Yes, there is a case for curtailing freedom in the name of safety. When we hold a child's hand walking down the street, agree to blackouts in wartime or submit to laws about seat belts, the loss of liberty is proportionate to the increased likelihood of life. Even the ban on smoking is defensible, though disagreeably dictatorial towards the smoker; partly because smoking harms others, but also because the taxpayer coughs up to pay for lung cancer.
But some intrusion is infuriating. A motorcyclist flagged me down the other day and demanded to know where my cycling helmet was. I hope he asks all the drivers he passes, because more lives would be saved by motorists or pedestrians being compelled to wear bike helmets than by cyclists doing so.
There are two things intolerable about undue interference. The first is that it is based on inaccurate information. Cyclists live longer than drivers... Will civil contingency really make us safer? Secondly, however, it involves an unacceptable loss of autonomy. Tell us the risks: then let us take them.
The full transcript can be found here:
Anne Atkins is "one of Britains most trenchant commentators on moral and ethical issues, a familiar name on television debates, media discussions and local panels all round the country."
She is a regular contributor to The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph, and has written for The Sun, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, The Express and Woman.
She's also the author of Child Rearing for Fun (Zondervan Publishing House), available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/.../202-6874353-0556658
LID LAW INDEX
Thursday 18th November: A doctor writes...
Take a look at these qualifications: MA MB BChir (Cantab.), MFPHM, MRCGP, MBA.* Impressive, huh? Dr Richard Keatinge is a bright bloke. Maybe the BMA - now in favour of cycle helmet compulsion - will listen to him? He's concerned that helmet compulsionists only quote from a skewed selection of reports, some of which are viewed with suspicion by statisticians. Opposing views, based on robust science, are swept under the carpet. He's out to change that.
Monday 15th November: British bike industry is opposed to helmet compulsion
The trade sector that would benefit the most from helmet compulsion is against helmet compulsion. Huh? But what about all the juicy profits from selling millions of helmets? For sure there would be an initial rise in helmet sales but at a massive cost: less cyclists in the long-run. Less cycling equals more pollution, more congestion, more kids on sofas and not saddles.
Friday 12th November: It's not what you know, it's who you know
1 in 8 of those signing our BMA helmet petition are doctors. When the British Medical Journal polled readers on how best to promote cycle safety, helmet compulsion came seventh out of seven available options*. So, if rank and file doctors are against forcing all cyclists to wear helmets, who nobbled the BMA?
Thursday 11th November: 'Voice of cycling' signs BMA helmet petition
TV commentator, newspaper journalist and CTC president Phil Liggett has signed our petition urging the British Medical Association to revisit its 'helmets for all cyclists' decision.
Wednesday 10th November: Democracy? BMA should try it...
The decision of the Board of the Directorate of Professional Activities of the British Medical Association to lobby for cycle helmet compulsion for adults and children is causing a stink in the medical and cycling worlds. The BMA's volte face could make it easier for the UK government to enact compulsion legislation, which would be bonkers when cycling is one of the solutions to slimming the nation. Sign this online petition. It will be handed to the BMA.
Saturday 6th November: All child and adult cyclists should be forced to don lids, argues BMA
In a submission ahead of the publication of the UK government's Public Health White Paper - due within the next few days and which contains many favourable plugs for cycling - the British Medical Association argues for a raft of health measures, including cycle helmet compulsion. This is a massive about-face: since 1999, the BMA has argued that the health benefits of cycling outweigh all of the (comparatively low) risks. The BMA still does, but argues the case for cycle helmet compulsion. And not just for children. Odd, but the BMA does not argue for helmet wearing by motorists yet, according to an Australian study, such a measure would save three times more lives than airbags. There's a link to this study within, how about sending it to BHIT, the BMA and Eric Martlew MP?
