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Cycle consultation offers perfect opportunity for government to stop back-pedalling on road safety

01st December 2017

Our government recently announced its intention to consider forcing all cyclists to wear a helmet: transport minister Jesse Norman has said his compulsory helmet review will be based on available evidence. It seems the matter will be considered as part of a general government review on bike safety announced following a recent series of high-profile incidents involving cyclists killed or seriously injured on our roads. The cycle safety consultation, scheduled for early next year, is likely to take a wide-ranging look at how cycling-related safety can be improved for cyclists and other road users.

According to official government figures, a total of 102 people died on our roads in 2016 – a further 3,397 were seriously injured. Cyclists in the UK are currently under no legal obligation to wear a helmet, although the Highway Code recommends cyclists wear a correctly-sized and securely-fastened cycle helmet that conforms to current regulations. Scientific research confirms safety-approved cycle helmets have been successfully designed and tested to provide basic protection for the head and brain, especially at low speed. However, helmets are much less effective – and sometimes completely ineffective – in high velocity collisions.

So the debate around cycle safety, and helmet use in particular, continues to rage. Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman has written about what he sees as the danger of introducing compulsory helmet laws worldwide, observing that countries making the most use of safety gear are often the most dangerous for cyclists. Wherever helmet use has been made compulsory, he maintains, there has been no corresponding drop in head injuries without a corresponding decrease in the number of cyclists on the roads. Figures suggest making the wearing of helmets compulsory reduces the popularity of cycling by up to 40 per cent, a drop that would have a negative impact on the significant health benefits with which cycling has been associated. Mr Boardman argues the government should be considering and implementing measures similar to those introduced some forty years ago in the Netherlands, where roads are now far safer for cyclists and obesity levels 50 per cent lower than in the UK.

Hopefully the government consultation promised by Mr Norman will lead to equally positive results in the UK and make our roads and pavements safer for everyone.

If you need legal advice about a road safety matter or would like more information about personal injury law, contact George Ide’s Chichester team on 01243 786668 or email us at info@georgeide.co.uk

Paul Fretwell. Partner, Personal Injury department

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