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Write to your MP about the BHIT bill.



 
 
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  #1  
Old January 16th 04, 06:06 PM
David Martin
external usenet poster
 
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Default Write to your MP about the BHIT bill.

So I have got off my backside and written to my MP. Several points.

1. first paragraph. Who you are, why you are writing and a request for a
response.

2. Don't make counter-intuitive claims even if they are correct. Stick to
facts.

3. Don't copy this letter. You can get ideas from it but you should send a
different letter written in your own style.

4. I have majored on the 'cycling of any form is good. This bill wants to
ban cycling' theme.

5. It is NOT about for/against cycle helmets.


Text follows

...d

--
Dear Mr Ross,

I noticed with dismay the publication of the private members bill by
Mr Eric Mayhew MP, the member for Carlisle. As one of your constituents I am
writing from my position as a father of three young children, as a cyclist
with a strong interest in road safety, and as a medical research scientist
who has examined this area informally for many years to ask you to confirm
that you will be opposing this misguided and essentially counter-productive
legislation.

This is a bad bill. It aims to ban cycling by those under 16 not
wearing helmets.

Is cycling without a helmet really so dangerous that it should be
banned? Cycling is a form of exercise and transport enjoyed
by a significant proportion of the population. As children and young
adults I and many of my contemporaries enjoyed the freedom and health
benefits of cycling around London, well before the invention of cycle
helmets suddenly rendered it apparently unsafe. On the contrary,
cycling is relatively safe compared to other forms of transport and
the overall health benefits of cycling are well known. I look forward to my
children and I enjoying the countryside around Dundee without the risk of
becoming an accidental criminal by not wearing a cycle helmet.

Wearing a cycle helmet may be a prudent decision for children though
they clearly cannot protect against all head injuries and their
effectiveness is often vastly overstated. Nothing in current
legislation prevents children from wearing helmets if they or their
parents so wish it. For this bill to claim to provide for helmet
wearing is somewhat underhand. Instead it will make very little
productive difference to child safety and will actually have
significant negative social effects. A better focus would be on
reducing accidents involving child cyclists.

In fact, the British Medical Association has strongly opposed helmet
legislation in the past as they correctly conclude that cycling, even
without a helmet, is far more beneficial than not cycling, leading to
better health and a longer productive life. Helmet
legislation, where it has been introduced has led to a significant
reduction in the number of cyclists whilst head injury rates have
remained the same, a surprising but real observation on whole
populations that brings into question the claims for substantial benefits
from helmet wearing.

Increasing cycling has been a target of successive governments for
many years and is seen as a positive step by road safety
professionals. In the area of Reading where helmets have been
aggressively promoted by the BHIT pressure group, cycling amongst
children has diminished considerably, and overstatement of the
perceived danger of cycling has led to children being banned from
cycling to school.

In a nation that is seeing an epidemic of obesity related diseases we
need to encourage more children to take up exercise. Cycling as
transport and leisure is an excellent way to do this. It addresses
the issues both of exercise and health as well as easing
congestion. Criminalising cycling is not a good method for achieving
the governments objectives of an increase in the proportion of
journeys carried out by bicycle. Habits picked up in childhood are
more likely to remain through life. Which would the government prefer?
An increase in the proportion of the population using a safe and
healthy method of transport or an increase in the number of people who
are in the habit of being scofflaws. Passing bad legislation that is
essentially unenforceable generates a disrespect for the law in general.

Around 20-25 children are killed each year cycling on Britain's roads. The
majority are killed by injuries a cycle helmet could not prevent. Many
of the accidents would have been prevented by simple cycle
training. Whilst any number of deaths is too high, putting this in context
the figures for 2002 show that 72 children (age 0-15) were killed as
pedestrians and 79 were killed as car users, compared to 22 on cycles. The
proportion of accidents for which a cycle helmet may have made a difference
is higher in pedestrian and car use (around 40% dying of head injuries)
compared to cyclists (around 20%).

The bill is therefore misguided in just selecting cyclists as a target
group for legislation when, if the proponents were truly interested in
child safety, they would target the majority of injuries, or indeed
the causative effect behind these injuries.

This bill will have profound negative social consequences. The
requirement to wear cycle helmets will reinforce the misconception
that cycling is inherently dangerous. This will lead to a reduction in
the number of children cycling and an increase in the trend towards a
society suffering from obesity related disorders.

The bill will be widely ignored by the same class of scofflaws who
ignore traffic rules (if they were ever taught them in the first
place), ride bikes that are not mechanically sound and ride at night
without lights. The person who just wants to get from A to B and is a
responsible road user will be turned into a criminal, making more work
for our already overstretched police force.
This bill will also lead to blaming the victim for injury. The
majority of serious cycle accidents (90% of deaths overall) are
collisions with motor vehicles and are the fault of the driver not
paying sufficient attention. This bill will give an excuse to the
negligent motorist that a cyclist was 'asking for it' by not wearing a
helmet, even though helmets do nothing to prevent accidents.

If this bill is passed, making persons such as a cycle hirer (as the
owner of a bicycle) liable for the actions of a client over whom they
have no control, then I will find it impossible to hire bicycles for
my family when on holiday or for visitors. The risk of being penalised
by the action of their clients will be too great to sustain a
business. Teachers and education authorities

In summary, if you vote for this bill you will be voting for the
criminalisation of a healthy and beneficial activity, increased
prevalence of obesity related diseases and the discouragement of
cycling amongst children and the consequent knock-on effects amongst
adults. Far from improving life for children, it wil diminish the
quality of life, both through childhood and on throughout adulthood.

I strongly encourage you to vote against this bill. A vote against this
bill is not a vote against cycle helmets. A vote against this bill is
not a vote against child safety. A vote against this bill is a
vote against bad legislation that will have a negative effect on society.

There are many ways in which legislation could help the safety of
child cyclists. Encouraging schools to provide proper on-road cycle
training throughout the top end of primary school and secondary
schooling would be extremely beneficial. Closer regulation of
motorists (of which I am also one) would also help dramatically. The single
most beneficial legislation for cycle and pedestrian safety has been
the drink-drive law. The recent focus on speed reduction is also
helping and has saved more cyclist and pedestrian deaths than are
projected by even the most optimistic estimates put forward by those
promoting cycle helmets.

I look forward to hearing from you and will be glad to provide further
information should you so require it.

Yours sincerely,

Dr David Martin
University of Dundee

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  #2  
Old January 16th 04, 06:20 PM
Clive George
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Write to your MP about the BHIT bill.

"David Martin" wrote in message
...

Is that letter a direct copy? It's missing a bit... ('Teachers and education
authorities')

cheers,
clive



  #3  
Old January 16th 04, 06:33 PM
Just zis Guy, you know?
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Write to your MP about the BHIT bill.

On Fri, 16 Jan 2004 18:06:57 +0000, David Martin
wrote:

Is cycling without a helmet really so dangerous that it should be
banned?


A superb question.

Guy
===
May contain traces of irony. Contents liable to settle after posting.
http://chapmancentral.demon.co.uk
  #4  
Old January 16th 04, 07:44 PM
Just zis Guy, you know?
external usenet poster
 
Posts: n/a
Default Write to your MP about the BHIT bill.

On Fri, 16 Jan 2004 18:06:57 +0000, David Martin
wrote:

So I have got off my backside and written to my MP. Several points.


If not yet sent, one comment: It's Eric Martlew, not Mayhew, according
to my sources and the alphabetical list of members.

Guy
===
May contain traces of irony. Contents liable to settle after posting.
http://chapmancentral.demon.co.uk
 




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