Road Safety News

Brake backs Wiggins’ call for safer cycling

Thursday 2nd August 2012

Brake, the road safety charity, has backed Bradley Wiggins’ call for safer cycling after a cyclist was killed close to the Olympic stadium by a London 2012 bus.

Bradley Wiggins said that cycling in the Capital can be dangerous, and that there needs to be more ‘give-and-take’ between drivers and cyclists. He advised cyclists to do everything they can to keep themselves safe and suggested that cycle helmets should be mandatory.

The incident came just hours after Wiggins became Britain's most decorated Olympian by pedalling his way to a gold medal in the time trial event. The Independent suggested that the incident will reignite the fierce debate over cycling safety in the UK.

Bradley Wiggins said: “It's dangerous and London is a busy city and a lot of traffic. I think we have to help ourselves sometimes.

“I haven't lived in London for 10 to 15 years now and it's got a lot busier since I was riding a bike as a kid round here, and I got knocked off several times.

“But I think things are improving to a degree: there are organisations out there who are attempting to make the roads safer for both parties.

“But at the end of the day we've all got to co-exist on the roads. Cyclists are not ever going to go away, as much as drivers moan, and as much as cyclists maybe moan about certain drivers they are never going to go away, so there's got to be a bit of give and take.”

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “We echo Wiggins’ calls for cyclists to do everything they can to protect themselves, but it’s also critical that far more is done to make roads safer for cycling and walking.

“We are appealing to government and local authorities to give greater priority and investment to enabling people to walk and cycle in their own communities without their lives being endangered. We need more widespread 20mph limits, and safe routes for people choosing these healthy and sustainable forms of transport.”


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When looking at cycling casualty statistics one must remember that the statistics for cycling are only reported when there is a collision with a vehicle or an injury that involves the police or hospitalisation.

Many people come off their bikes on wet or gravelly roads and find that their helmet takes a whack rather than their head but, as they are not injured more than a bit of gravel rash, they don't report it.

Most people would agree, I think, that a collision with a vehicle is not the primary incident that a helmet is designed to defend against. Therefore the injuries reported as KSI will obviously show that the cyclist had gained little or no benefit from helmet wearing

However, when I cycle I plan not to get involved in a collision with traffic, doing everything I can to ensure that I ride in a manner that keeps me safe BUT, just in case I hit a patch of gravel, I wear a helmet to give my head a first line of defence from the road surface.
Iain, Suffolk

Agree (10) | Disagree (1)

Bradley Wiggins later denied that he was calling for a change in the law. "Just to confirm I haven't called for helmets to be made the law as reports suggest," he tweeted from @bradwiggins.'(

"...he would never be without a helmet..."?? see

Banning cycling (without a helmet) might reduce road deaths but not as much as banning other use of roads. Shouldn't we be trying to make roads safer to use, rather than trying to ban cycling, the benefits of which far outweigh the risks?
David, Dalkeith

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

I agree entirely with Alan Kennedy (same experiences!) and reading through the comments there appears to be a pro and anti helmet lobby! Taking on board all the arguments, yes cycle usage may reduce if they were made compulsory as they were in Australia, but as a trial conducted in Jersey with compulsory helmet wearing for under 18s and advisory for over 18s, this may in turn gradually introduce a generation of young people to get used to the idea of wearing helmets. As a RSO, I see children become self conscious about wearing them at High School age even though they would have worn them during 'Bikeability' courses. It needed someone high profile like 'Wiggo'to bring it out into the media!
Joe - Sefton

Agree (12) | Disagree (2)

I don't think anyone is saying that a cycle helmet is equivalent to an invincibility suit. Anyone with a shred of common sense would realise that a helmet is unlikely to do you much good if you are crushed or run over by a bus or HGV. But, the use of a helmet might help prevent or lessen head injuries were a cyclist to be clipped by a vehicle and then fall off, hitting their head on a pavement, pedestrian guard rail, car windscreen etc etc.

