2.4 million Australians put off their bikes by helmet laws – Freestyle Cyclists

 

(See also our later post on what stops people from cycling with more survey results).

Earlier this year, the Cycling Promotion Fund, in conjunction with the National Heart Foundation conducted a survey of 1000 Australian adults in relation to whether or not they ride a bike for transport.

We’ve mentioned the CPF survey previously. It has a great deal of useful information, regarding people who use a bike as a form of transport. But what is probably more interesting is the information on those who currently don’t ride a bike for transport. Do they want to and if so why aren’t they riding?

Of the 1000 people surveyed only 158 had used a bike for transport in the last month. However a further 515 reported that although they don’t ride regularly or at all, they would like to.

So what are the things that are preventing over 50% of the population from hopping on a bike, and what can our governments do to help the situation? Here’s what the they said was stopping them:

  • Unsafe road conditions: 46.4%
  • Speed/volume of traffic: 41.8%
  • Don’t feel safe riding: 41.4%
  • Lack of bicycle lanes/trails: 34.6%
  • Destinations too far away: 29.9%
  • No place to park/store bike: 23.5%
  • Do not own a bike: 22.5%
  • Weather conditions: 22.1%
  • Not fit enough: 21.8%
  • Too hilly: 19.6%
  • Don’t feel confident riding: 18.6%
  • Not enough time: 16.7%
  • Don’t like wearing a helmet: 15.7%
  • No place to change/shower: 14.6%
  • Health problems: 14.4%

Clearly some of the reasons offered are beyond the control of anyone – no government can change the weather, reduce the steepness of the hills, make our destinations closer or give us more time in the day. But some things can be improved.

The first four reasons are variations of exactly the same theme: safety and perceived safety on the roads. There is no doubt that this is the most important barrier to getting more people on bikes. People generally don’t like cycling with fast moving motor traffic – they want to be safe and they want to feel safe. But if we eliminate those other responses which are beyond the control of government, we see that there are only really three things that can realistically be improved upon:

  • Road and traffic conditions / safety: 50%+
  • No place to park/store bike: 23.5%
  • Don’t like wearing a helmet: 15.7%

We can see that mandatory helmet laws, while not the most common deterrent, are clearly a significant factor in discouraging people from cycling. While the provision of more Dutch-style bike lanes would be without question the best way to get more people on bicycles, the unfortunate reality is that this sort of infrastructure will take decades and huge amounts of money to introduce to our cities and towns. In contrast, repeal of helmet laws is costless and immediate. However, it’s not an either/or proposition. Helmet choice and better infrastructure support each other – more people riding means more support for quality bike infrastructure, and ultimately a safer road environment for everyone.

It’s not just those who aren’t cycling that our helmet laws are discouraging. Even amongst those people who do cycle for transport, 16.5% reported that they would ride more often if they were not required to wear a helmet at all times.

So around 16% of people who are interested in cycling are riding less, or not at all, due to our mandatory helmet laws.

Even adjusting for the fact that some people do not have any desire to cycle at all (around a third of all respondents), it’s clear that helmet laws are preventing a huge number of people from riding a bike.

In fact, if the CPF survey is an accurate representation of the population, it shows that compulsory helmet laws are keeping 2.4 million Australians off their bikes.

Getting 2.4 million people to start riding or ride more often would be hugely beneficial to cycling in Australia, especially considering only 3.6 million are riding currently according to this survey.

Given that it is widely acknowledged that the health benefits of riding a bike vastly outweigh the risks of having a traffic accident – even while riding without a helmet – it does not make sense to be preventing so many people from cycling, simply on the basis that this already safe activity might be made even safer with the addition of a helmet.

The evidence is clear – mandatory helmet laws deter people from cycling. Even after 20 years, our laws are still reducing cycling levels by 30-40%.

* See the comment from Dave below.  Given a sample of 1000, population of 20 million and 95% CI, the margin of error in the survey is +/- 3.1%.  So the fully qualified claim is that 15.7% (+/- 3.1%) of Australians are put off cycling by helmet laws. That equates to between 1.8 and 3 million Australians.

45 Comments

  • Guest says:

    So… what you are saying is, by REMOVING safety gear, you can increase the number of people who will ride, even though it is putting their lives/livelyhood at risk.

    This is THE MOST STUPID ARTICLE I HAVE SEEN! While we’re at it, lets remove the need for safety gear on construction sites. Or seatbelts for that matter,,,

    • Dave Kinkead says:

      Thats for you comment Anon.  You’d be absolutely correct if helmet laws didn’t have any negative impact on cycling numbers and/or actually made cycling safer.  Sadly, that’s not the case.

