Former Olympian James Cracknell has been announced as the President of the London Road Safety Council, succeeding Nick Ross.
The double gold medal winning athlete has had a distinguished career as a rower, adventurer and most recently cyclist. Cracknell was, however, involved in a 2010 crash in Arizona that saw a truck knock him down from the rear despite him sporting a strobing light and high visibility.
Following the near fatal crash, Cracknell has become a strong advocate of helmets, believing that his Alpina lid saved him from death. At the time, the athlete had been attempting to break an endurance record. His goal was to make the journey from Los Angeles to New York inside 16 days and this was being documented by the Discovery Channel. The crash wasn't captured by the cameras.
The news of Cracknell's appointment has been met with mixed reactions, with many anticipating another helmet compulsion debate incoming, distracting from pressing issues like infrastructure and HGV safety.
Though many believe the bike industry would stand to benefit from a compulsion law, in countries where such a law stands, such as Australia, cycling levels have in fact declined, making it largely counterproductive to both health and industry. Indeed, Boris Johnson went on the record during the early days of London's cycle hire to say that users wouldn't be forced to wear helmets, saying he'd rather focus on 'other things' to make cycling safe in the city.
Johnson said: "I'm not discouraging anybody from wearing a cycle helmet if they want, loads of people do, but all I'm saying is, no I'm not going to make it mandatory because I think on balance there are other things we can do to make cycling safer, and that is what we are doing.
"What I won't do is take measures that I think will drive cyclists off the roads."
James Cracknell says: “London Road Safety Council connects the people working on road safety across London, enabling them to share practical ideas and work together to create a safer road system in London. I am proud to be the public face of the organisation and to lead its awareness campaigns across the city I was born in and where still live.
“Having been the victim of a road traffic accident, I know the devastating impact it can have, not only on the victim but on their family and friends. I cycle around London every day and am very aware of the need for all road users, however many wheels they have, to show empathy towards each other rather than antagonism. I plan to ensure this message is heard far and wide during my Presidency.”
Councillor Val Clark, chairman of London Road Safety council commented: “James Cracknell is one of the most famous athletes in the UK and an inspiration to millions. James knows more than most the impact a serious road traffic incident can have. I cannot think of a better person to lead the organisation into its second century and be our primary brand ambassador.
“I would also like to place on record my thanks to our previous President, Nick Ross” concludes Clark.