French Senate debates mandatory helmets – €135 fine proposed for offenders

The French Senate this week debated whether wearing a bicycle helmet or using electric scooters should be made compulsory for all adults.

Legislation already makes it compulsory for children under the age of 12 to wear a helmet when riding a bike, but the proposed changes would make it the case for everyone.

France has seen a “cycling boom” since the pandemic, with Paris in particular benefiting from improved infrastructure and temporary cycle lanes.

In February, city government figures revealed that new cyclists accounted for almost 60% of ephemeral cycle lane users and that the number of women on bikes had increased by 41%.

> Six out of ten users of pop-up cycle lanes in Paris are new to cycling, according to the city government

However, on Thursday, a motion put forward by Senator Francois Bonneau of the Union centriste group ‘Union centriste’ proposed to make the wearing of helmets compulsory under the sign of improving the safety of users.

Violators would face a fine of €135 and the rules would cover the use of electric scooters as well as bicycles.

In the proposal, Senator Bonneau said: “Only 31% of cyclists wore a helmet in 2020, according to [road safety group] the National Interministerial Road Safety Observatory.

“Cycling deaths have increased by 21% since 2010, and the number of injuries on EDPMs has increased by 40% in one year: 62% were not wearing a helmet.

He also pointed out that helmet use is significantly higher (86%) for private use than self-service rental bikes (9%).

However, the proposals have received heavy criticism from cycling associations who say the debate is a waste of time and that compulsory helmets are a “false good idea”.

Françoise Rossignol, president of the urban cycling group Club des Villes et Territoires Cyclables, pointed out that road safety is more closely linked to the speed of vehicles and the visibility of cyclists, and not to the wearing of helmets.

“It is certainly not [anything to do with] helmets, which are in fact a brake on the practice [of cycling]”, she told a French business newspaper BFM TV.

Green Party politician Senator Jacques Fernique also voiced his opposition to the proposals, saying: “We don’t want this to become a legal thing. Imagine grabbing someone’s electric bike or scooter just because the rider doesn’t don’t wear a helmet!”

This is not the first time that the question of compulsory helmets has been raised in France. In 2016, Senator Hervé Maurey said it would make cyclists safer.

> A French senator calls for a law on compulsory helmets

In June 2019, the National Assembly voted against a mandatory helmet law.

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