Cycling in Melbourne Australia
Freestyle Cyclists Australia and New Zealand have a petition going on the home page of their website. The petition calls for the reform of Australia and New Zealands helmet laws to promote cycling in the two countries.
This petition is not about the performance of helmets in a given situation, or about peoples preference for wearing a helmet when cycling. It is about whether people who choose to ride without a helmet should be fined for doing so. The law currently imposes a fine for riding without a helmet on all roads, separated bike trails, National Parks, parks and footpaths. It is illegal to ride the bikeshare bikes in central Melbourne, even when you are unable to find a helmet. The fine is $176 , higher than the fine for speeding. Reform of the law could include removing the law in some or all of these situations or bringing the fine to a more reasonable level.
This is an opportunity for those who prefer to wear a helmet to support those who sometimes or always do not. It will benefit all cyclists if we free Police from the job of fining cyclists to concentrate on more important road safety issues. Furthermore, if more people take up cycling after the repeal of the law, this will increase demand for cycling infrastructure and contribute to a more diverse cycling culture in this country.
The Freestyle Cyclists petition has already received over 1000 signatures and is growing into an important movement in this country. The recent launch of the campaign in Melbourne included speakers from New South Wales, ACT, Queensland and Victoria. The group will be campaigning in each State until the laws are changed.
To support this petition sign-up on the home page :http://www.freestylecyclists.org/
Ignorance of the issue such as you display with that comment, Oscar, is a large part of the issue!
No Oscar, there is no evidence that this is true. Helmets are designed to protect the head from cuts, bruises and abrasions sustained in low speed collisions . They are not tested for crashes at speeds greater than 20kph. Neither the manufactures of helmets nor the Government make the claim that they protect against death or brain damage. There is also no agreement among experts of the degree to which they protect in the event of an accident. Percentage estimates of the degree to which they protect in a collision vary from 0% to 65%.
This petition is not about helmets as a protective device , it is about the failure of the mandatory helmet laws. Since 1996, it has been known that the helmet laws failed to improve road safety. The decline in head injuries after the laws came into effect, has been attributed to the decline in the number of cyclists and the effect of other road safety measures which also brought about a decline in pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Per cyclist,there was no decrease in the death or injury rate - in fact there is some evidence that injuries other than head injuries increased.
This information, which was examined by other countries throughout the world, is the reason that no other country followed Australia's lead in banning cycling without a helmet (other than New Zealand which followed us in 1994). Further, the decline in cycling after the laws came into effect has had a negative impact on Public health due to the decrease in the benefits of excercise. If the laws had been effective in preventing death and brain damage they would have spread throughout the world.
The best way to prevent death and injury to cyclists is to prevent accidents. Helmets may increase the risk of accidents. Countries that concentrate on preventing accidents have the safest cycling records in the world and people do not wear helmets. There is an inverse correlation between a countries helmet wearing rate and the safety of cycling.
The issue then is to stop punishing cyclists for exercising with excessive fines; to get more people cycling and to improve our urban environments. The law has failed and it is time for us to acknowledge this and join the rest of the world.
I'm not ignorant thanks Neil. I've read widely on this issue, acknowledge that much of the data is contradictory, and have a different opinion (it would seem) to you. I do know however, that I have hit come off a MTB several times, and hit my head very hard at least twice. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet I might have had a fractured skull.
I tend to think that if you want to ride on the roads, or do 'extreme' stuff, you owe it to society to make some effort to reduce likely health costs. So I won't be signing your petition.
Oscar, not everyone who is fined for riding without a helmet is at high risk of fracturing their skull. People are being fined for riding carefully at 12kph on off-road bike trails. These people, through exercising, are actually reducing their burden on the health care system. Every time the cost benefit analysis is done, riding without a helmet is better for the health of the individual than not riding at all because the risk of head injury is very small.
If you 'do extreme stuff' you are most welcome to wear a helmet but it is unjust to force the safety equipment appropriate to your riding style on everyone else.
Glad to see you have examined the issues, Oscar. That does not come through in your original comment at all.
There is quite a difference between the use of helmets for "extreme" riding, where all sorts of PPE could sensibly be employed, and the mandating of helmet use in every cycling situation. Adults have the ability to judge risk for themselves and should be allowed to choose when to wear a helmet.
If mandatory cycling helmets are the panacea many, including BV, maintain, why has there not been a world-wide rush to follow the Australian example in the last 20-odd years? Answer: It is a counterproductive law.