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Helmet law in Northern Ireland falls

Chris Peck's picture
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Although MLA Pat Ramsey's Private Members' Bill to make wearing helmets compulsory for all cyclists in Northern Ireland passed its second stage in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the Bill has subsequently been dropped following evidence to the Environment Committee from CTC and Sustrans.
View from Stormont
View from Stormont

CTC and Sustrans opposed the Bill in evidence given to the Environment Committee on the 10th March 2011. Following Northern Ireland Assembly elections in May 2011, the Bill now appears unlikely to make further progress.

CTC will now seek to work with the Northern Ireland authorities on alternative strategies to promote more and safer cycling, including 20 mph speed limits, quality cycle training, better road and junction designs, safer drivers and vehicles, plus positive promotion of cycling especially in schools and workplaces.

Both CTC and Sustrans believe that an enforced mandatory helmet law would be harmful because:

  1. It would deter people from cycling. Where attempted elsewhere, enforcing a legal requirement to wear a helmet has led to a dramatic drop in cycling levels. If this happened in Northern Ireland, it would cause a serious loss of cycling’s health, environmental and other benefits.
  2. It would be a disproportionate response to the relatively low risks of cycling. Cycling is a safe activity which significantly improves people’s health and life expectancy. With so few injuries, the health costs alone of this proposed law would far outweigh any possible benefits.
  3. It would be difficult for the police to enforce, requiring considerable costs at a time of tight budget constraints.
  4. It would particularly affect people from socially deprived communities, as they are less likely to wear helmets.
  5. The substantial costs of helmet promotion and enforcement campaigns would detract from better and more cost-effective ways to achieve more and safer cycling. The available resources would be better spent tackling the causes of road danger by developing safer and well designed roads and supporting programmes to promote cycling such as modern on road cycle training.

The Bill proposed to penalise cyclists £50 for failing to wear a helmet. Parents, or those with responsibility for children, would also have been fined for contraventions committed by the children they are responsible for.

CTC's briefing on the Bill can be found below.

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