Dec 152010

One of the age-old debates in leisure cycling is whether cyclists should be made to wear helmets to improve their safety/protection against possible head injuries from an accident.

There are countless peer review scientific studies that support the notion that it does provide protection as well studies that do not, while some studies suggest that safety may have been compromised by wearing a helmet.

Wearing a helmet in the UK is still very much left to individual choice, but it could become compulsory in Northern Ireland in the near future if Pat Ramsey, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) in the province, has his way.

Yesterday (December 13) saw the publication of a private members parliamentary bill (Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill 9/10) in the Northern Ireland Assembly that will require the wearing of a helmet for adults of all ages while cycling on a road or a public place in Northern Ireland.

Under the proposals of the bill, those caught riding without a helmet will face a fixed penalty charge of £50. However, first-time offenders can be excused if they produce a suitable helmet and a purchase receipt within seven days at a police station along with their penalty notice. An appeals process will also be available where fixed penalty notices can be challenged.

Interestingly, if the legislation is passed, the helmet law will not come into force until three years from the year it is passed. In that period, there would be a public campaign to raise awareness of wearing a helmet when cycling.

The helmet bill is at the first stage of the parliamentary process and will still require further parliamentary scrutiny and the support of all MLAs for it to pass and become law. As it is a private members bill, the vote on the law will be not based on political party lines.

UK cyclist organisation CTC has said it will oppose the bill and campaign in Northern Ireland against it.

The CTC believes that wearing a helmet is a personal choice and is opposed to making it compulsory. It argues that compulsion laws in other countries have reduced the number of people who cycle and a knock-on reduction in safety for those that remain.

Pat Ramsey’s bill is supported by brain injury charity Headway.

  11 Responses to “Helmet law process starts in Northern Ireland”

  1. This law has to be passed. Helmet is really necessary for everyone who cycle on road. Accidents can take place any time. So, it is good to take precaution beforehand.

    • Helmets are designed to protect wearers from the injuries from falling over. Why aren’t pedestrians required to wear them? Helmets aren’t designed to protect from vehicle impact and they don’t.

      A study in the BMJ concluded that the benefit to risk ratio of cycling was 20:1. It is far more dangerous to NOT cycle than to cycle.

      Promoting cycle helmets promote the idea that cycling is dangerous. And that discourages people from cycling and that causes more harm because those people don’t get enough exercise.

      Helmets aren’t the answer. Protecting cyclists from motor vehicles IS the answer.

    • This idiotic law won’t help pedestrians. In-fact since most pedestrians are killed or injured by motor-vehicles and forcing helmets on cyclists WILL discourage cycling, there will be fewer cyclists and MORE cars. And that means more pedestrian casualties.

      More cycling means fewer pedestrian casualties.

      How many people wear helmets in the Netherlands? Not many. Cycling in the Netherlands is nothing to do with helmet wearing.

      • Oops slight repetition there. That’s what happens when Firefox crashes three times during a post.

        For rational thought, facts and figures about cycling, helmets, cyclist safety and boosting cyclist numbers see:
        David Hembrow A view from the cyclepath

    • A far better way to reduce cyclist casualties would be to tackle the poor standard of driving which prevails in Northern Ireland. I speak as a resident. Most cyclists who end up in hospital are put there by dangerous drivers. Bear in mind that helmets are not designed to protect in high speed accidents with cars. If the police are incapable of enforcing the existing rules of the road, what is the point of bringing in more rules, especially one so pointless as this?

    • John, you say that this law should be passed and that “Helmet is really necessary for everyone who cycle on road.”  No.  You are completely wrong.  If helmets were effective, then the countries which already have helmet laws would be able to show the benefits, after all, they’ve had almost 30 years to do so.  But they can’t.  No country with a helmet law can demonstrate any reduction in risk to cyclists, and some studies show an increase in risk.  Due to the fact that so many people give up cycling, and lose the massive health benefits, the overall cost is negative and very large.
      So you want a law passed which won’t improve anyone’s safety, will reduce the health of the population and will cost billions.

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rajiv Desai, Going Going Bike. Going Going Bike said: Northern Ireland Assembly begins parliamentary process for compulsory cycle helmet law #NI #roadsafety #Belfast [...]

  3. It failed to make cycling safer in Australia, it fail in New Zealand, why would Northern Ireland be any different?

  4. Kim, what evidence is there to suggest that compulsory cycle helmet laws in Australia and NZ have failed to make cycling safer? I’d be interested in reviewing such a study because to me such an assertion does not make any sense. Being a keen mtbiker and city cyclist myself and having had a loved one severly impacted by a serious brain injury from a cycling accident without a helmet, I always wear a helmet when riding and cannot see how riding without a helmet is considered as safe. I am from NZ and can remember when the compulsory helmet law was bought in (c.1998) – I remember thinking that it was a real hassle, but in reality you adjust pretty quikly and now no-one has an issue with wearing a helmet. I don’t now anyone that has been put off riding a bike because of the helmet law and would be interested in any studies that have been done on this.

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