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Updated: Isle of Man NOT looking to make cycle helmets compulsory

Members of Tynwald's lower house had expressed concerns over cycle helmets being made mandatory...

Updated: The Isle of Man is not considering making cycle helmets compulsory, contrary to what we reported yesterday as per the article below, which was based on a report in local media of a debate in the House of Keys, the lower house of the island's parliament, the Tynwald.

The website IOM Today had reported that In that debate regarding proposed amendments to road traffic legislation, more than one Member of the House of Keys expressed concerns about making cycle helmets compulsory.

However, it appears they misinterpreted the relevant part of the bill, which relates to section 24 of the Road Traffic Act 1985 and "extends from motor cycles to vehicles generally the Department's power to make regulations about the wearing or sale of protective helmets. Vehicles which may become the subject of regulations include motorcycle sidecars, quadricycles and animal ridden vehicles, which at present fall outside the scope of the section."

After publication of our article yesterday, we were contacted by Kate Lord-Brennan, a Member of the Legislative Council, the Tynwald's upper house.  She told us: "The bill does not make cycle helmets compulsory. 

"I am taking the bill through the upper house and will be seeking to rectify the understanding on the record. 

"It is a shame to see it as some of us are pushing quite hard for active travel and to get even more people on bikes," she added.

Below is the full text of our original article, published on 10 June 2020 at 17.52 hrs.

The Isle of Man ​could become the first place in Europe to make bike helmets compulsory for all cyclists after the Crown Dependency’s legislators backed an amendment to proposed road traffic legislation that would require anyone on a bike to wear one.

While some European countries have compulsory helmet laws that apply to children – under-15s in the case of Slovakia and Slovenia, and under-12s in France and Sweden, for example – only Spain stipulates that all cyclists should wear them, but only outside towns and cities.

> France makes cycle helmets compulsory for under-12s - and wants kids to nag their parents to wear one too

This week, the House of Keys – the lower house of the world’s oldest continuous parliament, the Tynwald – saw the third reading of the Road Traffic Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2020, reports iomtoday.co.im.

Clauses approved by Members of the House of Keys (MHKs) included one that will require all cyclists, motorbike sidecars passengers, quad bikers and people riding animals or animal-propelled vehicles to wear protective headgear.

The clause was not backed unanimously. One MHK, Bill Shimmins, said that while he wore a helmet when riding his bike, he was not in favour of them being made compulsory.

“No other European country has enacted compulsory cycling helmet legislation for all users and many of those countries have a far higher number of cyclists,” he said.

He noted that in the Netherlands, “very few” people wear helmets, despite high levels of cycling and it being one of the safest countries in the world to ride a bike.

Shimmins added that he believes that nine in 10 cyclists on the Isle of Man already wear a helmet, and that they would afford minimal protection to someone in a collision with a car or a lorry.

Another MHK, Clare Barber, raised concerns over how such legislation could be enforced.

“I think it’s far more about education, rather than a very blunt instrument,” she said. “I’m not totally against an enabling clause because I also recognise this could include things like horse riders and so on.

“But I do think we need to be very cautious about the route we may be going down with this because I don’t think it is so cut and dry as the intention would seem to indicate.”

The bill was introduced by former infrastructure minister Ray Harmer, who said that the proposed legislation was not primarily aimed at cyclists.

“It is more of a general provision and more appropriate for riders of quads and those that propel by horse riding and so forth and a number of different vehicles that come into play from time to time,” he said.

“I think it’s important to have that provision so that we can meet the challenges head on.

“Obviously any provision will have to be set up fully in regulations, it would have to have a detail and be approved by Tynwald.”

The bill will now head to the island’s legislative council for approval.

The Isle of Man would not be the first British Crown Dependency to introduce a compulsory helmet law; Jersey did so in 2014, but it only applies to those aged 13 and under.

> Jersey finally passes mandatory helmet law - for under 14 year olds

Outside Europe, countries including Australia and New Zealand have compulsory helmet laws for cyclists of all ages, as do some states that make up the USA, with others having age-specific laws, or none at all.

Opponents of helmet compulsion point out that where such laws are introduced, they are accompanied by a decline in bike-riding, which has a disproportionate effect on general public health than the perceived problem the legislation aims to address.

> Repealing compulsory helmet laws could double number of cyclists in Sydney, says academic

 

Simon joined road.cc 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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12 comments

Avatar
iandon | 3 years ago
0 likes

Good.. Let people choose themselves.

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quiff | 3 years ago
0 likes

“I think it’s important to have that provision so that we can meet the challenges head on."

Classic risk compensation.

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Gus T | 3 years ago
1 like

The bill was introduced by former infrastructure minister Ray Harmer, who said that the proposed legislation was not primarily aimed at cyclists.

“It is more of a general provision and more appropriate for riders of quads and those that propel by horse riding and so forth and a number of different vehicles that come into play from time to time,” he said.

“I think it’s important to have that provision so that we can meet the challenges head on.

“Obviously any provision will have to be set up fully in regulations, it would have to have a detail and be approved by Tynwald.”

