Mandatory helmet Bill to be laid before Parliament Dec. 2003
Eric Martlew, Labour MP for Carlisle, is to put before the UK Parliament a Bill which would make it illegal for under 16-year olds to cycle without wearing a cycle helmet.
Martlew is seventh in the list of promoters of Private Members Bills in the new Parliament. He has chosen to use the opportunity in support of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust which is pressing to make cycle helmets mandatory for all cyclists.
Other legislatures started with legislation for children as a relatively soft and very emotive issue that is likely to gain maximum public support. It is not yet clear whether Martlew's Bill will apply only to cycling on a public highway or in any place.
The Bill could seriously damage the prospects for success of the National Cycling Strategy Board's initiative to encourage cycling to school, and also the Government's new Active Communities project which seeks to double by the end of the decade the number of people taking regular exercise. Everywhere that cycle helmets have been made compulsory, cycle use has fallen dramatically, especially amongst younger people.
On 18th December, hours before Martlew's Bill was announced, the Health Survey for England revealed that one-third of children aged between 2 and 15 are overweight or obese, a 50% increase since the mid 1990s. These are the very children who will be targeted by the proposed legislation, making it even less likely that children will be able to avoid being a victim of the worst epidemic in the western world.
It is unclear what parliamentary time will be accorded to the Private Member's Bill and much depends upon the Government's attitude towards it. If the six Bills higher in priority are lengthy, then Martlew's Bill may not get a second reading. However, it is nonetheless possible that the Bill might succeed. The signing by over 80 MPs at the end of the last parliament of an Early Day Motion calling for mandatory helmets for all cyclists is a bad precedent. Cycle Campaign Network and CTC will be working hard to counter this Bill, but to succeed the organisations will need a lot of support from cyclists and cycling groups throughout Britain, particularly in tackling this issue with local MPs and informing communities.
CTC has established a helmet hot-line for posties. In response to the many calls for support from postal delivery workers for whom helmet use became mandatory from 1st October, CTC has established a telephone hot-line to advise and inform posties. Postal workers should telephone 01483 520756, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org mailto:email@example.com
. CTC is asking its Right to Ride representatives to distribute a letter to cycling postal workers, informing them of the new service and it would be appreciated if CCN groups could assist with this distribution. A copy of the letter can be downloaded from http://www.ctc.org.uk/working/index.aspx, click on 'Helmet Update'.
Already one postie has been sacked for refusing to wear a helmet and other dismissals are in the offing. Throughout the country there is considerable resentment at the new rule, which is being widely ignored.