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France makes cycle helmets compulsory for under-12s - and wants kids to nag their parents to wear one too

New law comes into force on Wednesday - but campaigners say it is "nonsense" that it will improve safety...

If you live in France or are planning on holidaying there this summer with your family, be warned – as of this Wednesday, parents of a child aged under 12 years riding a bike while not wearing a cycle helmet face a 90 euro fine, and politicians want kids to nag grown-ups to wear one, too.

They can also be fined if they carry a child on their own bike who is not wearing a cycle helmet, with the government expressing the hope that there could be wider uptake of cycle helmets among adults too as kids question their parents as to why they are riding without protection on their head.

Government road safety chief Emmanuel Barbe described the law, announced last year and taking effect from 22 March as a “soft measure,” reports le Parisien.

But he said that it would “also have an educational value for parents. If a parent doesn’t wear one, the child will ask, ‘Why aren’t you wearing a helmet?’ We want to pass the message along through the voices of the children.”

Olivier Schneider, president of the cycling campaign group the Fédération des usagers de la bicyclette (FUB) said that while it wasn’t opposed to the law, “any hope that this will improve the safety of cyclists on the roads is nonsense.”

He pointed out that just one child aged under 12 had been killed riding a bike in France last year. “A real road safety measure would be to include cycle training on the primary school curriculum, to teach how to ride a bike on the street,” he insisted.

He added: “It also sends the message that cycling is dangerous. If you make helmets compulsory for cyclists, then why not for car passengers or people going up or down stairs?

“Each year 400 people fall downstairs and suffer acute cranial trauma.”

Several other European countries have compulsory helmet laws that apply to children, while Spain requires anyone riding a bike outside urban areas to wear one, except when they are riding uphill.

Earlier this month Bosnia & Herzegovina repealed its requirement for all cyclists, irrespective of age, to wear a cycle helmet, the first country in the world believed to have overturned such wide ranging legislation on helmets.

> Bosnia & Herzegovina repeals cycle helmet law

Opponents of mandatory helmet laws, such as those in Australia, where all riders have to wear them say that the legislation deters people from riding a bike and therefore have a negative effect on overall public health.

> More on the helmet debate here

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.

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