Seat belts and airbags won't protect motorists from injury in 100% of collisions, especially the most serious, but I don't hear as many arguments against their use...
Rebecca, Leeds

Agree (21) | Disagree (1)

Firstly, my condolences to this man and his family, but a helmet would not have saved his life. Had he avoided the inherent danger of cycling on the inside of this bus, he would be alive today. Just because a cyclist can squeeze alongside a bus or large lorry does not make it safe or sensible. Every day in London you see cyclists take their life in their hands by either jumping red lights or cycling recklessly in and out of traffic. I support the right of cyclists to freely use our roads in conjunction with motor vehicles. However, cyclists do need to cycle in a safe manner. RoadDriver would support the compulsory use of helmets to help reduce injury in low impact accidents such as falling off your bike and hitting your head on a kerb.
Charles Dunn

Agree (17) | Disagree (4)

May I suggest a test?

How about making cycle helmets compulsory for 3 years (2013 - 2015 inc?), including zero tolerance enforcement, and then non-compulsory for the next 3 years (2016 - 2018 inc?).

Collect the data for cyclist deaths, cyclist mileage and helmet wearing rates before the law, during and then after.

Cycle helmets can be made compulsory permanently after 2018 if all these 3 occur:

1) cyclist deaths per million miles are lower during the compulsory period
2) cyclist mileages do not reduce during the compulsory period
3) helmet wearing rates reduce after the compulsory period

Serious injuries would also need to be assessed but using hospital figures, not Police figures (due to the well known under-reporting in stats19).

Any policy decisions could then be based on actual evidence.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (1) | Disagree (18)

Look, Wiggo is clearly far and away the most high profile cyclist in the world at the present time. It ws obvious that, following the recent tragedy, the media would expect a comment.
Given that, during his many thousands of kilometres of training and racing (helmet compulsory) he would never be without a helmet it was inevitable that he would support their use. It seems to me that a properly fitted and correctly fitted helmet would provide the sort of protection from head injuries which Alan mentions. Incidentally, here in France, one rarely sees a cyclist without one.
Brian, France

Agree (17) | Disagree (2)

I'm afraid that cycle helmets are simply a placebo.

Dr Ian Walker at Bath University did some research that showed that motor vehicles behaved differently toward people according to what they wore on their head. They passed closer and more aggressively while he was wearing a cycle helmet, while they gave more respect and space when he was dressed normally. While he was wearing a long blonde wig he received far more courtesy and care from motor vehicle users than whilst wearing a helmet or clearly masculine.

In Australia there was a 37% reduction in cyclist KSIs after the introduction of mandatory cycle helmets. But this was not due to the benefits of cycle helmets, rather the fact that there was a 30% fall in people cycling!

If anyone can prove to me that cycle helmets will save lives while not reducing the number of people benefitting from cycling, I would happily back their mandatory use. Until then, I say that we should stop concentrating on the irrelevances and address the elephant in the room - that current speed limits and road designs need to change.
Stephen Ormerod

Agree (6) | Disagree (15)

There is no way a police officer is going to fine a young child for not wearing a cycle helmet, so compulsory wearing is never going to happen, it's time to on from this issue.

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

Well..I'm a cyclist, I cycle in traffic and on quiet roads. I am also a driver, and used to be a motorcyclist. I am also a pedestrian and a passenger. Whilst it would be great for all road users to share the road properly and be courteous to each other, we have to be realistic. In whatever activity we do there is an element of risk, so to reduce the severity of injuries in potential high risk activites such as using the road we to need take appropriate measures, such as wearing a seat belt, using air bags, wearing motorcycle/cycle helmets, reducing impact speeds etc. In a cycling collision, I agree that I probably would not survive if a large vehicle ran over my bike and me, and I fully understand that my helmet is not designed to protect me against that. But, if I came off the bike for whatever reason and hit my head on a kerb or lamp post, or a car windscreen, for example, I would be very grateful for my 11mph impact safety feature. My head and my brain are very precious to me. Bones heal, brain cells don't.
Alan Kennedy

Agree (31) | Disagree (1)

My comments about the actual protection a helmet gives a rider appeared to have been received with some derision. It was not meant as a critisism as it was well intended. Before it becomes a lawful requirement I would actually want to know what degree of protection such a helmet gives a cyclist.

I don't want it to become a lawful requirement just to pacify some political quarter but to be a genuine road safety measure. I don't want it to be just a placebo like hi vis on motorcyclces. They have been argueing for that since the 1970s and still have no concrete proof that it works.

Further, and more importantly, I don't want cyclists to be forced to wear something that a] wont work at 11 or 22 or whatever mph. and b] makes the wearer think that he or she is now invulnerable and breeds overconfidence.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)

Cycle helmet’s are uncomfortable, hot, and can’t be left with your bike when you reach your destination, and therefore have to be carried with you which is very inconvenient.

