Monday, June 22, 2009

Helmet Laws

One of the great impediments to bringing in a public bike share/rental program here in sydney is our anti bicycle helmet laws. The Danish parliament has just overturned an attempt by some misguided politicians to bring in helmet laws in one of the World's safest cycling countries. This at a time when Danish people are getting fatter and cycling less! Bringing in helmet laws would make cycling seem dangerous and lots of people would stop riding. Luckily it got voted down.

The United Kingdom's National Cyclists Organisation, succeeded in lobbying against a similar law and published a brochure that they sent to politicians in which they wrote 7 reasons to oppose a child helmet law:

1. The principal threats to children's lives are obesity, heart disease and other illnesses resulting in large part from inactivity. Cycling has a key role to play in preventing these illnesses. Less cycling through a helmet law would aggravate the situation.
2. Cycling is a healthy activity, and the likelihood of serious head injury is widely exaggerated.
3. Cycling becomes safer the more people do it. Encouraging cycling is by far the most effective way of reducing risk of injury.
4. Helmet promotion deters cycling and leads to poorer health.
5. The benefits of helmets are greatly over-stated.
6. Many other everyday activities could benefit more from helmet-wearing than cycling.
7. A helmet law would make it a crime for children to take part in a health giving activity.

Via Copenhagen


yewenyi said...

Recently I looked into helmet laws and was quite surprised by what I found:

...and here is a finding that uses quite a lot of statistics from the Bicycle Federation of Australia, who find:

The fact that little or no obvious effect can be seen in hospital data does not imply cyclists choosing to wear lightweight, comfortable, well fitting helmets, will not benefit, provided they do not ride on more dangerous roads or take less care. The relatively small effects from helmet laws must, however, be contrasted with the large effect on numbers of cyclists and better responses from other road safety campaigns


Cazzbo said...

Hats (or helmets) off to this post! If only we could!

The solution is not to increase cyclists' protective fortifications (what next, for Aussies, compulsory chain-mail armour??). INSTEAD the solution is to adjust laws so that the onus is on *motorists* to give way to cyclists, and thus create a different culture for cyclists (which does rely on separated infrastructure, but permits cyclists be safer in environments shared with motor vehicles).

When, in Australia, will we more forwards? Not backwards, as we did in 1990 with the draconian introduction of compulsory helmet laws, with all the associated obstacles to increasing the acceptance of cycling as a valid, practical and sustainable means of transportation. To whom (of influence) can these items be sent??