Transport minister hits back at reports of 'plan' for compulsory helmets and hi-vis for cyclists

Jesse Norman says review into cycling safety will be "based on the evidence"

(Image credit: Cycling Weekly/IPC)

Transport minister Jesse Norman has hit back over reports of a "plan" to introduce compulsory helmets and hi-vis for cyclists as part of an upcoming review into cycling safety.

A headline on the front page of the Times on Friday proclaimed "Compulsory helmets plan for all cyclists on British roads", but Norman tweeted that this was not what he had suggested and there was no "plan".

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Instead, the suggestions for compulsory helmets and hi-vis will be considered as part of a wide-ranging Department for Transport review into cycling safety which Norman said last month would "ask very general questions and if the feedback is that we should consider that stuff, then we’ll look at it".

The minister also insisted that the findings of the review, and any suggestions on helmets or hi-vis, would be "evidence led", with the chance for road safety and cycling groups to contribute to the review, and also examine the risks posed to cyclists by dangerous drivers.

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Cycling campaign groups generally oppose the introduction of mandatory helmets and hi-vis for cyclists, with Cycling UK saying that making all cyclists wear helmets would be "detrimental to public health".

Evidence from Australia shows that forcing cyclists to wear helmets reduces cycling numbers by 30-40 per cent, while failing to improve safety for cyclists relative to other road users. There is also evidence that even if compulsory helmets were to prevent all cycling injuries, a reduction in cycling levels by just 4.7 per cent would be enough to cancel out the injury reduction through the shortening of lives through inactivity.

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As for hi-vis, the numerous studies into the subject have provided mixed results. While a number of studies have found that cyclists are more visible during the day when wearing hi-vis clothing, it is generally found to be not nearly as effective at night when compared to reflective clothing and good lights.

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However, campaigners also point out that there is not necessarily a link between motorists being able to see a cyclist, and being able to drive around them safely.

"The research suggests that hi-vis may help drivers to spot pedestrians and cyclists more readily," says Cherry Allan, campaigns and policy coordinator at Cycling UK. "But there was no evidence by how much and it was impossible to say whether that made them safer, as spotting them was one thing and driving safely around them another.”

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Henry Robertshaw began his time at Cycling Weekly working with the tech team, writing reviews, buying guides and appearing in videos advising on how to dress for the seasons. He later moved over to the news team, where his work focused on the professional peloton as well as legislation and provision for cycling. He's since moved his career in a new direction, with a role at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.