Edinburgh and Lothian’s cycle campaign Spokes has announced that it is to stop publicising cycling events that require participants to wear a helmet. It calls upon other organisations concerned about public health to do the same.
Frustrated at what it sees as the “creeping growth of semi-compulsion” as some charity bike rides insist upon helmets for all or younger riders, Spokes believes that the organisers are failing to take account of the evidence against helmet compulsion. It also believes that the requirement to use a helmet reinforces the false perception that cycling is an inherently dangerous activity, and is calling upon government-funded bodies such as Cycling Scotland to cease using images in promotional material that only show cyclists wearing helmets.
Spokes says that the best way to improve the safety of cyclists is to encourage more people to get riding, something that it claims is being undermined by there being too much emphasis on using a helmet.
“Helmet advertisers, promoters and government agencies bombard us with the benefits but, disgracefully, we are never told of the risks – although there is evidence on both sides, and crashes and injuries occur as a result of the risks of helmets”, says Spokes. “Compulsion, or one-sided promotion, is very wrong – even more so as they put people off the healthy choice of getting about by bike.”
In a news report about Spokes’ action in the Scotsman newspaper, a spokeman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents also argues against helmet compulsion, saying “We do not believe it is practical to make the use of cycle helmets mandatory.”
Spokes laudable and brave initiative is supported by Cyclenation, which urges other groups to consider whether to follow suit. Cyclenation would also like to gauge the scale of the problem so if any public ride in your area requires helmet use, please let us know the details.