Cycling, helmets and safety

 

Sir, – I have followed with interest your coverage of the call by the AGSI for laws mandating helmet and hi-vis clothing for cyclists. I have lived and worked for the last 15 years in countries with mandatory helmet laws.

Their main result in both has been to act as a barrier to cycling participation.

The introduction of such laws in New Zealand in the 1990s coincided with a dramatic collapse in cyclist numbers, particularly of children cycling to and from school.

More recently, in Australia, cycle-share schemes have been an abject failure, directly as a result of the laws. Interestingly, there has been no clear evidence that mandatory helmet laws have improved head injury rates. Meanwhile both countries, like Ireland, struggle with a worsening epidemic of the effects of physical inactivity.

If the AGSI was truly interested in improving cycling safety, it would lobby for the single most important way of achieving this. This also happens to be the thing that would most quickly increase cyclist numbers with all the public health benefits that would bring – the development of a dedicated, comprehensive, safe and separated cycling network in urban areas. – Yours, etc,

Dr DERMOT COFFEY,

Melbourne,

Australia.

Sir, – The motion by the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors to make cycling helmets compulsory is certainly not “silly” (“Cyclists oppose mandatory helmets”, April 14th). International evidence shows that helmets reduce the risk of head injuries by as much as 80 per cent. In Ireland, cyclists account for over 20 per cent of all transport-related hospitalisations, even though they are responsible for only 1 per cent or 2 per cent of traffic. And over a third of hospitalised cyclists have head injuries compared to only 15 per cent for motorcyclists.

Cycling advocates are right that lower traffic speeds and better infrastructure are central to safer cycling but helmets can also contribute. Perhaps those opposed to helmets could at least agree that they should be made compulsory for children, as France did recently. – Yours, etc,

Dr JACK SHORT,

Chaville,France.

Sir, – A thoughtless twit will remain a thoughtless twit, whether on a bike or behind the wheel of a car. – Yours, etc,

MARY BYRNE,

Bray,

Co Wicklow.