Bicycle Helmet charity grabs first prize

A charity that campaigns for people to wear helmets when they cycle has won first prize in a contest across Europe. The Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, based in Milford Road in Reading, was awarded first prize at the European Road Safety Awards ceremony in Paris last week, and it became the first British organisation to receive the prestigious award.

It beat 75 other entries from 17 countries to win the prize for its Headsmart project, which is aimed at 11-14-year-olds in Britain.

Headsmart sends a bike helmet teachers’ pack to every local authority secondary school in England and Wales which contains two DVDs, role-play suggestions, information on the main structures and functions of the brain, a quiz and fact sheets focusing on the importance of wearing a bike helmet and how serious head injuries can be.

Judges from countries including France, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Poland and the European Commission voted unanimously for the Headsmart project to win, and they were said to be impressed by the trust’s innovative approach to encouraging children to wear a cycle helmet.

The Trust works closely with road safety officers, other NGOs, teachers, parents, police, Government Departments and health professionals, as well as directly with children and young people.

Their work is not uncontroversial, as the subject of cyclists wearing helmets and whether helmet wearing amongst youngsters should be mandatory has caused much debate.

Last month accident and emergency doctors demanded that the government make it illegal for under 16s to cycle without a helmet to help reduce the number of children who suffer serious brain injuries.

The Association of Paediatric Emergency Medicine said that studies suggest helmets reduce head injury by 85 per cent, brain injury by 88 per cent and severe brain injury by 75 per cent.

Currently cyclists are not obliged to where helmets by law and Chris Peck from the CTC said: “We believe children should not have to wear helmets. Our position is that parents should have a choice if their children want to wear a helmet. We also want parents to be aware that the element of risk compensation, where children and adults choose to where a safety aid they will take more risks.”