Cycling groups battle proposed bike helmet law
A petition has been launched to prevent new laws which would make wearing a cycle helmet mandatory in Northern Ireland, according to a report in the Guardian.
The 'Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill' was approved by the Northern Ireland assembly in January and will now go before the Environment Committee. Unless stopped, it could become law within months and anyone caught cycling without a helmet would receive a £50 fine, although a first offence could be avoided by buying a helmet.
The petition has been launched by the CTC and Sustrans, despite both organisations stressing that they are not inherently ‘anti-helmet’.They argue that the number of people cycling in Northern Ireland would drop dramatically if they were forced to wear helmets, and that this would have an effect on public health, the environment and traffic levels.
Australia brought in mandatory helmet legislation in the 90s and saw a significant drop in the number of cyclists. This was largely put down to the inconvenience and unfashionable stigma associated with wearing a helmet.
Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at the CTC, 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."
The two groups also argue that cycling is not inherently dangerous and that forcing cyclists to wear a helmet is an overreaction. They also point out that policing the new law will cost money that is not available.