NEWS
02/08/2012 11:20 BST | Updated 02/08/2012 13:03 BST

Bradley Wiggins Backpedals Over Compulsory Helmet Comments

Gold medal Olympian Bradley Wiggins has found himself in the middle of a heated political debate about a whether wearing a helmet should be compulsory, after a cyclist was killed by an Olympic bus just hours after his Time Trial win.

The Tour de France winner hit back at press suggestions he was on a "soapbox" - portraying him as if he was on a one-man-mission to force cyclists to wear helmets.

At a press conference after his win, Wiggins suggested politicians should consider forcing cyclists to wear helmets, to protect them against allegations of blame, "because ultimately, if you get knocked off and you ain't got a helmet on, then how can you kind of argue?"

Bradley Wiggins suggested at a press conference that a law making helmets mandatory would protect cyclists

He added: "[People] shouldn't be riding along with iPods and phones and things on and [they] should have lights and all those things.

"So I think when there's laws passed for cyclists, then you're protected and you can say, well, I've done everything to be safe."

"It's dangerous and London is a busy city with a lot of traffic. I think we have to help ourselves sometimes.

"I haven't lived in London for 10 to 15 years now and it's got a lot busier since I was riding a bike as a kid round here, and I got knocked off several times.

"But at the end of the day we've all got to co-exist on the roads. Cyclists are not ever going to go away, as much as drivers moan, and as much as cyclists maybe moan about certain drivers they are never going to go away, so there's got to be a bit of give and take."

But on Thursday afternoon, Wiggins back-pedalled, saying he had not axe to grind, and had simply given his opinion when asked.

Police have named the man killed outside the Olympic Park as 28-year-old Dan Harris. The driver of the bus was arrested and has been released on bail.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson, perhaps London's second most famous cyclist, said: "It's quite right to say that people should wear a helmet if they have got one, but we have absolutely no plans to make it mandatory.

"I have to say that in countries where they have made them compulsory, it hasn't always necessarily been good for cycling."

Many safety campaigners said they did not necessarily agree with obligating cyclists to wear helmets.

Cycling charity CTC said they believed the move "would not be helpful - everyday cycling would collapse and there would be no change in driver attitude or behaviour.

"Not sure it is useful to give so much credence to views of gold medallist on road safety - how about Steve Redgrave on the Costa Concordia?"

Darren Johnson, a Green Party member of the London Assembly, said: "Every death of a cyclist on our roads makes me feel sick.

"As the details emerge of this man's death, it seems clear that he was killed by a vehicle turning left, as is so often the case with fatalities.

"Calling for cyclists to wear a helmet completely misses the point - a helmet is not an issue when a person is killed by massive body injuries. We need to focus on the solutions to the problem of left-turning lorries and other big vehicles in London."

AA president Edmund King, who is a keen cyclist, said: "The Highway Code says 'You should wear a helmet' and we certainly advise cyclists to wear helmets but are not convinced it should be compulsory.

"There are a number of infrastructure and attitudinal changes needed from all road users to enhance cycle safety.

"We do support Bradley Wiggins' comments about the dangers of using iPods or headphones whilst cycling.

"When on the road we need all our senses to stay safe, and wearing headphones, listening to loud music, can dull awareness of what is going on around us."