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11/04/2011 // INFO 5 Comments

Much to do about nothing?

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Norman Baker, the coalition transport minister who has cycling matters under his brief, has been caught up in a political storm this weekend. What is this scandal, I hear you cry. Expenses? An adulterous affair?

No, it is the revelation that he prefers not to wear a helmet when he cycles. Mr Baker gets about London on ministerial business on a Brompton, preferring to use the Brompton to a ministerial car (for which he should be commended), but inevitably safety campaigners have come out and criticised Mr Baker for his stance.

A libertarian right

Mr Baker told the Financial Times that it was his it his ‘libertarian right’ to ride without protective headgear as when he cycled he liked to feel the wind in his hair.

“For me the joy of cycling is to have the wind in your hair, such as I have left. It’s free, it’s unencumbered; I don’t want to be loaded down,” Mr Baker stated.

“The official government line is to draw attention to the benefits – especially for children. I don’t dissent from that line. I’m just saying personally I don’t want to have to wear one.”

Suitability as a cycle minister

Road safety charity Brake has questioned Mr Baker’s suitability for the role on the basis he does not wear a helmet, arguing that ministers should practice what they preach.

As we know, if you are an adult in the UK, wearing a helmet is not compulsory. The decision to wear one is much about personal choice.

Do you think Mr Baker should wear a helmet regardless of his personal feelings in order to set an example? Or is this whole story much to do about nothing?

See also

Cycling will have to fight corner for transport funding

Support at last for grass roots road racing?


from Going Going Bike – Auctions, Bike News, Cycle Stuff

5 comments [leave one]
Thom Sanders April 11, 2011 at 7:00 pm

There is nothing wrong with his decision. Road (read motoring) organisations would like compulsory wearing of helmets as it further diminishes cyclists status as road users, takes the onus off drivers for the safety of others, and makes casual cycling more impractical.

Helmets are beneficial but to a large degree only under extreme conditions of speed, rough terrain or in a jostling peloton. How many people would use the hire bikes in London if it meant being saddled with a helmet all day. Or their own bikes to go out for the night?

Cycling is about self-propelled freedom to travel and cyclists should not be burdened with additional equipment and legal requirements.

Reply

James - Going Going Bike April 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

Thom – I agree that freedom is one of the appealling aspects of cycling and a reason why so many people enjoy getting on two wheels…obliging cyclists to wear helmets would erode part of this.

Reply

JimF April 12, 2011 at 11:02 am

Hilarious – a road safety charity telling cyclists to wear helmets. Oooh the irony!

Mikael Colville-Andersen nails it here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07o-TASvIxY

Basically car drivers would be better off with helmets than cyclists – 8mins 30secs in.

Reply

James - Going Going Bike April 12, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Hey – thanks for the link JimF…that’s great!

Reply

Jonathan April 13, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I agree that people should not be forced to wear helmets – personally I wear one to commute in as I will be riding faster and there is much more traffic jostling for position. But for an evening ride or just a quick bike with the kids then I don’t wear a helmet. To be honest if someone forced to wear one all the time it would put me off cycling totally.

As usual it is the nanny state with a quango justifying their wages by stating the obvious – yes helmets are safer. But if I wanted a safe life, I wouldn’t go anywhere and just stay in bed all day. Maybe I should leave the bike at home and take the train (as statistically it is safer).

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I agree that people should not be forced to wear helmets - personally I wear one
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I think this is excellent news. Although I will probably never use these routes
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Hey - thanks for the link JimF...that's great!
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Hilarious - a road safety charity telling cyclists to wear helmets. Oooh the iro
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