Sustrans fails to Connect 2 real road safety
This summer helmet manufacturers will get a promotional boost when Sustrans marks the completion of the Connect2 programme with a series of high profile rides where it is mandatory to wear helmets. Some Sustrans supporters have refused to comply and lost the chance of a cycling holiday of a lifetime.
In December 2007 we feverishly urged family, friends and colleagues to vote for Connect2 in the Peoples Millions National Lottery contest. The result was Sustrans won £50m to create 84 new bridges and crossings that overcome busy roads, rivers and railways and link to walking and cycling routes. In our area we have the Goyt Valley connection, the Bridgewater Way and the Bury-Woodfold Gap.
This autumn Pedal On UK takes to the roads and cycle ways of the UK. I was selected to join the Sale to Ripley (North Yorks) leg because I had a significant role in these Connect 2 achievements. I was honoured and excited until I read Rider Fact 1.5: The company running the ride insists on helmets being worn. Sustrans website appears neutral on the subject of helmets: Ultimately, wearing a helmet is a question of individual choice (and parents need to make that choice for their children.)
Rather than promoting body armour our collective efforts should be directed at reducing the real source of danger to vulnerable road users – bad driving and the speed of motor traffic. Disappointed Sustrans is lending succour to the pro-helmet lobby I approached chief executive Malcolm Shepherd. I requested he re-consider the helmet rule but he claimed his hands are tied :
“We had to out-source the delivery of the rides and all the organisations we approached have as a condition of their insurance that participants must wear helmets. We tried but failed to negotiate opt-out clauses. I am advised that all cycle holiday companies now insist on this arrangement. We either have the ride (with Saddle Skedaddle) on these conditions or we abandon it.”
Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns & Policy Director is surprised at Sustrans stance, ” “Any event organised nationally by CTC would not have a helmet rule. Our insurers do not insist on helmet wearing as a condition of our organisers’ liability insurance.”
It is depressing British cycle holiday companies connive with the insurance industry to compel helmet wearing. Such a policy is contrary to good sense, scientific evidence and the wider interests of public health. It will not further our goal of getting more people cycling, more safely, more often. TfGM seems to be joining the helmet bandwagon. The reprint of their ten Greater Manchester cycling maps sadly features more helmets – and lycra.