Despite repeated opposition to the idea of mandatory helmet laws for cyclists from his own party's government, one Conservative MP has penned an opinion piece explaining why he believes such legislation should be introduced.
Just last December the Department for Transport insisted that the government has "no intention" to make wearing a helmet while cycling a legal requirement, however Mark Pawsey, MP for Rugby in the West Midlands, has said he will "continue to call for change" having first raised the issue in Parliament in June.
The MP who has held his seat since 2010 expanded on the argument outlined during his initial call for legislation earlier this summer, telling the story of a constituent, then-teenage Oliver Dibsdale who suffered a serious brain injury in a cycling crash when he was not wearing a helmet.
"Before I met Oliver, I took the view that a helmet was a matter of personal choice, and that any legal requirement to wear a helmet would be difficult to enforce," Pawsey wrote in a piece published on Road Safety GB, a road safety organisation last month accused of "victim-blaming" over its promotion of a cycling helmet campaign by another regional group.
"Oliver told me that he usually wore a helmet when cycling and that he bitterly regrets his decision on that occasion to ride without one. He spoke to me in a very moving way about the impact his injury has had on his family and the guilt he feels for the amount of time they have had to spend caring for him. He very much wants to help other families to avoid this fate."
Pawsey recalls how he and Oliver met Trudy Harrison, the head of the Department for Transport at the time, who engaged in an "excellent discussion" but insisted helmets "should be a matter of choice, not compulsory", the view still held by the government.
"Oliver continued to disagree," he explained. "And drew my attention to a number of arguments which I have found persuasive. Oliver points out that it is illegal to drive a car without a seatbelt and that it is compulsory to wear a helmet on a motorcycle.
"To this, those who oppose mandatory wearing of cycle helmets respond that there is a health benefit from using a bicycle, and that there should not be any discouragement of cycling. Oliver replies to this that, if people wish to exercise, there are many ways of doing so that present less risk; he points out that people can walk, run, take up a sport or go to the gym.
"Another argument cited by opponents to mandatory wearing of cycle helmets is that legislation would be difficult to enforce. While it would certainly create an additional burden on the police, it does not strike me as particularly difficult to enforce compared with other offences: it is easier to spot a cyclist without a helmet than to spot a driver using a mobile phone, or a car passenger without a seatbelt.
"No one now suggests that wearing seatbelts should be a matter of individual choice on the basis of difficulty in enforcing the relevant legislation."
Pawsey raised the issue during a 'Ten Minute Rule Bill' earlier this summer, asking for the government to "require a person riding a bicycle on the public highway to wear a safety helmet".
"I continue to believe that helmets should be mandatory, particularly for children," he concluded. "Following my Ten Minute Rule Bill, Headway, who are supportive of my call for mandatory helmets for cyclists, have asked me to become a 'Headway Parliamentary Champion'.
"I will continue to call for a change in the law, and I would encourage all readers who share my view to make the case to their own Member of Parliament."
Such change seems unlikely, in December the government responding to a written question from fellow Tory MP Mark Pritchard asking for a mandatory helmet law by saying the matter had been considered "at length" during the cycling and walking safety review in 2018, with the Department for Transport holding "no intention" to make it mandatory.
"The Department considered this matter at length in a comprehensive cycling and walking safety review in 2018 and held discussions with a wide range of stakeholders as part of that review," the DfT said.
"The safety benefits of mandating cycle helmets for cyclists are likely to be outweighed by the fact that this would put some people off cycling, thereby reducing the wider health and environmental benefits. The Department recommends that cyclists should wear helmets, as set out in the Highway Code, but has no intention to make this a legal requirement."
Research published from Australia in the same week as Pawsey's 'Ten Minute Bill' proposal found that cyclists wearing helmets were seen as "less human" than those without.
The research by Mark Limb of Queensland University of Technology and Sarah Collyer of Flinders University found that 30 per cent considered cyclists less than fully human, and that cyclists with helmets were perceived as less human compared to those without, while cyclists with safety vests and no helmets were perceived as least human.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.