Let the Rider Decide

Let the Rider Decide

I use mine every day, and I have done ever since I have been old enough to need one.  Even now I get excited when I slip it on.  Get your minds out of the gutter; I am talking about my crash helmet, my skid lid, the bone dome….

I know there are probably those of you that don’t wear, don’t want to wear and only wear because you are made to, one of these accessories.  Personally being told to do anything goes against my philosophy of life, but in this case it is an easy thing to put up with because I would wear one even if I was told not to. The point is that to me wearing a crash helmet is a bit of a no brainer, and of all the things in this world that are compulsory, that is about the only one I can stomach, but it should not be compulsory, and it wasn’t always.

In England, the idea of passing a compulsory helmet law has been around for a long time. It really all started with Lawrence of Arabia and his untimely death in a motorcycle accident.  The doctor on the scene Hugh Cairns was so shocked at Lawrence’s unnecessary death that he started campaigning for the use of motorcycle helmets.  In November 1941 helmets became compulsory for Army motorcyclists. In 1956 and again in 1962 parliament voted not to make the helmet compulsory for all riders but on the 5th April 1973 the debate about whether crash helmets should be compulsory reached its peak and government passed a law. It could have been all over then with people accepting the law but then something else happened. In November 1976 a change to the helmet law was made, this allowed Sikhs to not wear a cash helmet because of their turbans.  

This change upset one man and created an impetus that helped a fledgling group called MAG, the motorcycle action group…

Fred Hill was born in Yorkshire and spent the war as a dispatch rider before becoming a Mathematics teacher after the war. Fred’s viewpoint was if Sikhs did not have to wear helmets then nobody should have to and so he began a passive, but absolute campaign.  During his eight year campaign Fred never wore a crash helmet and never paid a fine that was given to him. He was given 31 prison sentences some as little as 24 hours others as much as 2 months, he served them all but remained polite and determined.  He died in prison of a heart attack aged 74, an example of what fighting for freedom really means.

Forty years later MAG is still going strong, due to its solid beginnings and the “hero” Fred Hill.   It still protests the helmet law; it embodies the philosophy of MAG’s existence

It’s not about whether you wear a helmet or in fact any form of protection, it’s about whether you choose to do so................ The culture of safety and security eats away at everything we do and dinosaurs like myself, find it harder to explain that each of us must stand up and be counted.  Helmets, protective clothing, leg protectors, electronic safety devices may or may not save us. Our wits and God’s favour might. But in the end, we must have the right to live our lives as we see fit, respecting our fellow man, but in freedom”.

Trevor Baird who was the General Secretary of MAG UK 2008

If you are in the GB, France, Europe or anywhere in the world you should join your national and local riders rights associations.  You might not agree with everything they stand for, but at least they are doing it because they believe in what is right for motorcyclists. They are your voice in government, with them you have a chance of staying free, and without them it is only a matter of time before we all have to be Fred Hills, just to ride a bike.

Stay safe


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