      As we clearly state pretty much everywhere, we think bike helmets are good.  There a lots of times, and plenty of science to show that if you have a linear impact to the head, you are better off with a helmet.  What we are against are helmet laws.

      There is a very important different between helmets and helmet laws that you seem to be missing.  There is no scientific evidence that shows helmet LAWS improve cyclist safety.  That is because 90% of all serious cycling injuries & fatalities involve a motor vehicle, and 99% of those occur in 50kph zones and above.  At those speeds most injuries & deaths would still occur whether or not cyclists wear a helmet (only 25% of fatalities are caused solely due to head injury).

      The way to improve cyclist safety is to stop these collisions in the first place. A helmet does nothing to help, and by discouraging cycling and changing cyclist/motorist behaviour helmet laws make collisions more likely.  If you are still not convinced, think about why it’s 20 times safer to ride without a helmet in places like the Netherlands, than it is to ride with a helmet in Australia.

    • Dave Kinkead says:

      Thats for you comment Anon.  You’d be absolutely correct if helmet laws didn’t have any negative impact on cycling numbers and/or actually made cycling safer.  Sadly, that’s not the case.

      As we clearly state pretty much everywhere, we think bike helmets are good.  There a lots of times, and plenty of science to show that if you have a linear impact to the head, you are better off with a helmet.  What we are against are helmet laws.

      There is a very important different between helmets and helmet laws that you seem to be missing.  There is no scientific evidence that shows helmet LAWS improve cyclist safety.  That is because 90% of all serious cycling injuries & fatalities involve a motor vehicle, and 99% of those occur in 50kph zones and above.  At those speeds most injuries & deaths would still occur whether or not cyclists wear a helmet (only 25% of fatalities are caused solely due to head injury).

      The way to improve cyclist safety is to stop these collisions in the first place. A helmet does nothing to help, and by discouraging cycling and changing cyclist/motorist behaviour helmet laws make collisions more likely.  If you are still not convinced, think about why it’s 20 times safer to ride without a helmet in places like the Netherlands, than it is to ride with a helmet in Australia.

    • Anonymous says:

      It is likely that you’re not very well travelled,  nor have you read widely on this subject.

      Nobody is asking *you* to remove *your* ‘safety gear’ – if you think it helps improve your safety. What this site is saying is that the law forcing all cyclists to wear a bicycle helmet at all times is misguided. It is illegal to ride at 10km/h on a bikeway without a helmet yet legal to ride rollerblades at 20km/h without one.

      I’m sure you are aware that there are many exemptions to seatbelt use in this country – all perfectly legal – not to mention that no public bus passengers have seatbelts. Why not?

      I would be happy to 1) take you more seriously and 2) discuss this in more detail, if you were willing to put your real name and contact details to your post.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m curious as to your position on the recommendation by a coroner recently that all Ironman competitors should wear ‘flotation devices’ and ‘helmets’ due to the recent (and rare) death of a competitor.

      If you agree with mandatory helmet laws then you must agree with the above recommendations as your logic is the same.

    • detector of dictative laws says:

      i like your thinking, if only more aussies were against pathetic laws, this sad nation would be a more fun place to live .

    • Tanya says:

      everyone that dies on the roads – cycling, is wearing a helmet.

  • Dave Kinkead says:

    A few people have queried these figures and accused us of drawing a long bow by extrapolating from a survey of 1000 to a population of 20 million.  Actually, the bow isn’t very long at all.

    Statistical analysis is typically conducted using a 95% confidence level.  That means assuming the null hypothesis is correct, there is only a 1 in 20 chance that the sample result is a false positive (it shows something that isn’t really there).   Of course this assumes that the sampling technique is appropriate – in this case it was a randomised survey of all Australians.

    This is a descriptive survey so rather than testing a hypothesis, we are interested in the margin of error.  For a sample size of 1000, population of 20 million and confidence level of 95%, the margin of error is 3.1%.  So a more accurate statement is that 15.7% (+/- 3.1%) of all Australians are put off cycling to some extent by mandatory helmet laws.

  • Anonymous says:

    I just came across your article this morning. As a Dutchman I would love to add two things.

    First off, we never wear helmets unless going off-road on mountain bikes. False feeling of safety? Perhaps. Would riding with a helmet be potentially safer? Yes. Does anyone care? Euhm, not really. The biggest reason for that is that we grow up with riding bicycles. It is everyone’s first personal experience of going through traffic faster than walking. At 3 both my girls started cycling to school (with either me or my wife cycling besides them of course). It makes sure you grow up with this type of transport. As a result, we are aware of the risk, but so is every motorist, having been on the same two wheels at some part of his life, or even 10 minutes before getting into the car. I think that awareness is one of the biggest factors in the safety of Dutch roads for cyclists.

