorist wearing a seat belt or a motorcyclist having to wear a helmet.

Or a motorist having to wear a helmet?

posted by nuclear coffee [114 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:12

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... Because banning offroad vehicles or bull-bars just would be interfering in Individual Choice and would save absolutely NO lives whatsoever.
Memo: Avoid Spain. It's anti-cyclist.

posted by Phytoramediant [23 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:29

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So basically they're talking, amongst other things, about presumed liability for cyclists, unless they deemed to be sufficiently far to the right, and even then, you might be accused otherwise in the event of an incident...

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [2975 posts]
5th March 2013 - 22:54

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Should professional cyclists boycott the Vuelta? Would that influence decision making? Would that be over the top?

Still smiling politely at a persistently flat chain.

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posted by velophilia [38 posts]
6th March 2013 - 1:05

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jimmyd wrote:
Seems to me Spain actually has got this right.

Wearing a helmet will also prevent prevent injury in the event of repeatedly and savagely beating one's head against the desk. Just saying.

posted by Argos74 [268 posts]
6th March 2013 - 2:37

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Calm down guys, I believe jimmyd might just be a troll ,ignore it.

I love the smell of cleats (mexican accent, you do the jokes)

posted by paulfrank [80 posts]
6th March 2013 - 7:55

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spen wrote:

Well on a 3.5 m lane, primary (about 1m from the kerb) would be well inside what could be described as the right side of the carriageway, wouldn't it?


1m from the curb isn't primary...

posted by Dramatic Hammer [4 posts]
6th March 2013 - 8:28

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I would have thought Spain would have had had enough of fascism, after four decades under Franco. How quickly people forget, and how easily it creep back in under the guise of protecting people, especially during times of economic hardship when people's instinct is to push anyone out of the way who isn't contributing to their own survival.

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
6th March 2013 - 9:01

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drmatthewhardy wrote:
Depressing to see all the same old tropes about road danger rehashed in Spain.

Its the MOTOR VEHICLES that are dangerous! NOT the bicycles.

It's the human being that's dangerous.

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posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
6th March 2013 - 9:43

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This is very scary, if Spain does this how long before other countries follow?

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [572 posts]
6th March 2013 - 9:45

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jimmyd wrote:
As for helmets it's no different than a motorist wearing a seat belt or a motorcyclist having to wear a helmet.

Yes it is - it's very different. Cars and motorbikes have none of the associated health benefits of cycling. If having to wear seatbelts put people off driving their cars that would be a good thing. Having to wear a helmet puts people off cycling, as does creating the impression that cycling is more dangerous than it really is, and the resultant drop in physical activity is a bad thing for overall health levels, and would probably outweigh any lives saved by helmet wearing.

Also, I don't think the case for the benefits of cycle-helmet wearing is anything like as clear-cut as the case for seatbelts.

posted by graham_f [92 posts]
6th March 2013 - 10:28

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Riding in Spain is actually a great pleasure - today. Drivers give you plenty of room, and are respectful of cyclists. If a car driver is too close to a cyclist, other drivers give him abuse.
Will this attitude change if these new laws are implemented?
Also, Simon, do you have a link for EU citizens to write their thoughts on this matter to the relevant officials in Spain's traffic authority? Or even in Brussels?
If enacted, these news proposals would be a serious impediment to my son and his friends meeting up when we go over.
I also have to say that, locally to us in Spain (rural area) non-helmet wearers are currently never stopped by either the Guardia Civil or the police. I imagine that this would change...

Christopher

posted by CJK [5 posts]
6th March 2013 - 11:46

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Some people seem to have missed the following;

"It adds that other than a few pages, cycling groups have not had an opportunity to look at the proposed text of the changes to the regulations".

