It’s unlikely that Northern Ireland’s Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill will make it into law. The bill was passed to the Environment Committee but is likely to be shelved. At Westminster, a private members’ bill aimed at forcing children to wear helmets for cycling (but not skate-boarding, roller-skating, or tree climbing) is also likely to fall flat on its (unprotected) face.
Part of the reason that a helmet compulsion law has not yet succeeded in the UK is because of opposition from cycle groups such as CTC and Sustrans. Many cycle retailers – who would clearly benefit from the enforced sale of helmets – are also opposed to such laws, claiming that any lives saved by compulsory wearing of helmets would be massively wiped out by a drop in cycling levels: less people cycling would be a net health loss to the nation, and a net loss to the bike trade. Retailers might sell more helmets in the short-term, but in the long-term they’d sell less bikes.
Derek Armstrong, owner of Bike Dock in Belfast, met with the Environment Committee of the Stormont Assembly. He today told the Belfast Telegraph: "Yes, helmets save lives. Yes, everyone should wear them, and we constantly recommend them to cyclists; but if you make it a criminal offence to go out on your bike without one, then you’ll halve the number of cyclists in this town at a stroke."