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"It's not always the car's fault" - Laura Trott says reckless cyclists to blame if they get hurt & helmets should be compulsory

Double Olympic champion says riders breaking law shouldn't be surprised if they get hit...

Laura Trott claims that cyclists riding recklessly have only themselves to blame should they get hit by a vehicle. “It’s not always the car’s fault” she said. She also echoed calls by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish in recent days for cycle helmets to be made compulsory.

Trott, winner of two gold medals at London 2012, was speaking in her role as one of Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s cycling ambassadors, says the Evening Standard.

While the mayor has expressed concerns about a minority of cyclists who disobey the rules of the road, Trott’s comments appear far more sweeping and, some may say, poorly thought through.

“Cyclists wonder why they get a bad name,” she told the newspaper. “I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit.

“It’s not always the car’s fault,” she added, although of course substituting “motorist” for “car” would be more accurate.

“Cyclists need to help themselves and should not jump red lights.

“I would ride in London but I certainly wouldn’t ride like that, you just have to be careful.

“I can understand going down the outside of traffic but you should obey the rules of the road because we’re all road users.”

The Standard points out that 14 cyclists lost their lives on the city’s roads last year, and that six more have died so far in 2013.

What neither it – nor Trott – acknowledge is that in the vast majority of cases, the cyclist has done nothing wrong.

And far from cars, it is lorries that present the greatest danger to cyclists on London’s streets.

According to the London Cycling Campaign, HGVs account for just 5 per cent of the city’s traffic, but are responsible for around half of cyclist fatalities.

Many of those deaths occur at junctions, where the cyclist – all too often, a female in her 20s or 30s – is obeying the law, stopped at a traffic light, but on the inside of a lorry that then turns left and not seen by the driver.

Trott, aged 21, has also called for more segregated bike lanes, such as the one planned to run along the Embankment.

“It shows show we’re becoming a cycling nation and the scheme is needed now. If you don’t do it then London’s roads are going to be filled with cyclists. We need more bike lanes in central London.”

TfL’s video animations showing new infrastructure being out in place on the Stratford extension of Barclays Cycle Superhighway CS2 have been widely criticised, including here on, as over-complicated and counter-intuitive, however.

Trott added that helmets should be made compulsory for cyclists, something that the mayor’s own cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, opposes.

Sir Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have also supported calls for mandatory helmets for cyclists in recent days.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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BigBear63 | 10 years ago

If helmets become compulsory does that mean they will have to be built to withstand a certain degree of impact and pass an approved standard, like motorcycle helmets?

If, Yes, it may well be counterproductive to those pro-cyclists supporting compulsory helmets as they will have to wear heavier more substantial helmets than at present. Why? Well that is what happened to motorcycle helmets.

If, No, then cycle helmets, when compared to motorcycle helmets, will continue be as ineffective at saving lives as they are at present.

Light weight helmets (needed for cyclists) are less effective at impact protection than heavier helmets. Indeed, it is the thick soft, spongy, foam padding in motorcycle helmets, that affords most protection, supported with a hard exterior and expanded polystyrene mid layer. Cycle helmets would need a significant upgrade to achieve the same protection and would certainly be heavier and hotter to wear in summer when most cycling is done - this would lead to a lower number of new cyclists, more people giving up and more law breakers. Also will compulsion only be required on public roads? I assume so.

I am in the free choice camp and still wear a helmet most of the time. I ride motorcycles too and know that my £500 kevlar reinforced full face helmet would not make any difference to my survival, if I was hit at normal urban road speeds by a car, van, bus, or lorry. My head would not likely be involved until I hit the deck and that is increasingly unlikely as my speed drops to walking or jogging pace. Most deaths on cycles result from impact with other vehicles not from falling off the bike. We understand this when we first learn to ride as a child. After 46 years of cycling I cannot remember one instance of falling off my bike and my head hitting anything with or without a helmet. Even falling off my motorcycle on 3 or 4 occasions at 30mph or so, did not result in any head impact.

I wear my cycle helmet to hedge my bets if I fall off at speed, much like Pro cyclists do, or during the hours of darkness to increase my visibility. If I am pottering about on my bicycle, at walking or jogging pace, I don't wear my helmet and wear a baseball cap instead.

I want the right to choose and not be compelled, either by the State or by helmet manufacturer lobbyists.

Matt eaton | 10 years ago

100% with you BigBear63, although pros don't necesarily choose to lid up, the rules of competitive cycling compel them to.

hood | 10 years ago

im getting deja vu, im sure we all have this same debate every week...

i'd like to summarise my opinions on all these topics, in priority order -

at th end of the day cyclists need to stop breaking the law (because we have no registration number some people seem to think rules dont apply to us?), especially jumping red lights... in reality, if they do RLJ then what is the consiquence? why is it so bad? - people rarely get hurt. but i think th problem is that the "cyclist reputation" gets damaged - this is why it must stop. with cyclists having "the bad name" that they do at the moment we can never get the majority of people, politicians and TFL behind us because the average joe just thinks we get hurt and its our own fault.... until we clean up our act how can we move forwards? it is a massive stumbling block....

stronger sentencing must be passed down to drivers (of taxis, cars, motorbikes, hgvs - everyone) who endanger the lives of cyclists. whether this is red light jumping, left turnning and crushing cyclists, encroaching in ASL(bike boxes), overtaking extremely close and at speed.... this will give the message to respect other road users (eg cyclists), and because we (cyclists) have already cleaned up our act the other motorists will have no excuse to get angry at us and point their finger and say "but sir, he jumped the red light too"..... when cyclists are squeaky clean we can clean up the motorists act too and will have support and sympathy of the majority when someone in a car almost runs us over or a hgv crushes someone at a left turn....

least importantly (out of these three) better road design is needed. (im not saying this ISNT important, im saying only after ticking the first two boxes can this truly move forward with speed) this cuts out the need for better training (for drivers AND cyclists) because better road design = no conflict between cyclists vehicles..... 9AND no conflict with cyclists and pedestrians too hopefully!).

when these three are done more people will be able to enjoy cycling on th road for recreation or transport and discussing helmets and other things will be a drop in the ocean (which at the moment just cloud the real issues)

BearstedCC | 10 years ago

I believe we should wear a lid... Just makes good sense too.

But Boris your Barclay's Bike Scheme, none available...  22

hairyairey | 10 years ago

Wow - I find myself agreeing with Dave Atkinson for once!

He's right - trucks should not be able to kill cyclists with a single mistake - there are proximity sensors that can be fitted to trucks they should be mandatory (I think it's only a matter of time). Another issue is kerbs and barriers - these are lethal to cyclists who are trapped by a left turning overtaking truck. I think all barriers on road junctions should be removed (near where I live I think they've become magnetic judging by the number of dents from cars).

The other point I'd make is that the perception of cyclists matters - wearing a helmet gives a better impression like it or not. I think it's just a matter of time before helmets are considered the same as seatbelts.

I am appalled at how many cyclists I see jumping the lights on Euston Road - one was almost hit by a coach (a split-second later they would not have been seen). I had him on video but lost him in the chase.

daddyELVIS | 10 years ago

More ammo to the anti-cycling brigade who spout the default line 'and he wasn't even wearing a helmet' whenever they tell their latest tale of being held up by a f#cking cyclist! Perhaps the government could also apply a special higher rate of VAT on cycle helmets too, to compensate for the 'fact' that we don't pay any Road Tax - 2 birds with 1 stone - over night all car v cyclist woes will be cured!

paulfg42 | 10 years ago

If cyclists stopped riding through red lights, would the negative view of cyclists improve?

IanW1968 | 10 years ago

Please make it stop!

My head hurts more from being surrounded by idiots that it ever has from falling of a bike.

ChairRDRF | 10 years ago

I am glad to see that most people posting have got it right.

She is just wrong. Racing cyclists generally know nothing about safety for ordinary cyclists - the exception being Chris Boardman.

Which is why the Government did not make him the UK Champion for Cycling.

Sara_H | 10 years ago

Why are the press continually seeking racing cyclist's views abot cycling? Is Lewis Hamilton considered to be an expert in the efficacy of seat belts in Ford Mondeo's?

Laura Trott may be a fine sportswoman, but a cycling safety expert she is not, as her ill informed comments in this article demonstrate.

hampstead_bandit | 10 years ago

she made a simple mistake in confusing the issue of bad cycling on the highways, and wearing helmets

as others have commented, wearing a helmet makes no difference when an HGV runs you over

I commute every day through London, and am constantly surprised there are not more DEATHS from the sheer stupidity I witness from other cyclists, every day during my short (3 mile each way) commute: RLJ, ignoring one-way streets, dangerous undertaking, ignoring pedestrian crossings, riding on pavements, lack of hand signals, using mobile phones whilst riding, etc.

I have completely lost respect for cyclists in London because from my own casual observations during my commute, 3/4 of them simply do not pay any attention to the highway code or their own safety or that of other road users.

the highway code should be obeyed when using a pedal cycle on the highway, whether from a slavish attempt to the "obey the law", or more importantly an attempt to maintain a competent aspect to riding a bicycle on the highway, regardless of what other vehicular road users may or may not be doing

but mixing up the helmet issue with dangerous cycling practises just blurs the key issues, which is that adult cycle training should be promoted alongside proper police enforcement of all road vehicles including cyclists

arfa | 10 years ago

@hampstead are you seriously suggesting 75% of the cyclists you see on your commute break the law ?

I commute 20 miles a day in London and on the days when I am bored I do count them and it is more like 10-12% of the cyclists I see who break the law (yes I know it's anecdotal before anyone shoots me down but I have been doing this for over 15 years).

Funnily enough I usually encounter more driving breaches from cars (phone use is a corker closely followed by red light jumping) but I haven't got around to counting cars yet so I can't give you a percentage....

AnalogueAndy | 10 years ago

Oh dear, oh dear. Laura, Laura. And the rest of the 'stars' lining up to say similar, please think before you open your traps, and even if this isn't reported exactly as you said it please remember journalists don't ride bikes and whatever you say it will get twisted to meet their agenda.

Yes there is an ounce of truth in what you say but one ounce outweighed by a ton of evidence to show you're wrong.

I had a nasty 'off' myself last year. No-ones fault. A freak mechanical. I was riding safely and, my first piece of 'luck' - the woman driving the car behind me was too (she managed to avoid me, just).

I whacked my head and broke most of the bones in my face as well as cracking my skull - I know some claim after any bang on the head that "it was my helmet that saved me" but in my case it really did. I've worn one ever since I started riding in London in the 1980s. I'd taken up mountain biking, Giro had brought out their first 'Pro Lite' (Remember them!) and I started wearing it for the limited protection I saw it could offer. I've worn one ever since, and my wife, and kids. I wouldn't dream of not wearing one now. It feels unnatural to ride without it.

So you'd expect me to be fully behind Laura's campaign for helmet compulsion?

No. Never. I'm vehemently anti-compulsion. For all the (to me anyway) obvious reasons that I hope most of us all see too plainly - it would legitimise the view cycling is 'dangerous', it would place the onus on cyclists not drivers, it would discourage people from cycling, it would negate the potential health benefits of getting more people to ride, it would do nothing to improve safety on the roads or even touch the numbers of killed or seriously injured.

Pro helmet. Anti compulsion. Pro choice. Pro cycling.

arfa | 10 years ago

Let's just agree that cyclists should push very hard for Chris Boardman to be appointed as cycling czar for the UK and then petty arguments might disappear and common sense prevail

Some Fella | 10 years ago

Fuck Boardman being made cycling czar.

Chris Boardman should be KING OF THE FREAKIN WORLD!

Leviathan | 10 years ago

Some of the weasel words used against Laura Trott herself on this thread are terrible. She is a professional athlete who rides harder, faster and further than anyone here, yet you call her naive as a cheap way of dismissing her point.
Accusing anyone who disagrees with you as pontificating, or that they should 'do some research' is a classic argument from authority. There is plenty of pro-helmet research, yet you say the comments of a neurosurgeon are just anecdotes of course.

