The new Department for Transport campaign promoting the use of cycle helmets amongst teenagers could lead to a significant drop in cycle use, says CTC, joining the Road Danger Reduction Forum, which lodged its complaints last week.

CTC says DfT’s helmet ads could push kids off saddles and on to sofas

The campaign employs a series of X-Ray images depicting skulls wearing helmets in an attempt to encourage helmet wearing among 11-14 year old children.

CTC believes that far from promoting a positive image of cycling such "macabre imagery, with its associations of hospitals and death," is likely to reduce cycle use thereby undermining efforts to realise the health and other benefits of increased cycling.

The skeletal X-Ray images are due to appear as a series of advertisements in several teen orientated magazines as part of the government’s “THINK!” road safety initiative.

"Although the Department for Transport tested these adverts on their ‘target group’ they can provide CTC with no assurance of having considered the effect of them on younger children, concerned parents, carers, teachers and others who may be exposed to this campaign," said Kevin Mayne, director of CTC.

“These images have alarming cultural associations with severe injury and even death. At a time of rising childhood obesity the last thing that the government should be doing is scaring children and their parents into not cycling.”

CTC believes the campaign is at odds with the Department of Transport’s own target of increasing by a third the number of regular cyclists in the UK by 2010 (based on 2000 levels), with the express aim of both benefiting the nations health and its transport situation.

CTC regards the ‘skull’ campaign as "at best ill-advised, ill-researched (both factually and in its placement) and ill-fitting a government that claims to support cycling. At worst it is a vehicle to drive children out of the saddle and onto the sofa."


CTC HELMET POSITION:…/0305helmetpromocampaignv1.doc


In 2001 there were 138 fatalities to cyclists in the UK all of which occurred on public highways. During the same year 45,000 people died of Coronary Heart Disease directly related to inactivity. The financial implications to the tax-payer of losing a whole generation of cyclists through this campaign are enormous.

The Promotion of helmets is in itself a contentious issue. Research by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL 286) concluded that in UK areas where active promotion of cycle helmets took place there was a strong and demonstrable link to a decrease in the use of bicycles. As recently as March 2003 “Cycling and Health” published by the National Cycling Strategy a partner of which is the Department for Transport stated: “Many say that risk of cycling is one of the main barriers to more people ‘getting on their bikes’. However the British Medical Association (BMA) has concluded that the benefits of cycling are likely to outweigh the loss of life as a result of crashes”

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