Police on bikes at the local station stopped a number of people for not wearing helmets. Fair enough, but then I considered the penalty these people faced, a fine of $50.

The riders, there were three of them, included a woman, probably in her fifties, who looked as though she may have been a pensioner - the bike was old, she was wearing a dress, and of course, no helmet.

Having been knocked off my bike and hitting the ground head first, I am glad I was wearing a helmet - the helmet shattered, I was concussed which is a far, far better result than skull shattered and dead! So I understand the value of helmets.

The less well-off would struggle to pay the fine - it represents a considerable slug of their income (most of which is probably not disposable anyway!).

My solutions:-
One, make the fine a percentage of income - the poor can afford the fine and if a highly paid person gets a high fine, well, you wonder why they are paid heaps when thy are patently stupid to not wear a helmet!
or
Two, just like cars with an unroadworthy sticker, the rider must present themselves at the local police station with a helmet (educative and not as expensive as the fine!) if it is their first offence, for subsequent nabbings, then hit them with the fine.

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First of all, if you can't afford the fine, don't do the crime.

However, as somebody who has had MANY offs in the younger years and grew up in a pre-helmet era, helmets, like traffic lights, a motoring solution to a motoring problem. Compulsory helmeting was an admission by the authorities that they had neither the will nor the ability to restrict the madness that is nearly unrestricted personal automobile use.

I would never go out in traffic without a helmet, and I resent that. The thing that hooked me on cycling in the late 70s and early 80s was the freedom. Read Persig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" to get an understanding of what I'm talking about, but remove the noise of the engine and the helmet - zen on steroids ;-)

I seriously considered abandoning cycling when helmet laws were brought in, many people my age and older did. I owned a helmet before it was compulsory, and wore it in peak hour traffic or while belting down the side of Mt Wellington. I resented having the responsibility for my own safety choices being taken from me for the sake of a few, teen BMX bandits who to this day are a group who rarely wear lids, and rarely get prosecuted because they're underage.

So, long story short, I have sympathy for the woman you describe. It's likely not so much a case of not having the money, $25 at K-Mart is not so hard to raise if cycling is important to you, even on a pension, as a case of, "I'm a responsible adult, I can look after my own safety by not putting myself into dangerous situations."

Right or wrong, I respect her choice and resent laws foist on us by the motoring community, simply because they won't slow down.
The points I am making are that helmets are a good thing, personally, I think my brain is worthy of protection, and also my good looks, (hmm, maybe an abrupt meeting with ground could be beneficial!).

And not all bike riders are rich enough to afford $7000 carbon fibre bikes, some riders, particularly the ones in Sunshine being fined for not wearing a helmet, have only a geriatric bike as their sole means of transport, and even $40 puts strain on their budget.

A fine takes money away from the indigent that could be better spent on a helmet.

Mobile phone users in cars are a menace to themselves and other road users because of their inattentiveness and should be punished.
Agree absolutely, the unroadworthy, unregistered car with inebriated, unlicensed deivers needs to be stamped out - they do indeed prsent an unacceptable risk.

Maybe the police on their treadlies should select a car park and check for roadworthiness and rego

I admit that on some roads I feel nervous because of the the idiot drivers who see how close they can get to me, who blast their horns in attempt to frighten me - these hoons seem to be from the lower level of the intelligence curve
I wouldn't lump unregistered cars in with inebriated drivers, or even unroadworthy cars.
An unregistered car is not neccessarily more dangerous than a registered one, and nor is an unroadworthy car.
A frey in a seatbelt can make a car unroadworthy but unlikey to increase the threat to cyclists.

I've seen plenty of dangerous driving by un-inebriated drivers in registered and roadworthy cars.

I'd say that the risk to a cyclist from a car is 99.9% the nut behind the wheel - inebriated or not and regardless of the car (or bus...) that they drive.
Oh, and as for helmets, in the 23 years that I have been using one it has only saved my life once.
And that is exactly why helmets are good - although some people should be banned from wearing a helmet lol
Here's a radical solution - repeal the helmet laws. I don't believe their introduction has anything to do with safety but everything to do with making life difficult for recreational cyclists. Helmets are expensive - $40 is a lot of money out of the average pension - they're uncomfortable and fiddly, and the penalties are excessively punitive.

I do recognise the value of helmets in certain circumstances. I choose to always wear a helmet in the city and I always have, whether in the UK, Europe or US because I reckon there is a significant chance I might come off and need its protection. Also wear one if I'm going for a training ride. But in the country, or in the park or just nipping out to the shops, falling off is as likely as tripping up while walking.

By the way, I also don't wear a helmet when I'm playing soccer, jogging along the street, running after my kids in the playground. All are recognised as perfectly safe activities safe but, relatively speaking, would carry much higher risks of potential head injuries than hopping on my bike.

In the UK right now, cycling is being heavily promoted as a safe, healthy, environmentally friendly activity. All the publicity shots show happy, recreational cyclists without helmets. They have a much better understanding of the risks and much greater respect for people making their own decisions.
And adding to the "20 to 40 percent" drop in cycling statistic, the video also compares 300 swimmers drowning a year to 40 cyclists a year being killed - where are the compulsory PFDs?

And the Judge dismissing Bill Curnow's evidence, that's a miscarriage of justice. Sadly these happen all the time and the brother judges stick together in the interests of public safety.

I hadn't realised that helmet laws were only regional in North America! So Oz and Kiwi land are the only places in the world where compulsory helmeting is the dominant paradigm? It doesn't surprise me.
Since returning to cycling in 1996 I've had two particularly bad bingles where wearing a helmet probably saved me from severe injury or worse. Although I've been in several more bingles where wearing cycling gloves also saved my hands from severe injuries or worse. Moral, if any? Improve road conditions for all road users ...
I have noticed loads of people riding around melbourne lately not wearing helmets. I feel like I spot someone without one nearly every second day. I worry for these people. All you need to do is hit your head badly and you're dead. What's a life worth? Put a skid lid on and save worries about fines, or worse still cracking your skull open.
I've been reading research around helmet safety since this thread started. Previously my view was much the same as yours Polecat - I've always voluntarily worn a helmet when riding in the city or on training rides in Australia and elsewhere (London, France, Italy, US) because I figure there's a heightened chance in these cases of an 'off' - why not protect yourself.

But the safety factor appears to be much less conclusive than you might think - especially for children.

Helmets seem to offer protection from direct 90-degree blows to the head - eg head-butting the road, tree or car. And helmets reduce abrasion injuries.

But there's a second equally dangerous type of blow that helmets may actually make worse. Glancing blows (the majority of head blows) cause head and brain rotation and can damage the spinal cord. Brain rotation is very damaging, particulalry in children. Helmets make the situation worse in two ways: 1) the increased size actually makes the likliehood of a head impact greater - ie a near miss becomes a glancing blow 2) the extra radius and mass of the helmet increases the angular momentum of the head and brain. A child's head being lighter than an adult head sees this effect magnified.

Finally, helmets also make it more difficult to wear proper sun protection. A small peaked cap can certainly be worn with only a little difficulty but the kind of proper wide-brimmed protection recommended by cancer experts is impossible - again this is particularly an issue with children's sensitive skin.

This won't stop me wearing a helmet in Australia - 99% of the time - but it does convince me of the need to push for helmets to be voluntary.

As for my own kids - they would rather leave their bikes in the shed, soon to be joined by their scooters now the law is changing, rather than wear a helmet. But those well known paragons of safe mobility, skateboards and roller blades are still exempt. Weird.

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