Cyclists (Protective Headgear) Bill: Second Stage
Private Members’ Business
I thank the Member. He was clear that he was absolutely opposed to any form of legislation. However, I say to him again and to all Members that the important thing was to allow the Committee to examine all the facts thoroughly, including the rights and wrongs and uses of cycling helmets and to look at other areas.
The Minister outlined in great detail his Department’s position. I met departmental officials on this issue and sensed some encouragement from them. The Minister said that he had listened to cycling groups. Did he listen to any other groups? There is a raft of groups. I must say that he acknowledged the contribution of Headway and the significant contribution of the medical profession, which works in difficult and distressing circumstances when dealing with parents.
I admit that there is a bewildering array of arguments, and that is why I wanted the Committee for the Environment to examine the Bill much more thoroughly than we are doing here. This was about the general principle of the Bill. Members opted to cherry-pick elements of it. That is up to them; that is what we are here for.
Cathal Boylan, as Chairperson of the Committee, spoke about the Committee seeking information and evidence from the Department.
He said that the Committee asked the Department whether it would consider the introduction of the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets. That was so long ago. As my colleague Conall McDevitt said, we need to be looking at up-to-date models of best practice, even when it comes to the manufacturing of helmets. I am not sure whether the Environment Committee had the opportunity, and I will give way if necessary, even to look at the Bill. It would have been a good measure for the Committee to do that.
I made the point very early in the debate that there were no circumstances under which I wanted to criminalise anyone for not wearing a cycle helmet. That was clearly instilled in the Bill. The Chairperson referred to that.
I know that the Committee is under serious pressure, given that other pieces of legislation are coming through, but, because of the sensitive nature of the Bill, I am disappointed that more time could not have been taken to deliberate on it.
Alistair Ross was honest enough to say that he was totally against the Bill. He talked about awareness and the general principles of the Bill, saying that it was well intentioned. He made a point that we all agree with: we want to see more people wearing cycle helmets. The figures are alarming. A 2008 survey indicated that on major roads, in built-up areas, 34% of adult cyclists and only 17% of child cyclists wore helmets. That is not good enough when it comes to trying to reduce the number of accidents on our roads.