Yesterday, Northern Ireland Assembly members narrowly voted in favour of a bill to force cyclists to wear helmets. The debate – a long one – can be accessed here.
The second stage of the Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill was passed by a margin of two votes, reported the BBC.
If it eventually becomes law – which, in all probability is unlikely – cyclists not wearing helmets will be liable for a £50 fine.
Both CTC and Sustrans have criticised such compulsion, warning it will lead to a catastrophic reduction in the number of people who cycle.
In other countries, cycle use decreases when helmet compulsion has been introduced and, in the case of Australia, it has taken twenty years for cycling numbers to recover to pre-compulsion levels.
In the short term, bicycle helmet companies benefit from increased sales but this is usually soon offset by an overall reduction in cycle sales as fewer people take up cycling.
Yesterday’s vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly was a necessary step for legislation to be enacted but many sticks could still be poked in wheels. Before any compulsion was enacted there would be a three year grace period where education about the use of helmets was used instead of out and out compulsion.