    On the Dutch style bike lanes, they don’t have to cost much money or take years to implement. I don’t have exact figures here, but As an estimate, the bike lanes on probably 80% of all our roads just consist of a dotted line that is designated for bikes with a little white bike spray painted on it every couple of hundred meters. That would cost your responsible ci council no more than a couple of hundred in time and road quality spray paint.

    Just my Dutch thoughts here.

  • Jeremy says:

    Well I hope you guys don’t work in finance, or anywhere else where basic maths skills are a prerequisite.
    Add up the percentages….they tally to almost 400%. So what does this mean? Each of the 1000 respondents gave 3-4 different reasons why they don’t ride a bike. So, if you removed mandatory helmet laws tomorrow, who knows how many would actually ride a bike, because each and every one of them has 2-3 OTHER reasons why they wont ride a bike.

    • Dave Kinkead says:

      @c79a323ef29f327589e185d5774f65c8:disqus, if you click on the link you can actually read the exact questions the Heart Foundation asked such as “Which of the following, if any, discourage you from riding a bicycle for transport more often? (multiple response)”.

      Whether or not accepting the idea that people can have multiple motivations for an activity excludes one from working in finance is a tad unrelated, but lets see where your logic takes us anyway….

      “So, if you removed mandatory helmet laws tomorrow, who knows how many
      would actually ride a bike, because each and every one of them has 2-3
      OTHER reasons why they wont ride a bike.”  What you are saying here is that either repealing helmet laws would have no effect because the other reasons remain, or that no conclusion can be made as to the effect of repealing them because all reasons must be addressed. 

      As you’ve astutely noted, the sum of the individual responses to the multiple response question implies that at least some people listed more than one reason why they didn’t ride more.  What the survey doesn’t tell us is any relation between the reasons such as did all people who listed helmet laws list that as the only reason or did all of those people list multiple.

      If those that listed helmet laws as reason listed that as the sole reason, then clearly that is the only reason keeping 16% of the population off bikes.  If not, then other reasons contribute.  But lets say we miraculously address every other issue people have listed except helmet laws (assuming we could solve the weather or hill problem). 

      If that was the case, then according to your logic either the 16% of people who did list helmet laws as one of many reasons still wouldn’t cycle (because not all reasons have been address), or that we can make no conclusion to the effectiveness of making Australia a flat, temperate, denser, time & shower abundant cycling nirvana – you can’t have it both ways mate.

      The post never says that helmet laws are the only reason people don’t cycle more – perceived safety is by far the biggest reason. Getting rid of helmet laws is not a sufficient condition for a achieving a significant increase in cycling levels. It is however, a necessary condition to increase cycling as demonstrated by this survey and a range of other research on the subject.

      • Jeremy says:

        But you say that if mandatory cycling helmet laws were revoked, 2.4 millions Australians would suddenly start riding a bike. This is so obviously BS due to the facts that:
        1. The sum total of percentages is something like 370%, so **on average** each person lists 3-4 reasons why they dont ride a bike. Removing one of these probably wont get these people riding. Thus, mandatory helmet laws ARENT stopping 2.4 million people from taking up cycling.
        2. Your summation of the survey assumes that if we removed every one of the 15 reasons listed, suddenly every one of the 1000 people surveyed (and by extrapolation all 20 million Australians) would be riding a bike. Do you really believe that? People filling in a survey about why they dont do something versus the practicalities of them actually doing it are two very different things.
        3. Even if your “long bow statistics” are 10% true, the benefits of cycling without a helmet (in terms of public health) only outweigh the benefits of wearing a helmet (in terms of reduced head and neck injuries) if the uptake of cycling by individuals is sufficient to actually benefit their health. Making helmet wearing optional if it only means that an extra few hundred thousand people go for one ride every 6 months does not outweigh the increased risk of head/neck injuries. Your summation of the survey failed to state whether the respondents indicated that they might actually ride more than once a week.

        Ive got nothing against you saying “remove mandatory helmet laws and more people might start riding a bike” but I do strongly object to you saying “mandatory helmet laws are stopping 2.4 million Australians from riding a bike”.

