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Friday 22 August 2014

Cycle helmets still optional as road death toll rises

Joe Leogue

Published 03/07/2014 | 02:30

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Minister Alan Kelly gets a push from the Mayor of Limerick Michael Sheahan at the unveiling of one of the Limerick city bikes earlier this month. Photo Liam Burke/Press 22

THE Government has no plans to legislate to make cyclists wear helmets, the Junior Transport Minister said.

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Minister Alan Kelly was yesterday unveiling the design of the new bikes for the Cork, Limerick and Galway public bicycle scheme, less than 24 hours after the death of a cyclist.

Eyewitnesses said the victim in his 40s, who died after hitting a bollard on Shandon Street on the north side of Cork city, had not been wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.

Minister Kelly, speaking at the bike scheme launch in Cork's City Hall, said the Government has no plans to compel cyclists to wear protective headgear.

"There are many different opinions on this around the world. Really people should wear helmets but making it obligatory is probably something that has been looked at many times and people have come down on the side of not doing so for many different reasons," he said.

"But really people should be wearing helmets particularly if they are doing long-distance journeys or journeys where there is high density of traffic."

Minister Kelly said that the Government would continue to support Road Safety Authority campaigns, promotions such as Bike Week and improve cycling infrastructure to make the roads safer for cyclists.

"The volume of people cycling has gone through the roof, it's increasing everywhere across Ireland, so because of that we are seeing a proportionality of more accidents but we have to limit those.

"There is no plan to bring in mandatory use of helmets but I think it is something that everyone should consider very, very strongly," he said.

The Cork Public Bicycle Scheme is expected to launch in September, with 320 bikes available at stations across business and college-orientated locations across the city.

The scheme is expected to cost €10 a year for cyclists, who will be charged an extra 50 cent if they take a bike out for longer than half an hour.

The scheme is sponsored by Coca-Cola, but Minister Kelly dismissed suggestions it is inappropriate to have a soft drinks company back a public health initiative given the links between sugary drinks and obesity. "To counter that argument you could also say is it not more important that we get more people out cycling to deal with the issue of obesity which is the issue others have raised in relation with this?" he said.

Minister Kelly said that the awarding of the tender to sponsor the scheme was a matter for the National Transport Authority.

"I'm quite satisfied that this wouldn't have happened unless we got a company of the stature of Coca-Cola on board. This wouldn't have happened and you wouldn't have had bikes on the street in September," he said.

An expansion of the Dublin Bike scheme is under way, with members undertaking more than six million journeys on the bikes since the scheme opened in September 2009.

Irish Independent

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