Lib Dem villain of the month: Annette Brooke

There’s a sentence I never predicted that I would write. Still, what else would you call an MP who is proposing a bill that would criminalise valid parenting choices solely in order to suppress environmentally friendly and healthy travel options?

Her new Private Member’s Bill– the Cycles (Protective Headgear for Children) Bill- will make it mandatory for children under 14 to wear cycle helmets when cycling on roads and in open spaces.

If I somehow became responsible for a child under 14 who was learning to ride a bike, I would try and get them to wear a helmet. If there’s one thing a helmet is good for, it’s for people who aren’t steady on two wheels and might be expected to fall off. But that would be my choice. We already have two paternalistic parties in this country: we don’t need Liberal Democrats joining in the game of who can interfere most in private decisions.

Ms. Brooke: parents do not need your help to raise their children responsibly. I say this in the nicest possible way, but please do fuck off.

The main, perhaps only, effect this bill would have would be to stop children cycling.

Going out on our streets is not an extreme sport.

In fact, it’s not legally required for you to wear a helmet while actually doing extreme sports, like skateboarding or parkour stunts. I can’t think of any other area of civilian life where the Government intervenes to force you legally to wear protective padding.

So if you make cycling out to be one of the most dangerous things a person can do, how will that encourage people to take it up? If the Government made it compulsory to wear Kevlar body armour to visit, say, Glasgow, do you think a) more, or b) fewer people would visit the city?

This will reduce the number of children cycling. And if children don’t learn to love cycling we can expect that when those children are adults, even fewer of them will choose to make healthy and environmentally-friendly travel choices.

Cycling is not dangerous. To the extent that it is dangerous, it’s the fault of bad drivers, negligent traffic police, and poor municipal traffic planners. Maybe Ms. Brook could have used her incredibly precious opportunity to sponsor a Private Member’s Bill to tackle that.

At this point, I would like to pronounce my Lib Dem heroes of the month: Firstly, sir Alan Beith, who has used his Private Members Bill to tackle blind spots on lorries.

Secondly, Julian Huppert, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentarty Cycling Group, who said of Ms. Brooke’s plan: “The Lib Dem transport team disagrees with her. I’ve tried to persuade her! Lib Dem (& coalition) policy is not to have compulsory helmets.”

Published in: on July 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm  Comments (6)  

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Well said.

    Annette is a very nice person, and she means no harm, but this is exactly the sort of patronising, interfering nonsense that our MPs all-too-often waste their time on.

  2. Here Here!
    So much for Liberalism!
    *wobbles jowls*

  3. I’m in two minds about this. Children’s heads are more vulnerable than adults but it’s a stepping stone towards making it compulsory for adults and teenagers to wear helmets.

  4. I think Annette’s entirely in the right. We should also look at preventing children from going to swimming pools or beaches unless they wear scuba equipment.

  5. Well put that man!

    Except that there is another area where the government makes you wear protective padding: motorcycle helmets. And possibly seat belts.

    And there are plenty of people who will tell you that these measures have saved countless lives. Unfortunatetly, the data does not support that, and there is considerable data which shows that neither measure had a positive effect.

    Before the government introduced the seat belt law, it commissioned a report the “Isles Report” which found that seat belts didn’t save lives. It was never released, but there is a copy on the web if you look hard enough.

    Similarly with motorcycle helmets.

    Most safety interventions are taken without reasonable data and there is no post intervention analysis to discover whether it worked or not. Most justifications for such interventions and laws are based on either misinformation or just plain and simple hoping and wishing, not exactly sound bases for decision making. Laws get passed because gullible populist politicians seize the opportunity to look good by being concerned about safety with no risk that they might look stupid. Unfortunately, there are now enough informed people to make the last point moot.

  6. […] Lib Dem villain of the month: Annette Brooke by Francis Gaskin on Stratagem XXXVIII. Francis disagrees with compulsory cycling […]

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