      • Jeremy says:

        But you say that if mandatory cycling helmet laws were revoked, 2.4 millions Australians would suddenly start riding a bike. This is so obviously BS due to the facts that:
        1. The sum total of percentages is something like 370%, so **on average** each person lists 3-4 reasons why they dont ride a bike. Removing one of these probably wont get these people riding. Thus, mandatory helmet laws ARENT stopping 2.4 million people from taking up cycling.
        2. Your summation of the survey assumes that if we removed every one of the 15 reasons listed, suddenly every one of the 1000 people surveyed (and by extrapolation all 20 million Australians) would be riding a bike. Do you really believe that? People filling in a survey about why they dont do something versus the practicalities of them actually doing it are two very different things.
        3. Even if your “long bow statistics” are 10% true, the benefits of cycling without a helmet (in terms of public health) only outweigh the benefits of wearing a helmet (in terms of reduced head and neck injuries) if the uptake of cycling by individuals is sufficient to actually benefit their health. Making helmet wearing optional if it only means that an extra few hundred thousand people go for one ride every 6 months does not outweigh the increased risk of head/neck injuries. Your summation of the survey failed to state whether the respondents indicated that they might actually ride more than once a week.

        Ive got nothing against you saying “remove mandatory helmet laws and more people might start riding a bike” but I do strongly object to you saying “mandatory helmet laws are stopping 2.4 million Australians from riding a bike”.

        • Dave Kinkead says:

          No BS at all.  That would be like saying that perceived unsafe road conditions are discouraging 46% of from riding is BS when it is a clearly stated as the primary reason of those surveyed.  To address your points:

          1) Clearly multiple reasons were listed on a multiple selection question but you seem to think the cycling motivation is a binary function – if all reasons are not met, then no one will ride. People are clearly more nuanced than this. Removal of helmet laws may not change their decision to commute on a busy road (at until infrastructure has been addressed), but if the laws are one of their reasons, then removing them will result in them cycling more often (say to the corner shop or in the park).  In no way does that contradict the statement “So around 16% of people who are interested in cycling are riding less, or not at all, due to our mandatory helmet laws.”

          2) Actually, the survey lists group who would never ride regardless so I don’t think we’d ever have the whole population riding (even in cycling nirvana) while other options exist.  Yet in some European cities they have around half of all journeys taken by bike.  I agree that there are always differences between stated intentions and actual behaviour, but this is all the social sciences have in many situations.

          3)  Our general argument is that while helmet are good, helmet laws are bad.  You are making an assumption that helmet laws lead to an increase in cycling safety.  While there is plenty of science showing the benefits of helmet wearing but none that shows helmet laws improve safety. 

          I agree with your statement “Making helmet wearing optional if it only means that an extra few
          hundred thousand people go for one ride every 6 months does not outweigh
          the increased risk of head/neck injuries” as this applies to pretty much all cyclists. The health benefits significantly outweigh any risks (by 77 times in a recent BMJ paper of Spanish bike share) and helmet laws don’t reduce the risk of head/head injuries.  The survey did not indicate how frequently ‘more’ meant to respondents.

          Anyway, thanks for your comments.  Would you be more comfortable with the (more verbose) claim that “approximately 16% of surveyed households are discouraged from cycling in some way by helmet laws”?

    • Good survey sponsored by the heart foundation and great that they included a helmet question – but from some people’s comments seem to show their ignorance of the % values – each question in the survey is a YES- NO % so each question my attract up to 100%.
      If they had added a further questions such as “Did Not own/have a helmet available” (something causing problems for bike hire schemes.) then the SETSUM of answers for helmet related problems could easily have been higher than the single question answer of ~16%. and in some places there would have been many people who would have answered YES pushing the setsum upwards if they included such additional questions.
      The 2.4 million extrapolation is probably conservative – the perception of bicycle usage as being dangerous (41% YES) is partially a result of Australia’s helmet laws distorting perceptions of risk which are in fact incredibly low. 
      I wonder how people in say the US,  China,  Europe, Asia where there is a less negative view of safety would fall. Also  the NT would be an interesting place to compare with as they have a partial exemption.

    • Max says:

      Lets say the mandatory helmet laws suddenly dissolved. The 3 (possibly 4) highest reasons people gave for not riding, were related to safety concerns. I don’t see how removing the need to wear a helmet gets people past those issues.

      My personal opinion is that people should be free to make their own decisions regarding these sort of things, I don’t think there should be mandatory laws for helmets or other anything else where the potential risks could only effect the individual person. Do these laws make us safer? or do they ultimately create a system that replaces common sense decision making.

