As specialists in brain injury and severe disability claims, Boyes Turner’s personal injury lawyers are active supporters of the Cycle Smart Foundation which campaigns for child safety, the prevention of accidents and reduction of injury.
Boyes Turner have been working with the charity’s founder, Angie Lee, to promote safer cycling for children by encouraging them to wear well-fitted cycle helmets properly. Learn more about the 5 Ss campaign here.
Cycle Smart Foundation celebrates its 20th anniversary in May 2018. To mark the event, personal injury partner and Cycle Smart trustee, Claire Roantree, was delighted to host the charity’s ‘5 Ss’ research meeting which gathered representatives from local councils in Berkshire and the South East, the Department for Transport, Hampshire & Thames Valley Police, CCG, Child Accident Prevention Trust, Royal Berkshire Hospital, Brain Injury Group, Brake, Headway UK and Circle Hospital Reading to review and discuss data collected by Cycle Smart over the last 12 months relating to children’s cycling habits.
The charity carried out national questionnaire surveys in 2017 which looked at the cycling behaviour of children aged five to seven, seven to nine, and ten to 14, and studied attitudes in teenage cyclists. All questionnaires were completed in schools which had been randomly selected but gave a cross-section of child cyclists in England.
Findings of the study
The study found that although more children walked to school than cycled, there were higher numbers of hospital admissions for pedal cycle injuries than for injuries to child pedestrians.
There was an increase in the number of cyclists aged between five to nine years old. 79% of children in this younger age group own a helmet, compared with only 58% of 11 to 14 year old cyclists. Amongst helmet owners, a higher proportion of younger children wear their helmet than teenagers. Despite owning a helmet, a large proportion of teenagers never wear one.
Should wearing cycle helmets be mandatory for children up to the age of 14?
More children are cycling on roads where there are cars. Amongst primary school children, who are more easily influenced by their parents and teachers, cycle helmets tend to be worn. Secondary school children are more susceptible to influence from social and peer pressures where factors such as, whether their friends wear helmets, whether to do so is uncool or messes up their hair, are deterring them from looking after their own safety and placing them at increased risk of serious injury in the event of an accident or a fall.
Internationally, more and more countries have introduced legislation to make helmets mandatory for child cyclists, including France, 22 states of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Jersey. The obvious implication is that mandatory cycle helmet legislation is considered to be associated with a reduction in head injuries with cyclists of all ages. However, young children are particularly vulnerable to head injury if they fall from their bikes.
The diverse and experienced focus group discussed the influence of parental control, social factors, demographics, education, peer pressure, the availability of Bikeability schemes and funding issues in Local Authorities.
Cycle Smart promotes the availability of the Bikeability Scheme for all children regardless of background, beginning at an earlier age and continuing into secondary education to promote and maintain better cycling safety habits. Cycle Smart also campaigns for the mandatory wearing of cycle helmets for children up to 14 years of age.
This push for legislative change is all too frequently met with arguments ranging from the fear that the imposition of mandatory helmets will deter people from cycling if they perceive it to be a dangerous sport to concerns about increasing obesity within an increasingly inactive population. However, for those who have seen first-hand the brain damage and lifelong disability that can be suffered by children who are knocked or fall from their bikes, it makes sense to make safety and the protection of their head and brain the overriding priority.
Cycle Smart’s research reveals that the key factors in influencing the behaviour of children of all ages are school rules and the law. Encouragement is needed to create a collective consciousness whereby the wearing of cycle helmets becomes “the norm”.
In the light of this latest research Boyes Turner await the government’s review of child cycling safety, due later this year in the hope that mandatory increased safety measures will reduce the numbers of children suffering head injuries from cycle accidents in England each year.