The Tory MP for Wellingborough and Secretary of the All-Party Road Traffic Group, got parliamentary airtime today for his 10 minute rule bill on cycle helmet compulsion for children. Fellow compulsionists – such as non-cyclist Eric Martlew and tandemist Sir George Young – were in the House of Commons to support Bone.
Following lobbying, Bone has reduced the proposed age of compulsion from 17 to 14 years and under because he said it would be a "nanny state" to force adults to wear helmets when cycling and he was a "child of Thatcher."
Bone claimed wearing a helmet can effectively reduce the impact of a vehicle collision by the equivalent of 12 miles an hour which can provide the crucial margin between death and concussion. The example he used was a "70 mph juggernaut" crashing into a child.
Bone also said compulsory helmets for children would save the NHS cash. Children also cost the NHS money when they fall on pavements as pedestrians and when involved in car crashes – there are helmets available for both pedestrians and car passengers – but Bone made no mention of helmet compulsion for any group other than cyclists, not even skateboarders, inline skaters or Heely wearers.
Flying in the face of much evidence to the contrary, the MP said cycle helmet compulsion does not deter people from cycling. He cited the examples of Canada and Australia yet in Australia helmet compulsion led to an immediate and long-lasting drop in numbers of cyclists, especially child cyclists. Even Cochrane researchers – leaders in evidence based medicine – admit that cycling levels may be reduced by helmet enforcement, something that leads to a net loss in whole population health.
The bill will receive its second reading on 19th October, Peter Bone’s birthday. It’s extremely unlikely to get any support from the Government.
The Association of Cycle Traders feels compulsion is a bad idea:
“Whilst helmet compulsion might generate a short term uplift in sales for retailers we believe the long term impact will be an overall reduction in cycling which would negatively affect the retail sector,” said the ACT’s Mark Brown.