Wiggins in trouble for backing compulsory cycling helmets
Critics hit out at Olympic champion cyclist after he is forced to take position in controversial debate
EDITOR'S UPDATE, 3 AUGUST: Since this item was posted, Bradley Wiggins has clarified his comments, saying: "I haven't called for helmets to be made the law as reports suggest. I suggested it may be the way to go to give cyclists more protection legally [if] involved in an accident. I wasn't on me soap box CALLING, [I] was asked what I thought."
A DAY after becoming the UK's greatest cyclist by topping his Tour de France victory with a gold medal in the Olympic time trial, Bradley Wiggins has risked alienating many of his fans by arguing that it should be compulsory for riders to wear helmets.
Wiggins had just sat down to give a press conference following his crushing victory in the time trial when news came through that a 28-year-old male cyclist had been killed by a double-decker bus carrying journalists to the Olympic park.
Asked about the crash, Wiggins said the government should be "legalising helmets to make them the law to wear", the Daily Mail reports.
"Ultimately, if you get knocked off and you don't have a helmet on, then you can't argue," he said. "You can get killed if you don't have a helmet on."
It is not yet known whether the cyclist killed yesterday was wearing a helmet, but a witness later said the victim had been dragged under the wheels of the bus - suggesting a helmet would have been unlikely to have saved his life.
Wiggins went on to suggest that if laws were passed to require certain safety standards of cyclists they would be in a better position to blame the motorist in the event of an accident: "You shouldn't be riding along with iPods and phones and things on. You have lights on. Once there are laws passed for cyclists then you are protected and you can say, 'Well, I have done everything to be safe'."
The gold medalist went on: "There are a lot of things that need to be addressed with cycling at the moment on the roads. Things can't continue the way that they are, everybody knows that."
Wiggins has cycled on London's streets for many years and considers it a "dangerous" place for cyclists. He admits to having been knocked off his bike several times.
The compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets is a highly controversial issue. In Australia, cyclists who fail to wear a helmet have faced a fine since the early 1990s. Studies conducted there on the benefits of wearing helmets have been inconclusive. Critics have pointed out that even if it could be proved that the number of head injuries did fall, helmet compulsion puts people off cycling, which is bad for the health of the population.
Cycling charity CTC took to Twitter to call Wiggins's view on helmets "misguided" and added: "Mandatory helmets would not be helpful - everyday cycling would collapse and there would be no change in driver attitude or behaviour."
Chris Peck, CTC's Policy Coordinator, told Radio 5: "Making cycle helmets compulsory would be likely to have an overall damaging effect on public health, since the health benefits of cycling massively outweigh the risks and we know that, where enforced, helmet laws tend to lead to an immediate reduction in cycling.
"Two-thirds of collisions between adult cyclists and motor vehicles are deemed by police to be the responsibility of the motorist. Any legislation should put the onus on those who cause the harm, not the victims."
Transport journalist Christian Wolmar also criticised the Olympic champion on Twitter: "Oh dear Bradley Wiggins has got it badly wrong on helmets.
Would be deterrent and not necessarily safer."
However, there is also plenty of sympathy for Wiggins, with tweeters pointing out he was "jumped on" after having just won his gold medal and that he was in a no-win situation, since if he had made the opposite argument, it would have been just as controversial.