      • Editor says:

        Thanks Max for your comment. See our later article http://www.freestylecyclists.org/what-stops-people-from-cycling/ with more survey results showing that around one in four Australians cite helmet laws as causing them to cycle less, or not at all.
        It’s hard to say exactly how much of an increase in cycling would result from removing this barrier but with one in four citing the law, there would certainly be some level of increase. As you can read on Prof de Jong’s paper that we mention on http://www.freestylecyclists.org/modal-share/ it would only take a tiny increase in cycling levels for the health benefits to outweigh the risks of head injury. Increasing the number of trips also increases the constituency of support for better, safer cycling facilities and it helps to “normalise” cycling in the eyes of the wider population.
        While we agree with you that people should be able to choose, we don’t agree that personal freedom is the main reason for reforming the law. The unintended negative effects of helmet law, in particular reducing healthy exercise, show that this law fails on the very grounds it seeks to support, i.e. better health outcomes. The same isn’t true of other victimless crimes such as seat belt law (see http://www.freestylecyclists.org/seat-belt-laws-relevant/ ) or motor cycle helmet law, as these laws don’t deter an activity that improves a person’s health and saves the community money.

  • […] is that the law is keeping a very important group of people away from their bicycles – the numbers may or may not be huge, but who they are is extremely important. They are precisely the sort of people who are likely to […]

  • steve says:

    Good survey by the heart foundation and great that they included a helmet question – but from some people’s comments seem to show their ignorance of the % values – each question in the survey is a YES- NO % so each question my attract up to 100%.
    If they had added a further questions such as “Did Not own/have a helmet available” (something causing problems for bike hire schemes.) then the SETSUM of answers for helmet related problems could easily have been higher than the single question answer of ~16%. and in some places there would have been many people who would have answered YES pushing the setsum upwards if they included such additional questions.
    The 2.4 million extrapolation is probably conservative – the perception of bicycle usage as being dangerous (41% YES) is partially a result of Australia’s helmet laws distorting perceptions of risk which are in fact incredibly low. 
    I wonder how people in say the US,  China,  Europe, Asia where there is a less negative view of safety would fall. Also  the NT would be an interesting place to compare with as they have a partial exemption.

  • […] helmet laws where enacted in Australia in the early 1990s and current surveys reveal the laws are still discouraging a similar proportion of people from riding today. Repealing them is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for encouraging more people to cycle […]

  • […] decreases in cycling of between 30%-40% after the introduction of mandatory helmet laws.  Recent surveys and studies still indicate that helmet compulsion is a significant factor discouraging cycling […]

  • John Rawlins says:

    As a Brit who loves to see the Aussies get beaten by us in any sport I urge you to not to change the mandatory helmet legislation. The more Aussies who refuse to cycle because of helmets the better. That means whole families can stay indoors, watch TV, and eat crisps. The result will be more fat Aussies, fewer athletic Aussies, and more glorious victories for British sports teams. Keep those helmets, keep eating anything sweet, keep drinking fizzy drinks, and drive everywhere.

  • John Rawlins says:

    As a Brit who loves to see the Aussies get beaten by us in any sport I urge you to not to change the mandatory helmet legislation. The more Aussies who refuse to cycle because of helmets the better. That means whole families can stay indoors, watch TV, and eat crisps. The result will be more fat Aussies, fewer athletic Aussies, and more glorious victories for British sports teams. Keep those helmets, keep eating anything sweet, keep drinking fizzy drinks, and drive everywhere.

  • Gerald Harvey says:

    helmets are the most uncomfortable thing ever, my head gets all sweaty, and its like wearing a toque in the summer. putting down my bike for good

  • Wear a helmet says:

    Helmet laws don’t stop people from cycling. On a typical day commuting to and from work in Sydney I counted 12 cyclists without helmets. What are the stats on enforcement of these laws? If you don’t want to wear a helmet, don’t. You probably won’t get caught anyway. But I wear mine when I cycle because I value my head thank you very much and would rather have one on when I hit the ground or strike a car door or bonnet than not. AND if you do choose to wear one, make sure it’s done up properly. So many fools with helmets on and straps loose or not even done…

  • Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe this article is about stopping people to wear helmets! They protect people!

  • Guest says:

    Significant! 3rd from the bottom in your list of stats.. ha ha ha you make me laugh

  • ag63 says:

    Of all the paternalistic laws that annoy me in this risk averse nanny state (Australia), the helmet law takes the cake. This in a country where you get OH&S presentations on how to safely apply bug repellant. If I am riding on the highway I think I’d be smart to wear a helmet. If I’m trundling along the dedicate bike/pedestrian path past my house to get the bread in the morning I don’t think it’s necessary. But I’m grown up enough to make that decision.

