Should Ireland join Britain in re-evaluating cycling safety?

Credit Paolo Lisarelli

Credit Pier Paolo Lisarelli

650 police officers have been deployed around London in a bid to enforce awareness and cycling safety. Officers have been stationed at various busy areas during rush hour.

The number of officers is set to be raised to 2,500 over the coming weeks and will stay in place until after Christmas. The officers will issue penalty notices to people breaking traffic rules. Helmets and hi-visibility vests are not a legal requirement but officers will be pushing cyclists to use these safety precautions.

The clamp down on cycling safety comes as a result of six deaths over 14 days in London. Each incident involved a lorry, bus or coach.

The incidents in London have caused widespread recognition of the importance of cycling safety and the controversy of mandatory bicycle helmets. A spokesperson for Cycling Ireland said “there is no doubt that wearing a helmet saves lives. However, it is important that the onus of safe cycling is not solely on the cyclist”.

Boris Johnson caused controversy across the cycling world by stating he wants to ban the use of headphones while cycling. This ban would encourage cyclists to become more aware of their surroundings and potentially lessen the amount of cyclists killed on public roads.

Ireland does not currently have laws regarding helmets, hi- visibility wear or headphones while cycling. Dan Martin, an Irish profession cyclist for Team Garmin- Sharpe, said “The blame/claim culture means if you don’t wear one [a helmet], the first thing they will say when you crash is ‘were you wearing a helmet’ but until I was pro I never wore one.” Martin continued by saying the helmet can often create the illusion of invincibility in the cyclist and the real concern should be driver’s awareness.

He stated “it makes people think they are safe if they have their helmet on. When in reality it does very little. It will somewhat protect against fracture and abrasions but concussion they are useless.” Martin is required to use a helmet when racing and acknowledges the issue of headphones while out on busy roads: “I wore headphones once training and it scared the hell out of me. You don’t realise how much you use hearing on a bike”. Cycling Ireland agreed with the movement towards a safer cycling environment for Irish cyclists. A spokesperson for Cycling Ireland concluded by stating that “Increased awareness should lead to fewer incidents, accidents are not caused by not wearing a helmet; they are caused by bad drivers or bad cycling”.

Katelyn Cook