Tuesday 1st June: Martlew on the march again
The MP for Carlisle said he would not let the helmet compulsion debate rest and he's been true to his word. Last week in Parliament, Martlew aired the issue with Tony McNulty, the under-secretary of State for Transport. Martlew attacked the DfT-based National Cycling Strategy Board for its stance on helmets and put the boot into the CTC again. McNulty also criticised the CTC and said he'd investigate the NCSB... And all this in the week that cycling was placed centre stage by the House of Commons health committee on obesity. Perhaps some obese MPs could take a cycle trip to helmet-free Holland, check out the lack of a head trauma epidemic and shed a few kilos of blubber in the process?
Tuesday 1st June: Helmet compulsion for all cyclists, not just kids, argues regurgitating Prof
There have been many bicycle helmet studies undertaken worldwide. Edinburgh University's Professor Aziz Sheikh and colleagues from the Health Commission and Imperial College London have read four of them, and, in a top medical journal, are arguing Eric Martlew's kid-lid bill didn't go far enough, all cyclists should be forced to wear cycle helmets. Professor Sheikh's views have been picked up by the Press Association and syndicated helmet stories are starting to appear all over the mainstream media.
Wednesday 28th April: BHIT boss says lid-law fight will continue
Reading paediatric nurse Angie Lee, founder of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, said she had learned from the recent lid-law for kids campaign and will continue to push for compulsion. But will government departments continue to fund an organisation that claimed it was a helmet promotion charity but which turned into a single-issue political lobby group?
Friday 23rd April: Post-Martlew: Cycling Tsar wants wider debate on cycling safety
Philip Darnton, the chair of the government-appointed National Cycling Strategy Board, was at today's second reading of Eric Martlew's helmet compulsion Bill in the House of Commons. He welcomed the Bill's demise and said cycling groups should now be "joined at the hip" with the Department of Transport to promote safe cycling. Helmets are about 'victims', he said, the debate should now move on to the causes of unsafe cycling.
Friday 23rd April: Does Eric Forth MP have blood on his hands?
Forth scuppered Eric Martlew's child helmet cycle bill on a technicality earlier today. MPs and ministers are said to be worried about receiving letters from grieving parents claiming their children would be alive if only helmet compulsion legislation had been enacted. Are they right to be worried?
Friday 23rd April: Martlew helmet Bill fails
In a heated, emotional debate in the House of Commons this morning, the roads minister was let off the hook by not having to reveal the government's position on Eric Martlew's helmet bill. However, Martlew says he wants to form an all-party parliamentary group to push for compulsion at a later stage. He had better get better at culling facts: he ridiculed the bicycle trade for, he said, putting sales of cycles ahead of children's safety. His evidence for this? Philip Darnton, chair of the National Cycling Strategy Board, is MD of Raleigh. Really?
Thursday 22nd April: More harm than good? Martlew suggests parents buy sub-£5 supermarket helmets
BBC.co.uk has a video interview with Eric Martlew, the MP who wants children under 16 to be forced to wear helmets. But does Mr Martlew believe people should buy helmets with the best safety features and tested to the toughest international standards so children are truly protected? Er, no. He said there were helmets available from supermarkets that "cost less than a fiver."
Wednesday 21st April: Martlew Helmet Bill: The case for compulsion crumbles
BHIT, instigator of Eric Martlew's private members' bill, claims the Bill has the support of 15 medical, road safety and child charities. Maybe, but not the ones that matter. The British Medical Association is anti-compulsion, so is RoSPA. Ditto for the Royal College of General Practitioners and the National Heart Forum. Transport minister Kim Howells doesn't believe compulsion will work.
Wednesday 21st April:Brick provides images for campaign aimed at Martlew-supporting MPs
Download the PDFs here then post, email, or fax them to those MPs who say they will be voting YES to Eric Martlew's helmet compulsion Bill. But be quick, MPs vote on Friday afternoon. Many MPs will not have read the excellent research paper on the Bill from the House of Commons Library, these PDF posters direct them to do so...
Wednesday 21st April: Cheap, sloppy-fitting, lo-vent helmets cause more harm than good?
Force children to wear helmets and many parents will decide cycling is a dangerous activity, best left well alone. Strap the kids into a "safe" car instead. Those children allowed to cycle could be bought cheap, ill-fitting lids from supermarkets: these may meet British Standards but not the far more stringent Snell and Australian standards. Children wearing such ill-fitting helmets would be street-legal but, in effect, just as unprotected as lid-free children. And, a new study has found that helmets can impact on concentration levels...
Tuesday 20th April: M.A.D. boss not in 100% agreement with BHIT's helmet bill
Giles Wolfe, manager of the Mountainbike Aerial Display team, has been a key supporter of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust for three years. The MAD team is a central part of BHIT's campaign to make helmet-wearing cool, but Wolfe is concerned that BHIT has perhaps made a tactical error by arguing for helmet compulsion for under 16 year olds instead of its original gameplan of imposing compulsion on under-twelves first.
Tuesday 20th April: Jason Queally does not support BHIT's helmet-compulsion bill
Chris Murray, Queally's agent, will be calling BHIT today to clarify with the Reading-based charity that the Olympic gold medal winning cyclist is pro-helmet but cannot be used to endorse Eric Martlew's private members' bill. This follows yesterday's news that Nationwide is downgrading its support of BHIT because of its political lobbying activities.
Monday 19th April: Nationwide slaps BHIT's wrists as helmet-compulsion rage spreads
Nationwide Building Society has sponsored the Bicycle Helmet Initiative trust for two years but has decided to lower its cash input immediately and withdraw its support completely by the end of the year. Nationwide has specified that its current cash input must only be used for "direct educational purposes" and not for political lobbying.
Friday 16th April: Who nobbled Blair?
In Prime Minister's Question Time on 31st March, Eric Martlew MP asked Tony Blair whether the government would support his 'protective headgear for young cyclists' private members' bill. The Prime Minister stopped short of offering full support but did say "we will certainly give careful consideration to this Bill, and if we can support it, I am sure that we will." But was that the line he was meant to take?
Thursday 15th April: Fatal head injuries need not be bike-related, even for cyclists
Sadly, an Australian cyclist - well-known to Aussie pro roadies - died yesterday after sustaining a head injury whilst showering. In a bizarre twist, before the reporting of this tragedy, contributors to the trade-only bulletin board of this site had been discussing creating the Shower Helmet Initiative Trust, a spoof charity to challenge the single-issue myopia of BHIT, the Bicycle Helmet Initative Trust
Thursday 15th April: DfT kills kid lid law bill?
Roads minister David Jamieson, previously thought to be warming Eric Martlew's helmet compulsion private members' bill although Department for Transport bods are against it, recently told MPs that enforcement would be too tough, so there will possibly be no government support for a lid law. PLUS: a research document from the House of Commons Library provides MPs with a superb summary of both sides in the helmet debate.
Thursday 15th April: Grill Martlew
Eric Martlew, the MP with a private members' bill to force under-16s to wear helmets when cycling, is to take part in a webchat on the MPs' lobby section of BBC.co.uk. Questions and comments are invited. Remember, Martlew believes those who challenge his bill are "cycling fascists."
Tuesday 13th April: Will Martlew's kid lid bill become law?
It's unlikely, but this could depend on the fuss that gets made. Uncontroversial private members' bills sometimes go through 'on the nod', controversial ones can get talked out, officially objected to or adopted by the government by the promise of an enquiry. If Eric Martlew MP thought mandatory cycle helmets for children was a 'soft' issue, one that nobody could seriously object to, he clearly wasn't briefed very well by the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust.
Saturday 10th April: MPs take note: it's not 'cycling fascism' to be anti helmet compulsion
Eric Martlew MP branded the Association of Cycle Traders as "cycling fascists" when he learned the bicycle dealer organisation was opposed to his helmet mandation bill for children. BikeBiz.com is pro-helmet but anti-compulsion. And it's important to note this is also the view of the not-at-all-lunatic-fringe British Medical Association.
