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Helmet laws: not a question of safety, but a question of liberty

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Lembit Öpik, the Motorcycle Action Group’s (MAG) Director of Communications & Public Affairs, has spoken out against the implied imposition of a mandatory helmet law for cyclists.

The threat has arisen as a result of the Advertising Standards Agency’s (ASA) directive to Cycling Scotland, requiring them to feature cyclists wearing helmets, and refusing to authorise a television advertisement which showed a
rider without a helmet – claiming that to do so would be ‘socially irresponsible.’

Lembit says ‘in 1973, British motorcyclists suffered a hammer blow to their liberty with the introduction of a mandatory helmet law. Over the last four decades we have never wavered from our principled position of opposing this authoritarian regulation. It’s not because we’re against safety; rather it’s because we’re pro-choice. At the heart of any truly free society, citizens have the right to make personal decisions about their welfare and the level of risk they’re willing to entertain. No government has the moral authority to forcibly impose its opinion about what’s best for citizens, because such a move is counter to the very freedoms which democracy exists to uphold. As such, we offer our full support to Britain’s cyclists in opposing the mandatory wearing of helmets. This is a symbolic test of the liberty. A defeat on this would be a catastrophic failure of politicians to respect the personal liberty of the people.’

MAG Chairman John Mitchell adds ‘I have instructed MAG’s Reps to provide whatever support is necessary to assist the British cycling community to successfully resist this ominous legislative menace. The ASA has effectively used its position to censor Cycling Scotland’s right to illustrate cyclists’ liberty to ride without a helmet. They have evidently not got the right to veto the portrayal of a legal activity, but the precedent is extremely dangerous. Their action has reignited an issue which has been quietly smouldering for some time as far as motorcyclists are concerned. Make no mistake, we’re ready, willing and able to take this issue to the politicians, and I have no doubt that
this debate will now extend to bikers as well as cyclists. The Cycle Touring Club, which represents cyclists is firmly against compulsory helmet use, as it feels that mandatory helmet use will reduce the numbers of those people who take up cycling. What unites us all is our belief in personal choice. The very last thing elected politicians who ignore this can expect is an easy ride.’

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