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Bike helmets and Boris bikes - BBC Radio 4 debates the issues

More or Less show hears both sides of the argument, but where do you stand?

One of cycling’s eternal debates – whether it really is safer to wear a helmet – has been the focus of a BBC Radio 4 programme this lunchtime, taking as its start point the fact that anyone wanting to use the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme launched in London this month needs to provide their own lid if they wish to wear one.

The discussion featured in the programme More or Less, presented by Tim Harford, which seeks to unravel “the numbers behind the news,” and if you’re in the UK you can listen to it on the BBC iPlayer, by following this link.

In the programme, Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s Transport Advisor, Kulveer Ranger, explains the rationale behind the decision not to provide helmets to people using the Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme.

The presenter takes to one of the scheme’s signature blue bikes to speak to traffic psychologist Dr Ian Walker of the University of Bath, who talks about the findings of his research into the difference it makes when cycling in traffic of wearing a helmet or going lidless, as well as his by now famous blonde wig.

Afterwards, on his Twitter stream, Dr Walker said that he had stressed that the question that should be getting asked wasn’t whether or nor the scheme’s users should wear a helmet or not, but “Why aren't London's roads made safer?" although that didn’t make the final programme.

The case in favour of helmets, meanwhile, is put forward by paediatric nurse Angela Lee, founder of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, which promotes wearing of bike helmets among children aged under 16.

In Australia, where bicycle helmets are compulsory, people signing up to a bike hire scheme that launched in June were given a free helmet, and a similar approach is being taken in Brisbane, whose own bike hire scheme launches in October, according to the Brisbane Times.

Simon has been news editor at 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.

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