Tour de France winner’s ‘compulsory helmet’ comments provoke backlash

Tour de France winner Great Britain's Geraint Thomas wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey smiles after the 21st and last stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race between Houilles and Paris Champs-Elysees. Picture: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images.
Tour de France winner Great Britain's Geraint Thomas wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey smiles after the 21st and last stage of the 105th edition of the Tour de France cycling race between Houilles and Paris Champs-Elysees. Picture: MARCO BERTORELLO/AFP/Getty Images.
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Cycling champion Geraint Thomas has demanded helmets be made compulsory for cyclists in comments made to a Sunday newspaper.

Tour de France winner Thomas said those using bikes on UK roads have “no reason not to” wear protective headwear in an interview with the Sunday Times.

However, his comments have provoked a backlash in the cycling community, with many groups arguing that mandatory use of helmets would “make cycling a less accessible activity”.

Olympic gold medallist Thomas told a Sunday newspaper: “I’ve never ridden a bike in London, apart from in a race.

“I’ve watched from a taxi and it does seem a bit crazy. I would certainly make helmets compulsory.”

“When I was a kid I was always being beeped and told to get off the effin’ road. The problem is that cyclists and drivers see each other as enemies.”

Thomas, who rode to victory with Team Sky in the historic race last month added: “I always wear a helmet, I’ve put on a helmet more times than I’ve buckled a seatbelt.”

“Helmets have come on a lot – well ventilated, not too hot, you don’t look stupid – no reason not to.”

The United Kingdom government is currently carrying out a cycling safety review designed to reflect public
concern over safety on the roads.

Unlike for motorcyclists, there is no legal requirement for bicycle users to wear protective headwear, although it is recommended under the Highway Code. In 2016, more than 18,000 cyclists were hurt in reported road accidents, with 102 deaths and 3,397 seriously injured.

But Cycling UK – the UK’s national cycling charity – is opposed to helmet laws and campaigns to promote their use because they are “almost certainly detrimental to public health”.

The charity said: “Evidence shows that the health benefits of cycling are so much greater than the relatively low risks involved, that even if these measures caused only a very small reduction in cycle use, this would still almost certainly mean far more lives being lost through physical inactivity than helmets could possibly save, however effective.”

The charity added that policing resources required to enforce a ban would be “grossly disproportionate to any possible benefits”.

It pointed to a measure introduced in Australia in the 1990s when a mandatory helmet law introduced in cities including Melbourne saw a fall of 43 per cent in the number of youngsters cycling regularly.

Ian Maxwell, from cycling advocacy group Spokes, backed the charity’s stance, adding that the contrast between riding in cities and in a race environment were “entirely different”.

He said: “Making helmets compulsory promotes the idea that cycling is an unsafe activity, which it is not.

“If you look at more advanced cycling countries, the likes of the Netherlands, there is very low helmet usage, but a high number of cyclists.

“For a rider in the Tour de France, someone who is hurtling along at great speeds, then of course helmets are needed, but compulsion is dictating something that should be the individual choice of the cyclist.”

“There’s nothing wrong with wearing a helmet, but it shouldn’t be compulsory.”