Cycling groups launch petition against Northern Ireland bike helmet law

פורסם: 16 במרץ 2011, 13:31 על ידי: Sustainability Org   [ עודכן 16 במרץ 2011, 13:33 ]
Campaigners say the law would deter cyclists which would affect public health, the environment and traffic levels

A petition has been launched in a bid to thwart new laws which would make wearing a cycle helmet mandatory in Northern Ireland.

The cyclists (protective headgear) bill was approved by the Northern Ireland assembly in January, albeit it by a narrow margin, and will now go before the Environment Committee.

Unless it is stopped it could become law within months, and anyone caught cycling without a helmet would be hit with a £50 fine. It would be possible to wriggle out of a first offence by buying a helmet, but after that there would be no escape.

The petition has been launched by the CTC and Sustrans, but both have stressed that they are not inherently "anti-helmet".

Instead, 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 also 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, especially in a hot country.

While I have no problem strapping on a helmet now, at least when I ride off-road, at 16 I would rather have risked brain damage than be seen in one.

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 more people who cycle, the safer they are: car traffic is reduced and the drivers who remain are forced to be more aware of cyclists. There is safety in numbers.

The two groups also argue that cycling is not inherently dangerous anyway, so forcing helmet use is an overreaction, and that policing the new law will cost money that just isn't available.

The petition is online now and can be signed by anyone in the UK, whether they live in Northern Ireland, England, Scotland or Wales.

Whatever your view on helmets, and it is one of the most contentious topics for cyclists, it seems to me that we should be able to decide for ourselves.