Intended for healthcare professionals


Evidence based policy for promoting cycle use in Britain

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 25 November 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1351
  1. Adrian Cook, medical statistician (a.d.cook{at},
  2. Aziz Sheikh, NHS research and development national primary care training fellow
  1. Department of Primary Health Care and General Practice, Imperial College School of Medicine, London W6 8RP

    EDITOR—We warmly welcome the Chancellor of the Exchequer's pre-budget announcement that value added tax (VAT) is to be removed from cycle helmet sales.1 The decision, taken to “encourage road safety,” is supported by growing evidence of the protection offered by helmets against serious head injury. 2 3 This is a small step, but a step that is certainly in the right direction.

    But much more could and should be done. Evidence that regular cycling benefits health is beyond doubt, substantially improving fitness and lowering the risk of heart disease.4 The exemption of bicycle helmets from VAT aims “to encourage cycle use,” yet it sits alongside a raft of proposals that will do little to curb the use of cars. Improvements in air quality from cleaner fuels will clearly benefit cyclists but will not reduce the volume of traffic. Measures that would genuinely encourage cycle use are a reduction in traffic volume, more dedicated cycle lanes, greater traffic calming — and what about removing VAT from bicycles? For a substantive evidence based policy bicycles need to be taken seriously; cycling must come back into the mainstream, and cyclists must not be pushed literally and metaphorically into the kerb.


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