A proposal to introduce a helmet law is California was withdrawn following opposition from cycling groups. A petition from the California Bicycle Coalition mentioned:
“there are proven ways to make our streets safer while encouraging bicycling — reducing speed limits on key streets, building protected bike lanes and bike paths, and educating motorists and bicyclists on how to drive or ride safely, to name a few. A mandatory helmet law is not one of them.”
This is not the first attempt to introduce a helmet law. They usually fizzle out once people mention the likely consequences:
“Countries that have penalised people for normal cycling (without helmets), have failed to reduce head injury rates despite increased helmet wearing rates. See an ECF factsheet on the case of Australia and its helmet laws”
A politician in Northern Ireland attempted to introduce a helmet law. He had been lobbied by Headway. He claimed in parliament that helmet laws introduced in other countries have been a success. The debate was fierce. Helmet fanatics used emotive arguments. Rationalists focused on the consequences of imposing a helmet law:
“The one thing proponents of helmet legislation seem to ignore is that the fact that helmets do nothing to improve road safety, say the CTC.
What Helmets have done for cycling’s image, however, is to create the perception that cycling is inherently dangerous, which it was never considered to be before the arrival of the ubiquitous shiny hard hat.”
Helmet fanatics assume a helmet law can only improve safety. They ignore the likely consequences: a decrease in cycling and an increased risk of accident. They seem unaware that helmets are useless in major accidents.
The Cyclists Touring Club launched a petition against the proposed law:
“This bill may be well-intentioned, but it will deter vast numbers of people from cycling, while increasing the risk for those who remain.”
The main political parties woke up to the negative consequences of the proposal. The law was not enacted:
“this would be legislation intruding into areas of life where it doesn’t need to go especially as they accepted that cycling is not a particularly dangerous activity.”
Never underestimate the tactics used by helmet fanatics. They appear sincere and well-meaning. Their emotive arguments appeal to the uninformed, particularly non-cyclists. Their smokescreen fizzle out once more informed opinions are brought to the limelight. People realise that the negative consequences outweigh the potential benefits.