Hackney police to introduce safe cycling schemes following #nohelmet-gate
PUBLISHED: 12:31 25 February 2016 | UPDATED: 13:00 25 February 2016
Police will act to reduce cycling injuries following a fierce debate sparked by a paramedic tweeting #nohelmet after an elderly man was involved in a crash.
The cyclist in his 70s suffered head injuries after colliding with a van in Northchurch Road, De Beauvoir, last week.
A London Ambulance Service Twitter account said he was taken to a major trauma centre as a priority but angered social media users with the hashtag, which many felt blamed the cyclist.
The medic defended themselves, saying a helmet would have prevented further head injuries, which only stoked the fire.
Jono Kenyon, coordinator of Hackney Cycling Campaign, spoke out against the tweet and later said to lay blame on the cyclist was a slippery slope.
He said: “You would not do so for other casualties who did not inflict their own injuries. Would you use a #nowalkingstick tag for an elderly fall casualty?”
Hackney police defended the paramedic on Twitter.
Speaking to the Gazette, Mr Kenyon said: “We have a very good working relationship with police and want to ensure we don’t slip into blaming people after they receive injuries.
“We understand the emergency services have a difficult job and attend lots of trauma calls and there can be a natural response to encourage people to adopt personal protective equipment [PPE]. Unfortunately evidence doesn’t necessarily support the theory that reduces injuries.”
Dr Ben Goldacre, a well-known public health academic, got involved in the debate. He wrote: “Sad to see Hackney police victim-blaming over cycle helmets when the evidence is so poor,” and provided a link to a piece he had written for the British Medical Journal on the complexities of the subject.
In the aftermath, Ch Insp Ian Simpkins told the Gazette police did not claim helmets made cyclists immune from harm, but may offer protection. He said: “The MPS Risk Assessment for police cyclists mandates the wearing of helmets. It appears to be mandated in most cycling sports. This suggests to us helmets do provide some protection from harm.
“We reject that supporting that tweet was ‘victim blaming’. As police officers we tackle issues from every angle.”
He said valid arguments had been raised about the impact the encouragement of helmets had on cycling, and would be meeting Mr Kenyon.
“We will also discuss how to progress cycle safety across the borough,” he said. “A programme of education and enforcement aimed at reducing cycling injuries will be rolled out during the summer.”
The cyclist did not sustain serious injuries, the Gazette understands.