Charity speaks out following helmet row

'Emphasis should be on safety, not just getting people on bikes'

Road transport charity Brake has called for a shift of emphasis when it comes to encouraging cycling in London.

National newspapers have picked up on a quote from the charity which suggested helmet use was "imperative" for users of the new Barclays Cycle Hire scheme.

This has led to the inevitable scare-mongering and calls for enforced helmet use, with the Daily Mail running a story under the headline, "Boris Johnson's cycle hire scheme to help Londoners sees two people hospitalised needing brain scans".

While six people have reportedly been injured while using the new bikes, that's just a handful of incidents during nearly 770,000 journeys made since the scheme was launched on 30 July.

A spokeswoman for Brake told BikeRadar that, while the charity does recommend that all cyclists wear helmets, the provision of safe routes and proper training is just as important. This is especially true with so many inexperienced riders taking to the capital's busy roads as a result of the hire scheme.

"Investment in cycling is a great thing and we certainly want to encourage cycling and walking," she said. "However, how that investment is made is critical. We'd want the investment to be made in providing safe cycling facilities.

"That means more safe cycling routes, as in Greenwich, and more focus on educating people to cycle safely and use the correct safety equipment, including helmets... It's critical that proper measures are taken to ensure that the people using these bikes can use them safely."

Helmets are not provided with the Barclays hire bikes but the Code of Conduct given to each user urges: "Do consider wearing a cycle helmet."

A spokesman for Transport for London said: "The use of cycle helmets in the UK isn't a legal requirement, which means it's up to each user to decide whether or not they wish to wear one. In addition, for a helmet to be effective it has to be the appropriate size and fitted properly. TfL encourages cycle hire users to consider wearing helmets, as is stated in the scheme’s code of conduct.”

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