Depending on your views on helmet compulsion, this is either good or bad news. It appears that the Parliamentary Bill going through the Northern Ireland Assembly at the moment, which would require cyclists to wear a helmet in any public place in the province, may run out of time to become law.
The CTC is indicating that the forthcoming elections in Northern Ireland may derail the current process.
The Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill is currently at the Environment Committee stage, where the proposed law is being scrutinised by MLAs (Members of Northern Ireland’s Legislative Assembly) with stakeholders being allowed to give evidence. The Committee meets again this week where it will sign off the evidence it has received to date, but the CTC said it understood that a final vote on the Bill may now not be possible as the Assembly will soon be dissolved due to upcoming elections for the Assembly in May.
In February, MLAs passed the Bill by just two votes in an open vote at the second stage of the law making process.
The Bill, which is being sponsored in a private capacity by SDLP MLA Pat Ramsey, proposes to penalise cyclists £50 for failing to wear a helmet. Parents, or those with responsibility for children, will also be fined for contraventions committed by the children they are responsible for.
The CTC, represented by Roger Geffen, who leads CTC’s Campaigns and Policy department, joined CTC volunteers and Sustrans staff in Derry/Londonderry, in presenting evidence to the Environment Committee of the Assembly last Wednesday (March 16). The session itself was heard by just six of the eleven Environment Committee members.
CTC and Sustrans told the session that the Bill would lead to a sharp reduction in the number of people choosing to cycle. They were supported at the hearing by a local businessman who argued that the law would dent cycle sales and harm tourism.
Concerns over the Bill
According to the CTC, some of the MLAs who sat in the session, viewed the Bill as unnecessary because cycling is not seen as a particularly dangerous activity, while others feared that a helmet law would damage relations between the public and the Northern Ireland police.
In addition to CTC’s and Sustrans’ evidence, the Committee saw written submissions from the UK campaign body Cyclenation, its Irish Republic counterpart Cyclist.ie, and the charity Roadpeace, all of whom agree that the Bill was not in the interests of cyclists.