By Ceri Woolsgrove, ECF Policy officer, Road safety, Member news, News, 27.07.2012
The Spanish government is looking at implementing a compulsory helmet laws. This could be disastrous for cycling and also Spain’s successful bike share schemes, explains Ceri Woolsgrove.
Spain’s Directorate General of Traffic is introducing helmet legislation.
This would be a disaster for Spain’s increasing cycling numbers, and consequently for the safety of their cyclists. It has been consistently shown that higher numbers of cyclists brings safer cycling for each individual cyclist. Several case studies point towards helmet legislation dramatically reduces cycling numbers and it can have the counterintuitive result of actually increasing the risk for cyclists.
Spanish bicycle advocates based in Seville “A Contramano: Asamblea Ciclista de Sevilla” told me the following;
“All of the countries with the highest levels of bicycle use and the lowest risks per kilometre cycled (The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany…) have chosen to create safer road conditions rather than promote the wearing of cycle helmets. In contrast, countries where bicycle helmets are compulsory (Australia, New Zealand…) have seen a large fall in the number of cyclists, with only a small drop in the number of serious head injuries.”
This loss of cycling numbers also has an effect on public health. One recent researcher has shown that even with a small drop in cycling numbers of 1-2% because of helmet legislation leads to an overall health ‘disbenefit’ even taking into account any decrease in head injuries.
It will also have a huge impact on Spain’s blossoming public bike sharing schemes. These schemes are highly allergic to any type of helmet legislation, and wastes all the investment and good work that goes into their creation. At the moment there are about 74 public bike sharing schemes in Spain, both big and small. Experience from around the world shows that cycle helmet legislation has a disastrous effect on them.
A €4.86 billion loss to the economy!
And let’s not forget all the bicycle tourists that go to Spain each year on holidays. They will not want to be bringing helmets with them and in consequence may forget to bring their wallets! Let’s not forget that cycling tourism in Spain is worth an estimated €4.86 billion per annum.