Bicycle advocates say a new law in Cyprus that requires cyclists to wear helmets on the road is not the right answer, arguing an austere approach does not make things safer but could result to other problems including unintended consequences.
On Wednesday a new law went into effect in the Republic of Cyprus that requires cyclists and bicycle passengers to wear protective helmets at all times or face a €50 fine.
But a group of professional and bicycle advocates, including academic researchers, says the law was enacted after politicians decided to ignore scientific studies and findings.
According to Philenews, which named a number of individuals who are involved in the cycling world, the group argued the law was a “step backwards” because other countries had already scrapped the mandatory use “that overestimates the helmet’s protection to cyclists and underestimates the many benefits from cycling as a means of transportation.”
The group said there was no data or consultations before legislators took up the issue, adding that there was even no statistics in regards to the number of bicycles on the road, number of collisions and under what circumstances, which the helmet supposedly could prevent.
'Collisions involving cyclists on Cyprus’ road network take place due to badly designed intersections, traffic light programming, high speed limits, and poor driver behavior' the group said
“Collisions involving cyclists on Cyprus’ road network take place due to badly-designed intersections, traffic light programming, high speed limits, and poor driver behavior,” the group said, adding that forcing cyclists to put a helmet on “is not an answer to any of the above.”
But DIKO MP Chrisis Pantelides, who sponsored the bill last year, points out that the helmet offers protection.
“So given that this is an indisputable reality and given the fact that our cities do not yet have sufficient infrastructure for the safest possible use of bicycles, we thought it necessary to make bicycle helmets mandatory,” Pantelides said.
But the jury is still out on whether fines could make streets safer for cyclists.
Experts say that lack of proper infrastructure basically pits cyclists against motorists who use the same road, with some foreign researches also arguing that streets may be less safe in such conditions.
An online banner that criticized the new law pointed out that politicians believed only a helmet could make cyclists safer, while adding that researchers listed a different factors such as bicycle lanes, training drivers to respect cyclists, lowering speed limits in mixed roads, car-free zones in local boroughs, among others.
Police also weighed in after the criticism, with officials saying officers were more likely to fine helmetless violators in busy streets with vehicular traffic and not be as strict in secondary or service roads where not many cars go through.
The official, who spoke on state radio Thursday morning, said out of four fatalities involving cyclists, two of them were not wearing helmets.
Experts say wearing a helmet could reduce the odds of suffering a head injury by 0.5, meaning they this could cut the risk in half.
The professional group, which pushes for initiatives to make the bicycle more popular, says they want to look at the data and bring back discussion to the House committees.
“Such legislation has been proven to criminalize bicycle use, bring about a decline in the number of cyclists, and shift responsibility for the lack of safe infrastructure onto the users,” the group said, adding there would be a chain reaction in terms of consequences.
The group says it aims at having the law rescinded.