I for one am not against cycle helmets. I would not go onto a mountain, or out racing without one.

I just do not think that they should be compulsory for all cyclists.

Educate – don’t legislate!
Adam, Hants

Agree (11) | Disagree (4)

Cycle helmets would be a good idea, if they did actually prevent death and serious injury. The facts are that they don't.

Over 90% of deaths and serious injury to cyclists were caused by collision with a motor vehicle. In these incidents, less than a quarter of them would have the severity reduced by the wearing of a helmet. Not the complete cure all that many are claiming here.

You see, in the collision that Wiggins was talking about, and the majority of KSIs involving cyclists, it was a bus (large or heavy vehicle) turning left across the cyclist, crushing him under the wheels of the bus.

Would a cycle helmet really have saved this guy's life? Or should we be looking at better design of our roads which are completely motor vehicle centric and ignore the most vulnerable road user?
Stephen, Merseyside

Agree (13) | Disagree (6)

The point here is that wearing a cycle helmet, motorcycle helmet or seat belt will help reduce serious injury. There are isolated incidents that are the exception but we are playing a % game. As a local government officer I also have a duty of care for the young child taking our training and a cycle helmet is a good thing as it might just help to save a life in worst case scenario.

Lastly congatulations to Bradley and all at Herne Hill who contributed to his success!
Gareth Tuffery

Agree (17) | Disagree (3)

Well said, Dave - we need to share the roads not fight over them. Why do we persist in setting one group of users against another - when actually we all use the roads in at least two different ways, most of us more than that e.g. I walk, I drive and I ride a horse so I have three very different interests and uses for the roads. Might it help if, when we are driving we remember also what it is like to be a cyclist and as a cyclist have a care for being a driver etc?

It might take a minute or two longer and would certainly need everyone using the roads - by whatever means - to concentrate and think about what they are doing. Would that be so difficult?
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

Agree (21) | Disagree (0)

When I was at a cycling conference, the mere mention of manditory cycle helmets brought an audible intake of breath and obvious widespread deep-seated opposition.

Cyclists have often been encouraged to regard drivers as their enemy and to therefore support the "war on the motorist". Speed cameras, traffic calming, lower speed limits etc have been promoted as improvements to safety generally and to cyclists in particular.

One problem in supporting this "war on the motorist" is that the same concepts and logic can be applied to any road user group and cyclists may find themselves subjected to a "war on the cyclist".

Possible manditory requirements could be cycle helmets, number plates, insurance, hi-vis jackets, speed limits, MOTs, lights, mirrors etc.

Perhaps all road user groups should join together to stop all the wars?
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (12) | Disagree (4)

Excellent comments from Bradley and in answer to the earlier correspondent I would say if the helmet absorbs the first 11 mph of impact then the remaining impact will be reduced over what it would be with no protection. That 22 mph collision is more equivalent to an 11 mph collision and that is much more survivable. At the end of the day it is up to you, but don't knock others for taking a sensible approach.
Anne James Hertfodshire

Agree (16) | Disagree (0)

Forgive me if I am wrong, ANY degree of protection! I was led to understand that the helmet was tested at a maximum of 11 miles per hour. Is that right? I know many cyclists that would exceed that speed on a regular jaunt to the shops - both on and off road.

If that is the case then one might consider the helmet useless.

I know someone out there who has the info and can no doubt enlighten us all - please. No use shouting for the use of something that is flawed already.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (4) | Disagree (18)

As a Road Safety Officer I and my collegues have been campaigning for years about the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets. It all comes down to enforcement and I feel that's where it will fall short. I have always said "Better a hole in your helmet than a hole in your head". If this gains momentum then we should go the whole hog and say all cyclists should wear a helmet, Hi-viz waistcoat, lights on bikes and correct training before, during and after - from the cradle to the grave.
Doug Wright, North East Lincs.

Agree (12) | Disagree (7)

I agree 101% with Bradley about having push bike helmet wearing compulsory. After suffering a head/brain injury myself in a sport motorcycle accident, knowing NOTHING about the danger at the age of 32! How they can occur even without striking the head at all! Being involved with hundreds of head injured people, ANY degree of protection is needed!
Richard Willis

Agree (14) | Disagree (10)