"Our position on compulsion has been that at current wearing rates it would cause enforcement difficulties and could have an effect on cycling levels," Jamieson told MPs.
"But the Government will keep their policies in this as in all areas under review in the light of discussion in Parliament and elsewhere.
Is the ‘has been’ important? We’ll see soon.
Jamieson has been lobbied hard by CTC, CPAG and members of the National Cycling Strategy Board, and has been surprised by the level of opposition to Martlew’s private members’ bill from letter writers spurred on by pro-helmet news websites such as BikeBiz.com, Singletrackworld.com and Bikemagic.com, and magazines such as Cycling Weekly.
If the Department of Transport does pour cold water on Martlew’s bill, MPs will know it would be folly to vote for it.
The anti-compulsion fight cannot yet be shelved. It’s important for MPs to be told of the hidden consequences of helmet compulsion so that the UK can remain a country where cyclists are free to choose whether to don helmets or not.
BikeBiz.com remains pro-helmet. Instead of compulsion, the government should increase funding on pro-helmet publicity campaigns but these should not use scare tactics, which can portray cycling as much more dangerous than it actually is.
In some US states, police and firefighters issue lid-less children not with fines but with vouchers. Perhaps the UK government could pilot a similar scheme here: the vouchers could be presented at participating retailers and would be exchanged for a discount, funded by the government. As well as a monetary saving, the voucher would also get the cyclist a fitting session and lessons in how helmets are only effective if worn correctly.
Helmet compulsion seems sensible to non-cyclists but is a poor substitute for education.
A PDF of the House of Commons Library 28-page report on whether MPs should support Martlew’s bill can be found here: