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General Health Benefits Outweigh The Risks

By December 20, 2010 4 Comments


%long_title% %first_name% %last_name%


Dear %short_title% %last_name%,

RE: Bicycle Helmet Laws & General Health

I am writing to you to consider a relaxation of the all-age mandatory bicycle helmet laws. It has unfairly branded bicycle riding as a dangerous activity when if fact it is very, very safe. No study has shown any evidence than the mandatory bicycle helmet legislation has reduced the risk or severity of injuries to bicyclists, yet there are some which suggest the opposite.

‘Diseases of Lifestyle’, particularly obesity, cardiovascular & cerebrovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis and depression are costing Australian taxpayers $1.5 billion each year, most of which is easily prevented with regular moderate exercise. In addition to this annual financial burden, 16,000 lives are lost prematurely as a result of these diseases.

Currently in our cities 70% of car trips are less than 10km and 50% of car trips are less than 5km – distances that can be covered on a bicycle with minimal effort.

When the all-age mandatory helmet law was introduced, cycling numbers dropped by as much as 40% in many areas in Australia. The only group which did not show such a decline was the sport & recreational cycling groups – cycling trips which are not made in place of car journeys.

A recent study in the Netherlands showed that for people who switched from car to bicycle for most trips resulted in about 9 times more gains in life-years than the losses due to pollution & traffic accidents. This is in a country with a national bicycle mode share average of 29% of all trips; and no mandatory helmet legislation. A study published in the British Medical Journal in 1994 showed the benefits of cycling outweighed the risks by as much as 20 to 1.

Given the enormous health benefits of cycling and the non-existant health benefits of driving a car, can you please explain why you and the government continue to single out cycling amongst transport options as dangerous enough to require mandatory helmet usage?




An Australian Vision for Active Transport – www.alga.asn.au/policy/transport/ActiveTransport.pdf

Cycling Promotion Fund, 2010, “Active Transport Could Save 16000 Lives” – http://www.cyclingpromotion.com.au/content/view/495/9/

Johan de Hartog J, Boogaard H, Nijland H, Hoek G, 2010, “Do the Health Benefits of Cycling Outweigh the Risks?” Environ Health Perspect 118(8):doi:10.1289/ehp.0901747

Davis, A, National Health Service, 2010, “Value For Money: An economic assessment of investment in walking and cycling”


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