Mayor of London tells Jonathan Ross mandatory helmets in Australia affected levels of hire

Mayor of London Boris Johnson says he will not make it compulsory for people using the city’s cycle hire scheme to wear helmets – because he doesn’t want to deter them from riding the bikes.

His predecessor as mayor, Ken Livingstone, who gave the go-ahead to the scheme prior to leaving office in 2008 said three years ago that he had planned to make helmets compulsory for those hiring bikes.

However, evidence from Australia, where cyclists have to wear a helmet by law, suggests that compulsion affects use of cycle hire schemes.

That  point was brought up by Mr Johnson during his appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show on ITV1 last night.

He said: "They tried making the helmets mandatory in Australia and people just stopped taking the bikes.

"I think the health benefits of encouraging cycling outweigh, in my view, the risk and actually the medical evidence is mixed on this,” he went on.

The mayor added: "Tragically when you look at the people who have accidents in London we obviously have a small number of fatalities and quite a large number of minor accidents and most of them have nothing to do with the helmet and the fatalities almost never.

“So I hesitate to say this … but the reality is we are not going to make wearing helmets on the hard bikes mandatory because it would discourage cycling and I want to encourage cycling.”

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.