Cycle man Stormont-bound

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A TOP official with Ballymoney Cycling Club is set to give evidence to a Stormont Committee to make his views known on the possible introduction of a law which will see cyclists fined £50 if they don’t wear headgear.

Maurice McAllister, who is the Public Relations Officer with the Ballymoney Club and is also a safety officer with ‘Cycle Ulster’, says he agrees people should wear helmets if they are on a bicycle but he does not believe the new legislation will be enforceable.

Northern Ireland Assembly members have already voted in favour of a bill to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory.

The second stage of the Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill was passed by a margin of two votes.

If it eventually becomes law cyclists not wearing a helmet will be liable for a £50 fine.

Cycling organisations have warned it could lead to a dramatic drop in the number of people who cycle.

SDLP Foyle MLA Pat Ramsey piloted the draft legislation due to be debated in the Assembly. Parents would have to pay a £50 penalty if their child was caught without safety headgear. However, penalties can be suspended if it is a first offence and if the child later purchases protective equipment.

The move has been welcomed by medics.

Speaking last week after Northern Ireland Assembly members voted in favour of a bill to make the wearing of cycle helmets compulsory, Dr Paul Darragh, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s Council in Northern Ireland said: “BMA welcomes that the Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill, sponsored by Mr Pat Ramsey MLA, has been passed by the Assembly. As part of a range of measures to improve cycling safety, BMA has advocated that cycle helmet wearing should be made compulsory.

“It is doctors who witness and treat the range of cycle related injuries after they occur and see first hand the devastating impacts cycling injuries can have”.

Dr Darragh concluded: “Best evidence supports the use of cycle helmets. They have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury and its severity should it occur in non-fatal collisions. The consequences of traumatic brain injury are significant not only to the individual involved, but to their families and to society as a whole”.

Maurice McAllister, meanwhile, told the Times this week: “I absolutely agree 100 per cent with the wearing of helmets but to enforce it I can’t see it is possible.

“Wearing of helmets should be encouraged but there should be more going into the education side of things and when our cycling clubs have races helmets have to be worn but I can’t see in this day and age when the police have issues with things like security that they will be out trying to round up kids and fine them for not wearing a helmet whilst out on a bike.

“This is not a nanny state and people should have the freedom of choice whether to wear a helmet or not,” said Maurice.

Some people believe being forced to buy a helmet will put people off getting involved in cycling.

Maurice said: “If this enforcement comes in the government should put in place a subsidy scheme to help people buy helmets.”

And he fears it could have an impact on schemes like ‘Cycle to Work’ aimed at getting people out of cars.