Norman Baker, the transport minister, has been criticised by Brake, the road safety charity, for declaring his decision to not wear a cycle helmet as his ‘libertarian right’ (Guardian).
The Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes, and life-long bike enthusiast, said it is his ‘libertarian right’ to put himself at risk on the roads by not wearing a helmet, prompting claims from some quarters that he is unfit for the job.
Mr Baker said: "I don’t wear a helmet when I cycle. The first reason is that I don’t want to. I don’t want to wear something on my head. For me the joy of cycling is to have the wind in your hair, such as I have left. It’s free, it’s unencumbered; I don’t want to be loaded down.
"It is a libertarian argument. The responsibility is only towards myself. It’s not like drinking and driving where you can damage other people. You do no harm. I’m not encouraging people not to do this; I’m just saying I make a decision not to."
He also cited evidence that drivers take more care around hatless bikers than they do with those wearing helmets, saying: "Wear a helmet and drivers feel they can drive closer than they can. I don’t think the safety case for helmets is clear-cut."
According to the Guardian, Mr Baker insisted that he supported the government line on road safety for cyclists and that the inconsistency of his own choice was not relevant.
But Joel Hickman, spokesman for the road safety charity Brake, said: "Ministers should practise what they preach and when a minister directly responsible for cycling safety refuses to wear a cycle helmet, we then have to look at their suitability for the role."
Click here to read the full Guardian report.
Photograph: Marcus Ahmad/Department for Transport.