Mandatory helmet discussion resurfaces, now over in Ireland

Having raised its head briefly on the Isle of Man (and since been clarified), a pitch to introduce mandatory helmet laws to Ireland has now been launched.

Representing the Mayo constituency, TD Alan Dillon pitched for a mandatory helmet law introduction, allegedly in response to bike shops leaning on him to raise the issue in relation to increased levels of cycling on the back of Covid-19.

Tweeting a video of his pitch, Dillon said: “I intend to benchmark policy implementation and evidence from other developed countries on this topic. It is really concerning the amount of juveniles cycling without helmets nowadays in and around our cycle-ways and on national roads.”

Dillon referenced the limited pool of other countries that have introduced such laws, most notably Australia and New Zealand.

In these countries studies (Robinson 2006) have found cycling levels to have receded in response to mandatory helmet laws, something that if replicated in Ireland may not have the desired effect for bike shops hoping to increase both cycling levels and latterly sales.

Malta formerly made helmets compulsory in 2004, but scrapped the legislation, acknowledging its negative impact on cycling levels. It was suggested in a 2003 (Jacobsen) study that safety in numbers is a more effective strategy, meaning that by introducing mandatory helmet laws you actually increase the risk to riders by giving them reduced visibility on the roads.

“I want to add Ireland to this list,” said Dillon, adding “We have excellent off road cycling facilities in Mayo… However, not every county has the benefit of off road cycle paths. As part of the recent restriction s more people have taken to cycling and I have been contacted by local bike shops who hope to promote the need to wear cycle helmets and indeed to make it a legal mandatory requirement to do so. We have spoken in recent months on the need for effective public health policy, but we also need to expand the conversation to include helmets. A similar argument can be made for the need to introduce mandatory helmets for electric scooters.”

Responding to the reading, Brendan Griffin TD said that such a consultation would be required to take in the view of cyclists.

Reaction to the video on Twitter where it was posted has been varied, though for the most part reaction has been strongly against the motion, particularly in the cycling community. Comments range “You will kill cycling if you bring in helmet laws” through to the urging of a boycott of bike shops who have allegedly promoted this legislation’s progress.

Jeremy Vine was among those responding, tweeting back “Great idea Alan. So if you can’t find your cycle helmet you have to get in your car; you drive instead and knock someone over. Fantastic.”