  • Tiago Schardong Pires says:

    I practically stopped riding bikes when I came to live in Australia 8 years ago. Used to ride bikes everywhere back home in Brazil. One day the cop stopped me in Queensland for ridding a bike without a helmet. I was really surprised and put off. I would think hospitals have more patients with health problems for not exercising than head injuries by bike.

    Is there any revisions to this law coming?

  • […] wider weight-related health problems due to Australians favouring driving, or not moving at all. One study found that 16.5% of people say they would ride more often if they were not required to wear a helmet […]

  • Allan McElroy says:

    It surprises and disappoints me that there are so many people who seem to equate repealing the MHL with *BANNING* the use of helmets – repealing the law would just mean that you could exercise your own judgement as to whether or not you want or need to wear a helmet for the journey you’re about to take.
    I think wearing a helmet is generally a good idea and even if the law were to be repealed, out of habit, I would probably continue to wear a helmet for most, if not all my rides, though there are times and places where I could see that riding without a helmet would be perfectly safe.
    As an example I’ve used the CityCycle scheme in Brisbane, and it seems rather odd, particularly on the Bicentennial bikeway/shared path that I am legally and enforceably required to wear a helmet, whilst others on the path can use rollerblades and skateboards without nary a care. On one particular occasion, there weren’t any helmets available at the bike stand, so the law would require me to not use the bikes. As I was wanting to go a short distance (and this particular journey also happened to be *completely* segregated from motor vehicles) – then I chose to flout the law, and ride the bike to my physio appointment, all the while feeling a bit self conscious and “naughty” because obeying the MHL has become so ingrained!
    It’s these kinds of spontaneous journeys the MHL impacts. You can’t just jump on a bike and go somewhere – you’re required to have and use a special bit of “safety” kit.
    We need to be doing everything we can to encourage active transport, and particularly whatever we can to encourage and facilitate women taking up cycling as a mode of transport – the stats show that the proportion of women users is indicative of the “health” of an active transport system. Requiring helmets does two things –
    1) it changes the perception of the activity – you need to be wearing safety gear (PPE) to do it – therefore it must not be safe
    2) from the ‘vanity’ angle it discourages people (men and women) from riding
    Couple these two things together, and you get a feedback loop: less people ride, reduces the safety in numbers, riding is both perceived to, and becomes more risky, less women cycle…. Pretty soon, all your left with is the Australian cycling experience – lots of road warrior type blokes in lycra in their own personal Tour de France to get to/from work and very little sign of the European cycling scene where it’s more relaxed, upright, indulged by people of all ages and largely helmetless…

  • Dean says:

    When it isn’t compulsory for skate boarders and skaters to wear a helmet, is forcing adults to wear a pathetically designed bicycle helmet an extremely inappropriate law. Perhaps more it applied to children up to a certain sensible age, yes, but not to adults who know better and should have that choice. (WHY are footballers not forced to wear helmets when head and neck injuries are far more occurred ?) When you think what it has done to the cycling industry by slowing its growth, could it certainly make one wonder if it wasn’t a political stunt just to keep people in cars and burning more of their dirty oil? Why else would the majority of fat ass unfit politicians who never ride a bicycle ever support such a ridiculous law? This law needs to be revoked ASAP and rewritten with a lot more ‘commonsense’ and consideration for both the bicycle industry and the environmental advantages by the many additional riders to attract, those many who don’t ride or buy bicycles simply because of this stupid law.

  • FRANK ANHALT says:

    Coming originally from Germany, I used my bike on a daily basis. But I gave it regretfully up in Australia, forced to wear a helmet in these temperatures is very uncomfortable to say the least. Australia’s adventurous independent spirit is long gone, the lawyers have taken over and today Australia seems to over regulate every aspect of peoples life. There seem to be regulations to stop everything that involves risk and personal responsibility.Ever wanted to play a videogame that the censors have rated ‘R’? Well you can’t because they’ve been banned. Don’t even think about riding your bike without a helmet because you’re sure to get fined. And forget about shouting a round of shots at the pub, because it’s after midnight and that’s illegal too.You can’t smoke, you can’t boo at the footy, you can’t vape an e-cigarette, you can’t walk your dog of the leash, you can’t, take your dog in the car without a special harness, and every time you get in your car you’re at risk of running foul of a speed camera. And Internet filters are soon in place, Russia, China and North Korea they have that already in place, it works just fine for them, so why shouldn’t it in Australia?
    Australia is fast becoming “the world’s dumbest nation” because of nanny state rules and restrictions, sais Canadian journalist and magazine publisher Tyler Brûlé. He argues that Australians were increasingly being “mollycoddled” through health and safety laws, and that our cities were at risk of becoming over-sanitised. Hard to disagree. What do you think?