Thursday 8th April: The MP, the nurse and the rising tide of obesity
You can't turn the page of a newspaper, or scroll down a news website, without tripping over yet another story about blubber. We're drowning in the stuff. And, as we're constantly told, children of today are more sedentary than ever before. One way for kids to get in a dose of daily exercise is cycling to school and many UK government departments are linking up to encourage safe routes to school. So, why are the two people pictured here behind a Bill that would likely lead to a drop in cycling levels among children?
Thursday 8th April: Teachers, newsagents, bike shops: all risk civil actions, if Martlew's helmet bill succeeds
Quite apart from the fines levied on parents for allowing their children to cycle without head-protection and the likelihood the police will probably not enforce any lid law, there's also the possibility that anybody allowing under-sixteen year olds to cycle helmet-less could be sued by parents, if those children subsequently injured themselves?
Wednesday 7th April: UK road safety review published; helmets lauded
The Department for Transport has today published the first review of the UK government's Road Safety Strategy to coincide with World Health Day, which this year is focussing on the global road safety challenge. CTC says it likes some bits of the review, dislikes other parts.
Tuesday 6th April: April 23rd: Could this be a black day for cycling?
Perhaps. That's when Eric Martlew's private member's bill, 'protective headgear for young cyclists', gets its second reading. Many MPs support Martlew's bill. Any measure that says it aims to save children's lives is a vote winner. But will a kid lid law, in fact, lead children to ditch their bikes, leading to the unintended consequence of more deaths via obesity-related illnesses? MPs need to be better informed. To date, they seem to have absorbed only BHIT's argument. Time to write to your MP...
Monday 5th April: Helmet-law MP accuses ACT of being 'cycling fascists'
Those that disagree with Eric Martlew's helmet compulsion bill can expect short shrift from the Carlisle MP. As well as having a go at a bike shop member of the Association of Cycle Traders, he also rounded on Mark Brown, the ACT's relatively new sales and marketing manager.
Saturday 3rd April: BICYCLE HELMET USE: Arguments for and against compulsion
Many cyclists report being nude without their polystyrene prophylactics and this must be music to the ears of suppliers and retailers who sell cycle helmets but if legislation was enacted that forced cyclists - under-16s first, but the Bicycle Helmet Inititiative Trust wants compulsion for all - to don head protection would this scare away non-enthusiast cyclists and lead to drop in cycling?
Friday 2nd April: Guardian takes a pop at helmet-law MP
Marina Hyde's diary section of The Guardian today pokes fun at Eric Martlew, the Labour MP for Carlisle. The piece alleges that Martlew responded to a letter from an IBD by saying the IBD would be shamed in public as "more interested in selling bikes than saving lives."
Thursday 1st April: Brit PM says child helmet law may get government support
In yesterday's Prime Minister's question time in the House of Commons, Tony Blair said his government would give "serious consideration" to the issue of compulsory cycle helmet wearing for under-16s. The answer was prompted by Eric Martlew, Labour MP for Carlisle, who said such legislation had the support of 80 percent of the British population. If Martlew's private member's bill was passed, bicycle retailers, parents, 16-year old brothers, sisters and friends of child cyclists could face fines for not forcing children in their presence to wear helmets when cycling.
Monday 22nd March: Cycle orgs are opposed to Martlew's plan to criminalise child cyclists
Todays proposal by Eric Martlew MP that it should be made illegal for under-sixteens to cycle without wearing helmets, is likely to exacerbate the problem of obesity amongst the young says a coalition of cycling and health organisations.
Thursday 18th March: 'Child helmet compulsion' bill will not get government support
That's the reading-between-the-lines conclusion reached by most bike bigwigs at the third annual Cycling Forum for England meeting held at the Department for Transport in London yesterday. Dr. Kim Howells, a transport minister since last July, told the assembled great-and-good that despite wearing a cycle helmet himself he's a GT-riding roadie he doesn't believe any helmet compulsion law could be enforced in England. Therefore Eric Martlew's private members bill will likely not be supported by the DfT.