By Tim Montgomerie
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Cameron holds but doesn't wear his helmet
Cycle safety might be about to become a political hot potato.
Hours after Bradley Wiggins became the most medalled* Olympian in British history a less celebrated cyclist was killed when they went underneath the wheels of a shuttle bus, apparently transporting athletes from the village to events in Stratford Park. An issue that hasn't yet gained parliamentary traction might now do so after Mr Wiggins called for the wearing of cycle helmets to become compulsory. “Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don’t have a helmet on, then you can’t argue,” he said. “You can get killed if you don’t have a helmet on.” He also urged cyclists to not use MP3 players or mobile phones when on the roads (image of Boris breaking both of Winggins' rules).
A spokesman for the Department of Transport issued this statement:
"We take the issue of cycle safety extremely seriously and are working to reduce the instances of deaths and serious injuries of cyclists on our roads. We encourage cyclists – especially children – to wear helmets to protect them if they have a crash. However, we believe this should remain a matter of individual choice rather than imposing additional rules which would be difficult to enforce. We also want to see more innovative measures being put in place to improve cycle safety. That is why we have made it easier for councils to install Trixi mirrors to make cyclists more visible to drivers as well as announcing an additional £30 million for better cycle routes and facilties. We have also committed £11 million per year for Bikeability training to help a new generation of cyclists gain the skills and knowledge they need to cycle on the roads.”
Although my mum would agree with Wiggo I don't wear a helmet and as reported by First Post, helmets are controversial among the cycling community. The Times has been running a "cities fit for cycling" campaign for some months now. It has issued an eight point manifesto (£) which, interestingly, does not include compulsory cycle helmets:
- "Lorries entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.
- The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.
- A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.
- Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.
- The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.
- 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.
- Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.
- Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms."
Some fear that compulsion would end up discouraging cycling. Society and individuals would then never gain the benefits from regular bike exercise.
* Apologies to language purists.