Cheapening the debate by trashing anyone who is pro-helmet law is a sure fire way to ensure it happens. And isn't cool.

I am thinking of changing my signature to 'Having said that, I am against compulsion.' Sometimes I wear one sometimes not.

And remember stay classy.

Argos74 | 10 years ago

+ a lot to what AndyAnalogue said so passionately and eloquently. Chapeau.

Leviathan | 10 years ago

Well thanks for truncating my quote to imply the opposite. You think she is being used, not that she could have a free mind and opinion that differs from your own. I know the internet has no shortage of sniveling armchair warriors; is clearly no exception.

But I always like to see my name quoted in the recent comments, thanks.  103

antigee | 10 years ago

I just don't see what compulsory helmet wearing does for cyclist safety and don't consider Trott's comments a useful contribution.

Helmets may mitigate the injury in a collision and poor cycling skills and law breaking may contribute to some collisions the end game of these arguments will be compulsory helmets not making cycling any safer and cyclists rights to be safe from bad drivers being further eroded and justified because some cyclists break laws and incidentally only endanger themselves

as to the editorial on dangerous HGV's couldn't agree too much with this comment

"Wrong, sorry. Blame the inside-left filter lanes and advance stop boxes, not the riders thinking they're following the guidance of the roads, and possibly not the drivers of ill-equipped lorries either. Filter lanes on the left are a potentially very dangerous place to be and have killed many riders imo."

One junction I regularly cross I don't use the inside left cycle lane as too much traffic turns left and the forward box is too short when/if you get to it- I line up in middle of my lane to go straight ahead with the traffic and sometimes get a horn blast and a point to the cycle lane. A few days ago lights changed and I ended stopped in the forward box - truck came up behind and came well forward and put me in his blind spot below his cab - from his position but not indicators I knew would be turning left so I went forward and to the right into the other lane - years of driving and cycling experience helped me see the danger, road designs that create this danger need to be changed.

Colin Peyresourde | 10 years ago

I don't believe the bullshit on this site these days. I'm tired of the incessant nonsense that comes out from so many. If the roads are filled with so many murderous cars, maiming lorries, with a judicial system set up to blame cyclists, a police force set against cross bars and Lycra, existing within an infrastructure designed to kill I wonder why any of you cycle. You are nuts, highly prejudiced and ultimately part of the problem and not part of the solution.

If all you want to do is moan about how unfair the world around you is to cycling you EXIST ON ANOTHER PLANET. Go live somewhere where you think that cyclists are treated like kings, go where no car dares to roam. Go where there is no battle to commute each day. But here and now in the UK you will not get respect for making excuses about depth of bad cycling. An US and THEM attitude only serves to draw battle lines, not being people in to the debate.

In the same way that we can all agree that there are bad drivers, we also need to agree that there are bad cyclists. We need to agree that we want neither.

If you want precedence for political action look at how well respected Martin Luther King Jr was compared to Malcolm X. If you show yourself to rise up above the petty squabbles people will listen to what you have to say, but while you deny that blame CAN lie on both sides, while you insist that a cyclist can do no wrong then there is no room for negotiation. There is nothing wrong with what Trott said. If you believe otherwise you are deluded.

arfa | 10 years ago

Colin & Bike boy,
You might want to re-read some of the comments above again.
I don't think anyone is trashing Trott's professional integrity but what is being questioned is her words as London cycling ambassador as they are naïve.
"If I cycled in London" is a bit of a knock out comment from someone who is Bojo's cycling ambassador for London.
I personally do cycle in London, you can get a feeling for how qualified I am by multiplying the distance at the bottom of my signature by 15. I am sure there are lots of other commentators who do as well and are at least as well qualified to comment. What I disagree with is the idea that London is full of lawless cyclists (another media myth perpetuated to feed the view that cycling doesn't deserve support, a trap that Trott has walked into). I have tried to give some statistical view of lawless cycling and it is way off the hyperbole spouted in the media and in some of the more fanciful contributions to this thread. Perhaps I have been cycling through the more law abiding boroughs of London over the last 15 years ?

