Cycle Helmets Article

This article was written by Eric Martlew MP for a Health Magazine & describes his Private Members Bill

A year ago I introduced a Private Member's Bill called the Protective Headgear for Young Cyclists that would have made cycle helmets compulsory for all children in the UK aged 15 and under.

Unfortunately the bill was talked down at the second reading and did not progress any further. Yet strangely enough this was just the beginning of a new wave of support in favour of mandatory helmets for children.

From the time the bill was first introduced into the House of Commons in January 2004 till the second reading in April of the same year, I received an enormous amount of support from parents, health professionals, other MPs and the majority of health organisations and road safety officers.

There was also a certain amount of opposition principally from adult-orientated cycling groups who used the British Medical Association's stance on helmets to back their own position. At the time the BMA said although there were obvious health benefits to be gained from wearing a helmet they should not be made compulsory.

The opposition groups also produced a leaflet entitled "Seven Reasons to Oppose a Cycle Helmet Law". This leaflet has now been found by the Advertising Standards Agency to contain seven misleading or unsubstantiated claims.

Since then the BMA has also changed its position and at the end of 2004 it issued a statement saying it was now in favour of mandatory cycle helmets for all cyclists.

All the major health organisations now support the use of compulsory helmets for children and earlier this year the UK's biggest bike retailer, Halfords, also came out in support of mandatory helmets.

Privately Ministers are saying that there policy of trying to persuade children to wear helmets is failing, especially amongst the most vulnerable area - young teenage boys. I am, therefore, of the opinion the Government's is coming round to the idea of compulsory helmets for children. It is not a matter now of IF but WHEN.

My Private Members Bill has been a major catalyst in moving this issue forward.

There is a growing momentum in favour of helmets that will not, I believe, be stifled until the welfare of the child is put before adult interests and helmets are made compulsory.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB