After one year in operation Brisbane’s public bicycle hire scheme, CityCycle, is not doing so well. For most of the year the usage rate has been approximately 0.3 trips per bike per day. Compare this to other schemes such as London, Paris or Dublin and it becomes quite clear that there is a problem with Australia’s public bike schemes. There is only one other bike hire scheme that is performing as poorly as Brisbane’s scheme – Melbourne Bike Share. It is also subject to Australia’s strict all-age mandatory bicycle helmet law.
Apart from the footpath and cyclepath exemptions in The Northern Territory, all Australian states mandate the wearing of bicycle helmets for all persons at all times while straddling/riding a bicycle.
Both our peak bicycle advocacy organisation in Brisbane (Bicycle Queensland) and the Lord Mayor have stated that helmets are an issue for CityCycle. However they see no problem with bicycle helmet laws at all, unlike the rest of the world’s bicycle advocacy organisations and the CEO of JCDecaux in Australia, Steve O’Connor. No, our ‘cycling experts’ see it as a problem of ‘helmet availability‘. As a result they cooked up a solution to fix the problem once and for all. 400 courtesy helmets were attached to the bicycles so there would be no excuse. Unfortunately they forgot that there were actually 1000 bicycles in the system so not all bikes had helmets and occasionally a station would be devoid of any helmets. So, how did this improve CityCycle’s usage?
Trips rose by a whopping 30%! Fantastic!
Actually, it’s pathetic. A 30% rise in trips means that we are now seeing a usage rate of 0.4 trips per bike per day (instead of 0.3).
Meanwhile there has been more public discontent with this law and people are starting to talk about it. The CityCycle bikes collecting dust are helping it remain in the public’s consciousness. In June of this year the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties published the following in their newsletter:
Bicycle HelmetsThe Executive considered the issues of whether bicycle helmets should be compulsory at its June 2011 meeting where it decided that, considering the Council’s starting point is to favour individual choice, there was insufficient evidence to justify making bicycle helmets compulsory as opposed to seat belts where the evidence is overwhelming.
HelmetFreedom.org was invited to speak with the council in early September and we were well received. Watch this space.
On 4 October the freely distributed B Mag magazine included the following article on bicycle helmet laws and CityCycle:
We have also seen a significant Change of Tune from a prominent cycling journalist in Melbourne, Wade Wallace. He had previously been a strong supporter of bicycle helmet legislation but, after having seen what we could have when cycling in Europe, he’s decided that we really need to do something about this particular law. It was a stunning change of heart and a well written article. He should be commended for writing it given the current climate of cycling in Australia. There have also been more vocal calls for a helmet exemption trial for bike share bikes, something we’ve been requesting for some time now.
Currently Brisbane’s CBD BUG (Bicycle User Group) is running a poll on the bicycle helmet law. The accompanying article is well written and it highlights the important point of this entire discussion: it is the bicycle helmet law that is being questioned, not bicycle helmets.
Why should cyclists in Australia be subjected to verbal abuse for not wanting to wear a bicycle helmet at all times?
It’s about time we decriminalised cycling in this country.
- Follow us on Twitter (@freecyclists) and like us on Facebook and spread the word.
- Add your voice to the growing chorus on the GetUp! Campaign Suggestions Forum, vote up the suggestion or just leave a comment.
- Talk to your local state politicians about it.