A schoolboy from Co Down has embarked on a letter-writing campaign to some of the UK’s most powerful people, voicing concerns that it is not compulsory to wear a cycling helmet.
Joshua Bentley, aged eight from Banbridge, wrote to the Prime Minister Theresa May on the subject and got a response back saying his message has been passed on to the Department for Transport, whose minister Chris Grayling the schoolboy has also written to.
He has also penned further letters to former first minister Arlene Foster, MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Banbridge police chief Wendy Middleton in a bid to prompt legislation to make helmets mandatory for cyclists.
Asked when he first noticed a lot of cyclists did not wear helmets, Joshua said: “It was last summer when we were at our caravan in Kilkeel. I saw so many people cycling and scooting without helmets on.”
Joshua, who has been riding his bike since the age of three, said: “I’ve always worn a helmet. It’s very important for safety, just like wearing a seatbelt when you’re in a car. It should be made into a law.”
His father Michael said: “Joshua asked me how it could be made into a law. I tried to explain to him how Parliament worked and suggested that he write to the prime minister about getting a law passed. He did just that and asked her to make it illegal to cycle without a helmet.
“He was overjoyed when he got a letter back from 10 Downing Street thanking him for his letter.”
Joshua said: “I’d like to see it made law in the next two or three years. I think it won’t happen this year because of Brexit.”
The tale emerged just as Belfast City Council’s bikes-for-hire scheme reaches four years in business.
It is currently the only council in Northern Ireland with a public bike scheme that allows users to hire bikes for use in the council area.
After four years the scheme – now sponsored by Just Eat – has seen over 778,000 journeys made.
The scheme’s 5,500 annual subscribers pay £25 a year, and 3,800 casual users pay £6 for three days’ use. There is also a pay as you go option from £1.
However, it is at the cyclist’s discretion whether they use cycle helmets as it is not something that is enforced by law in the UK.
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said: “Belfast Bikes users are encouraged to wear a helmet, cycle safely, and follow the cycle rules outlined in the Highway Code when they sign up to the scheme; however, there is no legislation in place in Northern Ireland that requires cyclists to wear helmets.”
Only two countries – Australia and New Zealand – require universal use of helmets by cyclists by law.