Portugal drops mandatory helmet study following public backlash

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Portugal’s Government has dropped exploratory plans to introduce a mandatory helmet law for cyclists on the back of strong public opposition.

Launched to public consultation over the Christmas break, cyclists responded by organising a march through Lisbon, while over 500 written objections landed with the Road Authority.

Evidence based on studies of countries that have employed mandatory lid laws have largely resulted in a vast decrease in cycling levels, somewhat counteracting the aim of the legislation. (See the base of this piece for more on that)

Almost simultaneously a public petition calling for better conditions for cyclists on the roads surged past 10,000 signatures. On the back of this a meet with the Minister of Internal Affairs in parliament is now to take place with representatives from various Portuguese cycling and road safety organisations set to press cycling’s case for safe infrastructure provision. By law, the discussion has to take place and in theory should now provide legal results for improving active travel conditions, reports the ECF.

Ceri Woolsgrove, the ECF Policy officer on the Portugal victory; “Excellent lobbying activities in Portugal has seen some great results for cycling safety and promotion. Dropping the mandatory helmet proposal will remove a barrier to the uptake of cycling and the new road code will improve cycling safety. It is to be applauded that the Portuguese public authorities have listened to public pressure and cycling associations. We sincerely hope that this dialogue continues in order to improve cycling safety in the future, particularly regarding vehicle speeds which are a major road safety factor and are being reduced throughout Europe.”

Portugal saw Europe’s largest drop in road deaths between 2010 and 2015, delivering a 37% drop, some 20 points higher than the average 17% decline in cyclist deaths. Bicycle use has been steadily increasing in the region in recent years.

Aside from cycling levels, Portugal’s reputation as a heartland for industry manufacturing got a shot in the arm recently with the news that Fritz Jou will set up a manufacturing plant. 

Why helmet compulsion very often has undesired effects: