March 14, 2011
The controversial issue of helmet compulsion rears its head once more as legislation is proposed in Northern Ireland which would require cyclists to wear a helmet in any public place.
The Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill was narrowly approved by the Northern Ireland Assembly in January and is now being scrutinised by the Environment Committee.
Two UK organisations that promote cycling, CTC and Sustrans, have joined together to launch a petition against proposed legislation in Northern Ireland which would require cyclists to wear a helmet in any public place.
CTC and Sustrans are at pains to explain that they are not “anti-helmet”. Instead, they point to a catalogue of evidence showing that Northern Ireland would see a sharp reduction in the number of people who would cycle if the bill becomes law. This would have serious consequences for public health, quality of life, congestion and the environment.
The CTC and Sustrans petition can be signed by anyone in the UK, whether they live in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales.
Explaining CTC’s stance, Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director, said: “Cycling for day-to-day journeys is a relatively safe activity and it gets safer the more people there are cycling. This bill may be well-intentioned, but it will deter vast numbers of people from cycling, while increasing the risk for those who remain. At a time of mounting concern about obesity and climate change, scaring people into car-dependence is bound to shorten more lives than helmets would possibly save. I’d recommend our petition to everyone who enjoys cycling. With their support we can defeat this fundamentally flawed bill.”
Sustrans’ Northern Ireland Director Steven Patterson adds: “We share the wish of the supporters of this bill to improve the safety of cyclists but there are many better ways of doing this, such as giving every child on-road cycle training or reducing speed limits to 20mph in residential areas.”
Alongside this petition, CTC and Sustrans will also submit a portfolio of evidence to the legislative committee.