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Labour Party deputy shows support for compulsory helmet use

Tom Watson attributes weight loss to cycling yet favours the compulsory use of helmets

Joe Robinson
24 Jan 2018

Deputy leader of the Labour Party Tom Watson has suggested that the use of helmets while cycling should become compulsory. In a video interview with the Daily Mirror, the MP for West Bromwich East stated that he would be in favour of the compulsory use of helmets for bicycle users in the UK.

When asked if helmets should be voluntary of compulsory during the quickfire questioning, the politician answered 'I think probably compulsory now, there are too many head injuries.'

This is the latest call from those in Westminster to consider a law for compulsory helmets in the UK. When questioned on helmet use last year, Conservative minister Jesse Norman stated that this would be up for review.

Speaking at a cycling and walking conference, Norman told the Sunday Times, 'If you want to have a society where a 12-year-old can get on a bicycle it’s a serious issue as to whether you’re going to mandate hi-vis or helmets and there will be many arguments about whether the safety benefits outweigh or do not outweigh the deterrent effect that might have on people cycling.

'So we’re going to leave that to the review.'

These latest calls from both Watson and Norman contradict previous studies that have found little correlation between mandatory helmet use and head injuries.

The Universities of Toronto and British Columbia found in a joint study that after comparing hospitalisation rates from parts of Canada that had required helmet use and those that didn't there was no correlation between helmet use and head injuries.

Beyond this study, former World Champion, Olympic gold medalist and now British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman has vehemently criticised the UK's government consideration of mandatory helmet use.

Boardman often uses the examples of Australia and New Zealand to argue that compulsory helmet laws often see a dramatic drop in cycling nationwide and increase the likelihood of physical inactivity related deaths.

'In the UK one in six deaths – nearly 90,000 per year – is as a result of physical inactivity related disease including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

'Clearly, any measure proven beyond doubt to reduce people’s likelihood to travel by bike, will almost certainly kill more people than it saves.'