The people behind a forthcoming crowdfunding campaign believe that everyone who rides a bicycle in London should wear a cycle helmet – and they want to raise money to produce a product “so cheap and so available that everyone chooses to wear them.”
Put a Lid on It, which launched on social media and put its website live last week, claim that 92 per cent of people who use the capital’s cycle hire scheme bikes don’t wear a helmet, and have made them the first target of their campaign.
While some people have tweeted messages of support to the campaign’s Twitter account, others have accused it of victim-blaming and ignoring issues that would improve conditions for cyclists such as safer lorries and separated infrastructure.
Launched last week, the putalidonit.co.uk website says: “We want to make helmets, so portable, so cheap and so available that everyone chooses to wear them,” which some might see as missing the point that there are other reasons people don’t cycle with one."
It adds: "Our primary goal is to make the helmets available through convenience stores by bike stands and bike shops. But there will be a limited edition version available to crowdfunding backers along with a range of other goodies."
The website outlines how Put a Lid on It came into being:
Sam Terry, a keen cyclist and Londoner, realised that the key is convenience. Cyclists need to be able to go to the corner shop next to the bike stand and buy a helmet. The helmet needs to be cheap enough to buy on an impulse and lose without irritation – a bit like a cheap umbrella!
The helmet also needs to be portable. Sam considered all the helmets currently available. Cheap helmets were bulky, collapsible helmets were pricey (and most just don’t collapse enough). The only option was design a new solution – LID was born!
LID is the only collapsible helmet that reduces to the size of a couple of books so it WILL fit in your bag. If we achieve our funding targets, we will sell it for the price of a budget umbrella. Most importantly it will protect the wearer. It will be thoroughly tested and certified to European safety standards. Let’s stop head injuries ruining everyone’s day!
While some tweets to the @putalidon account on Twitter back the initiative, others said they were distracting from other measures that would improve the safety of cyclists.
Clive Andrews wrote: “I know you mean well, but is your campaign based on any evidence? Helmet-fixation is demonstrably not helpful.
“If it's ‘about choice’, why does your campaign imagery clearly say there's ‘something wrong’ with a photo of a lidless rider?
Please don't be disingenuous enough to pretend posters like this are anything about promoting ‘choice’.”
Hackneycyclist asked: “Will you be asking pedestrians & drivers to #putalidonit as well? Many die from head injuries in collisions.”
Other messages were more supportive. Julian Swann wrote: “Hired my first boris bike today. So easy to do but no mention of helmets in the safety guidelines. #putalidonit”
Ken Livingstone, who as Mayor of London gave the go-ahead to the capital’s cycle hire scheme which would be launched under Boris Johnson, said in 2011 that he had planned to provide helmets for people hiring bikes.
He said: “It was always the plan that you should make certain that people who are cycling have got a helmet. You almost want to have a way where the helmet is actually chained to the bike, so people who don’t bring one can have one.”
In the Australia, where cycle helmets are compulsory, people hiring bikes from Melbourne’s cycle hire scheme can buy a helmet for A$5 from vending machines, as Terminator star and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had to do last week when he was stopped by a police officer while riding a bike without one.
Critics of Australia’s compulsory helmet laws however have said that they have led to a lower uptake of cycle hire schemes there than have been seen elsewhere.
Of course, if you do choose to wear a helmet when hiring a bike in London, you could take your own helmet with you – as this pair of riders we spotted recently did.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.