Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Should a Liberal really be advocating compulsory cycle helmets?

I see via Jonathan Calder at Liberal England that Lib Dem MP Annette Brooke's private members bill to make it compulsory for cyclists to wear a helmet has not been given a second reading.

Jonathan reiterates his opposition to compulsion and cites research that it simply reduces the number of cyclists on the road. I am probably a case in point on this. I own a bicycle, but use it all too rarely even though I do enjoy a nice cycle ride. I am middle aged, overweight and am trying to make an effort to eat less and take more exercise. This could include cycling. But it is already a bit of a palaver, remembering where the pump is, checking that the lights are working etc. Having to buy a helmet, find it when I need it and then wear the horrible thing on my head would pretty much guarantee that the bicycle will remain in the shed. I suspect a lot of occasional, recreational cyclists would feel the same.

[EDIT: Perhaps I should have looked a little further before posting the above. I see the bill was aimed at under-14s. But the point still stands - both as regards children who use their bike only occasionally and in that if legislation was passed for under-14s there would soon be pressure to extend it to apply to adults.]

Leaving aside the practical arguments, it annoys me when Liberal Democrats are in the forefront of trying to implement such petty restrictions on personal freedom. Over the years my libertarian instincts have been increasingly tempered by pragmatism. We are not a Libertarian party and are hardly going to call for an end to seatbelt laws or to reverse the smoking ban. But  for me, the correct position for Liberals on such matters is that of sceptics not cheerleaders. We should be the ones wanting to see clear and overwhelming evidence that the social good outweighs the infringement of personal choice. So I am disappointed that a bill such as this was put forward by a Liberal Democrat MP

No comments: