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Conservative MP cites "safety" and attempts to reignite cyclist helmet debate

"If mandatory safety measures are acceptable for car drivers, they should surely be acceptable for cyclists"...

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.

Mark Pawsey MP

"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.

> Government shuts down mandatory cycling helmets question from Conservative MP

"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.

Cyclist in the evening 02 © Simon MacMichael.jpg

"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'.

> Why is Dan Walker's claim that a bike helmet saved his life so controversial?

"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.

London cyclist turning (copyright Simon MacMichael).JPG

"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.

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127 comments

Avatar
jaymack replied to eburtthebike | 6 months ago
2 likes

Anecdote about a pedestrian, really I thought it was about a cyclist. Still as I've said, each to their own. And as for editing no, you simply misread or misunderstood what I wrote. These things happen, it's no big deal. However
please don't accuse me of doing a Nigel, that really is a sleight too far.

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Lozcan | 6 months ago
7 likes

Never trust an ignorant Tory

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marmotte27 replied to Lozcan | 6 months ago
7 likes

Ignorant and Tory being synonymous...

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perce replied to Lozcan | 6 months ago
7 likes

Is there any other kind?

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Rendel Harris replied to perce | 6 months ago
6 likes

perce wrote:

Is there any other kind?

Ken Clarke genuinely knows quite a bit about jazz, and...no, that's all I've got.

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eburtthebike replied to perce | 6 months ago
2 likes

perce wrote:

Is there any other kind?

Ignorance is a requirement of membership of the tory party.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 6 months ago
6 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Ignorance is a requirement of membership of the tory party.

Their two requirements are ignorance and selfishness...and cruelty. Their *three* requirements are ignorance, selfishness and cruelty...and an almost fanatical devotion to the machinery of capitalism. Their *four* ...no... *amongst* their requirements are such elements as ignorance, selfishness...

I'll come in again.

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
3 likes

"Cardinal Biggles, bring in the comfy chair."

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Hirsute | 6 months ago
7 likes

Why do they always go for PPE as the first thing ?

If it saves one life is a bit of a tenuous argument - ban cars in a lot of urban environments, stop people walking on pavements as people are killed each year when on the pavement.

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hawkinspeter replied to Hirsute | 6 months ago
11 likes

Hirsute wrote:

Why do they always go for PPE as the first thing ?

If it saves one life is a bit of a tenuous argument - ban cars in a lot of urban environments, stop people walking on pavements as people are killed each year when on the pavement.

Because that involves absolutely no effort to be made by drivers, despite some of them being the direct cause of the danger. It's also nicely victim blaming, so non-cyclists can smugly throw abuse at any cyclist they seen who's not wearing a helmet.

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hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
12 likes

I'll just throw in this factoid - you're slightly more likely to get into a traffic collision walking one kilometre than cycling one kilometre. So, if it saves one life, let's get mandatory pedestrian helmets for everyone. Just think how much money that Big Helmet will make...

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Clem Fandango replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
4 likes

Fnaaar

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Morgoth985 replied to Clem Fandango | 6 months ago
2 likes

Cousin to Lord Dark Helmet.

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eburtthebike replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
3 likes

And walking has the same death rate per mile as cycling, so why isn't Pawsey campaigning for walking helmets?  He couldn't possibly be so ignorant as to know absolutely nothing about something he wants to pass a law about could he?  Even for a tory, that's pretty ignorant.

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hawkinspeter replied to eburtthebike | 6 months ago
1 like

eburtthebike wrote:

And walking has the same death rate per mile as cycling, so why isn't Pawsey campaigning for walking helmets?  He couldn't possibly be so ignorant as to know absolutely nothing about something he wants to pass a law about could he?  Even for a tory, that's pretty ignorant.

The last stats that I saw put walking at a slightly higher death rate per mile than cycling.

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KDee replied to hawkinspeter | 6 months ago
6 likes

Just popping round to the corner shop for fig rolls...anyone need anything?

 

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eburtthebike replied to KDee | 6 months ago
4 likes

Yes please: freshly half-baked tory opinion.

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Cugel replied to eburtthebike | 6 months ago
4 likes

eburtthebike wrote:

Yes please: freshly half-baked tory opinion.

Toryspiv opinions are not baked at all but still a gooey clag (complete with many adulterants) in the bottom of a broken bowl with a picture of Queen Victoria on it.

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wycombewheeler replied to Cugel | 6 months ago
4 likes

Cugel wrote:

Toryspiv opinions are not baked at all 

they even admit it by moving to the term "oven ready"

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wycombewheeler replied to KDee | 6 months ago
1 like

KDee wrote:

Just popping round to the corner shop for fig rolls...anyone need anything?

 

do they sell fig rolls in croydon?

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ktache replied to wycombewheeler | 6 months ago
0 likes

I want to make fig rolls.

I have a recipe, I've made chocolate digestives a few times and they are so much better than any shop brought packet.

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chrisonabike | 6 months ago
7 likes

Perhaps we could pre-emptively close comments on this one?  That would allow everyone to quietly sympathise with someone who has suffered serious injury in a crash on the road (however it occured).

.

And possibly try to consider the idea an MP is doing something they genuinely believe to be an effective measure to help people, having been given some expert guidance.  Noting that expert in one field does not expert in another make.

.

Secure in the knowledge that it's a certainty that no legal changes will occur as a result of this effort.

.

(Sorry Flintshire - I just felt this one somehow needed some of your bollards.)

