Those that disagree with Eric Martlew's helmet compulsion bill can expect short shrift from the Carlisle MP. As well as having a go at a bike shop member of the Association of Cycle Traders, he also rounded on Mark Brown, the ACT's relatively new sales and marketing manager.

Helmet-law MP accuses ACT of being ‘cycling fascists’

Last week Martlew accused an IBD who opposes helmet compulsion for children as "more interested in selling bikes than saving lives."

This wild, inaccurate and offensive accusation made it into the diary section of The Guardian.

"The ACT member in question contacted us to tell us he’d been approached by Martlew. The member was extremely distressed about the prospect of having his business ruined by Martlew’s claims," said Brown.

"I then spoke to Martlew direct and we had a very heated conversation during which he called ACT ‘cycling facists’, which is probably a first for us!"

Martlew’s private member’s bill – which gets its second reading on April 23rd and has 200 signatures so far – was drafted for him by the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust, a charity founded by paediatric nurse Angela Lee in 1998.

Late last month, BHIT patron David Coulthard, the F1 racing driver, helped Martlew publicise his bill. BHIT claims to only want to enact helmet compulsion for children. But this isn’t what Coultard let slip in 2002.

At a fund-raising dinner for BHIT, attended by, Coultard told the audience he agreed with BHIT’s eventual aim to make all cyclists wear helmets. This led to sharp intakes of breath from some members of the cycle trade present at the posh evening bash.

When later asked about Coulthard’s comment, Angela Lee said her first goal was to get a mandatory helmet law for under 12s first, with 12-16 year olds next.

Who was she targetting?

"Department of Transport. It’s a votes thing. They’re wimps. Everyone else has brought this law in. Australia, America," said Lee.

But what about stats that show cycle usage declines when mandatory helmet use is introduced?

"That doesn’t happen. It depends how you promote it. Anyway, it’s all in here (pointing to her left temple), if it’s promoted positively there will be no decrease."

Martlew was hit by a petrol tanker when he was five, and believes a cycle helmet could have prevented some of his injuries. “I suffered head injuries, so I personally remember the trauma and pain of operations and the separation from my parents,” he said.

To date, the government has not been minded to push for a helmet law because it realises there are good arguments against compulsion. But Martlew’s bill could get parliamentary time and may be voted through, on the nod, because “saving kiddie’s lives” is such a no-brainer.

The Bill argues it would be an offence “Causing or permitting child under 16 to ride a cycle on road without protective headgear.”

It would also be an offence for “any person other than its owner who has custody of or is in possession of the cycle immediately before the child rides it if that person is above the age of 15.”

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