British cycling phenom Bradley Wiggins stirred debate about whether cyclists should be forced to wear helmets, recently, over comments he made relating to a fatal collision near the Olympic park.
Mr Wiggins, the Olympic Gold medallist and recent Tour de France champion, said:
“Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don't have a helmet on, then you can't argue … You can get killed if you don't have a helmet on."
He later clarified that he was not calling for the wearing of helmets to be made law, but rather was suggesting that by wearing helmets cyclists would have more protection both legally and in terms of their physical safety.
Mr Wiggins’ comments attracted criticism from some, who said that, due to the nature of the accident, a helmet would have been unlikely to have saved the life of the victim involved in the collision, and that making helmets mandatory could discourage some people from cycling.
But, given the debate that had been instigated over the issue, we decided to further the discussion in SportsLab too. – Would you be for or against making it illegal for a person to ride a bicycle without a helmet?
The largest proportion of discussion participants was FOR making it illegal for cyclists to ride without the protection of a helmet.
- Most of you argued that given the clear safety benefits of wearing a helmet it simply made sense to enshrine wearing a helmet in law.
- And some drew a parallel with the law on having to wear aseatbelt, – and that the helmet issue was no different.
A smaller proportion of you told us you were AGAINST making helmet-wearing mandatory for cyclists.
- Participants in this corner argued that individuals should be able to decide for themselves whether or not to wear a helmet, adding that some environments are safer than others to cycle in, and therefore donning a protective helmet should be at the cyclist’s discretion.
- Some thought that while helmets greatly improved safety, they still felt it should be a personal choice – while others believed the safety benefits were overstated.
Click on the headings below to read panellist comments from both sides of the debate:
“It's such an obvious safety precaution! People wear belts in cars, which have protection; bikes have nothing” GD, Warwickshire
“I don't understand why it is illegal to be driving a car without a seatbelt due to the reason you can cause serious injury to yourself through not wearing one in an accident. … I have even been in a collision between me and another man on a bike, and even though he only suffered a nose bleed and a few scratches, him wearing his helmet may have prevented him visiting the hospital or receiving concussion” Kyle, Cambridgeshire
“I think it should be the minimum safety requirement for cyclists. Other people using the roads have legal safety requirements that they must fulfil, it should be the same for cyclists. Currently, the only requirement to cycle in London is being able to ride a bike. I don't think that's enough and that this would encourage a higher safety minimum” Anon
“Our roads are very crowded, with motorists and cyclists all jostling for space on our roads, cyclists are so vulnerable to not just other traffic but potholes, road signage… it seems such common sense for cycling helmets to be compulsory. I am both a car driver and a cyclist and can sympathise with both car drivers and cyclists when it comes to sharing our roads” Angela, Fleet
“Although I do not cycle myself, I am an avid follower of cycling (especially the Grand Tours). Cycling is very dangerous, however, especially in built up areas, and if motorists have to wear seat belts, why should cyclists not wear helmets? Also, my daughter was knocked off her bike in Cambridge, supposedly a cyclist-friendly city, which emphasised the issue for me” John T, Canterbury
“My dad was in an awful crash 12-ish years ago, smashed his leg in four places, nasty cut on his arm where the lorry caught him and a cycling helmet that came away from the crash very worse for wear. If that helmet hadn’t been there that damage would have been to his head and I probably wouldn't have my dad here now. If it’s illegal to not wear a seatbelt in a car, why not a cycling helmet? Is it really that much of a chore?” Anon
“It’s a must, as the roads have become busier; the arguments seem to be similar to those used against introduction of motorcycle helmets, which went on to save many lives. Also, professionals all wear helmets and when Bradley Wiggins recommends their use I really can't see any argument against” D, Swansea
“Until we make proper bike lanes there is always the risk of being knocked down. A helmet would save you from serious brain trauma. Everyone now looks at how much smoking costs the NHS, what about accidents and rehab for patients – what does that cost?” Anon
“It is an individual freedom. A person without a helmet is only endangering themself, not others” AB, Suffolk
“I am sick and tired of the control freaks who want to run every single aspect of my life. Plus I have read reports stating they would make virtually no difference to the cycle accident injury rate” JVC, London
“It’s down to each individual to decide on if they should wear one. We don't need to have it forced upon us” Ron, Leeds
“The increased risk of riding without a helmet is more than offset by the health benefits of cycling. People should be allowed to make their own decisions about such matters, and it isn't the position of the state to infringe upon people's liberties for such a minor benefit” Joel, N. Yorkshire
“Cycle helmets give a false sense of safety. They would encourage more reckless behaviour. I do not think they provide sufficient extra protection to warrant them being required; they are more akin to shin pads that footballers sometimes wear, than motorcycle helmets which do save lives” Clive, Dagenham
“It should be up to the individual to make the decision. I would recommend using a helmet and would do so myself, but I would not force others to do the same” Anon
“Whilst there may be a clamour for this, ultimately it is up to drivers to be aware of cyclists and for cyclists to ride safely. If wearing a helmet increases dangerous cycling or encourages drivers to be less careful assuming better protection (in their ignorance of the force of a vehicle compared to the soft flesh of the body) then forced wearing would be counter-productive. Studies have demonstrated this latter argument carries some real weight” Anon