  • Sung Che says:

    Apparently the bigger problem here is the traffic condition. As the survey points out, many Australians are discourage since they do not feel safe on the road. If government can invest some money on building cycling infrastructure and facilities, the situation would have improved. However the government did not do so, therefore mandatory helmet law is there to protect our safety.

  • Steven Hughes says:

    I would like to reinforce Allan McElroy’s comment that repealing the MANDATORY helmet law DOES NOT mean ‘stopping people from wearing helmets’. You want to wear a helmet, you go right ahead. Wear whatever PPE YOU want in order for YOU to feel safe when YOU are riding; just don’t inflict your insecurities on others.
    The previous poster’s comment about “mandatory helmet law is there to protect our safety” is effectively telling us all that we are too stupid to decide for ourselves when and where to wear helmets.
    Cycling is NOT a dangerous activity but somehow the notion persists that “no helmet” means the cyclist WILL have an accident and WILL hit their head. From what I’ve read on this site, pedestrians and car occupants have more head injuries than cyclists, so why are cyclists singled out?

  • LUCCA ROTTI says:

    I’m all for professional cyclists to wear helmets as they frequently spend a lot of time on major freeways etc, but, for adults(16 & up) heading up to the beach or the corner store for example, i think ‘having’ to wear a helmet is probably not really important.

  • Tissa says:

    wearing a helmet is a good idea, but not a guarantee that a rider will survive a massive crash. same with motorbikes. I escape massive head injury because of my motor bike helmet. I ride bicycle for 20 odd years for exercise & pleasure I always wear a helmet I have a very good reason to do so,

    If You don’t have a head you don’t need a helmet.
    Tsaa

  • Steve Taylor says:

    As one who does wear a bike helmet, has hit the road both with and without (pre-1990) a helmet, I definitely recommend wearing a properly fitting, good quality helmet if you’re going to (literally) hit the road (or an overhead branch, a car door, someone’s arm, etc.) Whether on a 50km ride, or just going to the shops, you really cannot be too careful when it comes to your head!

    As for the 16% who claim one of their reasons for not riding a bike are the helmet laws – why do I care? And why do you? It is totally their decision not to cycle, and it would seem they have a few other reasons not to ride (since the stats add up to 370% according to a previous poster).

    For me, there are more important issues regarding cycling safety before we need to worry about helmet laws. We have helmet laws. EU countries don’t. Get over it. Wear your helmet – it’s worth it.

    • Editor says:

      We care about the 28% (Victorian TAC survey) who don’t cycle, or cycle less because of helmet laws, and so should you. We all pay for it via the health budget.
      Find another law that penalises a healthy activity, that benefits the person doing it and saves the community money…

      • Editor says:

        No helmet law in most of the world, please point out the places with massively more deaths and brain injuries than Australia? Comparable countries like USA, Canada, UK don’t have “massive increases in deaths and brain injuries” compared to Australia. You make assertions with no evidence, that don’t make any sense.

  • An alternative population percentage comparison can be made through submission 287 to the 2015/16 Senate committee of inquiry into personal choice and community impacts (see http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics/Personal_choice/Submissions) forwarded by the pro-law UNSW academics.

    To illustrate how in their opinion cycling increased in the four years from 1989, they provide estimates of population percentages for WA and SA on page 8.

    WA cycling at least once weekly in 1993 – 27.7%
    SA cycling at least once weekly in 1993 – 21.0%

    The 2015 National Cycling Participation survey (see http://www.cycle-helmets.com/cycling-1985-2015.html) showed:

    WA cycling at least once weekly in 2015 – 23.0%
    SA cycling at least once weekly in 2015 – 16.6%

    The 4.7% population percentage reduction in WA is 121,804 people (2015 pop 2,591,585). The 4.4% population percentage reduction in SA is 74,738 people (2015 pop 1,698,594).

    In WA and SA, that sums to 196,542 fewer people cycling at least once a week in 2015 than in 1993. The combined WA and SA 2015 population was 4,290,179, which is 18% of the total Australian population (23,781,169).

    Multiply the 196,542 by five (allow a 2% error which times five is 10% for people aged less than five and more than 80 who are unlikely to cycle) and you have 982,710 fewer people cycling at least once a week across Australia .. a rounded million will do.

    Compared to 2015, SA had the biggest proportionate reduction in cycling participation post helmet law and WA the smallest reduction, so their averaged percentages aren’t far off the mark for national estimates.

