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British Medical Journal poll says 'no' to helmet compulsion

But British Medical Association wants mandatory helmet use

A British Medical Journal poll asking: “Should it be compulsory for adult cyclists to wear helmets?” has returned a result that conflicts with the British Medical Association’s stated position on helmet compulsion.

Of the 1,439 people who responded to the BMJ poll, over two-thirds, 68%, believed that the use of cycle helmets by adults should not be mandatory in the UK.

Many of those who responded left comments, including Steven Charkin, who said: "Making helmet wearing compulsory gives out the message that cycling is a dangerous activity, which it is not.

"The evidence that cycling helmets work to reduce injury is not conclusive, what has however been shown is that laws that make wearing helmets compulsory decrease cycling activity. Cycling is a healthy activity and cyclists live longer on average than non cyclists."

Another, Richard Burton, said: "Since nowhere with a helmet law can show any reduction in risk to cyclists, only a reduction in cyclists, why would anyone want to bring in a law for something which is clearly not effective at reducing the risk to cyclists?"

The British Medical Journal is editorially independent of the BMA whose position is clear.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, Director of Professional Activities at the BMA, said: "The BMA, as a part of its policy to improve safe cycling, believes that children and adults should wear helmets when cycling. This has been debated a number of times at the BMA's annual conference and when doctors hear the evidence they vote for the mandatory wearing of helmets.

"Wearing a cycle helmet prevents many low impact crashes causing serious injuries and neurological damage.

"Initially we want to see an increase in the voluntary use of cycle helmets prior to the introduction of cycle helmet legislation and we support initiatives that do this. We fully agree cycling is a healthy exercise and believe that increased helmet wearing will further improve its safety." asked the BMA if the organisation would be likely to revisit the issue in light of the poll.

A spokeswoman for the BMA told us: “We have a policy-making body which meets once a year at our annual conference. If our policy is to change then it would have to be as a result of a motion put forward at the conference by our grass roots members through their divisions.”

So if enough BMA members feel the issue needs to be debated again, there is a chance that the Association may, one day, change its stance on the matter.

However, with the annual conference having just taken place that will not happen in the near future and in the meantime politicians like Annette Brooke MP who are calling for compulsory helmet laws will continue to cite the BMA as a powerful supporter of their position.

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