Cyclist.ie, the Irish national cycling lobby group, has reacted with dismay and deep concern to news of a proposal to make it illegal for people to cycle in Northern Ireland unless they wear a helmet.
Cyclist.ie chairperson Dr. Mike McKillen stated “The regular exercise provided by cycling confers protection against heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. There is a straightforward public health imperative to get as many people as possible to make daily journeys by bicycle. If this aim is be realised, we must not get distracted by counterproductive debates about helmet wearing. The drop in the number of cyclists following vigorous helmet promotion in other jurisdictions draws a stark picture: you can promote cycling or you can promote helmets; you cannot do both”
The cyclists also point out that if the proposed law goes through, then Northern Ireland is effectively turning its back on the modern trend for public bike share schemes such as the Dublin and London schemes. These schemes have been hugely popular and have shown general city cycling to be extremely safe with over a million trips and no serious injuries recorded among users. Conversely bike share schemes in cities covered by helmet laws such as Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland have conspicuously failed to take off.
A bill to make it illegal to cycle without a helmet in Northern Ireland passed the second stage in the NI Assembly earlier this week, despite serious concerns being expressed by the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) and Sustrans. This is viewed as setting an unfortunate precedent both in the island of Ireland and across Europe. The European Cyclists Federation is also opposed to such laws and to misleading helmet promotion campaigns. Cyclist.ie offers the people of Northern Ireland every assistance available in fighting this unwarranted attack on a healthy, accessible form of transport.