She is absolutely entitled to her opinion (as we all are) and she has said nothing factually incorrect. However her views as quoted in the media do nothing to promote cycling which is generally what you'd expect from an ambassador.

Jon Burrage | 10 years ago

jeez, calm down.

stephen connor | 10 years ago

As a cyclist, motorcyclist and car driver, my piece of advice is when undertaking or overtaking vehicles at junctions slow down and try to get the driver's attention (Look into the wing mirror, if you can see the driver's eye, good chance that they've seen you). ]When approaching a queue of stationary traffic at a junction don't filter (undertake or overtake) to the front on the queue if there is a HGV at the front of the queue. If you do this your putting yourself at risk, the fact is that all enclosed vehicles (cars, vans, trucks and HGV's)have blind spots and its next to impossible to design them without blind spots.
Very little point putting the blame on someone after the accident as the damage has been done. Let the law take its course if any offence has taken place.

Making helmets compulsory is next to impossible to police. Cycling helmet are only effective up to a relatively small impact load anyway but I still wear one and I think people who don't probably haven't much precious matter to protect.

crazy-legs | 10 years ago

and remember that the mainstream media currently has an anti-cycling bias.

^^ This.

Any comment, no matter how well thought out, can be twisted or made to be more prevalent. I suspect Laura Trott didn't set out to casue this much grief but the press release could well have been twisted a bit to emphasise the "reckless cyclists" and "helmets should be compulsory" bits.

All this compulsory helmet use and the "installation" of crap cycle paths are just another stick to beat cyclists with:
"use the cycle lane!"
"you should be wearing a helmet!"

I don't want some 0.5m wide streak of paint weaving randomly down a pavement, I don't want to be forced to wear a helmet; I'd just like to ride my bike down the road to work without being regarded as weird/sub-human for doing so.

OldRidgeback | 10 years ago


And I've been commuting in London on two wheels for over 20 years.

BBB | 10 years ago

No one is arguing that there are idiots on two wheels among us. The problem is that it's not them who kill other people on the road.

Just like coroners, politicians, doctors and sports people, she's just another "celeb/authority" who lack balls to explain to a general public that most of cyclists die as a result of careless or dangerous driving not because they jump red lights or don't wear a helmet.


shockleader | 10 years ago

I have no doubt there are many bad, dangerous law breaking cyclists out there and maybe (to be fair) they should be lumped in with the 2 million uninsured drivers, the drivers who park illegally, those who speed and those who use their mobiles while driving - they are all road users who break the law. But hold on, the last time I looked, cyclists were responsible for about 1 death every 2 years so maybe Miss Trott should get her priorities sorted before opening her mouth.

And is she really suggesting that I need a plastic hat to ride my Dutch Bike along the NCN Route 4 (the Millennium Coastal Path)to go shopping?

hillboy | 10 years ago

with 'cycling ambassadors' like this who needs enemies? Who are the other cycling ambassadors by the way; Paul Dacre and Eric Pickles I presume, or that daft #bloody cyclists# individual on twitter, whatever her name was?

Still I suppose now she's got the funding, got the OBE, got the medals she is free to turn around and s**t on the sport that gave her everything

Bye bye Trotty  103

michielh | 10 years ago

I was very impressed with her assessment. She is true, certain people in certain road user groups. let's say do not pay attention and do not anticipate.
Until Laura went to say how helmets should be compulsory. That's when she lost all credibility.

Bigfoz | 10 years ago

Ah, helmets. Light the touch paper and stand back.

While I don't necessarily agree they should be compulsory, pretty much everything else is Nail, hit, head.

It's been my misfortune to see some real *rses riding into London and Glasgow over the years, who do nothing more than start problems that other people get enveloped in.

Yes, a significant minority of cyclists are idiots, have no road sense, and should be prosecuted enthusiastically. Part of it is some sort of machismo "guerilla" attitude that being on a bike is somehow "hard" and rebellious. No, it's just a great way to travel.

Get over it, we share our roads, we should ALL share politely and accept our own blame, irrespective of mode of transport. And no, I don't want totally segregated bike lanes - just everyone travelling properly would solve the damn problem.


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