Geraint Thomas has expressed surprise that his answer to "one question in an hour interview" has led to a social media firestorm. But that question was "do you think cycle helmets should be made compulsory?" and the Tour de France winner replied “I would certainly make helmets compulsory."
This led to a predictable outpouring of "for" and "against" comments on social media, with Chris Boardman tweeting that helmet compulsion was "exactly what I thought when I was a pro. It’s an intuitive stance until you research levels of danger compared to other things we do helmetless and crucially, the unintended consequences."
Boardman pointed Thomas to an article on British Cycling's website which says:
"Evidence tells us that where helmets have been made mandatory, cycling use drops significantly (30%-40% in Perth, Western Australia).
"In the UK one in six deaths - nearly 90,000 per year - is as a result of physical inactivity related disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Clearly, any measure proven beyond doubt to reduce peoples likelihood to travel by bike, will almost certainly kill more people than it saves."
The call for compulsion was a throwaway line in a long Sunday Times profile of the Cardiff-born champion. However, it was also pulled out as a standalone story, headlined "Make helmets compulsory, says Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas."
Reacting to the social media firestorm, Thomas said on Twitter: "Wow! This was one question in an hour interview. It’s nothing I’ve ever thought about. So when asked I thought... I always wear one and I’d advise all children to wear them. Didn’t realise people felt so passionately about helmets!!"
It is surprising Thomas expressed surprise because when his former teammate Sir Bradley Wiggins called for cycle helmet compulsion in 2012 a similar firestorm erupted.
Helmet compulsion – or probably the lack thereof – is expected to be one of the issues discussed by the government's cycle safety review due to be published soon.