On your bike! Safer cycling policies

The CSP wants safer cycling policies and one member challenges the stance of a national cycling body.

I am responding to Cherry Allan’s ‘Cycling champions’ column. I question Cycling UK’s position on helmets, namely that it is ‘opposed to compulsion, and helmet promotion’.
I find this view astonishing and without due consideration to common sense. UK Cycling is trying to promote cycling and its health benefits and want physios to encourage their patients to take up cycling. But they are not addressing our duty of care as physios to our patients and the responsibility we hold for recommending best practice. 
I do not think we need to use compulsion. But we should encourage helmet use. The individual cyclist can employ common sense and have a flexible approach about when helmets are needed and by whom. But not promoting and endorsing the use of helmets seems careless, because helmets offer protection to the cranium. Helmets also make the cyclist more visible, especially when in fluorescent colours.
I have personal experience of attending cycle crashes and of rehab work with acquired brain injury patients. So – while there may be different scientific opinions out there – I have no doubts that the protection of a helmet is a massive plus to safety. A 2009 Transport Research Laboratory review (PPR446, at www.trl.co.uk) was inconclusive about compulsory helmet use but suggests that 10 to16 per cent of cycle deaths could have been avoided had a helmet been worn. 
Cycling UK is failing to address the fact that protecting the head (our most vital organ) is integral to a purposeful life. The challenges of rehab following an acquired brain injury can be so life-changing that protecting the head should be paramount. Brain injuries are one of the worst types of injury. Only those who have witnessed these injuries first- hand will truly understand how horrendous they can be. 
Not wearing a helmet just isn’t worth it. A helmet can be the difference between life or death. Not wearing one can mean living the rest of your life in a vegetative state with 24-hour care.   
Cycling UK quotes statistics from other countries to back their argument that the number of cyclists drop with helmet enforcement. They cite the Netherlands but attitudes to cyclists there are very accepting and positive: cycling is a way of life there. By contrast, in Britain, there are people who don’t believe cyclists should be on the roads and feel anger towards the cyclist – and their driving behaviours reflects this. 
My chartered status gives me credibility with my patients. They usually listen to my advice and I have integrity and care about recommending an appropriate course of action. 
I believe Cycling UK’s approach – wanting physios to encourage patients to take up cycling, but failing to endorse the use of vital safety equipment – is negligent on their part. 
  • Rosie Bartlett, a physiotherapist with a special interest in sport, is based in Herefordshire
Rosie Bartlett, a physiotherapist with a special interest in sport, is based in Herefordshire

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