So until it ALL becomes clear what they plan or hope to do lets not blow a gasket slamming anti cycling and making Spain the worlds worst place to cycle Thinking Thinking

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2680 posts]
6th March 2013 - 12:08

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Christ they don't muck about do they .....

posted by Karbon Kev [667 posts]
6th March 2013 - 13:02

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A very poor set of proposals. Angry

Having been in Spain in January, I was looking at potentially going back with my bike later in the year. Might reconsider that idea now.
As tourism is an important industry in Spain have they though about the affect on people who travel there to cycle?

posted by thereverent [297 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:37

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Second

The glass is 50% capacity.

posted by mrfree [33 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:50

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Nope I'm not a troll, just a Cyclist, pedestrian and driver.

posted by jimmyd [92 posts]
6th March 2013 - 14:52

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Yup Primary position is bang in the middle of the stream of traffic, it has nothing to do with the kerb whatsoever. Im from the kerb is the minimum distance one should be from it if at all possible. In fact that is the only time one should consider the kerb. At most other times it's better and safer to stick to following the stream of traffic either in it or near it. Makes it easier to pass parked cars and to be seen by drivers.

posted by Bikecat [3 posts]
6th March 2013 - 16:14

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Municipal Waste wrote:
drmatthewhardy wrote:
Depressing to see all the same old tropes about road danger rehashed in Spain.

Its the MOTOR VEHICLES that are dangerous! NOT the bicycles.

It's the human being that's dangerous.


Yes and they are more likely to kill people if driving a ton of metal at high speeds!

posted by Bikecat [3 posts]
6th March 2013 - 16:17

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jimmyd wrote:
Seems to me Spain actually has got this right. There are some cyclists that are just dangerous and these rules will help control them. As for helmets it's no different than a motorist wearing a seat belt or a motorcyclist having to wear a helmet.

How exactly are cyclists dangerous? Do you have statistics to that effect? Is Spain somehow different to UK where cyclists account for 0.3% of other-road-userKSIs from about 2.2% of modal share? Or do you mean that getting themselves creamed by an impatient motorist makes them "dangerous"?

Cycle helmets are hugely dfifferent from car seat belts. The latter have a decades-long proven record of effectiveness in mitigating injury. The former have at best inconclusive evidence that "a helmet saved my life" or "the ER where I work sees more head injuries from helmetless cyclists" which goes against the other adverse health impacts of cycle hemet compulsion.

Cycle helmets ar also hugely different from motorcycle helmets. The latter are designed for much more severe impacts (though still ineffective in the worst cases). Cycle helmets' design liitations are to 12mph max speed and 1.2m max height drop - useful for trips over roots while mountain biking but not much else.

posted by Paul M [306 posts]
6th March 2013 - 17:44

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Without wanting to start a debate on seat belts at this juncture, I thought that it would be worth pointing out that at least one respected academic does not agree that compulsory seat belt legislation has been wholly beneficial.

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posted by trevorparsons [13 posts]
6th March 2013 - 19:56

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This should not be a Helmet yes/helmet no discussion. I'm a cyclist from Spain and I wear helmet when I go out with my road bike. It saved my life 3 weeks ago.

I do also ride in a big city like Barcelona and I don't wear helmet as long as I ride to transport me.

I really hate this stupid measure because it means that a lot of people will not ride because it will be very uncomfortable to carry the helmet all day long. And this will frustrate the attempts of establish a healthy way of moving in the city, as it has occurred this past years with the public renting of city bikes (bicing system: you pay 40€/year and there are plenty of bike stations for free all over the city. You pick it in one place and leave it in another).

Spain will be a great place to ride anyway. And if you practice road biking, then, for sure, you should wear a helmet. (Sorry for my english).

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posted by xoanmarin [1 posts]
6th March 2013 - 23:22

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You thought wrongly

New Forester

posted by Forester [82 posts]
7th March 2013 - 6:15

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Bike helmets must be compulsory during riding becuase helmets prevents head injuries. Head injury is the most prevalent cause of fatalities and permanent disability resulting from bike accidents. This is a commendable step taken by the government to make bike helmets compulsory while riding.

posted by bikelightsuk (not verified) [123 posts]
8th March 2013 - 9:23

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"The ER where I work sees more head injuries from helmet-less cyclists." - Probably due to that most competent cyclists wear helmets Thinking

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posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
8th March 2013 - 10:13

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bikelightsuk wrote:
This is a commendable step taken by the government to make bike helmets compulsory while riding.

Why stop at while riding? The logical end point of your logic is that all babies should be fitted with those Carrera collapsible helmets, featured on here a couple of weeks ago, at birth, so that it can expand while they grow, and thus never allow them to be exposed to any risk whatsoever.

posted by ubercurmudgeon [168 posts]
8th March 2013 - 11:13

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