The Sun, the UK's largest newspaper has dropped a clanger in an article criticising Prime Minister David Cameron for riding a bike without a helmet – by wrongly claiming they are compulsory in the UK.
The News UK-owned daily published a picture of the Tory politician cycling on holiday on Lanzarote with his youngest child Florence, aged 5, sitting in a child seat on the back.
According to the newspaper, which said Number 10 Downing Street had declined to comment on the photo, “The Highway Code states that cyclists must always wear a securely fastened helmet.”
That of course is incorrect; while cycle helmets are recommended (Rule 59 of the Highway Code says "should" rather than "must"), it is not compulsory for cyclists to wear one in the UK, nor indeed in Spain, where the picture was actually taken.
The newspaper quoted Peter McCabe, chief executive of the charity Headway, which campaigns for cycle helmets to be made mandatory, as saying: “The ground in Lanzarote is as hard as the ground in the UK and it doesn’t matter where you are, brain injury can strike at any time.
“David Cameron should be setting a better example to his daughter and other cyclists, particularly younger cyclists,” he added.
However, cycle campaigners including national cyclists’ charity CTC say that it should be up to individuals to decide whether or not to wear one and cite Australia as an example ofd a country that made them mandatory only to see levels of cycling plummet.
In 2014 Chris Boardman, policy advisor at British Cycling, told road.cc that even talking about making helmets a legal requirement “massively puts people off” cycling.
“I think the helmet issue is a massive red herring,” he said. “It’s not even in the top 10 of things you need to do to keep cycling safe or more widely, save the most lives.”
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.