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eburtthebike replied to chrisonabike | 6 months ago
4 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

And possibly try to consider the idea an MP is doing something they genuinely believe to be an effective measure to help people, having been given some expert guidance. 

Just because someone genuinely believes something doesn't make it true, and his failure to do the most basic research shows that he really doesn't care, he just wants a photo-op.  His "expert guidance" comes from a single, biased, source and he isn't intelligent enough to ask the people who know more about it than they do.

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Patrick9-32 | 6 months ago
15 likes

Sure, as long as 5 point harnesses, full face helmets and neck restraints are mandatory in cars as that would clearly make drivers safer. 

Also, there is no truly safe way to carry a child in a car so children should not be allowed in cars until they are large enough to be protected by the mandatory safety equipment. 

Its not about safety, otherwise this clown would be arguing for banning cars from all town centres, 20mph speed limits nationwide, a crackdown on dangerous drivers and massive investment in safe infrastructure. Its about controlling the others so the drivers don't have to be inconvenienced. 

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Paul J replied to Patrick9-32 | 6 months ago
14 likes

Hmm, how many accidents would be avoided if cars were limited to 5mph, and were required to have 2 flag men accompany it front and rear to alert others and the driver to any hazards?

If it saves one life - and it would surely save thousands - who could possibly have any reasonable grounds to object?

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chrisonabike replied to Paul J | 6 months ago
4 likes

Paul J wrote:

Hmm, how many accidents would be avoided if cars were limited to 5mph, and were required to have 2 flag men accompany it front and rear to alert others and the driver to any hazards? If it saves one life - and it would surely save thousands - who could possibly have any reasonable grounds to object?

Ah, but that would clearly cause otherwise-law-abiding citizens to lose their minds with frustration and rage.  Not to mention fear if they saw scary types on cycles gaining on them.  So that would likely increase casualties.

Have you considered how many crashes accidents would occur when people had to overtake pedestrians but couldn't do so quickly - and that put them in the path of oncoming vehicles (at a closing speed of 10mph!)?

And there's the health and safety aspect of forcing the flag people to walk amongst road vehicles.  (Your average pedestrians won't get far trying to sue you on similar grounds - they've chosen to walk.)

Never mind the pollution...

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Backladder replied to chrisonabike | 6 months ago
5 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

Paul J wrote:

Hmm, how many accidents would be avoided if cars were limited to 5mph, and were required to have 2 flag men accompany it front and rear to alert others and the driver to any hazards? If it saves one life - and it would surely save thousands - who could possibly have any reasonable grounds to object?

Ah, but that would clearly cause otherwise-law-abiding citizens to lose their minds with frustration and rage.  Not to mention fear if they saw scary types on cycles gaining on them.  So that would likely increase casualties.

Have you considered how many crashes accidents would occur when people had to overtake pedestrians but couldn't do so quickly - and that put them in the path of oncoming vehicles (at a closing speed of 10mph!)?

And there's the health and safety aspect of forcing the flag people to walk amongst road vehicles.  (Your average pedestrians won't get far trying to sue you on similar grounds - they've chosen to walk.)

Never mind the pollution...

You can't just look at the downside like that without providing a balanced view of the upside:-

Full employment due to the millions of flag bearers required

Reduced pressure on the NHS due to the exercise the flag bearers get

The explosion of Jeremy Clarkson's head in disbelief!

Avatar
chrisonabike replied to Backladder | 6 months ago
1 like

Backladder wrote:

You can't just look at the downside like that without providing a balanced view of the upside:-

Full employment due to the millions of flag bearers required

Reduced pressure on the NHS due to the exercise the flag bearers get

The explosion of Jeremy Clarkson's head in disbelief!

Well I wish Mr. Clarkson no ill although I grew tired of the character he created a while back.  Presumably that would lower lots of other people's blood pressure though?

It seems the flag folk are a key community in this discussion.  Yes, walking may be good for them - assuming we've transitioned to emit elsewhere electric vehicles so they only have to worry about particulates.  But what about the battering their mental health will take from the outrageous language they'll have to listen to (never mind the grammar, the usage...) from a certain segment of the driving community?

Avatar
Backladder replied to chrisonabike | 6 months ago
2 likes

chrisonatrike wrote:

 

Well I wish Mr. Clarkson no ill although I grew tired of the character he created a while back.  Presumably that would lower lots of other people's blood pressure though?

Its an ill wind that blows no good.

chrisonatrike wrote:

It seems the flag folk are a key community in this discussion.  Yes, walking may be good for them - assuming we've transitioned to emit elsewhere electric vehicles so they only have to worry about particulates.  But what about the battering their mental health will take from the outrageous language they'll have to listen to (never mind the grammar, the usage...) from a certain segment of the driving community?

Since people are so into PPE I suggest ear defenders for those who don't find it amusing.

In other good news, under this system motorways would be abandoned by motor vehicles due to the real risk of starving to death before the next exit so would be available for use as cycle superhighways  3

 

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chrisonabike replied to Backladder | 6 months ago
4 likes

Backladder wrote:

[...] In other good news, under this system motorways would be abandoned by motor vehicles due to the real risk of starving to death before the next exit so would be available for use as cycle superhighways  3

Ah, cycle superhypeways.  Wait - you mean actual highways for cycling??  That you don't have to stop or dodge an obstacle on every 20 metres because some planner was startled by a sudden driveway, or a motorist had to pull over due to an unforseeable emergency planned delivery they're paid to make?

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