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Japan to make cycle helmets compulsory for all cyclists from next April

All riders will be required to wear a helmet from 1 April – but there will be no sanction for not wearing one

All cyclists in Japan will be required to wear a cycle helmet while riding their bikes under a new law that will come into force on 1 April next year – although there will apparently be no sanction for those who choose not to do so.

The measure forms part of the country’s revised Road Traffic Act, which was approved by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet yesterday, reports

Japan, which currently requires children aged below 13 years to wear a cycle helmet will join Argentina, Australia, Cyprus and New Zealand as the only countries that have national mandatory cycle helmet laws applying to all cyclists.

However, unlike in New South Wales, for example, where riding without a cycle helmet can attract an on-the-spot fine of A$344 (£190), there will be no sanction for cyclists in Japan who break the law by riding bare-headed.

Some other countries require children to wear helmets when cycling, while in Spain, anyone riding a bike outside urban areas must use one.

In Canada, some provinces make it compulsory for all cyclists to wear a helmet, others make them mandatory only for riders aged under 16, and several provinces have no compulsory helmet laws at all.

Likewise, in the United States, making cyclists use a helmet varies between jurisdiction and by age, and even within individual states there may be differing local laws in force depending on the area.

Levels of wearing a cycle helmet in Japan are very low compared to the UK, with a poll from a helmet advocacy group finding that 11.2 per cent of cyclists wear one; in the same year, research found that London has by far the highest rate of cycle helmet usage in Europe among the cities analysed, with six in ten riders sporting one.

Last month, the Department for Transport confirmed it had no plans to make cycle helmets mandatory in the UK. after Mark Pritchard, Conservative MP for The Wrekin, raised the issue in a written question.

> Government shuts down mandatory cycling helmets question from Conservative MP

He asked whether the Secretary of State for Transport would “hold discussions with road safety and cycle representative groups on making it a legal requirement for cyclists to wear helmets on public roads?

In response, Jesse Norman, Minister of State at the Department for Transport, said that the issue had been considered “at length” but rejected as part of the government’s cycling and walking safety review in 2018.

He 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,” he added.

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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