Cameron’s failure to wear cycle helmet “irresponsible”

Following David Cameron's irresponsible failure to wear a cycle helmet, it has emerged that one of the leading campaigners for compulsory helmets is a Tory MP.

David Cameron was today “under fire” for choosing to cycle without a helmet. And, as the news prompted an online row about whether it is “sanctimonious” to highlight cycling safety, it emerged that one of the leading campaigners for compulsory helmets is a Tory MP.

Just weeks ago, Peter Bone, Conservative MP for Wellingborough, spoke out in favour of making helmets compulsory for children up to the age of 14:

If somebody said 16 per cent of people who died in road accidents could be saved, you would bite their hand off … The savings to the NHS alone would be enormous … I believe individuals can make up their own minds whether they want to kill themselves. Youngsters can’t, however, and we have to do it for them.”

In January 2010, Bone asked a question in parliament about the Department for Transport’s assessment of the safety case for children to wear safety helmets. He received this response from Paul Clark, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the DfT:

“The Department commissioned a research project on cyclists’ road safety, which included a new review of cycle helmet effectiveness.”

The review concludes that, assuming cycle helmets are a good fit and worn correctly they should be effective at “reducing the risk of head injury, in particular cranium fracture, scalp injury and intracranial (brain) injury for users of all ages but would be expected to be particularly effective for children”. The report that Mr Bone highlights also includes the results of a forensic case review of more than 100 British police cyclist fatality reports:

“[The] case review … highlighted that between 10 and 16% of the fatalities reviewed could have been prevented if they had worn a cycle helmet.”

It also found that helmets would be “particularly effective” for children.

Given the currently available evidence (highlighted by one of his very own MPs) of the safety benefits of wearing a cycle helmet, and the (uphill) efforts of safety campaigners to encourage children, in particular, to wear a helmet, David Cameron should be trying to set a good example. Instead, he is irresponsibly choosing to look good for photo opportunities, regardless of the message this sends to Britain’s young cyclists.

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