Mandatory bike helmet laws are daft

16 08 2010

On the Australian ABC it is reported that Associate Professor Chris Rissel, from Sydney University’s School of Public Health, has said that mandatory helmet laws should be revoked. Read the story.

“What it does is it puts people off cycling and makes people think that cycling’s a dangerous activity, even though it’s a really healthy thing to do and it increases people’s physical activity,” he said.

The amazing thing about the helmet laws is how passionately views are held by some people, always ready to trot out an anecdote in a comments section of a blog or news story, and to hold that anecdote up against all the data that says that mandatory helmet laws are counterproductive. If proof by anecdote was any proof at all we’d all be visiting the homeopath on the way to our blood-lettings and exorcisms.

There are also passionate people for the abolition of mandatory helmet wearing.  Sue Abbott is one passionate lady who knows all about it. I think she is great.

I recommend this link about bike helmets in Western Australia too. And for New Zealand.

Mandatory bike helmet laws are bad policy and seem to be the preserve of certain English speaking countries. The Europeans and the Japanese must think we are stupid for having them. They’d be right.

What can we do to get over this imposition against our liberties, and see sound science based policy? We’re facing a federal election in Australia (although check out the NZ Greens Cycling Policy and see they aren’t 100% aligned with best practice) and local elections soon in NZ. We need to vote for cyclists (well apart from Tony Abbott), and cycling friendly candidates. Do you know what your candidates views are on cycling policy? Ask them.

NZ Green Party Cycling spokesperson Kevin Hague, with an unnecessary helmet. Pinched from the Greens Website



5 responses

17 08 2010
Patrick Morgan

Aaron’s tragedy spurred Helmet Lady’s crusade

Aaron Oaten, the brain-damaged son of “the Helmet Lady” who furiously campaigned to make cycle helmets compulsory in New Zealand, has died at 37.

Mr Oaten passed away in Palmerston North’s Arohanui Hospice on Saturday, after 24 years living as a tetraplegic, paralysed from the neck down after a bicycle accident in 1986.


17 08 2010

That is very sad, especially as Aaron was the same age as me, and I was probably riding to school in Adelaide on the same day.

The Pioneer Highway now has off road bicycle facilities as seen here

True safety comes from good bicycle infrastructure, not from the ice cream tub. It is of course hugely tragic when something like that happens, but we’ve got to take a step backwards, and ask scientifically valid questions about the pros and the cons. There are times when I would wear my helmet, and there are times when I wouldn’t bother. When I feel safe I don’t need to wear it (but I still do, because it is the law). The real thing to do is to make more safe places to ride.

19 10 2011

I have to say that when I went to New Zealand, and went on a bike in Paeroa, I was shocked that a helmet was compulsory. I had to put on a pink helmet, and I felt so awkward. I like the idea of helmets being compulsory, but then again I find it a bit pointless. It is like wrapping yourself in bubblewrap before you go out for the day. It also gives motorists the idea that you are being very safe, and they will edge closer to you.

I know there is a cycle sharing program currently in effect in Sydney, but the ridership is minimal. The main reason is, because bike helmets are compulsory in Australia. So, what was a great idea actually is not working out all to well. I know that they are thinking of attaching quick helmets to increase ridership.

It is a shame of what happened to that woman’s son. I think that in some sense though, bike helmets provide a false sense of security. If anything, the cycle routes should be improved, and their should be an education program for motorists, and how they can best share the road with cyclists.

19 11 2011
Mandatory helmets, cycling policies and who to vote for. « Wellington Region Cycleways

[…] The good people at Helmet Freedom have taken perhaps the inevitable step of subtitling the Fall of Berlin movie, noting the failure of the Melbourne and Brisbane helmet schemes especially in regards to mandatory bike helmets. […]

20 11 2011

I have cycled a bicycle for fifty years wihout wearing an infantile helmet, and will continue till the end of my days, it’s my right to cycle unhelmeted, I taught myself to cycle during the early sixties, without all that health and safety crap, if it becomes law here in the uk, I will make it my right to break that infantile law, it’s that simple.

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