Mr Hammond may have a point. The existing 70mph limit was established in 1965. Since then there has been a fall of 75 per cent in the numbers of people killed every year on British roads. It may be the case that only a university-educated technician can fix today’s cars, but technology has undoubtedly made driving a lot safer than it was back in the days when vehicles resembled leviathans and power steering was practised only by weight lifters.
But if there might be a case for raising the speed limit on motorways, it seems to me that we need to be taking a far more cautious view when it comes to another form of transport, one that most of us learnt to enjoy as toddlers – albeit with stabilisers. I’m referring, of course, to cycling: an innocent, invigorating and healthy pursuit, something at which Britain excels as a sporting nation and something that huge numbers of us enjoy recreationally on weekends. What’s not to like, indeed, about cycling?
My sentiments exactly, but a recent chat with
I was chatting generally with Peter, himself an eminently reasonable man, when the topic of brain injuries sustained following cycling accidents came up. Peter’s usually unruffled demeanour changed dramatically. In fact, it wouldn’t be far short of the truth to say that he became seriously vexed by the issue. Why? Because there is a simple means of reducing, and sometimes avoiding altogether, a brain injury if you come off your bike. It’s this: wear a helmet.
The Post Office compelled its 37,000 cycling postmen and women to wear helmets back in 2003, a decision made following the deaths of five cycling post workers in the three years up to 2001. This was a decision which met with Peter’s approval. “If you spend time on a hospital ward, meeting people who’ve sustained serious brain damage after coming off their bikes while not wearing a helmet, you’d agree with me that compulsory cycle helmets are essential for children. Surely the safety of children in the UK is every bit as important as it is in Australia, New Zealand and 22 States in America (where such legislation has been in force for some years),” Peter told me. He added that it was both heart-rending and infuriating to see such damage, when the government could take real steps to prevent it by a time-honoured expedient: legislation.
What do you think? If it is prepared to increase the speed limit on motorways, on the basis that technology has made driving safer, should the government legislate to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory, just as it did, in 1983, the wearing of safety belts in cars? Do you agree with
For me, whatever the statistics say one thing is obvious. If you’re wearing a helmet while riding a bike and are hit by a car at 40mph, it probably won’t make a lot of difference. But if you’re wearing one and something goes wrong at under 20mph – say because you simply fall off while at traffic lights and hit the ground - it might be the difference between your chances of continuing to enjoy your life or being reduced to a vegetative state. Maybe, then, the government should be looking at legislation to protect cyclists as well as to help motorists come 2013.