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Cyclists Reject Safety Council's Helmet Proposals
By Shane Foran, Galway Cycling Campaign
17 May 2004,

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The Galway Cycling Campaign has rejected the National Safety Council's recent call for compulsory cycle-helmets for children and has dismissed the National Safety Council's claims regarding helmets as false and untenable.

Irish Cycle Campaign groups have previously called for the National Safety Council to be scrapped on the grounds that it effectively functions as a front for the car lobby and motor insurers. The latest NSC proposal is viewed as a thinly disguised attack on cycling, designed to allow the Irish Motor Insurance Industry to argue for reduced damages in respect to any children injured by their customers. In support of their claims, the National Safety Council have referred to the much criticised and discredited "Towner report" published on behalf of the UK Department of Transport in 2002. The numerous criticisms that have been raised regarding the Towner report include.

* No reference to traffic casualty trends, hospital admission data, or large population evidence. No reference to any cost-benefit analysis.

* Report includes serious misrepresentation of Australian data

* Based on "research" described as "scientifically ineligible"

* Selective use of evidence in favour of helmets with little reference to studies showing negative effects.

* Exaggeration of dangers of cycling - figures for UK cycling accidents are overestimated by a factor of ten (x10)

The main effect of such helmet laws elsewhere has been discourage cycling without showing any improvement in the rates of death and injury among cyclists. Indeed in some countries such as the Australia, the US and UK cycling has been shown become more dangerous with increased helmet use. Cycling is already known to be the safest form of transport. The British Medical Association has found that all things considered, the health benefits of regular cycling significantly outweigh any increased risk of injury.

In Denmark it has been found that regular adult cycle commuters show a 40% lower mortality than their non-cycling peers. Ireland has among the highest levels of heart disease and obesity in the EU and is facing a public health crisis as about 13,000 Irish citizens die of heart disease and related conditions annually. According to recent reports, Irish teenagers are among the most obese in the European Union. In this context, any measure that would criminalise children for engaging in healthy exercise such as cycling would be a public health disaster. The European Cyclists Federation, the British Medical Association and The Royal College of Physicians have all rejected compulsory cycle helmet use.

Press Release:

Cyclists totally opposed to compulsory wearing of helmets
From: Irish Cycling Campaign
Date: Thursday 13 May 2004

The Irish Cycling Campaign (ICC) expressed its total opposition to the mandatory wearing of cycling helmets. While the ICC is not opposed to helmet wearing itself, the mandatory use has proven to have a negative effect on cyclist safety. The ICC oppose the measure on a number of issues:

1. The Victoria example given by Eddy Shaw is totally misleading, and is base on the Towner report that has been widely discrdited for its distorting of the statistics. Although following the introduction of mandatory helmets did see a 48% fall in head injuries - cycling number decreased by a over 40%. Also the measure was taken as part of a wider anti-speeding and drink driving measures that saw overall road deaths decline by 50%.

2. The NSC board contains no cyclist or pedestrian members. Nor did the NSC consult with the ICC before announcing this measure.

3. A recent Australian study showed that targeting motorists for compulsory helmets could save 17 times as many lives as targeting cyclists.

4. The health advantages of cycling outweigh the risks by a factor of 20:1. Compulsory helmet wearing is proven to decrease cycling numbers. The British Medical Organisation (BMO) opposed mandatory helmet wearing for this reason.

5. Helmet debate takes away from the real issues:
(a) 75% of cyclist deaths in Dublin are caused by Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGV)
(b) Speeding - 2003 saw 75,000 speed tickets being issued - a motorist can expect a ticket every 28 years !
(c) Drink Driving - 2003 saw 15,000 breath test - a motorist can expect to be breathalyzed every 140 years !

Yet the NSC only pays lip service to these problems. The number of speeding tickets issued in Ireland in the 12 months after penalty points dropped from 300,000 the previous year to 75,000.

The ICC calls yet again for the scrapping of the current NSC board which is dominated by the motoring industry to the detriment of cyclists, pedestrian and public transport users.

More info at:


Shane Foran M.Sc.
Galway Cycling Campaign -Feachtas Rothaiochta na Gaillimhe
c/o Galway One World Centre, the Halls, Quay St., Galway.

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