This article was published in 2004, in Newsletter 52.
I’m sorry to raise the dreaded H-word here and hope it will not start the usual flame war but there is an important legal development cyclists should be aware of.
Can I draw people’s attention to a Private Member’s Bill by Eric Martlew MP in this session of Parliament to make cycle helmet wearing compulsory for the under 16s. The Bill follows from an Early Day Motion by Alan Meale MP last session and is based on the campaigning of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust. This has used misleading information to present the case for compulsion stating in the EDM, for example, that ‘every year in the UK approximately 28,000 children under the age of 16 years receive a serious head injury as a result of a cycling accident’. In fact the figure is 1,200, and 90% of those are in off-road play where presumably the Government is not expecting to legislate compulsion. Other falsehoods are that 50 children died from head injuries. In fact the figure is 25 and the vast majority of those had other fatal non-head injuries so would have died irrespective of their head injuries.
I am not anti-helmet: my children and I choose to wear helmets.
I am pro choice and anti compulsion as every example of compulsion has led to a reduction of cycling. Experience in Australia, for example, has shown reductions in cycling of between 30% and 60% following legislation to make helmet wearing compulsory.
The one thing we want to do is encourage more healthy cycling by children, not less.
The Bill unfortunately is getting a lot of support. GMTV and the Guardian this week alone – so if we want to avoid compulsion we need to get active and quickly. The Bill is expected to have its second reading on 23 April. The CTC has produced a position paper on helmets, and cycle safety consultant John Franklin (author of Cyclecraft) has produced a summary of research on the subject which are worth reading. These can be read at:
If you feel strongly about this as I do, can I urge you to raise it with your MP and make sure that cycling colleagues and other campaign groups are alerted to the Bill. There is a reasonably good chance that this Bill will become Law unless enough MPs can be persuaded to vote against it. It is not easy, as the case against is counter-intuitive.
SCDC and guided bus
I have to correct the statement in the letter from Tim Phillips, Chairman of CAST.IRON, published in your Newsletter 51.
It is not correct that South Cambridgeshire District Council is ‘broadly opposed to the guided bus’ as the Council has, in fact, been promoting the use of the former St. Ives railway line for guided bus for many years. The District Council has long recognised that the only economically viable public transport system for this line is guided bus, having considered a number of independent studies. Guided bus was the recommended system which came out of the A14 CHUMMS study which has been accepted by the Government.
Another of the advantages of the guided bus over rail is that the ‘maintenance track’ alongside the guided bus track can be used as a pedestrian and cycle route, free from other traffic, all the way from Cambridge to St. Ives. This would simply not be available with a heavy rail scheme.
Principal Planning Policy Officer, South Cambridgeshire District Council