Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has used a sporting body’s rules to justify mandatory helmets at casual Bike Week cycles, which the council organises.
Gerry Flaherty, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown cycling officer, said: “Although the wearing of helmets is not compulsory [in law], we require those attending our annual cycle event to wear one in the interest of promoting good safety habits among the younger cyclists. In general, parents welcome this requirements with only one complaint yesterday, that I am aware off, against wearing a helmet at our Blackrock Cycle.”
In an email to a member of the public who complained, Flaherty said: “This decision is made by myself for cycling events I plan (mainly during bike week) and by Shane in the Sports Partnership for their cycling events. This applies to about 2-3 events per year and is generally considered as part of the event management plan for bigger events. This in line with Cycling Ireland rules for cycling events under its remit.”
The issue was raised with the cycling officer by a member of the public, Stephen McManus, who told us that he feels “common sense is not prevailing” and that the council were getting people to sign liability disclaimers but also forcing them to wear bicycle helmets.
In emails with the council McManus referred to Chris Boardman’s stance on helmets. After Boardman, a former Olympic racing cyclist, was criticised for appearing on the BBC without a helmet he wrote in detail about how helmet use “isn’t even in the top 10 things that will really keep people who want to cycle safe”.
Boardman asked people to watch this video:
“This is Utrecht in the Netherlands, it’s just 250 miles from our capital, where helmet use is less than 0.5% and there isn’t a stitch of high vis in sight. They have an incredible safety record and some of the lowest casualty rate of anywhere in the world,” Boardman said.
He added: “I’m willing to bet that even those that swear by helmets and high vis would feel comfortable discarding their body armour in such an environment. And that’s the point; in Utrecht they have addressed the real dangers to cyclists.”
Dublin City Council were also criticised online for changing the name of its lunchtime cycle to “Bikeweek Safe Cycle” and for a focus on safety gear — which paradoxically followed complains from members of the public last year that the cycle was moved away from the city centre and onto roads shared with high volumes of large trucks.