The helmet debate


Harriet Edmund finds out why the 23-year debate about Australia’s mandatory helmet laws has just intensified.

When Meredith Clark woke up at 11am on a summer’s day last year she was lying on the ground on the outskirts of Melbourne’s CBD. She had no idea how long she’d been unconscious.

“I remember slipping as I stood up to accelerate on my bike and the bang when my head hit the concrete. That was it. I blacked out.”

Lack of memory is a classic symptom of concussion—the most common type of head injury. It’s when your brain knocks against your skull and facial bones causing it swell and even bleed.

When the 58-year-old came too, the reality-check sunk in. In her 30 years as an intensive care nurse she’s seen how head injuries from falling off bikes, horses and skateboards can change people’s lives, forever.

“Once your brain is damaged, it never truly repairs itself,” she says. “It’s not like some organs that can regenerate.”

Clark says she was wearing a helmet at the time. A move she believes saved her from a more serious, life changing (or life threatening) injury. The research would agree.

When 2011 University of New South Wales (UNSW) research attributes a 29 per cent reduction in bicycle-related head injury to Australia’s mandatory helmet laws, it’s difficult to argue against the safety precaution. But, there are the vocal non-believers. So when hundreds of international cycling experts gathered in Adelaide for the Velo-city Global conference in May, opposition to the helmet laws was fierce.

Safety first

Australia was the first country in the world to enforce mandatory helmet laws, costing you a $A57 and $A180 fine depending on which state you offend in.

With few countries taking up the laws since Australia did in 1991, international cycling circles are often quick to criticise the rules. Velo-city Global delegates from New York, Israel and Copenhagen were among those to speak out against the legislation. They argue it’s better infrastructure, not helmet laws, that improves safety for cyclists.

Sydney University’s Professor Chris Rissel, who presented at the conference, agrees: “Most other countries recognise these laws are a failure because of the clear adverse consequences such as reduced cycling participation and the perception that cycling is not safe,” he says.

Some of Prof Rissel’s latest research, published in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia, shows one third of 600 Sydney respondents do not support the laws, while one in five would cycle more if they did not have to wear a helmet.

“The greatest gains in cycling safety will come from more and better cycling infrastructure that separates people from traffic,” he says.

A similar assessment was made in a 2011 national Riding a Bike for Transport survey. The main reasons the 1,000 online respondents gave for not cycling more often were unsafe road conditions, speed and volume of traffic, a lack of bicycle lanes and safety. Lack of time or motivation featured well down the list.

It’s a view Garry Brennan, Bicycle Network’s General Manager, Government and External Relations both agrees and disagrees with. He agrees that better infrastructure is needed to retain and increase the number of people cycling. But he maintains helmets are still necessary to save lives. “We know from our insurance claim data that crashes happen even on the best infrastructure with no cars involved.”

On your bike

The cycling fraternity watched closely to see if Australians would be turned off riding when the laws were introduced. After all, back then; helmets were available in either Stackhat or bulky foam varieties.

Ian Ker, Principal at CATALYST (Consulting in Applied Transport, Access and Land Use Systems), who based his Velo-city presentation on a paper titled, Neo-Political Action and a New Public Policy Paradigm—A case study of mandatory bicycle helmet laws, claims participation rates fell by two-thirds between 1986 and 2006.

Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) also found there was an initial reduction in the number of people cycling in Victoria when the legislation was introduced. However, it reported within two years the number of bike riders returned to levels similar to those prior to 1991.

Mr Brennan doesn’t blame the helmet laws for the decline; he attributes the lull to social change. “Instead of kids riding their bikes or walking to school more were being dropped off by parents as more women joined the workforce and we saw the rise of the two-car family,” he says.

Today, cycling participation rates are at an all time high, according the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In 2012, the number of adults who reported cycling was more than 1,365,000—up from 829,600 in 2002.

But Prof Rissel argues the rates would be higher – and therefore more Australians active and healthy – if riders didn’t have the inconvenience of wearing a helmet. “Mandatory helmet laws are a barrier to cycling, particularly spontaneous and short trips,” he says.

Australia’s first bike share scheme, described by VicRoads as helping to promote cycling trips under 10 kilometre around Melbourne, was an example of the helmet laws causing riders to balk at bikes. The slow uptake of the scheme launched in 2010, eventually resulted in the state government introducing a complementary helmet trial in April 2013. Participation rates went up, and now $A5 helmets are available at retail outlets and vending machines around the city.

In Queensland late last year, a parliamentary inquiry recommended helmet law reforms to allow cyclists on share bikes to ride helmet-free. It also submitted giving cyclists the choice to wear a helmet if riding in parks, on shared cycle paths, and roads with a speed limit of 60 km/h or less. While helmet choice campaigners such as Freestyle Cyclists backed the proposals, Scott Emerson, QueenslandTransport Minister, rejected the recommendations. He says the overwhelming scientific evidence supports the effectiveness of helmets in reducing head injuries.

Smash stats

Nationwide, almost a fifth of people seriously injured in land transport crashes are bike riders.

