Cyclists signal opposition to mandatory helmets and hi-vis jackets

Proposal by senior gardaí described as ‘silly’ by cycling campaigners

‘I have not yet seen a helmet that will protect a cyclist from a truck running over your head,’ said Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe. Photograph: iStock

‘I have not yet seen a helmet that will protect a cyclist from a truck running over your head,’ said Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe. Photograph: iStock

 

Cycling campaigner Dr Mike McKillen has described proposals to make cycle helmets and hi-vis jackets mandatory as “silly” and designed to deflect from the failure of gardaí to enforce existing road traffic laws.

A motion at the Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors’(AGSI) annual conference in favour of making helmets and fluorescent clothing compulsory for cyclists was passed this week.

Dr McKillen dismissed the motion and said annual Easter conferences were part of the “silly season”.

“It will do not an iota to make it safe for cyclists. The injuries and fatalities are happening because the gardaí are failing to implement existing road traffic law,” he said.

“Motorists are failing to respect speed limits and that damages cyclists.

“The more a society swaddles its people who cycle in hi-vis and helmets, the more cycling-hostile is its traffic management regime,” he said.

The AGSI’s proposals, which it is forwarding to the Department of Justice, are likely to meet fierce opposition too from other cycling campaigners.

Red herring

National cyclist co-ordinator at cyclist.ie Dr Damien O’Tuama described the proposals as a “complete and utter red herring”.

“A focus on ‘helmets and hi-vis’ distracts the attention of policy-makers, the gardaí and the public from the real issues which make cycling unsafe,” he explained.

He identified a failure on the part of the gardaí to enforce speed restrictions in urban areas as a factor in cycling injuries and fatalities.

He advocated greater restrictions too on heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) which he claimed were “massively over-represented” in the road collision statistics for fatal pedestrian and cyclist incidences.

Cian Ginty, editor of irishcycle.com, said the evidence on the safety factor involved in helmets was “very mixed” with some studies showing they were of benefit to cyclists; others stating that they may actually make it more dangerous.

He described proposals for hi-vis jackets as a “bit of a distraction” and a “solution in search of a problem”.

Best practice

Green Party councillor Ciarán Cuffe suggested the Government needed to look at best practice in other more cycle-friendly countries.

“I’m not convinced that hi-vis clothing for cyclists will reduce accident rates,” he said. “I would ask that they [the AGSI] produce evidence-based research to that effect.”

Cllr Cuffe said he did not wear a helmet. “Most cycling accidents in Ireland occur with HGVs turning left. I have not yet seen a helmet that will protect a cyclist from a truck running over your head.”