Compulsory bicycle helmets raised by TDs and Senator 14 times in 15 years

Compulsory bicycle helmets were raised as an issue using parliamentary questions or in speeches in the Oireachtas in all but two years in the last 15 years. In one year bicycle helmets were mentioned five times.

Some politicians were seeking information on compulsion for all, while other politicians were focusing compulsion for children only. Many of the parliamentary questions are written in a neutral or near-neutral style just seeking the minister for transport’s view, including Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy who told us yesterday that he does not support compulsory bicycle helmets.

The issue is often pushed by groups and individuals involved in or having experience of acquired brain injuries. However, cycling head injuries are shown to make up a lower percentage of head injuries compared to motoring collisions, assaults, and falls.

The protective benefits of cycling helmets are also disputed by many scientific studies, while laws which make helmets compulsory have been shown to be ineffective or have unproven benefits, or result in negative health affects when fewer people cycle.

The issue was only not raised in 2014 and 2008. Overall bicycle helmets were raised at least 17 times since 2004, mostly using parliamentary questions. Of those times, 14 of the cases were asking for or asking about compulsion, while only one voiced clear opposition to such a move.

A breakdown of the shows that it was raised five times by Fine Gael TDs, once by a Fine Gael Senator, twice by Labour TDs, twice by Fianna Fail TDs, and once by a Socialist Party TD. Non-compulsory promotion of helmets was also raised by one Fine Gael TD, while only a Green Party TD pushed against compulsion.

In 2006, former TD John Cregan (Limerick West, Fianna Fail) asked the minister for transport if he would make helmets compulsory partly to stop children being bullied. Cregan asked: “If he (the minister) will make it legally binding for children, in the interests of safety and in the interests of stopping bullying and name calling, which is currently directed at children who use helmets.”

Current Senator and recent by-election candidate Eamonn Coghlan (Fine Gael, ex-independent) said “Cyclists are a law unto themselves” before conflating the issues of safety of pedestrians and cyclists, the bike-to-work scheme, and having a law that “could be used to cover cyclists who might be prosecuted for not wearing protective and visibility equipment”.

The full list of mentions of bicycle helmet promotion is as follow:

2015

COMPULSION FOR ALL

TD Paul Murphy (Dublin South West, Socialist Party) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in view of the dangers of head injuries, his views on the compulsory use of helmets by cyclists on public roads; if he will promote the use of helmets by cyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter.” Murphy told us that he does not support compulsory helmets.

2013

COMPULSION FOR CHILDREN 
TD Eoghan Murphy (Dublin South East, Fine Gael) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his plans to make it compulsory for children to wear bicycle helmets when cycling”.

2012

COMPULSION FOR ALL
TD Robert Dowds (Dublin Mid West, Labour) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will consider making the wearing of safety helmets mandatory for all cyclists.”

2011

COMPULSION FOR ALL
TD Brendan Griffin (Kerry South, Fine Gael) said in a debate on health: “…Some of the ABI injuries which I have encountered and of which I have been made aware by the professionals working in the field could have been prevented. The need for cyclists to wear helmets has been highlighted to me. It is simple, but many of those who suffer an ABI in Ireland every year are cyclists who fall off their bicycles or are involved in road traffic collisions. We must try to tackle this issue. It is a small simple matter but significant nonetheless and we must consider it…”

COMPULSION FOR ALL
Senator Eamonn Coghlan (Fine Gael, ex-independent), when he had been speaking for the introduction of compulsory testing of their motorcycles, he switched switched with no explanation to cycling: “As I drove into the office here today, I noticed numerous cyclists – not motorcyclists – wearing no headgear, breaking traffic lights and wearing headphones. I witnessed one lady pedestrian almost being knocked down by a cyclist on Nassau Street. I was once a victim of a cyclist crashing into me when he went the wrong way down a one-way street. If I was still an athlete, it would have ended my career. A friend of a friend of mine tragically lost his life when he was knocked down by a cyclist.”

When Coghlan was interrupted to ask if he actually had a question for the minister, he said: “Cyclists are a law unto themselves. They get tax breaks when they purchase their bicycles. The safety of pedestrians and cyclists is a major area that needs to be addressed. I call on the Minister for Transport to explore a way in which the law could be used to cover cyclists who might be prosecuted for not wearing protective and visibility equipment.”

