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Minister rejects call for helmets to be made compulsory for some cyclists in Netherlands

Report commissioned by government says children and older cyclists should wear protective headgear

Children and elderly people in the Netherlands should be required to wear cycle helmets. That’s one of the recommendations of a report commissioned by the country’s infrastructure minister in a bid to cut casualties among road users, but she says it is very unlikely to become law.

The minister, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, asked the country’s Road Safety Research Foundation (SWOV) to draw up suggestions to improve road safety because the government believes it will not meet road safety targets, reports

The government has said it wants to cut the number of road deaths to 500 and serious injuries to 10,600 by 2020. In 2013, the latest year for which statistics are available, those figures stood respectively at 570 and 18,800.

The report outlined 18 measures that it believed would help reduce the casualty toll, among them the requirement for children and older people to wear helmets while cycling, as well as moped riders.

It also said that voluntary usage of helmets should be encouraged among other riders although it acknowledged such a measure was likely to prove unpopular.

They would also doubtless be rejected by campaigners, with evidence from territories where partial or full compulsion has been introduced such as Australia or some parts of the United States being that cycle use falls once it is enforced, and therefore has a detrimental effect on broader public health.

According to SWOV's report, the deaths of up to five children, and five older people, could be saved each year by 2020 if helmets were compulsory, with a fall of 140 and 225 in the number of serious injuries for the respective groups.

But the minister does not believe helmets should be compulsory for bike riders. “I think it should be an optional,” she said. “It is questionable whether a helmet really helps, sometimes it can also cause more damage.”

Other recommendations contained in the report include stronger enforcement of speed limits, reducing the drink-drive limit, fitting autonomous emergency braking systems to vehicles to detect cyclists and pedestrians, as well as improving lighting on cycle paths.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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