CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, has countered the AA’s distribution of bike helmets and high visibility vests to cyclists in London by distributing copies of the Highway Code to drivers.

Motoring organisation AA staged its helmet giveaway in central London on Friday (April 15) in an attempt to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists on the road. CTC countered this one-sided view by claiming that the AA was ‘misrepresenting the sources of road danger’. CTC staff and volunteers accompanied the AA and gave copies of the Highway Code to drivers in order to give balance to the AA’s campaign.

The AA had staged the stunt in reaction to a survey of its members, some of whom said they thought that cyclists should wear more protective equipment.

“The AA’s gimmick merely gives the impression that cycle helmets are an essential safety aid, and that cyclists who don’t wear them are to blame if they get hurt – neither of which is true,” said CTC campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen.

“Cycle helmets aren’t designed for fast or heavy traffic, and increased helmet use has never been linked with improvements in cyclists’ safety. The one thing we know about helmet promotion is that it puts people off cycling, which in turn worsens not only congestion and pollution, but road safety as well.”

“If the AA wants to improve safety for cyclists, it should work with groups like CTC to encourage all road users to follow the Highway Code. Yes, this includes cyclists too, but police data show that the risks cyclists face come overwhelmingly from dangerous driving.” 

  • H E Henden

    O. Come on. I was a car drive. Till it got to expensive. I was paying, £205 V.E.D. Sold my car. I now ride a 500cc motor bike. Capabable of 130 mph. Some car drivers try to intimidate me when I’m doing 30, in a 30. 40 in a 40, etc. By driving far to close. To stop safly. If I stop quickly. It seems to me that most drivers couldn’t give a dam about cyclists. OR, motorcyclist. I for one am fed up with car drivers driving past me far to close when I’m riding one of my bicycles. Even though theres no oncoming traffic. Helmets are O K For low speed. And hi fiz in daylight is a wast of time. Car drivers. Please give cyclist a brake. It could be your son or daughter. That you mow down. How would you feel, THEN.

  • Willie

    Almost all the motorists’ blog comments I read about cyclists are antagonistic towards them. However, issues relating to clothing, compliance with the Highway Code and so on, are merely extraneous. This discourse is about TOLERATION of cyclists and should be recognised as such.
    I recently read a driver’s comment that cyclists should not be allowed to use head cams to record the standard of his driving as it was a violation of his Human Rights. (you couldn’t make it up).
    We should make it clear that we will not accept a position as second class citizens on the road and that our safety should be regarded as much more importatnt than a drivers wish to arrive somewhere quickly.

  • Mark Heseltine

    Come on chaps, stiff upper lip

  • Downfader

    I think the AA made a mistake. They have reacted to vociferous groups unwilling to accept that driver error can play a part and are wishing to look for excuses to their’s and others’ actions.

    The fact remains that even the pro-helmet research seems to get knocked back by peer review (look at Erke and Elvik’s reviews of recent studies which raised big doubts for one), and I can only find two peices of info on studies involving hiviz/reflectives (one from Scandanavia and one from Australia)… one was from a time when hiviz was rare so it would have “stood out”, and another from our more recent oversaturated times.

    I think we’re going to have to accept, in light of the recent IAM study that said 63% of collisions are avoidable, that it is our behaviours on the road that lead to the problems, and focussing on the after effects is dangerous and too late to make any real difference.

  • Paul Gormley

    As a cyclist, I’m happy to wear a helmet for my personal safety but I’m not keen at all on wearing hi-viz clothing, unless it’s dark or there are visibility issues.

    I’d be much happier if the AA put the argument to its members that cyclists are as entitled to use the road as any vehicle driver. If vehicle drivers paid due care and attention to all road users, there would be far fewer fatalities of all kinds and more people might feel confident enough to take a bike out onto the roads.

  • chris

    The AA were targetting people on the Barcleys bike hire scheme. This is a scheme that allows people to cycle without requiring to have a bike, a lock, a helmet, a high-viz vest. These are the people that make the streets of London a safer place to cycle. If they wanted to give away such items then they should have aimed them at the people like me. The people that cycle 30 miles a day on roads dominated by trucks, and fast moving traffic. The people that are hardr to spot as they are not in the city where traffic is slower, and drivers are/should be more cautious of the dangers of cyclists and pedestrians.

  • Mike

    If you look at the readily available statistics you are many, many times more likely to suffer a head injury in a car than you are on a bicycle.
    So why are drivers, me included, not encouraged to wear a helmet?

    Also, making more riders wear hi viz jackets will only give bad drivers a ready made excuse for careless driving, namely “he was not wearing a hi viz vest so Its not my fault I ran over him”.

  • sterv

    Graham P – As a motoring organisation, The AA would better contribute to road safety by offering free tyre checks and sight tests for motorists. Or perhaps the CTC should start doing that….

  • Simon E

    Graham, there are several things wrong with handing out helmets and hi-viz and I think the CTC is right to attack what I too consider to be a “stunt” by the AA. There is a lot they could do to improve road safety for cyclists and everyone else – have a look at the article at rdrf.org.uk

  • Gary

    I think with the AA being so pro driving and the CTC being so pro cycling there will never be a balanced argument.

    Free cycle helmets and high vis, why not.
    Free copies of the highway code, why not, however, the CTC should have perhaps given out just the cycling seciton of the highway code and not the whole thing.

    Sometimes as cyclists we can act a bit like we need to counter EVERYTHING that is pro driving.

  • Dave

    I totally agree with the CTC viewpoint, motorists need to learn that we have as much right on the road as they do and that all the body armour in the world is useless against bad driving.
    How often have you been skimmed by a passing motorist and you will see them looking in their rear view mirror to see if you react.
    It is not just the everyday motorist but also beat policemen in their cars who do not recognise the danger cyclists face through bad driving.
    Not so long ago on the A78 Skelmorlie to Largs road I was passed by a police car on double white lines on a blind brow, the car was not reacting to an emergency just out on patrol, it was a non traffic car.

  • Jack

    CTC’s heart in the right place but too clever by half. Section 59 of the Highway Code says cyclists ‘should wear a helmet’. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069837

  • Simon Higgins

    This is typical of the motoring lobby’s propaganda to blame the victim, rather than look at the perpetrator. I already dress like a fluorescent banana when commuting on the bike, thanks, but it hasn’t stopped me from having ‘SMIDSY’-type incidents with careless drivers (in one case, involving mobile phone use).

  • Alan M

    Here’s one cyclist who doesn’t “agree that high visibility is a key part of road safety.” The key to road safety is that people in charge of vehicles (of all kinds, with any number of wheels) take responsibility for looking where they are going. The more you load the responsibility onto the vulnerable, the less care the powerful need to exercise, resulting in less overall safety, not more.

  • Graham P

    This is a surprisingly negative article.
    Is its intention to discourage the promotion of helmets and high visibility?
    Every cyclist would agree that high visibility is a key part of road safety.

    Whose “stunt”?
    Given the likely pro-cyclist audience, the CTC Highway Code giveaway was probably preaching to the converted.
    I’m all for the CTC, but their criticism seems ill-judged.