2010

COMPULSION FOR CHILDREN 
The last Fianna Fail TD to ask the question was Noel Ahern in the last Dail, after which he did not stand for re-election. Ahern (Dublin North West, Fianna Fail) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport the position regarding the wearing of helmets by cyclists; in relation to school children, if it is currently policy to encourage the wearing of such helmets or if it has the back up of legislation; and if he will consider introducing legislation in view of the urgent need for same due to the fact that children feel they are victimised if seen to be wearing helmets which are unfashionable and thus will not wear same.”

2009

COMPULSION FOR ALL
Former TD Jim O’Keeffe (Cork South West, Fine Gael) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport his plans to introduce legislation to make it compulsory for cyclists to wear bicycle helmets, in order to at least provide protection against minor injuries.”

COMPULSION FOR ALL
Former TD Jackie Healy-Rae (Kerry South, Independent) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport if he will make it compulsory for any person who rides a bicycle to wear a helmet for protection; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

2007

COMPULSION FOR ALL
TD Damien English (Meath West, Fine Gael) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport his views on introducing legislation to make it an onus on cyclists to wear safety helmets in order to decrease the risk of death and injury; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

COMPULSION FOR CHILDREN
TD Tommy Broughan (Dublin North East, Labour), who also asked for mandatory high-vis, wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport the progress in completing a new road safety strategy; the budget he proposes to allocate to it over its duration; when he expects to publish same; the action he proposes to take under section 41 of the Roads Act 1993 or otherwise to review the use of wire crash barriers on roads here; if he will make a submission on behalf of the Government to the EU Standards Committee review of the use of wire crash barriers; when he proposes to legislate for the compulsory fitting of cyclops mirrors on all heavy good vehicles; if he has plans to amend legislation to make it a specific requirement of cyclists to wear high visibility clothing and to require the mandatory usage of safety helmets by children and young people using bicycles; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

COMPULSION FOR ALL 
TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport if he will report on recent meetings with the Road Safety Authority; and if he has raised or intends to raise the issue of initiating legislation regarding the usage of bicycle helmets for all cyclists.”

COMPULSION FOR ALL 
TD and now also Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport his proposals to make the wearing of safety helmets by cyclists mandatory; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

PROMOTION BUT NON-COMPULSORY 
TD David Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport and the Marine the incentives he is putting in place to encourage cyclists to wear helmets; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

2006

COMPULSION FOR CHILDREN
A former TD, John Cregan (Limerick West, Fianna Fail) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport if he will clarify the situation in relation to the wearing of helmets by cyclists; if same is compulsory or voluntary; if he will make it legally binding for children, in the interests of safety and in the interests of stopping bullying and name calling, which is currently directed at children who use helmets; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

2005

COMPULSION FOR ALL  
TD, and now also Minister, Richard Bruton (Dublin North Central, Fine Gael) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport if he has considered introducing compulsory wearing of helmets bycyclists; and if he will make a statement on the matter.”

2004

AGAINST COMPULSION 
Now former TD, and current sitting Dublin City councillor Ciarán Cuffe (Green Party) wrote: “To ask the Minister for Transport his views on the National Safety Council’s belief that adults and teenagers should be permitted to cycle only while wearing cycle helmets and that children should not be permitted to cycle at all; and his views on the British Medical Association and others belief that benefits of a mandatory helmet law for cyclists would be outweighed by the resulting drop in cycling, and that cycling produces far more health benefits than costs”

 

2 Comments

  1. If these otherwise well meaning deputies (and An Garda) could understand the real road safety needs of cyclists they could bring about a paradigm-shift in how traffic is managed to ensure that the 8-80 age range will be out and about on bikes instead of living sedentary lives for fear of traffic. Do they understand that it is the kinetic energy of vehicles that kills and maims cyclists and pedestrians and that at 50 km/h (our current urban default speed limit – and target for some drivers) approx 80% of cyclists hit will die and no helmet will save you if your liver, spleen and aorta have been ruptured by the energy-transduction from the vehicle into the body! Dolts!
    This is why Cyclist.ie – The Irish Cycling Advocacy Network – is calling for 30 km/h, or lower, in residential areas and estates and supprting Jake’s Legacy.

  2. I am totally behind Mike McKillen. You would think with all the talk of “Helmet Use” someone would have seen the obvious elephant in the room. It’s speeding cars that kill.

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  1. TD Paul Murphy says he does not support compulsory bicycle helmets

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