11 November 2009
Specialist subject: Spain's daft helmet laws
I finally caught up with last week's Watchdog on BBC's iPlayer last night (still available for viewing today and early tomorrow). One item, fronted by John Humphrys, investigated those self-assembly bicycle-flavour novelties sold by chainstores for under £100.
Dogwatch's unsurprising conclusion was that such cheap 'bikes' are not worth the cardboard boxes they come in. And even more potentially lethal than pop tarts.
I was pleased though to learn that Mr Humphrys, frontman of Mastermind and Radio 4's Today programme, is a Real Cyclist. When interviewed by the irritating Anne Robinson after the item (right), he revealed that uses a woman's pink shopping bike, and doesn't wear a helmet.
He said his own experience backed up recent research that not wearing a helmet was safer, because motorists give you a wider berth.
As you know, I put helmets on a pedestal. It's the best place for them. I certainly would never put one on my head.
Unless of course the law requires it, which it does in some dangerous countries with primitive road conditions: Australia, New Zealand, certain US states... and Spain.
But Spain's helmet laws are bizarre, as we found in our highly enjoyable cycle tour there last month. Lids are compulsory (right).
But not in built-up areas (right) such as nice quiet backstreets like this, or busy city centres, where presumably all that traffic makes you less likely to bang your head.
Or up hills (below right). Or if it's hot. I'm told that all this may be in honour of the similar motorbike helmet laws, whose similarly odd exceptions were put in to appease the bare-headed lobby when that legislation came in years ago.
Well, coming from Yorkshire, I think south London's hot, so imagine how Mallorca felt.
Does that mean I don't have to ever wear a helmet there, or would I get interrogated by the police?
Perhaps John Humphrys should try it out. He'd be better at the interrogation than me. Indeed, I wish in cycle-policy meetings I had his talent for asking fearless, succinct and incisive questions, instead of Evan Davis's.