A report by researchers at Edinburgh University has added to the ongoing helmet law debate by calling for a compulsory helmet usage law for all ages.

The report, published in the June issue of the Royal Society of Medicine, argues that UK advertising campaigns to increase helmet usage have not been effective in contrast to helmet legislation in parts of the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Writing in the report Edinburgh's Professor Aziz Sheikh said of helmets: "The consensus is that they reduce anything up to 88% of serious head injuries if they are used". The 'anything up to' is highly significant given the broad range of speed and circumstances of accidents.

With regards to the Protective Headgear for Young Cyclists Bill, which gets its second reading on June 18th, Professor Sheikh said that the legislation was a move in the right directions, but that it needed to be extended to all cyclists.

In an attempt to address the concerns of the pro-helmet, anti-compulsion group, the report does claim to have looked at the impact of helmet compulsion on cycle usage. After looking at the experiences of countries and states where legislation has been introduced the report concluded that while cycle usage might initially drop-off slightly, it would most likely settle back to previous levels.

It could well be the case that adult cyclists are unlikely to give up their hobby for the sake of a helmet, but it doesn't negate the argument that legislation would be a barrier to increasing cycle usage both generally and among children. Such legislation certainly won't help the government hit their target of increasing cycle usage threefold by 2010. It's a serious point: According to a recent Commons Select Committee report on health, hitting that target would be the single most useful action the government could take against obesity.

See below for a full archive of RCUK articles tracking the helmet compulsion debate.