CTC and Sustrans launch petition against helmet compulsion

by singletrackjon 13

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.

You can sign the petition at tinyURL.com/NorthernIrelandHelmets or you can discuss the issue on our forum

Comments (13)

  1. CTC not anti-helmet? Read their mags and you’d be forgiven for thinking that they are distinctly anti-helmet. But I guess folk should be free to make a choice.

  2. I don’t give a rat’s arse about it as I am and will be wearing helmets when on 2 wheels. Engine or not.
    Others need to make their decisions.

  3. I’m in ctc and dont support their strange anti helmet stance. I find them to a bit traditionalist in their outlook. I have been saved from injury by my helmet many times and think they really are barking up the wrong tree. As we all know most offs are slow speed.

  4. I think thats a good response from CTC.

  5. I have mixed feelings on this one, whilst i think that as a grown man i should have the choice whether or not to wear a helmet and protect my grey matter (i always do for the record), i see far too many kids wearing helmets whilst accompanied by adults without – they should be setting the example not being hypocrits.
    Also whilst in Bristol last year i witnessed some idiot ride through Cabot circus on a bike, wipe out on some wet tiles and split his head right open, no helmet, a paramedic car and an ambulance then attended the scene disrupting traffic and costing time and money to the NHS, if this man had been wearing a helmet then i suspect at worst the blokes pride would have been dented.
    I think the attitude to wearing helmets has changed vastly over the last decade or so which is a good thing, i think if the government were to enforce such laws it would be a good idea to roll out some kind of incentive such as a voucher scheme for buying a helmet, this would cost money though and for that reason i can’t see it happening.
    I’ll get down off my high horse now lol!

  6. ctc mmber and i dont approve of their stance either not sure if it is enough to make me drop my membership but I wll give it some serious thought.

  7. Ho ho ho, you people who “don’t agree with the CTC’s stance” are miles off target.
    The CTC claim they are not “anti-helmet” and if you take just a few minutes to re-read the above (or perhaps actually read it for the first time…) you can see exactly why they are opposed to compulsory helmets.
    They distance themselves from all the endless, nauseating arguments about whether or not helmets do any good and instead focus on the FACT that if helmets were compulsory cycling numbers would drop; people would be disinclined to take up cycling; and the population would actually, overall, become less healthy.
    Gee, do I really mean “fact”?
    Yup:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8870773

  8. It hasn’t happened yet so it can’t be a fact.
    It’s possible, even likely, but not a fact.

  9. Horse, I think fact is fair, as cycling has declined in countries with helmet compulsion – countries directly comparable to the UK.

    Much the same as the laws of physics work from one place to the next and people on the internet like to argue, I think we can take this as fact.

    Probably worth remembering that some people don’t spent ££££ on a bike and a £20 helmet is the same cost as their bike. Should we really be saying that people that can’t buy helmets should be excluded (by law) from cycling, by it’s very nature a extremely cheap and easy form of transport?

    I was at a community pump track the other day. If they’d demanded that all the kids using it have helmets on then it’d drive a wedge right down the middle of a place between the haves and have nots – defeating the entire point of it as a community resource.

    All that said, I don’t want to pick up bleedy people with head injuries when I see them out and I wouldn’t want anyone to have to pick up me from the floor because I didn’t want to wear a helmet.

    The tricky issue of personal responsibility again eh?

  10. nanny state bollocks.

  11. fair point jon, and when you follow the clicky link from dandelionandmurdoch it does make interesting reading although he has somewhat oversimplified it. Still think I’d rather see 20 fat kids than 1 dead one.

  12. There’s also a campaign set up independantly of Sustrans and the CTC opposing the NI helmet law. If you’re interested in reading another take on the issue (in terms of a public health campaign, rather than a cycling lobby), see:

    http://www.wrongheaded.org.uk

  13. who wrote that petition? #2 starts very well but then says “cycling is a safe activity…”. Not quite accurate.

    #4 seems patronising.
    #5 is the most salient but lingers there at the end waffling on.

    so, a legislature wanting to enact an unenforceable law that will have little effect on death & injury in a time when public funds are squeezed? Who said ‘distraction’?

    I’d rather see the effort of this go into encouraging a giant cyclepath building scheme that would get the construction economy rolling again whilst also improving safety for all public highway users. No public funds for this? Repurpose the helmet police funding and get private sponsorship: ‘the XYZ company cycle highway – a service to health and public welfare’

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