Earlier this year, Terry Bowles, chief executive of Madison, UK importer of Giro helmets, said:
"Speaking on behalf of Madison, I am happy to say that the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets on road would be a step forward in the process of advancing our cause as an industry."
However, he’s in a minority. Whenever BikeBiz.com has polled members of the British bicycle industry, there’s been an overwhelming majority in favour of this view: ‘I’m pro-helmet, anti-compulsion.’
MET importer Fisher Outdoor Leisure used to support the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust but pulled its support when, two years ago, it was revealed by BikeBiz.com that BHIT was in favour of helmet compulsion. No company in the British bicycle industry supports BHIT.
Fisher Outdoor Leisure, like other companies in the British bicycle industry, linked to the BMA-no-helmet-compulsion petition on BikeBiz.com. http://www.bikebiz.co.uk/bma-petition.php
Earlier this year, Fisher Outdoor’s MD Gordon Fisher said:
"As the distributor of the UK’s leading branded cycle helmet you may well think that as a company we would be in favour of cycle helmet legislation. Although I would advocate campaigns to increase cycle helmet usage I would not support any lobby for compulsory use.
"A lot of leisure and sport cyclists already wear good-quality cycle helmets; the more casual cyclist and those who have chosen not to wear a helmet may stop cycling altogether. Cycle usage dropped quite dramatically in Australia due to irresponsible promotion of helmets portraying cycling as an extremely dangerous activity.
"Let individuals make an educated choice to wear a helmet and to make sure their children wear helmets.
"Most helmet sales today are not distress sales, those buying them want to buy them for aesthetic reasons as well as safety reasons. Part of the motivation may be the function of the product but the overwhelming factor is ‘I like the look of this one’, otherwise everyone would drive a Volvo."
The government-appointed National Cycling Strategy Board is also anti-compulsion:
"Campaigns seeking to present cycling as an inevitably dangerous or hazardous activity, or which suggest that helmet wearing should be made compulsory, risk prejudicing the delivery of those very benefits to health and environment which cycling can deliver: they also serve to confuse the general public about the wider social and economic advantages of cycling."
There may be no industry-supported helmet lobby in the UK, but in the US it’s different.
At least one helmet manufacturer does provide support to helmet campaigners. Bell recently sponsored a helmet survey by the US Safe Kids campaign. This survey – Headed for Injury: An Observational Survey of Helmet Use Among Children Ages 14 and Under Participating in Wheeled Sports – was launched by Linda Armstrong Kelly, the mother of a noted Tour de France winner who ditches his UCI-sanctioned helmet when in the last few kms of extra-steep mountain stages.
According to this survey, fewer than half of all US children wear helmets while cycling. In states with mandatory helmet laws, 52 percent of child cyclists were seen wearing helmets, as opposed to 42 percent in states with no helmet laws.
Surprisingly, despite stating "the number one killer of kids [is] motor vehicle crashes", Safe Kids does not promote helmet wearing for children in cars.
BHIT and other pro-compulsion groups are fond of this stat: "Helmets reduce the risk of brain injury in a bike accident by 88 percent.and head injuries account for up to 80 percent of bike fatalities." However, helmet anti-compulsionists, have long said these stats been shown to come from flawed studies.
MOTORISTS LIKE CYCLISTS TO WEAR HELMETS
Cycle helmets are not designed to protect the wearer against collisions with speeding cars. Unfortunately, motorists think they do and speed up to pass helmet-clad cyclists because they are seen to be ‘protected’ and ‘serious cyclists’. (Source: TRL 549, Drivers’ perceptions of cyclists).
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORT REVIEW OF HELMET LITERATURE:
CRITIQUE OF THIS PAPER BY JOHN FRANKLIN:
MOTORISTS SHOULD WEAR HELMETS, TOO, ARGUE MEDICOS
"Helmets might have saved 14 lives in 15 years. A similar calculation based on the controls suggests that if all pedestrians and vehicle occupants had worn helmets, 175 lives might have been saved in the same period. CONCLUSIONS: There is no justification for compelling cyclists to wear helmets without taking steps to improve the safety of all road users."
An Australian study into car-padding – Prevention of Head Injuries to Car Occupants: An Investigation of Interior – concludes that "protective headwear, similar to a soft shell pedal cycle helmet, is estimated to be much more effective than padding the car in preventing cases of fatal brain injury and in improving the outcome in cases of severe brain injury." The report presented findings from a two-year study on head and brain injuries among car occupants. It was jointly conducted by the NHMRC Road Accident Research Unit (University of Adelaide) and the Monash University Accident Research Centre.
COMPREHENSIVE, POINT-BY-POINT CRITIQUE OF BMA’S COMPULSION STATEMENT:
SIGN THE PETITION: