16 March 2009

Helmet ruling still hurts my head

Outrage over the weekend at the bonkers High Court ruling (in Smith v Finch 2009, commented on here previously) that claims cyclists without helmets may be deemed at fault for accidents they didn't cause.

Today's Independent states that Justice Williams, the man behind this piece of lunacy, based it on a supposedly similar 1976 ruling by Lord Denning about seatbelts.

But it's not the same at all. Cars come pre-fitted with seatbelts by the manufacturer (or lack them entirely). Helmets do not come prefitted on bicycles. They are optional safety equipment that you have to go out and buy, like shinpads or suits of armour or stab-jackets. You can just about argue that somebody not using seatbelts that are already there is being negligent. But how do you argue that it is 'negligent' to not go out and buy a helmet before somebody mows you down?

It's yet another of those false parallels made by people who have no idea about cycling. ('Cars are licensed, therefore bikes should be'; 'I pay road tax, therefore bikes should' etc.)

I banged on about this at length in a post a couple of weeks ago. No, Justice Williams, you're wrong. Would you suggest that the innocent who is stabbed in the street is partially at fault for not having gone out, bought, and put on a stab-jacket beforehand?

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