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Is making cycle helmets compulsory the biggest advance we can offer in cyclist safety?

With the number of cyclists dying on British roads increasing by 10% to 118 in 2012, we’re seeing repeated calls for the wearing of cycle helmets to be made compulsory.But is this really the answer?

Interestingly, a social attitudes survey conducted in the UK last year reported that 65% of non-cyclists believe cycling isn’t safe, with 48% of regular cyclists stating current conditions make it dangerous.

Sending out the wrong message?

Whilst many pro-cycling lobbyists fully understand the significant benefits of wearing a helmet to reduce serious injury, many also believe that it’s the individual’s choice and that making cycling helmets compulsory sends out the wrong message, further deepening the perception of danger.

A study into the wearing of cycle helmets by the University of Bath in 2006 illustrated that drivers held a different attitude towards cyclists wearing helmets compared to those without: drivers tended to get much closer to cyclists wearing helmets.

The debate rages on, as this article clearly highlights.

As recently as 2011, Northern Ireland attempted to make cycle helmet wearing compulsory, but on presentation of evidence by CTC and Sustrans, about the benefits on health versus the risk of cycling, the Bill was defeated and helmet wearing remains a matter of personal choice for cyclists.

Benefits of the Dutch cycling model

The Dutch cycling model is worth examination: people cycle to work in their suits and cycling is a part of everyday life. Helmet wearers are usually doing something more adventurous than cycling as a means of commuting – such as off-road mountain biking, hence their decision to wear cycle helmets.

The Dutch infrastructure has evolved over the last 50 years to make the road transport network a level playing field for all road users, including cyclists.

Investing in cycle safety

It has been suggested that spending £10 per person per annum to maintain and increase cyclist safety would help to make the UK infrastructure work for all forms of transport, whilst providing a beneficial impact on cyclist safety, and enabling more people to access the health benefits from cycling.

cycle safety

There is no overnight fix, but measures could be taken now to alter behaviour and increase cyclist visibility on UK roads. Altering the behaviour of drivers and cyclists is required to deliver positive, long-term change in the UK.

For example, should some level of bicycle safety training me made compulsory prior to leaving school? Should free cycle safety training be made available nationally? Should adult cycling proficiency become part of the UK driving test? Should bigger clampdowns be made on reckless cycling and driving?

Cyclist detection and intelligent road studs

Detecting cyclists at junctions and giving them advance green wave tackles the root cause of many reckless cyclists who resort to jumping traffic lights, because they are not currently detected and given right of way in a timely manner – or, at times, even given enough time to cross a junction.

Innovative products such as our M100BR can be used on dedicated cycle lanes and advance stop lines, to inform the traffic signal controls of the presence of cyclists. This is then used to alter the phasing of the traffic signals.

With a small change in the law, authorities could deploy proven life-saving road markings, such as our SolarLite Active Road Studs to clearly define designated cyclist areas: these are already being deployed on cycle paths – but could equally be used defining dedicated cycle lanes or cycle superhighways.
If you’d like to find out more about our M100BR or SolarLite products, please feel free to contact us here.

Author: |Date Published: September 2013

Links: Route Safety Cycle Safety

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