Interview with BBC Northampton breakfast

BBC radio Northampton
I was approached by BBC Northampton, as the schools had gone back, and they were doing a little bit of research on helmet safety. Tom Percival, the reporter who called me said that he had noticed that many school children did not wear a helmet when they cycled to school. He wanted my take on it, and could we do it on air? Sure.

Here’s the interview transcription.

The presented Joe admits that he doesn’t wear a helmet, and says that he will get one. A caller comments:

‘Joe not wearing a cycling helmet and saying that you are only going round the park is like not wearing your seatbelt cause you are ‘only going to the shop’

It’s not law for cycle helmets to be warn, he asks, is that part of the problem?

Tom in the radio car says when he is out and about in the radio car he often sees children going to schools. The ages and uniforms differ but the lack of cycle helmets is all too common. He will do some research outside a school later and report back.


‘Melanie Ryding is a British triathlete who has just got back from competing in Beijing but she was lucky to even be on the start line following a serious accident earlier this year where she says the helmet may even have saved her life. Melanie Good morning’

‘Good morning’

‘Melanie when you see as a teacher, pupils and people of all ages not wearing a helmet, how does it make you feel, based on your experience?’

‘It makes me very cross. I have turned into a helmet spotter since I had my accident. I noticed that from the age of about 12 chuildern don’t tend to wear helmets. I have also noticed that pernts tend to make their children wear helmets but don’t always wear helmets themselves. Road cyclists tend to have a helmet, more often than not, but mountain bikers don’t tend to have helmets. I don’t see why people want to dice with their life. You head is very important you need to protect it.’

‘You as a teacher must see children coming and going all day. Is the thing that I mentioned news to you or is it all too common?’

‘No, I haven’t seen that many students that come to my school wear helmets at all, and have asked a lot of friends and colleagues about it,. People say they think teenagers think it’s way too un-cool from about 12 upwards. I recently found out about a youngster in Yorkshire who had an accident in the summer holidays. Whilst not wearing a helmet, a deer ran out in front of him, and he died unfortunately. You just can’t predict what is going to happen, it’s not necessarily just the cars that you are looking out for. There’s all sort of other hazards’

‘You mentioned not being able to predict what is going to happen, you are obviously very experienced in the saddle and had an accident in which you could have lost your life. For people who haven’t heard your story, what happened to you?’

‘I was out on a routine ride one Saturday morning in July, I knew that it was going to start raining so I was dressed accordingly. I was doing the usual route, approaching a roundabout that I always ride round, in a little village. That’s the last thing I remember. The next thing I know I was waking up in A and E. I was apparently found face down in the roundabout, unconscious by a passing motorist.’

‘Who thankfully stopped and offered you some assistance. And your helmet was in three separate pieces I read’

Yes, my helmet was broken into three pieces, and the bit that remained in one piece had an almighty crack through the centre.’

‘Quite a sobering thought really, not much else to say. You have made a recovery and thankfully are back competing, but to be someone of such experience and have something like this happen to you highlights that you just can’t predict what is going to happen to you while you are out on a bike I suppose’

‘No you cant at all. Since my accident I have found out about lots of other people who have had unfortunate incidents on bicycles. You just have to wear a helmet, You just can’t take any chance with your life. I am glad that it was my helmet that bounced off the ground and not my head, and I am glad that it is the helmet that is in three pieces and not my head.’

‘Given that it is not the law, would you like to see it made a legal requirement? What can actually be done to change this?’

‘I think it should be made a legal requirement. I recently spoke to James Cracknell, and we were talking about how the public argues when seat belts were first made a law in cars. Eventually people get round that and accept it. I guess it would be the same with cycle helmets. I don’t see why it can’t be made a law. If you have a fighting chance of doing something to protect your head, surely that’s logical, isn’t it?’

‘Melanie thankyou for your time. As a teacher Melanie has seen this from both sides and says it really should be made a law, and there really isn’t any reason why it couldn’t be.’


Follow up

The next morning Tom reported that he had sat outside a local school and only seen one child with a helmet on. They interviewed the head teacher of that school, who said that he was concerned about those statistics and would do something about it. They also spoke to an MP, Peter Bone, who has been campaignin for this to eb law for a few years now.


