Very good article on helmets in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Until our infrastructure gets safer, I'll keep wearing my hard hat in Australia, but in Europe I like to feel the wind in my hair.

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Comment by Peter Robinson on November 3, 2010 at 10:45am
As adults we need to be treated as though we can work out what is good for us and can make a rational choice.
I can think of a number of areas of research or reasoning that tell me the rational choice would be to not worry about wearing a helmet.
It might be that the likelyhood of drivers steering closer when you wear a helmet is higher. 8.5 cm over 1.3 metres average passing distance. Which translates as 23% more likely to come within a metre. Some interpret that as meaning the car is then twice as likely to hit the bike.
I might decide that the need for the helmet to not be too thick, which is likely to increase diffuse axonal injury, also means they can offer no sun protection. I might consider that important in the country with the highest skin cancer rates in the world.(The helmet has, required by law, a little "No modifications" sticker. You are not supposed to add a brim to one as it will increase the already inherent likelyhood of diffuse axonal injury.)
One life in two lived in Australia contracts skin cancer, while one bicycle-riding lifetime in tens of thousands experiences a head injury. A helmet has an SPF of 1.5 while a 75mm brimmed hat SPF 7.
A helmet can present unexpected probems. I did buy a helmet with a breakaway peak that would offer some protection, but in the 2-3 years of using it from day one till I stopped using it, the helmet would reverse the sounds of the traffic from front to rear and vice-versa. This was an un-nerving peculiarity of that helmet and I never could adapt to it.
I would like to know that my government respects my capacity to decide this issue for myself on the basis of the information at hand instead of being treated like a child over it.
As adults we should demand the choice.
Comment by Rebeka Axon on November 3, 2010 at 9:38am
In the debates occurring around bike helmet laws many of the arguments are not put in context. I agree with bike helmets being worn in higher risk situations i.e. kids, inexperienced cyclists, dangerous sports, couriers etc but if you are on designated bike paths, riding on roads with bike lanes, observing what is going on around you at all times (as a car driver should be doing too) then the chances of you falling off your bike are minimal. It is also assumed that if you fall off your bike you fall on your head at full speed first (or that is how i interpret many peoples reasoning for helmets). Most of the injuries that are likely to be sustained are leg, arm, hand and bike frame! I am not saying not to wear helmets but give us a choice in the matter.
Comment by David_G on November 2, 2010 at 10:42pm
Cycling isn't a dangerous activity, falling off is. A helmet is not a lot but some sort of protection for when "shite happens". Acquired brain injury is a terrible thing, and helmets are just a small way of minimising the risk of injury to a very important organ.
They are even compulsory in the tour de France now and those bys are the best riders anywhere.
Comment by Rebeka Axon on November 2, 2010 at 7:51pm
I believe that wearing a helmet should be a choice and not a law (like it is in almost every other country in the world). I have been doing a lot of reading and researching recently and find it disturbing to learn some of the facts. A very interesting site is this
I have been a cyclist for almost all my life (starting when I was 4) and most of them I have not worn a helmet as I was not living in Australia when the laws were introduced. Ironically enough now that I have to wear a helmet I feel unsafer. If you are an experienced road/bike path cyclist who observes rules , rides with an awareness of what is going on around you, rides with confidence and not fear (when riding in fear you are more likely to have an accident or not be aware of what is happening around you) then cycling is a very safe and healthy mode of transport. Unfortunately by governments penalising and suggesting that cycling is a dangerous activity it instills a fear in people. Surely as a country with one of the highest rates of obesity and contributors to the rise of green house gases cycling should be encouraged. If laws are repealed and cyclist have a choice then more people may be inspired to enjoy the safe activity that cycling is.
Comment by Peter Robinson on November 2, 2010 at 7:35pm
" Some motorcyclists will still try to convince you that they should have exemptions too."
The USA states were forced to put in motorcycle helmet laws the year before our federal government forced our states to put in bicycle helmet laws via the same method, threatening to withdraw funding for highway improvement.
Our government must have thought it was a clever strategy although possibly unconstitutional and copied it directly.
Interestingly, fully one half the American states repealed the compulsory motorcycle helmet law within a few short years.
They must value different things there.

I note with interest the adds on right now telling motorcyclists "that it is up to them to reduce their risk".
They ride them FOR the risk.
Comment by Peter Robinson on November 2, 2010 at 5:34pm
David, the thing is the people who are not using the bike share scheme are NOT hardened non-helmet people but just ordinary people who find it an inconvenience.
Its no use telling us.
Its the masses without an opinion who will still be inconvenienced.

Seatbelt law never caused anything like the fuss because every group who argued for an exemption, such as the drivers of large trucks, got one.
Somehow our governments do not think ANY cyclists should have exemptions and will not explain why.
Relative to the seatbelt law it is simply not fair.
Comment by David_G on November 2, 2010 at 4:50pm
I don't understand all the fuss, just harden up and wear your helmet! this same argument raged when compulsory seat belt wearing came in and even when the .05 laws and random breath testing started. If you come off and hit your head, even that thin layer of foam is going to lessen the damage to your scone and the mildly important organ inside it. Some motorcyclists will still try to convince you that they should have exemptions too.
It's all about as relevant as the flat earth society to me
Comment by Jim Coates on October 7, 2010 at 9:25pm
I could agree with the doctor about making non helmet wearing cyclists pay for their own brain surgery. As long as we also make smokers, overweight people and inactive unfit car drivers pay for cardio and respiratory surgery. I also recall some research that showed that regular cyclists save the community quite a large amount of money in health care. Shouldn't we get some payback for this.
Comment by Peter Robinson on September 24, 2010 at 9:45pm
Sandra and Richard,
You suggested seatbelt law as similar to helmets law.
This has often been said.
Nobody except me seems to have realised that there are exemptions for seatbelt wearing.
If you are in a vehicle that goes under 25 kph or did not have seatbelt mounting points from manufacture or doing work that requires getting in and out of the cabin alot you are exempt. There are more exemptions.
When you see tractor drivers remember they are exempt as also are a good many truck drivers and any vintage car driver. I spend about a quarter of my driving time legally without a seatbelt.
The helmet law debate ramped up recently when it was realised the bike share scheme needed a relaxation of the laws or at least an exemption.
It is proving to be difficult because there was never any provision allowed for exemptions.
Why is it fair for there to be exemption for seatbelts when they are easily proven to be effective and dont cause a deleterious change in vehicle use culture like we have seen with bicycle use?
Similarly to how there are all kinds of motor vehicles, and ways of using them, there are all kinds of bicycles and ways of using them and the law should reflect this.
Comment by Sandra L on September 19, 2010 at 6:41pm
Fascinating, I must visit Holland with my folding bicycle.

Very true that Australia is not safe like Holland for cyclists, unless you live closer to the city where road infrastructure seems to be generally better though not by much. When I first saw a picture of a road in the Netherlands a year back (about the time when I started becoming more aware of cycling lifestyles), I was amazed that there was a path for cyclists running parallel to the main road itself, but not actually a part of it.

If the roads in Australia were better planned to include alternative modes of transport, I think that I would forego the helmet too. Where I live it is a little hilly, so I always appreciate having something between my skull and the road, but even when I move in closer to the city, where the land is flatter, I will not feel safe without it because of the cramped streets and eventually unpredictable motorists.

(Do I make some sense? Perhaps cycling into the wall when I was young did affect my conversational skills!)

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