Spiked, 2nd August 2012
Yesterday, a man riding a bicycle was killed near the Olympic Park after a collision with an official London 2012 bus that was carrying members of the media. On the same day, Bradley Wiggins of Team GB won a gold medal in the men’s cycling road time trial.
As a result of the man’s tragic death, Wiggins has called for legislation ensuring that safety helmets are made mandatory for cyclists. Claiming that it is ‘dangerous and London is a busy city and a lot of traffic’, Wiggins deems it necessary for the government to start ‘legalising helmets to make them the law to wear’.
Tom Chivers in the Telegraph points out that putting the grey matter inside our skulls inside a ‘polystyrene box will not allow you safely to throw it against concrete without the contents being just as badly shaken as had the “protection” not been present’. Safety helmets, Chivers argues, only really protect against nasty cuts and scrapes. That’s fine for a child learning to ride a bike for the first time, but it is of little use to a cyclist navigating his or her way through the buses and cars on a busy London street.
Technicalities of the merits of safety helmets aside, such a law would be yet another regulation of the lives of individuals by the state. Whether or not it is beneficial to wear a helmet when riding through the roads of London, it’s the cyclist’s responsibility to decide what protective clothing to wear, if any. While cycling accidents are tragic, it shouldn’t be the state’s role to step in and tell people what to wear on their bike to try to prevent these injuries and deaths. Further regulation of everyday life is not needed and trying to legislate away these sorts of tragedies is not realistic.