CTC – the UK’s National Cyclists’ Organisation – has joined forces with Sustrans to launch a petition to fight against legislation in Northern Ireland that would make the wearing of cycling helmets compulsory. The bill, succinctly if rather boringly called the Cyclists Protective Headgear Bill, was voted in by the Northern Ireland Assembly in January 2011 (by a majority of just 2 votes) and, if approved by the Environment Committee, would see cyclist who fail to comply subject to a £50 fine.
Both the CTC and Sustrans are at pains to make clear that they are not “anti-helmet”, only that compulsory use leads, demonstrably, to a fall in cyclist numbers which in turn has proven to result in less safe cycling conditions for those who remain. They also claim that legislation is disproportionate to risk, is costly and difficult to police (better, it’s argued, to spend budgets on other areas of sustainable road safety) and can be discriminatory against those on lower incomes.
There is certainly evidence that mandatory headwear has a negative effect; in Australia both Melbourne and Sydney have seen numbers of their cycle hire schemes fall, whilst Mexico has recently revoked their helmet laws following a similar drop off in numbers.
For more information or register your support visit: www.ctc.org.uk