Jersey's compulsory cycle helmet law: based on emotion, not evidence?
The Channel Island’s politicians insist compulsory bike helmet use for under 14s will improve public health. But the evidence does not seem to be on their side
Wednesday 30 July 2014 10.51 BST
Helmet use for children in Jersey is already 84%, while the only casualty data offered in the report, for 2013, showed that precisely zero under 14s were seriously injured on bikes. Any public health gain seems so marginal as to be effectively zero.
Of an annual budget of about £630m the island spends £150,000 a year on “general pedestrian and cycle improvements”, according to Dodd, with another £500,000 on “village centre improvements”, some of which covers shared spaces, plus £2m over the next few years on new infrastructure linked to cycling. It’s all very well, but it’s never going to change much.
So that’s where we are. On a small island where 20% of children are overweight and cycling would seem an obvious way to provide everyday exercise we have a legislature passing a measure which will, at very best, give no discernible public health benefit while giving youngsters and their parents the message that cycling is intrinsically unsafe.
I just don’t think it makes sense.http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2014/jul/30/jersey-compulsory-cycle-helmet-law-emotion-not-evidence#start-of-comments
It amazes me that the Guardian has written about Jersey’s compulsory helmet law and published it on their front online page but it has attracted over 400 comments so far.
There are some very important points made in this article.
Jersey’s scrutiny office commissioned a study by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) which was not based on original research and only on existing literature. Sadly they found literature regarding whether helmet compulsion affects cycle use and the eventual net public health benefit was mixed and contradictory.
Therefore there is no evidence to back up this compulsory cycle helmet law apart from the tragic personal connection Minister Green has.
In that case money has been wasted for either a poorly researched expensive study by the TRL or poor decisions have been made based on the fact that some States members don’t understand the bigger picture that law has to be factual and based on evidence and not on emotional arguments.
What should have happened is to get the right statistics on the table, collect available evidence based original research studies and see the bigger picture and make Jersey a bike-friendly island with a dense network of cycle paths, ideally with traffic free paths to the village schools which will encourage more children using their bikes and tackling the problem of childhood obesity at the same time.
As an example, Il de Re in France.http://www.wakeupinfrance.co.uk/ile-de-re-holiday-ideas
Instead a kneejerk proposed law has been passed and no measurable outcome has been put into place for its benefits and cost effectiveness.