British cycling organisations the CTC and Sustrans have jointly launched a petition to fight against cycle helmet compulsion in Northern Ireland.
In January, the Cyclists Protective Headgear Bill was voted in by the Northern Ireland Assembly prior to approval by the Environment Committee. If brought into law it would be a requirement for all cyclists to wear a helmet in a public place.
The CTC and Sustrans argue that there is evidence that helmet compulsion leads directly to a drop in numbers of people cycling – both organisations stress that they are not anti-helmet, but are against the notion of compulsory wearing of helmets.
“Cycling for day-to-day journeys is a relatively safe activity and it gets safer the more people there are cycling,” said CTC campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen.
“This bill may be well-intentioned, but it will deter vast numbers of people from cycling, while increasing the risk for those who remain. At a time of mounting concern about obesity and climate change, scaring people into car-dependence is bound to shorten more lives than helmets would possibly save.
“I’d recommend our petition to everyone who enjoys cycling. With their support we can defeat this fundamentally flawed bill.”
Sustrans Northern Ireland director Steven Patterson added: “We share the wish of the supporters of this bill to improve the safety of cyclists but there are many better ways of doing this, such as giving every child on-road cycle training or reducing speed limits to 20mph in residential areas.”
Although the helmet legislation only affects those in Northern Ireland, anyone living in England, Scotland or Wales can add their name to the petition.
CTC and Sustrans are planning on submitting the petition along with supporting evidence that helmet compulsion can lead to a downturn in cyclist numbers to the legislative committee.