Building society says change introduced for “members’ welfare” and only applies to injuries a helmet could have helped prevent


Nationwide, the UK’s biggest building society, have clarified why they are introducing a requirement under the travel insurance provided to FlexPlus current account holders for them to wear a helmet while cycling on holiday.

As we reported yesterday, the change will come into effect on 21 September and was notified to the building society’s members who benefit from the insurance in a booklet outlining various changes to the cover provided.

> Cycling abroad and relying on Nationwide travel insurance? You'll need to wear a helmet, or you won't be able to claim

While there was some widening of coverage for cycling – previously, “off road biking” but cover now includes riding on “bridle ways and forest roads.” However, there is a new stipulation that a helmet must be worn.

Meanwhile, “BMX or [cycling] on downhill or extreme trails” is excluded.

In an email to road.cc today, Nationwide explained why it had decided to impose the requirement to wear a cycle helmet.

It said: “The change made to the policy concerning the wearing of bicycle helmets while cycling is intended to provide greater clarity regarding the ‘reasonable care’ we expect our customers to take while on holiday. This change is intended to help to protect our members’ welfare.

“Whilst we accept an individual’s choice to wear a helmet or not, there is an increased risk of head injury for those people who choose not to wear a helmet,” added Nationwide (although anyone who has followed the helmet debate will know that even academic opinion is split on that issue.

“As an insurer, we feel the requirement to wear a helmet when cycling is a responsible approach to encourage safe cycling for our members,” Nationwide went on.

But it clarified that “the change in wording applies only in cases where an injury resulting from riding a bike would have been avoided or minimised through the wearing of a helmet.”

We also asked Nationwide what the implications of the change to its insurance coverage were for people who use bike-sharing schemes, such as the Vélib’ scheme in Paris.

The building society said: “These bikes are treated no differently to any other cycle used on a trip.

“If a customer chooses not to wear a helmet and suffers a head injury as a result of a cycle accident, this would not be covered by the policy terms and conditions.”

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.