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Tory MP accuses DfT of "burying" cycle helmet report

DfT denies accusations and says no plans to make helmets compulsory for adults or kids

A Conservative MP has claimed that the Department for Transport (DfT) has “buried” research that he says proves that wearing cycle helmets would save the life of up to one in seven cyclists involved in a fatal accident.

Peter Bone, MP for Wellingborough, has called on the DfT to publicise the research which it commissioned last year from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL).
In fact, the report did receive widespread publicity after it was published, not least here on road.cc, when we covered cyclists’ organization CTC’s response to it last December.

Nevertheless, Mr Bone, who advocates compulsory helmet wearing for cyclists under the age of 14, told the Standard: “I am disgusted with the Government's attitude on this. If somebody said 16 per cent of people who died in road accidents could be saved, you would bite their hand off” – an interesting, if perhaps unfortunate, analogy – adding, “the savings to the NHS alone would be enormous.”

“But,” he continued, “there has been no press conference, no press release. I believe individuals can make up their own minds whether they want to kill themselves. Youngsters can't, however, and we have to do it for them.”

A DfT spokeswoman told the newspaper: “We encourage cyclists — especially children — to wear helmets when cycling.

“However, taking into account the practicalities of enforcing such an offence as well as the possible impact on levels of cycling and the potential loss of wider health benefits, we are not persuaded that making helmets mandatory is the right option,” she added.

The MP raised the issue of the report earlier this month in a parliamentary question addressed to the Minister of State at the DfT in which he asked the department to respond to a number of points including whether it would give a press conference to publicise the report’s findings.

He also called on the DfT to make helmet wearing compulsory for children aged 14 and under, and asked for an estimate of the number of fatalities that could be avoided and number of serious injuries could be prevented if cycle helmets were made compulsory for children.

Paul Clark, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the DfT, told Mr Bone that the department had no plans to hold a press conference, saying that this wasn’t normal practice given the number of reports it publishes each year, adding that pre-publication copies of the report had been sent to “a wide range of road safety, health, and cycling interest groups” and that on the day of publication itself, an email link to the report had been sent to “a wider group of stakeholders.”

Although Mr Clark acknowledged that the TRL's research supported the findings of previous research which showed that wearing helmets could help provide protection to cyclists in the event of an accident, and encouraged their use, he added that the DfT had no plans to make them compulsory, whether for children or adults.

He added that TRL’s research showed that between 10% and 16% of fatalities analysed could have been prevented had the rider been wearing a helmet, and that 12 cyclists aged 15 or under had been killed in Britain during 2008, although there was no information about how many of those had died from head injuries, nor how many were wearing cycle helmets.

You can read Mr Bone’s full question, and Mr Clark’s complete response to it, here.

Simon joined road.cc 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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