2017 August

New South Wales – higher fines, greater injury risk

This is a guest post by Chris Gillham, who maintains http://www.cycle-helmets.com/, a rich repository of facts and statistics on Australia’s helmet law disaster.

A full twelve months have passed since higher cyclist penalties were introduced in New South Wales including quadrupling the helmet fine to $319 on 1 March 2016.  According to the Sydney Morning Herald:

• Cyclist fines up 38% to 9,760, with $2.2 million from the top five offences.
• $1.99 million from helmet fines compared to $337,000 in the previous year.
• Available figures for the first 10 months of tougher fines show cyclist total injuries were down about 7% to 1,858 and cyclist serious injuries down 6.5% to 1,506 (81% of all injuries serious).
National Cycling Strategy data for 2017 shows people cycling at least once a week in NSW dropped from almost 17% in 2015 to 12.5% in 2017, the lowest rate for any Australian jurisdiction.

The Sydney Morning Herald did publish a story re NCP 2017 on 19 June, albeit with the usual line that participation is falling because there aren’t enough cycle paths. My guesstimate is that about a third of cyclists in middle to outer suburban Sydney and regional NSW ride without a helmet and a big number decided the fine increase from $71 to $319 meant it was no longer worth the risk.
Regarding the weekly cycling figures as a proportion of the total NSW population aged 2+, the NCP data show 2011 – 14.8%, 2013 – 15.8%, 2015 – 16.7%, 2017 – 12.5%
Based on ABS 2016 population data, the figures translate as 173,413 fewer people cycling weekly in 2017 than in 2011, and 316,666 fewer people cycling in 2017 than in 2015 (1,259,126 in 2015, 942,460 in 2017, which is a 25.15% reduction in cycling participation). Cycling at least once a year in NSW dropped by 475,000 between 2015 and 2017.
So weekly participation drops 25% and injuries drop 7%. We have seen this so often in the last 25 years. The NCP data show cycling participation in NSW was growing from 2011 to 2015 but something, maybe a passing meteorite, caused a collapse in cycling sometime between 2015 and 2017. No, not the meteorite … it was the fact there wasn’t a nearby cycle path in 2015 and there still wasn’t a nearby cycle path in 2017.
Of course, because the quadrupling in the helmet fine has been so good for public health and road safety in NSW, and has slashed cyclist injuries by about 7%, the NSW helmet fine increased from 1 July in line with inflation from $319 to $330. The inmates are running the asylum.

Watch the Documentary

Our new documentary is available for viewing at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGsM-XIuGwo

Made by Geoff McLeod of Sputnik Films it interviews a range of people to explore the damage being done in Australia by mandatory bicycle helmet laws. Public launch in Melbourne September 2nd, details to follow.

Our Media Release on the film is here.

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