Spinal injuries suffered by cyclists have more than tripled in just four years, according to a top Irish surgeon.
The number of cyclists suffering spinal injuries rose 320pc - from five in 2010 to 21 last year - said Seamus Morris, director of the National Spinal Injuries Unit.
The consultant orthopaedic surgeon also told a Road Safety Authority seminar in Dublin yesterday that one-in-five of the 53 cyclists with spinal injuries were left paralysed.
The vital role of bicycle helmets was highlighted at the seminar. Helmets help prevent serious injury in collisions at speeds of less than 50kph.
Professor Michael Gilchrist of University College Dublin's School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering called for cycling helmets to be made compulsory.
However, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe told the seminar that making helmets mandatory could affect the roll-out of public bike schemes and discourage cycling.
He said the Government was committed to improving road junctions and layouts to reduce collisions, and to encourage better behaviour from all road users.
"The number of cyclists on our roads has increased - and so too has the number of cycling-related injuries and fatalities. Cyclists are among the most vulnerable road-users, so it is vital that safety measures - such as helmets and high-vis clothing - are taken," said Minister Donohoe.
He appealed to cyclists to obey the rules of the road. He also appealed for drivers to be cautious and considerate when sharing the roads with cyclists.
"In particular, reduce your speed when you approach a cyclist - as this could be the difference between life and death in the event of a collision," he said.
Last year, 13 cyclists were killed on Irish roads - more than double the number killed in 2013. Almost half of cyclists injured in 2012 were injured at junctions, with T-junctions being the most dangerous.
'Reduce your speed when you approach a cyclist as this could be the difference between life and death'