Outrage at Ruling on Helmets for Cyclists

Article excerpt

Judge says bare-headed cyclists may be to blame if they are injured in a collision

BRITAINS CYCLISTS reacted in uproar yesterday to a High Court ruling that they can be blamed for their injuries if they dont wear a helmet even if the accident itself was caused by someone else.

There can be no doubt that the failure to wear a helmet may expose the cyclist to the risk of greater injury, Mr Justice Williams said, making the unprecedented ruling on an accident involving a motorbike and a cycle in Brightlingsea, Essex in June 2005.

A cyclist is free to choose whether or not to wear one, he said in the legal ruling. But not doing so means any injury sustained may be the cyclists own fault and He has only himself to thank for the consequences.

The national cyclists organisation, CTC, said yesterday that it was considering taking legal action to overturn the wrong and ill- informed decision; other advocates of cycling described it as absolute rubbish and sad.

The case involved cyclist Robert Smith, then a 51-year-old NHS manager, who was riding without a helmet to an opera group rehearsal when he was hit by Michael Finchs motorbike. He suffered serious brain injuries. The judge decided that the motorcyclist was entirely to blame for the crash because he had been going too fast and had ridden too close to Mr Smiths bicycle. He also dismissed Mr Finchs suggestion that Mr Smiths injuries were caused by his failure to wear a helmet. But the judge established the principle of contributory negligence for cyclists who ride without a helmet, citing a 1976 court ruling by Lord Denning in relation to seat belts and advice in the Highway Code.

Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy manager for the CTC, said there was significant doubt about whether helmets increased cyclists safety. …