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Portugal bins compulsory helmet law plan in face of public reaction

Government in Lisbon backs down after cyclists take to the streets to protest against planned legislation

Portugal has shelved plans to make cycle helmets compulsory for people riding bikes after a consultation was met with huge opposition by from the public.

The country’s government had proposed making cycle helmets mandatory under its 2020 National Road Safety Strategy, according to the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).

Opponents of the proposal, launched over the Christmas period, held a march through the capital Lisbon, with 600 people taking part.

The country has long had a reputation for being among the most dangerous in Europe for road users, but saw a 37 per cent drop in fatalities from 2010-15 against an EU average of 17 per cent.

The number of cyclist killed on the country’s roads fell by 44 per cent from 45 in 2011 to 25 in 2015, despite big growth in the number of people riding bikes, says the ECF.

ECF policy officer, Ceri Woolsgrove, said: "Excellent lobbying activities in Portugal has seen some great results for cycling safety and promotion.

“Dropping the mandatory helmet proposal will remove a barrier to the uptake of cycling and the new road code will improve cycling safety.

“It is to be applauded that the Portuguese public authorities have listened to public pressure and cycling associations.

“We sincerely hope that this dialogue continues in order to improve cycling safety in the future, particularly regarding vehicle speeds which are a major road safety factor and are being reduced throughout Europe."

Several EU countries have mandatory helmet laws, sometimes restricted to specific age groups.

Portugal’s next-door neighbour, Spain, requires anyone riding a bike outside urban areas to wear one, except when they are riding uphill.

Last month, France made cycle helmets compulsory for children under 12 years of age.

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

During the same month, Bosnia & Herzegovina, which is not an EU member state, became the first country in the world to repeal a law obliging cyclists to wear a helmet.

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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