 

So if it's not aimed at cyclists why include them. 

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Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
1 like

The only useful result of this will be if there is a thorough follow up study looking at changes in cycling activity and hospitalisations involving head injuries that is nuanced enough to strip out the effect of compulsory helmet wearing from all the other variables.

If the results are pro helmet wearing, then why stop at cyclists and horse riders? Surely their benefits will be extended to walkers, car passengers or indeed help prevent the number of head injuries caused by falling out of bed*

*Playing with your helmet in bed could save your life!

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Colin Clarke replied to Mungecrundle | 3 years ago
3 likes

Some protection by wearing a helmet may occur but it is not so simple because research has reported that when accidents occur helmet wearers report hitting their helmet more often than would occur for non-wearers hitting a bare head. Research in 2019 has reported helmet wearers to have a higher accident rate per hour cycled and the reasons could be due to several factors, see;

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/337367329_Effects_of_bicycle_he...

So, assuming some protection may occur in some accidents, it is also evident that there would be more impacts to the helmet and more accidents, especially falls. Therefore, the safety case for wearing a helmet is clearly questionable.

The risk of death is low for cycling, see; 

Evaluating Cycling Fatality Risk with a Focus on Cycle Helmet Use Dec. 2018 http://worldtransportjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/24.4opt.pdf

On the other hand, if 20% fewer people cycle due to MHLs many people will be disadvantaged with increased risk of death due to less exercise.

In 2015 a cost-benefit analysis was provided based on published data and reported;

'The actual risk of serious head injury when cycling is low. The societal health cost factor against the laws is calculated at 109, indicating they cause considerable harm.'

The actual risk of being killed while cycling or suffering a severe head injury is low but the risk of someone being discouraged by having a MHL is high, as examples; Surveys from Melbourne, 1990 to 1991 show 39 more teenagers wearing helmets v 623 fewer cycling and for NSW surveys, 1991 and 1993, show 568 more children wearing helmets v 2658 fewer cycling, see:

Evaluation of Australia's bicycle helmet laws, http://www.cycle-helmets.com/au-assessment-2015.pdf

The research claiming a strong result for helmet use is much weaker than it first appears, see; 

Weaknesses with a meta-analysis approach to assessing cycle helmets. Feb 2017 http://worldtransportjournal.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/27th-Feb-opt...

The IOM would best avoid helmet legislation and use other means to improve safety for cycling.

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Rich_cb replied to Colin Clarke | 3 years ago
1 like

There is a large amount of evidence that helmeted cyclists who attend hospital have less severe injuries than their non-helmeted equivalents.

The most significant confounding factor in those studies is the use of alcohol. This is far higher in non-helmeted cyclists and may therefore be the sole explanation for the disparity.

When comparing the injury rates of cyclists more generally the confounding factors are far more numerous to the point that attempting to identify the influence of helmet wearing is nearly impossible.

In mandatory helmet use locations there is clear evidence that the cycling population changes profoundly after the introduction of legislation.

This alone makes comparison of injury rates pre and post legislation meaningless as there is no way to account for the change in risk profile of the cycling population.

Even in non mandatory locations there are significant confounding factors to account for.

The increase in cycling, and the accompanying decrease in average levels of cycling experience, is one significant factor.

The exponential rise in the use of mobile phones and the rise in distracted driving is another.

All we can say for certain is that non helmeted cyclists who attend hospital have significantly more serious injuries than their helmeted equivalents.

There is no clear evidence for risk compensation. The studies mentioned in your paper show no increase in speed when a non helmeted cyclist is given a helmet. The helmet eye tracker study was interesting but afaik it has not been possible to replicate those results when the experiment was repeated. This calls in to question the validity of the original results.

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FluffyKittenofT... | 3 years ago
2 likes

Compulsory "for all" or just for people riding bikes?

Making it compulsory for all would be less prejudiced.

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AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago
5 likes

So an island that is happy for multiple motorbikers to be killed or maimed every year wants to enforce protection on cyclists. 

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eburtthebike replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 3 years ago
1 like
AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

So an island that is happy for multiple motorbikers to be killed or maimed every year wants to enforce protection on cyclists. 

And those motorcyclists die despite wearing a helmet.  Just like cycle helmets, the myth of motorcycle helmets saving hundreds of lives a year is just that; a myth.

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eburtthebike | 3 years ago
5 likes

"The bill was introduced by former infrastructure minister Ray Harmer....."

It's nominative determinism at work again.

“I think it’s important to have that provision so that we can meet the challenges head on."  Words fail me.

Mr Harmer, like almost all helmet law proposers, appears to be woefully ignorant of the data.  Should our elected representatives be allowed to propose things when they haven't got an effing clue what they're talking about?  And why aren't the others pointing out that helmet laws have been a disaster everywhere they've been tried?

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leaway2 | 3 years ago
3 likes

There is no mention of what evidence was used to show that this would be beneficial.

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dodpeters | 3 years ago
7 likes

A great way to ensure that cycling is for enthusiasts only.

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