Ireland’s Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe, has echoed the words of British cycling minister, Robert Goodwill, in saying that cyclists should be free to decide whether or not to wear a helmet.
The Irish Times reports that Donohoe encouraged all cyclists to wear helmets, but said that making them compulsory would have an “instant and very negative effect” on the various city bicycle schemes being rolled out across the country.
Speaking at the Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) annual academic lecture, he said:
“The policy of this week is to encourage everybody who’s on a bike to wear a helmet. It’s not something I’m considering making mandatory at the moment through use of law, and the reason is because if I do so, it would have an immediate and negative effect on the roll out of the city bike schemes.”
Goodwill expressed similar sentiments earlier in the week, saying: “To make helmets compulsory would make systems such as the Boris bike system very difficult to deliver.” He pointed to Australia in explaining his position, arguing that mandatory use of cycle helmets had deterred people from riding bikes.
Professor Michael Gilchrist, from UCD’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, also spoke at the RSA lecture. He has used data from 37 fatal collisions involving cyclists over a ten-year period to stage computer reconstructions to determine whether a helmet would have offered more protection. His conclusion was that helmets make a difference when cyclists are hit by cars moving at 50km/h or less, but that protective capability reduces as speed increases. He said that helmets were of ‘minimal’ use in collisions where the car is moving at more than 50km/h.
RSA chief executive, Moyagh Murdock, said that more than 80 per cent of Ireland’s cycling collisions take place in built-up areas. “Drivers need to respect that cyclists have less protection and therefore they should reduce their speeds accordingly and give cyclists plenty of room. Cyclists also need to take responsibility for their safety by wearing a helmet and high-vis clothing, and by behaving appropriately on the roads.”