Victorian State Election – Freestyle Cyclists

State Election Update

Three members of Freestyle Cyclists are helping the Australian Cyclists Party by standing as candidates in the Victorian Election.

Kathy Francis, our Secretary, is standing in Western Victoria. Her daughter Arwen Birch is standing in Northern Victoria. Nik Dow, our Treasurer is standing for the Party in Northern Metro. The Australian Cyclists Party is standing in all upper house regions, so you can vote for the Party wherever you live.

Voting in the upper house is easy – you can put a 1 above the line, or you can number from 1 to 5 (or more) boxes below the line if you want to control your own preferences. You only have to number 5 or more boxes below the line to cast a valid vote. If you vote this way, leave all the boxes above the line blank.

Letter to Candidates

see the answers

I am writing to you in the lead up to the November State election to request your party’s policy position with regard to current regulations requiring all cyclists to wear an approved helmet, and to seek clarification as to any future policy, being mindful of the broader aim of encouraging cycling and active transport in general.

As you may know, Mandatory Helmet Laws for cyclists (MHLs) were first introduced by Victoria in 1990, the first state in the world to do so. Shortly after, similar regulations were introduced throughout Australia, where they remain today, with the exception of the Northern territory. Following a public petition in 1994, the NT now allows adults the choice in this matter when riding on footpaths and separated cycle paths.

Since then, only New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates have followed, with nationally enforced all ages MHLs. A small number of countries and provinces require children to wear helmets, but allow adults the choice.

This situation would be remarkable if MHLs had indeed achieved their stated aim of significantly reducing the incidence and severity of head injuries to cyclists. What the rest of the world has seen however is that the principal effect of MHLs in Australia was to sharply reduce participation in cycling, while delivering no significant safety benefits when measured against participation rates. [1]

After twenty four years, it is time to admit Victoria (and Australia) got this one wrong. Cycling participation rates are now lower than they were in 1986, and even over the first biennial period of monitoring the National Cycling Strategy (2011-2013) they have declined. [2],[3]

Queensland has already gone some way to putting this matter to rights. Their joint Parliamentary Enquiry into Cycling Issues made two significant recommendations in their final report issued in November last year. These were, to trial an exemption for adults on separated bike paths and low speed roads, and to exempt adult users of public bike share schemes. The committee recognised that requiring adults to wear helmets contributes to negative perceptions of cyclists as “other”, and impacts both on the treatment of cyclists by other road users, and on participation in cycling.[4]

We have no issue with adults wearing bicycle helmets by choice. We do take issue with the continued ban on bicycle riding as practiced in the rest of the world. At a time when traffic congestion is worsening, and community activity levels are generally in decline, it makes no sense at all to put up barriers to using a bicycle, and deny the benefits of this healthy and sustainable form of transport to adults who may not wish to wear a helmet. The continued punishment of “offenders” is simply wrong.

In conclusion, we are asking for a simple yes/no answer to the question “Would your party support reform of Victoria’s bicycle helmet regulations to allow adult cyclists the choice of whether or not to wear a helmet?” Your response will be posted on our website, and circulated to our members and supporters.

I have attached a copy of the Freestyle Cyclists’ Vision Statement for your interest, and I look forward to your response to our question.

Regards

Alan Todd

President
Freestyle Cyclists Inc.

References

  • [1] D. L. Robinson “Head Injuries and Bicycle Helmet Laws” Accident Analysis and Prevention Vol.28, No4 1996.
  • [2] Gillham and Rissel, Australian cycling participation in 1985/86 and 2011. World Transport Policy and Practice Vol 18.3 May 2012.
  • [3] Results of the 2013 National Cycling Participation Survey. Austroads Publication No. AP-C91-13 October 2013
  • [4] A new direction for cycling in Queensland. Report No.39-Inquiry into Cycling Issues. Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee November 2013

Answers

Australian Cyclists Party: “yes” in favour of adult choice.

Sex Party: although we haven’t received a direct answer to our question, the Sex Party’s position on helmet law is clear:
https://www.sexparty.org.au/policies/victorian-policy/36-asp/policies/1764-environmental-policy.html

Liberal Democratic Party also hasn’t answered our letter but has a clear position on helmet law reform:
http://www.ldp.org.au/index.php/news/press-releases/1260-repeal-bicycle-helmet-laws

Australian Labor Party: “no”

Liberal Party: The Victorian Government has no plans to remove mandatory helmet legislation.

Greens: we see no evidence that would support a change to the current law.

Australian Christians: “no”

 

2 Comments

  • Andy says:

    Predictable responses from Australia’s top three rent-seeking parties – straight to the back of the ballot for them.
    It’s pretty sad that even with a keen cyclist as a PM, cycling in general let alone the pro-car helmet law issue has received no love whatsoever.

    I’m hoping and expecting that the Sex Party, Lib Democrats and ACP (of which I now a member after a lifetime of conservative voting) will all swallow votes from the tired old parties that long forgot what it is to serve the people – it’s time to change gear!

  • Hugh says:

    Once, I was made to get off my bicycle, and when the officer asked for my id to write me an infringement letter and I refused, I was physically assalted. Is that protecting and serving?!

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