Monday 15 March 2010

Compulsory cycle helmets in Jersey

This morning’s BBC Breakfast Show (a programme which can usually be guaranteed to make my pulse suddenly mimic the Severn Bore) had a feature on Jersey’s recent decision to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory for under-18s.

It seems children as young as 7 may be hauled over by the cops and fined. I foresee difficulties with that. What if the offender has already spent their pocket money on chewing gum?

Jersey’s very articulate opponent of this crackpot legislation, Daniel Wimberley, got a few seconds to explain concisely why this was a bad law, but his message was drowned out by footage of kiddies cycling in a playground, and along a steep woodland trail, with a cute little girl wearing her shiny helmet and saying solemnly that she didn’t want “brain damage”. Naturally there was no footage of what it would be like for a child to cycle through a town in Jersey.

There was a thoroughly useless woman from Sustrans named Yvonne Gilligan. The BBC hack put it to her that many cyclists are just as bad as motorists. Instead of replying that in a transport infrastructure built around motoring and full of reckless, risk-taking drivers, cycling on the pavement or through red lights is a symptom of unpleasant cycling conditions and poor cycling infrastructure, Ms Gilligan agreed with the proposition and trilled about how we must “all learn to share space together”.

BBC Breakfast invites responses from viewers. The response to this news feature, needless to say, was the usual tsunami of ignorance and foaming, frothing cyclophobia.

Or as the dim, car supremacist hack on Jersey TV impartially and objectively put it, this cycle helmet legislation:

was an overwhelming vote in favour of safety for our children


Wimberley argues that enforced legislation will fail, for a variety of reasons. "There are fewer and fewer child cyclists in Jersey each year," says Wimberley. "If this helmet law for children eventually comes in, it will make this disastrous trend even worse. The States have turned their backs on creating a cycling culture and have gone instead for a policy of enforced helmet wearing which is known to fail.

"There will be, sadly, fewer cyclists and therefore more accidents per cyclist. The States have voted for worse public health, more health costs, and greater danger for cyclists. They have ignored all the evidence, and opted instead to prepare a law affecting the lives of thousands of islanders on pure emotion.

"By opting to bring in this law, we are pretending that helmets protect them, when in the vast majority of serious cases they do not. Unless we actually teach children how to ride and focus on making the road environment safer for cyclists,
nothing is going to save them."

And where some lead, others follow:

GUERNSEY should follow Jersey and make cycling without a helmet illegal, according to Headway.

Guernsey charity Headway’s fund-raising and publicity manager Philippa Stahelin commended the move and said the group would be putting pressure on Guernsey’s States to follow suit.