Northern Ireland's compulsory helmet Bill appears doomed

Proposal not widely supported by either Sinn Féin or DUP

by Mark Appleton   March 18, 2011  

White cycle helmet

A proposal to make wearing helmets compulsory for cyclists in Northern Ireland appears to be dead in the water, for now at least.

Roger Geffen of the CTC, who on Wednesday gave evidence to Northern Ireland Assembly in opposition of the proposal, has told road.cc that the Bill will run out of time when  the current Assembly is dissolved prior to the May elections. In theory, he said, the Bill could go through before that dissolution on March 24, but it appears that all sides now accept that this will not happen.

The CTC Campaigns Director told us: “Neither the DUP nor Sinn Féin – the two biggest parties in the Assembly - were interested in the Bill. The DUP felt that this would be legislation intruding into areas of life where it doesn’t need to go especially as they accepted that cycling is not a particularly dangerous activity. They also took on board our evidence that compulsory helmet use would seriously undermine cycle sales and the cycle tourist industry.

“Sinn Féin members had different concerns which were to do with the prospect of police going into disadvantaged communities and targeting young people for not wearing helmets. We produced evidence to show that people in less well off areas are less likely to wear helmets, so they could see how the policing would have to respond to that.”

He added: “In practice this Bill is just going to run into the sand but given the reaction of the DUP and Sinn Féin I can see how Pat Ramsey [the SDLP Assembly member and ex-mayor of Londonderry who is proposing the legislation] is likely to be thinking that it doesn’t really have any prospects even in a new Parliament.”

 

6 user comments

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Sounds like a sensible resolution although the position of Sinn Fein appears to be more concerned with the police using the proposed law as an excuse to oppress the disadvantaged rather than a concern that compulsory helmet wearing might put people off cycling.

Did Nightrider 2013 and 2014 for Parkinson's UK. Might just have one last go in 2015.

jova54's picture

posted by jova54 [628 posts]
18th March 2011 - 19:49

1 Like

Sinn Fein's rejection of the bill is more to do with their opposition to the PSNI and nothing to do with disadvantaged people, Sinn Fein like to "control" their own areas and don't want the PSNI intruding on their turf.

posted by PRINCIPIA PHIL [52 posts]
18th March 2011 - 21:00

2 Likes

Ignoring the Northern Irish political labyrinth, this is more a reflection of the fact that there has to be a balance between personal freedom and safety measures..i'm sure that walking would be safer if everyone used helmets and had guide rails on all pavements, but no-one insists on it. I wear a cycle helmet, but in a society that allows unlimited alcohol abuse and nicotine consumption to the adult and not-so adult population, compulsory cycle helmets seem a little out of kilter with our western libertarian values.

I wouldn't ride without mine, i don't want a law to force those that don't agree.

Wishing I had started 20 years earlier...

posted by wifwaf [20 posts]
18th March 2011 - 21:28

2 Likes

I stand to be corrected, but Pat Ramsey from the SDLP proposed the new law largely on the basis of a family member being involved in an accident. Very admirable intentions but it was never going to work (for now at least).

Personally I'm more in favour of wearing my helmet, but I just didn't like all the possible inferences that could be drawn if someone didn't wear a helmet and was involved in an accident.

I wonder how many DUP policy makers actually do cycle if they think that it is not a particularly dangerous activity. On what informed basis did they come to that conclusion?

All of the politicians should focus more on a number of other important matters. Firstly, cycle friendly facilities in built up areas and other busy roads ... but they cut the funding on that one.

What about proper cycling lessons to school children that we used to have courtesy of ROSPA? Cycling safety should be seen as a life skill. On the same note, what about awareness campaigns for motorists, van/lorry/bus drivers etc on how to give space to their two wheeled fellow citizens?

Why not impose more stringent policing against the SMIDSY brigade or those idiots that nearly killed me and a training partner by throwing full cans of lager at us?

What about tougher policing against the known thieving low lifes from a local 'disadvantaged community' who think it acceptable to nick other people's pride and joy, right outside my place of work.

What about fixing the potholes/craters in the roads? An even bigger hazzard to cyclists me thinks. My local club has even started to consider if it is safe to run some of our club races on the designated courses because of the road conditions.

Just so that I'm not one-sided, what about coming down hard on the idiot cyclists I've seen going up the wrong side of a busy city centre one-way road.

Fix those problems first before worrying about helmets.

Mooman.

posted by Mooman16 [33 posts]
18th March 2011 - 23:46

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It has been apparent for some time now that this bill is unlikely to pass - this is what the MLAs I wrote to in February told me. It is clear the executive has no enthusiasm for it, and the two main parties have different (but in my view both valid) reasons for opposing it.

However, "the price of freedome is eternal vigilance" as they say. This is not going to go away, someone will try again, in NI or the mainland UK. Organisations like Headway still promote it in their ignorant tunnel-visioned way, and offer up increasingly unbelievable stats to justify it (like the one about 180,000 (sic) head injuries on Britains' roads in 2009). Worst of all, the BMA supports it - the neurosurgeons and A&E must have them by the goolies so the cardiovascular, obesity, diabetes etc specialists can't get their views across.

Keep your eyes open!

posted by Paul M [325 posts]
19th March 2011 - 10:10

2 Likes

Sensible outcome in the end then.

Sounds like good lobbying on the part of the CTC.
The DUP seem to have rejected it for sensible reason, Sinn Féin more for not likely more police in their areas (which did amuse me).

posted by thereverent [322 posts]
21st March 2011 - 12:55

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