Helmets Off!

Right To Ride – Helmets Off!

21st September 2009

Following on from our successful petrol station campaign we are further raising the issue regarding removing helmets in petrol stations.


Common Practice – the universal practice of walking into a bank: would you walk into a bank and not expect to be asked to take your helmet off?

In fact would you be given the opportunity to be asked? Or would the alarms start sounding with the arrival of a posse of armed police?

Is this discrimination against motorcyclists?

Why should a petrol station be any different?

tescohelmetA petrol station may have cash and products that can be stolen in store, apart from the actual petrol. Operators need to protect their staff (often young staff) and livelihood.

What seems apparent is that at every petrol station, whether it is the people who are managing (franchising) them or who own the station rights (the companies), are just making the rules up as they go along, even amongst the same petrol chain, because there is no universal code of conduct.

There appears to be an ad hoc policy advised to petrol stations by “security advisors” that motorcyclists must remove helmets, either before filling up on the forecourt or before they enter the petrol station shop or even to prepay during normal operating hours before pumps are operated.

Signs are sometimes displayed on petrol pumps, sometimes on the door of the shop, these signs are not generic, they usually only mention motorcyclists/bikers and not all head coverings that can hide a person‘s face.

More often than not, motorcyclists are advised through tannoy systems on the forecourt, for all to hear, that they must remove their helmets before being served, or arm waving gesticulations by cashiers from the till inside the petrol station shop or approached physically on the forecourt.

What Is Needed?

An agreeable universal sign that can be used by petrol stations whether there is an actual issue or perceived threat of drive offs (bilking) and thefts.

What other options can they take to protect their staff and more probably their livelihood from drive offs or robberies, without being seen to discriminate against one section of the community!

What is the actual scale of the problem? Or is it just easy to adopt a policy of helmet removal without consideration of genuine honest law abiding customers who wear a motorcycle helmet.

Are petrol stations across Northern Ireland being robbed by people wearing helmets and on motorcycles and if this is the reason for the “company policy”?

For example, what type of motorcycle was it, road legal, motocross type or Quad, age of rider, was the motorcycle stolen?

Are We The Common Threat?

The issue is the head covering and the potential for that person to automatically be seen as a threat.

The common threat is not the motorcyclist, it is the inability to identify people covering their heads – but that can include woolly (or not) hats, caps, hooded tops, possibly scarves, shawls and even wigs (because these can change your appearance) – and so on – that is the bottom line.

There are side issues about removing helmets – people who wear glasses, especially during colder weather or and when it’s raining or changes of temperature and putting helmets back on with all the problems of misting. Also is there a distinction between full faced or open faced helmets and whether the visor is up or down?


Most if not all petrol stations in Northern Ireland operate CCTV cameras, it would appear that most of these systems only view the front of a vehicle and as we know motorcycles only have a number plate on the rear, so these systems are useless regarding motorcycles but that’s not our problem if the petrol station owners/companies have not thought about this.

Recordings would be useless if vehicles have false plates fitted for identification after the fact, so for motorcyclists it would seem these cameras are used to identify the rider, which can’t be done if wearing a helmet, or in fact, any other person hiding their identity by covering their head.

This is where it becomes a minefield for petrol station owners – they go for the easy option.

This leads to cases of highly frustrated motorcyclists who will turn away their custom and advice family, friends and other motorcyclists to take their custom elsewhere.

This discrimination could lead to a boycott, therefore the petrol station ends up losing business that they were trying to protect.

What To Do?

Don’t take it out on the employee at the petrol station, they are usually just following what the company or local policy may be..

Ask to see the boss to find out if they have a written policy.

Write letters to the owners of the forecourts to find out what their policy is regarding the removal of helmets or any other head cover?

Send us your story of helmet removal requests.

Send us a picture or example of notices/signs in petrol stations.

What We are Doing

We are contacting petrol station operators/associations regarding the matter.

We need your input and opinion.

Bikers Tales

Bikers Tale 1#

tescohelmet2smallOn Saturday evening (12 September 2009) I went for a short spin on the bike and stopped at Sainsbury’s petrol station, Sprucefield, Lisburn to fill up.

I then proceeded to pay the checkout assistant when she said to me “Has anyone commented on your helmet?”

I replied” Why yes thank you, lots of people have told me it’s very shiny”

She said ” That’s not what I meant!”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Did you not see the notice in the window?”

“No” I replied.

She said” We are gently and quietly trying to introduce a policy of no helmets”

I said ” Why do you get many drive offs without paying?”

“None” she said. ” Well then what’s the problem?” I said.

“It’s because of robbers” she said.

I said “Do you get many robbers on motorbikes?”

”None but it’s just in case!” she said.

I said “What is the policy on ski masks?” and left it at that.

Bikers Tale 2#

One of the garages I would usually us to fill up is only 700 yards from my house.

I went recently to fill up and the pump would not work.

A young lad came out and said “its company policy you must remove your helmet or no petrol”.

I was shocked and then drove of to another garage. I would rather travel past this garage than be humiliated like that.

What ever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”.

I am 51 years young and I don’t go round stealing a tenner’s worth of petrol, this is just another insult as bikers we have to suffer.

The garage in on the Gransha Road, Bangor the BP garage run by Henderson Group.

Bikers Tale 3#

The Spar shop and petrol station on the Bushmills Road Coleraine, has today Friday 17th April 2009 put a rather large sign up on the automatic door of the shop, asking motorcyclists to remove helmets and hoodies before entering.

I know this was a problem in other places and we don’t want it spreading across the country, I think this is a pure disgrace and makes me feel that the owners of this petrol station should be told, that just because we walk in with crash helmets on we are not going to rob them.

I know this shop has been robbed a few times but never once heard that the culprits left on motorcycles or even that they wore crash helmets, I hate this as it makes other folk look at all bikers as crooks, I got a few weird looks as I walked in with helmet on head, even though mine is open face and stood with it on as I paid for my fuel.

Bikers Tale 4#

The Moat garage in Donaghadee has adopted the policy of not turning on the pumps for bikers if they don’t remove their helmets.

Bikers Tale 5#

I am always glad of the opportunity to take my helmet off – so I don’t have a problem with these signs.

Please Read This First

Right To Ride comments: We will enact our own version of Godwin’s law (or Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies) – you lost any credibility in the debate – which includes any reference to colour, creed or sexual orientation and specifically to head coverings – usually meaning the burkha, bourkha, burka or burqu’, burqa, as this in our opinion has no place in this debate. It is about motorcyclists and removal of their helmet and the reasons why this is being requested and whether we should or not. It is not about what others are “permitted” to do!

Share Button