Group says driver education and safer roads matter more than protective clothing
Amy WalkerFri 4 Jan 2019 14.13 GMT
Cycling campaigners have reacted angrily to a tweet from the Highway Code that said cyclists should wear helmets and protective clothing, saying the advice fuelled a culture of “victim blaming”.
The official Twitter account’s post encouraging people to wear “appropriate clothes for cycling” was met with negative responses from those who believe the suggestion to be ineffective. The code is published by the Department for Transport.
A spokesperson for Cycling UK said the recommendation led to a culture of “victim blaming” of cyclists and allowed careless drivers to evade responsibility.
“Helmets are only really effective in low-impact collisions, we need better infrastructure for cyclists and education for drivers,” they said.
“If you look at places like the Netherlands and Denmark, where there are more cyclists, it’s not helmets that contribute to low death rates for cyclists but roadscapes and townscapes that are designed to keep people safe.”
The Highway Code advises cyclists to wear a helmet that conforms to current regulations, to avoid clothing that may get tangled in wheels or obscure lights, and to wear light or fluorescent-coloured clothing, and reflective clothing or accessories in the dark. None of the guidelines are legal requirements.
The former Olympic racing cyclist Chris Boardman quoted the Highway Code account’s tweet and said: “Like the 1950s healthy people smoke Marlborough messages – we will look back on in years to come and ask what were we thinking.”
Ricky Carterna, a cyclist who responded to the tweet, said: “Hi-vis, helmets and appropriate clothing have no effect when hit by a careless, inattentive driver in a one-tonne metal vehicle traveling at 30mph.
“I have worn these recommended articles and still been wiped out. Focus your attention on the cause and stop victim blaming.”
Not everyone is opposed to the Highway Code’s advice, however. Last week, the sister of a cyclist who died after being hit by a tractor in Leicestershire launched a petition to make it compulsory for people to wear a helmet.
Last August, the 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas also said he felt helmets should be made compulsory for cyclists.