Forth scuppered Eric Martlew's child helmet cycle bill on a technicality earlier today. MPs and ministers are said to be worried about receiving letters from grieving parents claiming their children would be alive if only helmet compulsion legislation had been enacted. Are they right to be worried?

Does Eric Forth MP have blood on his hands?

Yes, they may get such letters in the future. Every child death is a personal tragedy for those closely involved but the pro-helmet British Medical Association has long argued that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks.

In today’s debate in the House of Commons, Martlew repeatedly said many teenage boys think cycle helmets are "uncool."

Edward Leigh, Cons, pointed out that if helmets were uncool, making them compulsory to wear would not make them more cool. In fact, it would make teenage boys either ignore the law or cease to cycle altogether.

The drop in cycle use would lead to health problems further down the line.

But what about those sad letters?

Helmet compulsion would not be stringently enforced, said Martlew in today’s debate. So, this would be a law widely flouted by the group it is most targetting: teenage boys. Even with compulsion, encouraging their children to wear cycle helmets would remain a parental responsibility.

If parents don’t already encourage their children to wear helmets, how can they blame ministers and MPs for not enacting a compulsion law?

Many MPs today pointed out that a widely-flouted, unenforced law should not make it on to the statute books in the first place.

Does Eric Forth have blood on his hands? No, he’s a hero. Without his intervention, the handful of MPs in the chamber – a skewed and disproportionate selection – could have voted through a law that would have been damaging to children’s health, disatrous to the British bicycle trade. Remember, sub-£5 supermarket helmets – as advocated by Eric Martlew – are of limited effectiveness in a fall.

Cycle helmets must fit properly to be of use. They must also meet or exceed the toughest of international helmet standards. Helmet compulsion would have been a bad move on many different levels.

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