Herefordshire Council has defended using an image of cyclists without helmets to promote cycling. A spokesperson pointed out that cycle helmets are not compulsory in the UK and that there is evidence many people stop riding in areas where they are.
The Hereford Times reports that at least one local had taken issue with a Herefordshire Council advert posted on the back of a bus which promotes the Beryl Bikes bike-share scheme.
“I was just out and about in the Hereford traffic and noticed a rather large advertisement on the back of a bus,” he said.
“‘Choose how you move’ was the caption, with a gentleman on a bicycle without a helmet on.
“Yes it’s great Herefordshire Council are trying to encourage us to move more, but please do it with a helmet on your head.”
A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said: “The wearing of helmets is a contentious issue with industry experts, interest groups and numerous research studies failing to reach agreement.
“There is agreement on the need to improve protection and safety for cyclists and also on the need to encourage more cycling as way of increasing activity and health in the general population and reducing congestion.
“The debates and disagreements are about how both can be achieved and specifically, whether making the wearing of helmets compulsory will reduce the number of people cycling.
“There is international evidence to show that many people stop riding as a result of such a requirement, and others are put off cycling completely, which amounts to a serious impact on activity levels and health.”
Organisations such as Cycling UK maintain that the public health impact of people being deterred from cycling by being made to wear a helmet outweighs any argument for legislation to make them compulsory.
In 2018, Malta scrapped its compulsory cycle helmet law after finding that it hindered efforts to get people riding bikes and discouraged uptake of bike-sharing schemes.
A 2010 study by researchers at Sydney University’s School of Public Health found that levels of cycling had dropped by around 30 per cent in Australia since helmet laws were brought in almost 20 years earlier.
The Herefordshire Council spokesperson added: “We try to encourage safe and confident riding. We provide free Bikeability training for year 6 primary school children and the children are required to wear helmets for the Level 2 on-road training.
“We also provide free lessons for adults, promote the wearing of hi-visibility clothing and we encourage trainees to consider wearing a helmet but we cannot require that they do.”