Phone in comments

There are some of the comments that came into the show the morning I was on air:

We used to have Cycling Proficiency courses, mainly for 10-11 year olds. Road Safety and cycling skills were taught to over 1,000 pupils each year, by local volunteers and County staff. That scheme was scrapped recently, and replaced with an eletist course. How about a request to NCC? How many pupils have done the training in each year since 2000?

One day I saw a family out on bikes, the 2 kids were padded and helmeted but the parents were only wearing shorts and shirt. Some example Eh???

My lad doesn’t wear a helmet as there’s nowhere to securely store it at these useless schools…
And if Government wanted us to cycle, why do they build these housing estates with roads unable to  cope with cars or pedestrians, let alone cyclists! Grrrrr!

When my son was 8 years old he came off his bike after hitting a pothole on a country road, he was wearing a helmet at the time but was still taken to hospital and spent nearly 24 hours there. He was with his Dad at the time and he was a very frightening experience for both of us as I received a knock on the door saying ‘don’t panic but your son has had an accident’. The lady very kindly took me to where the accident had taken place and found my husband and son waiting for an ambulance.
I spent the night by his bedside. We had to buy him a new helmet but was glad that was all the accident had cost us. WE had made him wear a helmet from the time he could pedal a little bike up and down our path but at least it more than likely saved his life.

My cousin had an accident years ago, he should’ve worn his but he was only going 2 the shop, he was knocked off and died b/cause of it!

Some years ago was cycling in Kettering – chain snapped and it threw him under a car. Got severe head injuries – hospital stay. Wasn’t wearing a helmet, wishes he had been. hasn’t ridden a bike since.

Police can’t enforce existing cycling laws (no lights on bike etc) so how can we expect them to enforce this too? Says unlike cars, there’s no registration system. Even if a policeman stopped
a person with no helmet, they could just fib about where they live and would be untraceable.

My son is 30 – he got knocked off his bike last year and i’m sure his helmet saved him from serious head injury – it should be made law North. I don’t like wearing my cycle helmet – but I do, otherwise how could I ask my kids to wear theirs? My family live in jersey, and it is law there to wear them. Make it law here too.

Please please make it law to wear helmets! I have this dilemma with my 13 year old sons. They have trendy helmets but won’t wear them. It’s peer pressure at that age and not wanting to stand out in the wrong way. I understand where their coming from as I probably would have felt
the same at their age. But I can’t get across to them how awful the consequences can be – making it law will take away the choice and then everyone in the school will be in the same boat.

Do you think that it is peoples vanity that stops them from wearing a cycle helmet? Maybe if the manufacturers could come up with a new design it would encourage them to wear one, young and old. I realise safety is uppermost. Jo Is vanity the reason you don’t wear one

If parents want their children to be brain damaged then let them carry on and not wear a cycle helmet. Due to the nature of my job, I have so many road traffic accidents. It makes me feel sad and angry.

My daughter is desperate to ride her bike to school but will not wear a cycle helmet therefore we will not let her ride her bike to school. My husband is a keen cyclist and knows too many people who have had accidents and would not be here if they were not wearing a cycle helmet. This is a battle that she has nope hope of winning.

About time the government made it law, then no-one could argue, all the children would have to wear them.

Re: cycle helmets. Our friend’s son didn’t want to wear his helmet last weekend and his parents told him no helmet, no bike! So he went out complete with helmet. Whilst he was out his brakes and handlebars failed and had a nasty fall. His parents showed him his gouged helmet which would have been his head if he hadn’t worn his helmet! Everyone should wear helmets. Adult need to set an example – we are not immune! H of rush den

My granddaughter refuses to wear a helmet but is not allowed to ride her bike without it so the bike stays in the shed. It should be made law that helmets are worn and then there wouldn’t be this stupid mickey taking that happens now.

Anon – if there is a campaign to wear cycle helmets then there should also be a campaign to get them to have lights. Anon sees many adults and children without lights and you only see them at the last minute, it’s so dangerous

Steve in Leamington Spa: 10 years ago his helmet saved him – it split into 4 but saved his life – it should be law.

My Helmets save lives campain

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