Chris Boardman hits back at critics after riding without helmet

British Cycling's policy advisor Chris Boardman says helmets are a barrier to cycling and are not in the top 10 issues affecting cyclists in Britain

Chris Boardman

Chris Boardman has hit back at detractors who have criticised him for not wearing a helmet while filming a cycling safety video for BBC Breakfast.

The British Cycling policy advisor drew the ire of cycling campaigners for appearing in the video wearing dark clothing and no helmet in the clip, which aired this morning (November 3).

Boardman also said that he wouldn't let his daughter ride on local roads for fear that she might be injured, but it was his decision to ride without head protection that drew most attention.

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In an additional video posted on the BBC Breakfast Facebook page, Boardman explained that he wasn’t wearing a helmet because he feels they are not one of the top 10 safety issues when cycling on the road.

Boardman says he also believes that helmets are a barrier to cycling for some people and insists the real dangers to cyclists need to be addressed first.

“[Helmets] discourage people from riding their bikes,” he said. “You are as safe riding your bike as you are walking.

“There’s nothing wrong with helmets, but they’re not in the top-10 things you can do to keep safe.”

In a statement on the BC website, he added: “If cycling looks and feels normal, more people will cycle (British Cycling research has shown that two thirds of people would cycle more if they felt safer).

“The more people cycle, the safer they are — the safety in numbers effect. The more people cycle, the more lives will be saved from amongst the 37,000 that die each year from obesity-related illnesses.

“Never mind the more than 27,000 that die annually from pollution-related illnesses.

“In contrast, there are approximately 116 cyclists tragically killed in the UK each year, that’s one per every 1000 times around the planet.

“Cycling is statistically safer than gardening and yet it doesn't feel like it when you're cycling next to a lorry or car that gets too close at a busy junction.”

Citing statistics from Utrecht in the Netherlands, where Boardman says helmet use is less than 0.5%, the Olympic gold medallist believes the real dangers to cyclists need to be addressed before helmet usage.

“I understand exactly why people feel so passionately about helmets or high vis,” he continued. “I understand why people wish to use them. But these actions seek to deal with an effect.

“I want to focus the debate on the cause and campaign for things that will really make cycling safe.

“That is why I won’t promote high vis and helmets; I won’t let the debate be drawn onto a topic that isn’t even in the top 10 things that will really keep people who want to cycle safe.”

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