Calls for mandatory bike helmets distract from measures that make it safer, more attractive and convenient for people to take up cycling, according to the Dublin Cycling Campaign.
It comes after the Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said the Government was opposed to making helmets mandatory as it could put a strain on garda resources and the courts.
He also pointed out that international studies show that making helmets mandatory discourages people from taking up cycling.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dublin Cycling Campaign spokesperson Kieran Ryan said there are many more important measures that can be taken to protect cyclists.
“We have this long list of things as cycling advocates we would like to see and to be honest, mandatory cycle helmets are not on that list,” he said.
“It is not something that has been proven to be effective as a measure for making cycling safe anywhere else in the world.
“It has been attempted in places like Australia and all it has done is reduced the rate the number of people cycling but it hasn’t reduced the rate of head injuries among those who do cycle.
“What we are focused on is proven and effective measures that make cycling safe and convenient and attractive and we hope that people calling for things like mandatory cycle helmets will listen to cycling advocates take their advice and focus on the measures that we know are effective – that we have seen in places like Holland, the UK and Paris where cycling is booming.”
Mr Ryan said the most effective way to keep cyclists safe is to separate them from fast-moving traffic.
“It is not inherently a dangerous way to get around either our cities or our countryside,” he said. “Where it can become dangerous is where you have to interact with fast-moving traffic.
“That is why our focus as cycling advocates is always on the measures that reduce the danger to people who are cycling and the top of our list is always segregated cycling lanes that would keep people separate from motor traffic when they are cycling.”
He said the 2019 Dublin Bike Life report found that more than half of Dubliners would like to cycle more – and the biggest barrier they cited was safety on the road.
“If helmets were the solution to that all those people would go out and buy a helmet tomorrow and we would have 50% of people in Dublin cycling,” he said.
“What we are talking about here is mandatory helmets – forcing people to wear helmets and that is where the barrier lies.
“The issue is that if you force a population to wear helmets, you will have fewer people cycling and the public health benefits to cycling vastly outweigh the potential for saving lives by making helmets mandatory.”
Also on the show, Cork City Councillor Terry Shannon said mandatory helmets should be just the beginning.
“It is something that is safe, it is something that would be beneficial, and it is only one of a number of measures I think we need to see as we progress with cycling and as we promote cycling,” he said.
“Of course, I am not anti-cycling, but I think as we see a proliferation of cycling, we need to have proper protocols put in place to make it safer not just for cyclist but also for the pedestrian, the motorist and everybody else.
“Not alone would I be of the view that we should have mandatory helmets but bikes and cyclists should have some sort of a registration so they can be identified when issues arise – which at the moment, can’t happen.
“They should have some sort of insurance as well – for cyclists who are over 18. That wouldn’t be like motor insurance it would be maybe €50 a year.”
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