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Bicycle helmets help prevent serious injuries - but only when collision occurs at speed less than 50kmh


A cyclist braves the rain in Dublin city centre

A cyclist braves the rain in Dublin city centre

A cyclist braves the rain in Dublin city centre

BICYCLE helmets can help prevent serious injuries but only in collisions occurring at speeds of less than 50kmh.

Professor Michael Gilchrist, from UCD’s School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, told a Road Safety Authority (RSA) annual academic lecture that helmets should be mandatory for all cyclists, but the recommendation is unlikely to be enacted.

This is because Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe believes the measure could impact on the roll-out of public bike schemes, and discouraging cycling.

He said the Government was committed to improving road junctions and layouts to reduce collisions, and to encourage better behaviour from motorists, cyclists and all road users.

A study from Professor Gilchrist used data from 37 fatal collisions involving cyclists over a ten-year period, and staged computer reconstructions to determine whether a helmet would have offered more protection.

It found that helmets offered effective protection at low speeds of 50kmh or less, but their protective capability were reduced as speeds increased.

Separate research unveiled at the conference shows that between 2010 and 2014, the National Spinal Injuries Unit saw a 320pc increase in the number of cyclists presenting with a spinal injury.

In 2010, five cyclists presented, which increased to 21 in 2014. Over the five years, 53 cyclists required admission, of which one in five had a spinal cord injury.

Last year, 13 cyclists were killed on the roads - up from five in 2013. Around half of all cyclists are injured at junctions, with right and left-hand turns from drivers the most dangerous manoeuvres, responsible for 40pc of all injuries.

“So far this year, we have 121 incidents involving the loss of life on our roads, and that figure is far too high, “ Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said.

“That’s down 24 on the same period last year.

“The policy of this week is to encourage everybody who’s on a bike to wear a helmet. It’s not something I’m considering making mandatory at the moment through use of law, and the reason is because if I do so, it would have an immediate and negative effect on the roll out of the city bike schemes.”

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) said that more than 80pc of cycling collisions take place in built-up areas.

“Drivers need to respect that cyclists have less protection and therefore they should reduce their speeds accordingly and give cyclists plenty of room, “ chief executive Moyagh Murdock said.

“Cyclists also need to take responsibility for their safety by wearing a helmet and high-vis clothing, and by behaving appropriately on the roads.”

Irish Road Safety week runs until Friday. Among the main themes include cycling safety, tyre safety and child safety.

Some 244 cyclists have been issued with fixed-charge notices, with most incurred for breaking red lights.

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