At next week's Annual Representative Meeting of the British Medical Association, "cycling" has been allotted five minutes of debate time. Six motions are calling for all adults and child cyclists to be forced to wear helmets. One of the motions also wants the government to make it compulsory for cyclists to wear "reflective body bands." The cycling debate is so full of motions on helmet compulsion, the agenda says there will be no time for the motions calling for better provision for healthcare workers who might want to start cycling to work...

UK docs to vote on cycle helmet compulsion

The Annual Representative Meeting is the British Medical Association’s rule making conclave.

This year it’s held in Manchester and starts on Monday. 600 motions are down to be voted on. Many of the debates will be webcast from the BMA’s website, the "cycling debate" included. This is set for Tuesday between 10.40 and 10.45.

Much of the Annual Representative Meeting will be devoted to the topic of obesity but during the cycling debate there will likely be no time for a discussion of getting more people on bicycles as the agenda has been filled with helmet compulsion motions.

And the agenda has been set out in such a way that the more complex, epidemiological debate on cycle helmet compulsion has been placed at the end, with no hope of being aired. Instead, delegates will be faced with motion after motion calling for cycle helmet compulsion.

These motions are simple, emotive and devoid of any "evidence based medicine." The anti-compulsion motions are complex, thought-provoking, and evidence based but have been deemed too long and wordy to be worthy of inclusion in the main body of the debate.

CTC has a fringe meeting booked for the evening before the "cycling debate" but, from the way the agenda has been constructed it’s a racing certainty that the bemused delegates – spared of any "epidemiological and rigorous" helmet research – will vote for compulsion. They may even vote for compulsory Sam Browne belts.


274 Motion by FIFE DIVISION: That this Meeting supports the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets when cycling:

(i) for children; (ii) for adults.

274a Motion by GREATER GLASGOW DIVISION: That this Meeting considers that it should be compulsory for all cyclists to wear helmets when cycling. 274b Motion by SOUTHERN (NI) DIVISION: That this Meeting calls on the BMA to lobby government for the introduction of UK wide legislation making the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory by all cyclists, both children and adults. 274c Motion by WEST BERSKSHIRE DIVISION: That this Meeting applauds the Board of Science for its new guidance on the wearing of cycle helmets and calls upon the BMA to campaign for an early change in the legislation for the protection of children. 274d Motion by LIVERPOOL DIVISION: That this Meeting calls the government to support legislation for compulsory wearing of suitably protective head protection and reflective body bands by all adult and child cyclists, so as to reduce preventable brain injury and to make them more visible to motorists, particularly in poor lighting conditions. 274e Motion by NORTHERN IRELAND COUNCIL: That this Meeting calls on the government to support legislation for compulsory wearing of suitably protective helmets by adult and child cyclists, so reducing preventable brain injury. 275 Motion by GATESHEAD DIVISION: That this Meeting believes that the BMA should take a neutral position with regard to cycle helmets due to the contradictory nature of the evidence about them.

276 Motion by BRISTOL DIVISION: That the wearing of cycle helmets should remain optional.

According to the BMA’s agenda, the following motions "are unlikely to be reached."

277 Motion by GATESHEAD DIVISION: That this Meeting believes that cycling is a healthy and safe activity and should be encouraged regardless of whether a helmet is worn.

278 Motion by SCOTTISH JDC: That this Meeting believes that to help promote the health of staff and reduce environmental harm employers should encourage the use of bicycles to commute to work and should make ample and secure bicycle parking spaces available. Further, this conference deplores the practice of charging for bicycle parking either directly or through external contractors and calls on:

(i) the BMA to campaign against such charges;

(ii) the Department of Health to write to employers advising them to provide ample, secure and free spaces to allow all employees to cycle to work if they wish to do so. 279 Motion by NORTH WESTERN RCPHMCH: That this Meeting believes that any decision to make cycle helmet wearing compulsory must weigh the benefits against the adverse health effects of discouraging cycling and does not believe that this danger can be regarded as adequately refuted on the strength of only a single study which was against the weight of previous evidence and occurred in a jurisdiction where the ban was in any case ineffective. This conference therefore affirms that the BMA will not support the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets until fully satisfied on this point, is not at present so satisfied, and directs that any further work by the Board of Science on this matter should be epidemiological and rigorous.

A 280 Motion by WELSH COMMITTEE FOR PUBLIC HEALTH MEDICINE AND COMMUNITY HEALTH: That this Meeting believes the main health hazard for cyclists is being hit by a motorised vehicle and that local and national government should prioritise integrated transport policies that require the introduction of safe cycle lanes in urban areas.

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