    Despite the academics’ claim of a 1989-1993 increase in participation, it’s possible that numbers were greater in 1990 (average 10% pa increase in Australian cycling during the 1980s) and it’s likely there had been a national reduction by 1993, three years after the first helmet law enactment in Victoria.

    Alternatively, the CR69 1985/86 and NCP 2015 data suggest a 24.5% reduction in daily bike trips by cyclists aged 9+, despite 49.7% population growth aged 9+.

    The ABS Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation series estimated that 1,038,896 Australians aged 18+ cycled in the previous week of survey in November 1993, compared to the estimate of 738,100 Australians aged 18+ who cycled in the previous two weeks of survey in November 1995.

    The 1994 Heathcote WA study cited by the academics (http://www.cycle-helmets.com/wa-heathcote-1994.pdf) states that “it is estimated that 720,000 people cycled in the 12 months to November 1993 (51% of persons over 4 years old)”. The NCP 2015 survey estimated 43.3% of West Australians of all ages cycled at least once yearly.

    51.1% of WA’s 2015 population aged 4+ (2,418,099) is 1,235,649, and 43.3% of 2,418,099 is 1,047,037. i.e. if the 1993 population percentage of 51.1% still cycled at least once a year in 2015, there would be 188,612 more people riding a bike per annum in WA. Multiply that by nine if you want to mirror WA’s proportion of the national population (10.9%) = 1,697,508 fewer cyclists riding at least once per year in Australia.

    Heathcote p32 shows: 25.6% of Perth residents and 33.4% of country residents cycled at least once weekly in 1993 (WA 2015 – 23.0%); 32.6% of Perth residents and 39.2% of country residents cycled at least once monthly (WA 2015 – 31.8%); 50.7% of Perth residents and 51.4% of country residents cycled at least once annually (WA 2015 43.3%).

    Heathcote p35 shows: 22.2% of Perth cyclists, 23.7% of Perth non-cyclists, 9.3% of country cyclists and 53.9% of country non-cyclists in WA said in 1993 that the helmet wearing law was their reason for cycling less.

    AIHW data suggests Australia had 7,520 all age cyclist hospital injuries in 1989 and 10,098 in 2012 – a 34.3% increase. As suggested by the participation decline from NCP 2011 to NCP 2015 and as stated by the report authors, Australian cycling participation is likely to continue falling because of the retiring baby boomers not being replaced by younger cyclists.

    Albeit unlikely, the 2.4 million estimate of discouraged cyclists based on the CPF’s 15.7% isn’t necessarily incorrect as the percentage of people who say helmets discourage them isn’t the same as a comparison of estimated cyclist percentages 22 years apart.

    Whether one million, 2.4 million or more likely somewhere in between, the different survey sources all suggest the helmet law has had a disastrous impact on Australian public health and road safety.

  • Stephen Shaw says:

    Let people decide what they need. There is too many regulations which are counter productive. More people die from lack of exercise rather than brain injury from cycle accidents.
    I would still use a helmet but sometimes I wouldn’t depending if I was cycling on main roads.
    In WA now you can cycle on footpaths legally which probably is safe without a helmet.

  • It’s worth noting that on 18 Nov the Queensland Government updated progress on the development of its new cycling strategy at http://blog.tmr.qld.gov.au/shaping-new-queensland-cycling-strategy/

    Bearing in mind Queensland’s population of 4.7 million, the second sentence reads … “We know that around 760,000 Queenslanders ride a bike each week and another 1.53 million would ride if the conditions were right.”

    We know the 760,000 is accurate as it’s sourced to the 2015 National Cycling Participation strategy and it’s interesting to see that the Queensland Government experts have estimated that more than one and a half million more Queenslanders would cycle weekly “if the conditions were right”.

    The conditions will only be right when the helmet law is repealed, but those experts won’t allow facts to enter into their deliberations.

    Queensland has 20.3% of Australia’s population and if that state’s experts believe there are 1.53 million people who are for some reason discouraged from cycling, a simple x 4.9 multiplication gives a rough estimate of the national number = 7,497,000 more Australians who would cycle weekly “if the conditions were right”.

    The AMA is warning that obesity is overtaking smoking as the leading cause of preventable death in Australia, and international reports this week found Australian children are among the least active in the world. What on earth did these twits expect when, 26 years ago, Australia started punishing people who want to enjoy one of society’s most popular and regular forms of recreational exercise?

    There is an industry being paid a fortune to rant on about obesity so that more punitive measures such as a sugar tax can be introduced, but every academic remains deliberately unaware that the elephant in the room is wearing a helmet.

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