Kids, helmets, and not being one.

Dear Emma,

We spoke on Twitter tonight about helmets and kids —

And I wanted to take a moment to explain to you why I feel so strongly about not pressuring children or parents about helmets for what should be a normal, simple activity. I understand you’ve had a bit of a barrage on Twitter from a lot of other people who feel strongly about this, so I’ll try to explain my position as clearly as I can.

I should also say, I saw a little of the back story about one of your children being hurt. I don’t know what I’d do in that situation, but I hope to persuade you that the terrible misfortune that happened to your daughter doesn’t mean we should be driving this agenda.

Cycling, scooting, etc., are just standard things children do, or should feel empowered to do. Every now and again they’re going to fall off, trip, etc., but when they’re riding to school or just getting around, I see no reason to ask them to wear a helmet. Nature has already provided them with lots of nice thick plates of bone, cushioning fluid, and a careful design, to keep their brains safe. I don’t want going out on the bike to be some massive concern about dressing up for events that almost never happen, and I don’t want them to be worrying about these things beyond their control.

When we go out on the bike, my biggest concern is motor traffic. I’d go so far as to say it’s my only concern. This video shows you my eldest on a candidate quietway. It’s precisely the type of situation in which I normally get someone shouting at me about helmets either for me or my children. My urge to tell such helpful people to go and fuck themselves is very strong, but I usually managed to avoid swearing in front of the girls.

You asked “Who am I trying to put off cycling by asking parents to consider helmets for tots on scooters?” — possibly no-one. But quite enough people will say ‘if it isn’t safe to be on a scooter without a helmet, then it isn’t safe to be on a bike’, etc. As observed in one of the other threads, this all needs some science, and some analysis: if you really want to go on telling parents that children ought to wear this safety equipment, then I can’t stop you. But I can tell you that uninformed campaigns like this are the ones that mean, virtually every time I go out with my children on bikes, I get disapproving stares or opinionated idiots who think it’s their business to tell me to buy piles of safety gear that won’t make the blindest bit of difference in any serious accident.

If you really want ‘education for parents’, then I suggest you start with some actionable data on the value of what you’re proposing. I’m sorry if this rambles a bit, but it’s ill-informed campaigns like this that mean, most times I’m out with my children, I have to explain to them why someone thinks it is appropriate to shout at me or them across the road, from the open door of a bus, or from their car as they speed past.



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