Angela Lee – anti-cycling campaigner

Angela Lee of the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust is a helmet zealot. She believes that all people should wear helmets at all times when they are riding a bike, regardless of how fast they are riding, regardless of how they are riding, or regardless of where they are riding. She believes that helmets should be compulsory. As has been astutely observed

she genuinely must believe that wearing a helmet is the first, best thing a cyclist can do for their safety, and since any attempt to inform her otherwise is apparently met with a tirade, it is unlikely that she will ever learn any better.

The extent to which her group is so single-mindedly focused on putting polystyrene on cyclists’ heads, rather than on actually keeping them from harm in the first place, becomes apparent from a recent comment in response to Mikael Colville-Andersen’s observations about how helmets influence the perception of cycling as a safe activity.

Ms Lee evidently does not believe that ludicrous safety gear presents cycling – any kind of cycling – as a dangerous activity. Instead she argues that

“[What’s] putting [cyclists] off is people talking about changing road structures, making roundabouts safer – that is what makes people feel at risk because you’re making people think there are other fundamental points that need changing. Asking a cyclist to put a helmet on their head is a common sense approach.”

Truly remarkable. Apparently the mere act of talking about making roads safer is what is discouraging cyclists from using them.

I was thinking about cycling here, not now they're talking about making it safer, I'm suddenly put off

I was thinking about cycling here, but now they’re talking about making it safer, I’m suddenly put off

What leads me to believe Ms Lee to be an anti-cycling campaigner – and not just a well-meaning but deluded single-issue campaigner – is her opinion that discussing the improvement of roads for cycling is

making people think there are other fundamental points that need changing

As if this is a bad thing; as if making the environment safer was some kind of misguided policy; as if anything other than putting polystyrene hats on heads is muddle-headed and wrong. Heaven forbid we should make the mistake of convincing people that anything needs changing – that huge roundabouts and dangerous junctions should be made safe and accessible for all. No – that would be to make people think that there is something ‘fundamental’ about cycling safety that needs changing, beyond bicycle helmets.


Thanks to Sally Hinchcliffe for spotting the quote

This entry was posted in Helmets, Subjective safety. Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Angela Lee – anti-cycling campaigner

  1. Mad as a box of frogs! She is at least one person groups as disparate as the CEoGB and CTC can agree to oppose.

  2. inge says:

    There is something scary in the way anti-cycling/cyclist nitwits argue against change of the status quo in traffic and infrastructure. Almost like the 50’s and 60’s in the USA when it came to equal rights for black people. Exaggerating? Perhaps. But that’s how it comes across to me, a Dutch person when I read the hateful tweets and comments from the EmmaWay”s, Angela Lee’s and their ilk.

  3. Paul says:

    It is tempting to laugh at Angela Lee for being such a zealot and so obviously ignorant, but unfortunately she is anything but funny, because – as you say – she is influential. Why is she influential? Well, one aspect must surely be the anecdotal evidence in favour of her position, the “a helmet saved my life” stories, and the “if my son had been waerting a helmet, he might have survived” laments. Just possibly some of these stories might be true, but they are inherently incapable of proof, and in so many instances are demonstrable nonsense – such as when a newspaper observes that a victim killed by torso crush injuries inflicted by a HGV “was not wearing a helmet”.

    Another, I am sure, is that she is well funded, and money talks. Funded who by? As a registered charity I assume that she is obliged to disclose sources of funding but I have never seen a definitive list. You won’t find anything on her website, apart from the fact that the rower James Cracknell is (or was – the site doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2011) a supporter. I think I read somewhere also that at least one racing driver – Coulthard – was a supporter. My guess is that quite a chunk of funding will come from manufacturers and/or suppliers of cycle helmets, even if much also comes from the Just Giving website linked on her page, and – rather bizarrely – the “Give a Car” site which urges you to donate your car to charity. Honestly, you couldn’t make it up!

    Oh well, can we hope that remarks such as these will finally expose her as a charlatan and an ignoramus whose opinion is not worthy of attention?

  4. She managed to get £5k two years running from the Chartered Institution of Highways & Transportation and won a CIHT road safety award in 2010, so somebody must be taking her seriously. And to think I never wore a helmet or hivis when I road my BMX in the 80s!

  5. Kevin Sweeney says:

    If a lot of people were being shot Angela Lee would promote the wearing of bullet proof jackets rather than gun control and a police crackdown on guns.

    • pm says:

      Which is pretty much the essence of pro-helmet lobbying in general. Though in a strict analogy, they’d be campaigning for making compulsory the wearing of bullet-proof jackets that only stopped low-velocity slugs and which were ineffective against the bullets most people were actually being shot with.

      And of course, every time someone got caught in the crossfire of a gang shoot-out, the media would mention in the first paragraph of the report whether or not they were wearing a bullet proof jacket.

  6. Fred says:

    I had someone come out with the classic at the weekend “cyclists jumping the lights is the worst , Really? The worst???

  7. Magic Bullet says:

    there’s something rotten in the state of England…As a Dutch outsider, I look at it very much the same way as Inge…but then towards both sides. I really liked your post on the No Surrender attitude in Feb 2013 on such matter. Is there anybody open to see the full picture at the other side of the channel? And that might consider an integrated approach towards promoting cycling instead of yelling oneliners towards eachother?

  8. MrDrem says:

    The info that you need to show that helmet’s aren’t the be all and end all of everything is all online.

    These three articles (2 from the same site) give you the info on how they are tested:

    Click to access c2023.pdf

    If you compare that with how motorbike helmets are tested:

    You can see that bike helmet testing is totally inadequate. Most cycle injuries (outside of competitions) are the result of a collision between a bike and another moving vehicle (car, van, lorry, bike, etc). This means that impact speeds are usually high, as (AFAIK) a lot of the collisions are head on, or during an overtake by the other vehicle, at which point speeds are higher.

    The other approach is to ask her to also campaign for driving helmets. Studies show that the incidence of head injuries to drivers in a crash is high. By her logic, all drivers and passengers should therefore have to wear helmets to minimise this injury risk. I would also suggest that the HANS devices ( might also be made compulsory for all passengers, to stop the awful amount of whiplash injuries that are being suffered by those in collisions.

    • mmurray57 says:

      I thought whiplash had been greatly reduced by headrests. Similarly damage to heads inside cars has been reduced by airbags.

      I’ve worn a helmet all my life even before they became compulsory in Australia. I’ve never expected it to save me from a serious collision. Obviously nothing is going to do that. My logic has always been that an impact that might break my arm or leg when applied to my head might cause brain damage. I think wearing a helmet to reduce that risk is a worthwhile investment.

      Each to their own.

      • pm says:

        “I’ve worn a helmet all my life”

        That seems overly-cautious!

        I mean, despite being very cynical about the things, I do actually wear one when cycling if only to avoid the ‘cyclist was not wearing a helmet’ nonsensical victim-blaming. But I draw the line at wearing one rest of the time!

      • pm says:

        Also, your comment seems to miss the point. While helmets _might_ help an individual cyclist in _some_ situations (low-speed head impacts), if you are going to agree with Angela Lee that they should therefore be compulsory, why not also demand that speed-limiters in cars, say, be made compulsory? Or just demand cars be banned from most urban roads entirely? Either of those things would have far more effect on road casualties than a helmet law.

        The fact that the pro-helmet-law campaigners have nothing to say about regulating motorist behaviour shows that the ‘if it saves one life’ mantra is not used in good faith. As usual, its just about putting all the burden on the victim rather than the perpetrator.

        In fact there seems to be a general depressing human tendency to think that putting yourself at risk is more deserving of condemnation than putting other people at risk.

      • “Each to their own.”

        Well, precisely. If people want to wear helmets, that should be an individual choice. The issue is organisations like this one lobbying for compulsion.

  9. PaulC says:

    I don’t know Angela Lee, but I suspect she has so much invested in the idea of cycle helmet promotion that she is blinkered to any other ideas. I’m trying to be polite here.

    Leaving aside the whole commercial push for cycle helmets, they appeal to the ‘it’s common sense innit’ approach favoured by the UK mainstream media and, much of the population. The idea that we in the UK might learn anything from thoughtful research, or indeed other countries experiences, doesn’t count for much on a whole range of topics, of which cycle helmets is just one. I have never understood how anyone who can call for compulsory cycle helmets isn’t also calling for compulsory driving helmets. As with so many cycling issues, much of the public debate is coloured by cyclists position as an out group.

    Interestingly, a neighbour has berated me several times when she sees me riding without a helmet as she feels this is setting a bad example to her young children, who cycle rarely and are generally ferried around in a Hummer style 4×4. She is a heavy smoker who gets no exercise herself, an irony that is evidently lost on her. She would be shocked if I nagged her about her life choices but, as a cyclist apparently I can be nagged about my lack of helmet. I’ve tried explaining the nuances of the cycle helmet debate, but she counters with the ‘common sense’ argument and can’t think beyond that. I find this is a common attitude to cycle helmets. Closed minds – I blame the telly and the mainstream media!

  10. P Buddery says:

    I think it is time that Angela Lees was exposed as a long-term recreational drug user with a tendency towards domestic violence.

    As it is not possible to buy bicycle helmets which provide adequate ventilation for all riders, helmet use can cause overheating of the head and the brain, leading to severe headaches, temporary blindness, progressive alcohol- or drug-like impairment, homicidal insanity, and death. It follows from this that any person who advocates or uses a bicycle helmet has a likelihood of becoming affected or killed for reasons listed above. Thus, it is reasonable to suppose that Angela Lee, as a bicycle helmet wearer, has spent a considerable amount of time operating a vehicle on a public road while severely impaired, possibly to the extent of being close to losing consciousness. It is also reasonable to suppose that Angela Lee has also been fantasising about inflicting severe violence on or even killing people.

    To conclude, she is a menace to public safety and should be removed from public life as rapidly as possible.

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