And, what about head injuries? According to 2011 NSW research led by Dr Jake Olivier, the rate of head injuries reduced by almost a third after the laws were introduced. But Prof Rissel criticises the claims saying the results are not warranted because of the limited time period used in the analysis—36 months—and the lack of data beyond a few years before the introduction of the legislation.

“The overall trend in cycling injuries was downwards from the 1980s on, in Australia and globally, and the legislation did little to affect this trend,” he says.

But in another UNSW study, researchers found helmet wearing reduced the risk of severe head injury by 74 per cent. The study assessed the cases of 6745 cyclists involved in collisions with motor vehicles in NSW between 2001 and 2009. The injuries included skull fracture, intracranial injury, concussion and open head wounds.

Dr Steven Pincus, deputy director of the Royal Melbourne Hospital emergency department, says while his hospital does not keep a record, the most common reason for cyclists being admitted is also because of collision with cars. He finds most cyclists wear a helmet, which appears to reduce the severity of their head injuries. “There are a significant number of patients who come in with smashed helmets and intact heads,” he says.

Risky riders

Helmet law skeptics argue being told to wear a helmet for your own protection makes people think cycling is dangerous. “The perception that cycling is not safe is probably the main reason why more people do not cycle,” says Prof Rissel.

At the Velo-city conference, CATALYST’S Mr Ker told delegates that wearing a helmet negatively affects cycling activity by lowering riders’ level of confidence and increasing the feeling of being unsafe when cycling on the road.

“Mandatory helmet laws actually make cycling less safe for those who continue to cycle in three ways,” he says. “Cyclists who wear helmets tend to ride faster in comparable situations, than those who don’t. Motor vehicle drivers pass closer to cyclists wearing helmets than those who are not, and fewer cyclists translates into increased risk through reduction in the safety-in-numbers effect.”

A 2009 report titled Research into Barriers to Cycling in NSW also found ‘the perceived danger of cycling’ to be one of the biggest turn offs.

But those who don’t wear helmets are not exactly helping this argument. Dr Olivier and Professor Raphael Grzebieta’s 2001 to 2009 study also found that bicyclists who do not wear helmets are almost three times as likely to have disobeyed traffic controls as helmeted riders, plus more than four times as likely to ride with a blood alcohol limit above 0.05.

When it comes to where you ride, Prof Rissel told conference delegates some types of cycling carry much greater risks than others. You might consider road racing at high speeds far more dangerous than coasting along a suburban bike path, for example.

(Incidentally, it was the fall and death of professional cyclist Andrei Kivilev in 2003 that promoted the Union Cycliste Internationale (ICU) to implement the compulsory wearing of helmets in all endorsed races. The 29-year-old was racing in the second stage of the Paris-Nice when he collided with a teammate. He was airlifted to Saint-Étienne hospital, where he was diagnosed with a serious skull fracture and two broken ribs. He died of his injuries the next day.)

Or like Ms Clark, you may know if you’re riding a bike, wearing a helmet is just a no brainer. She says

As her helmet saved her on that fateful Saturday morning she was taking a casual spin along a bike path. “I was riding slowly with no other bikes or traffic around when I came off,” says the St Kilda Cycling Club member. “I landed head first, cracked my helmet and truly believe if I wasn’t wearing it I would have fractured my skull.”

Commuters lead the way, teens disobey

Melbourne cyclists—especially commuters—have no qualms about wearing bike helmets.

A 2013 Bicycle Network count of commuter cyclists around Melbourne, shows 99.8 per cent of riders find wearing a helmet normal. “No one thinks about whether it’s a good or bad idea to wear one, whether helmets work or not or if their hair is going to get messed up, it’s become an automatic response,” says Garry Brennan, Bicycle Network general manager, government and external relations.

Even in Denmark where there are no helmet laws Danske Cykelhandlere, the Danish Bike Industry Association, reported in 2010 that helmet use was steadily rising, led by women and children.

The same cannot be said for Australian youth, with a NSW study, The effectiveness of helmets in bicycle collisions with motor vehicles: A case-control study, finding children and teens were far less likely to wear helmets than adults. The research showed, of the 6745 NSW cyclists involved in collisions with motor vehicles between 2001 and 2009, almost 50 per cent of 0 to 19 year olds were not wearing a helmet at the time of their accident, compared with 15 per cent of 30 to 39 year olds.

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One thought on “120”

  1. Your data in the NSW study quotes 50% of 0 to 19 year olds not wearing helmets at time of accident with vehicles. Were these youngsters statistically more damaged than those involved wearing helmets?

  2. In Australia car occupant deaths are decreasing but cycling deaths are increasing. Helmets aren’t working and we should try something else. After 23million rides there have been no deaths on a US bike share program because the upright riding position and the types of bikes are much safer than sports bikes. Blanket laws treat adult casual commuters like sports cyclists. Australia should trial helmet choice for adults riding under 25kph on separated cycleways, shared paths and where traffic has been calmed to 40kph of less. Thanks for reading :-)

    1. Just because cycling deaths are increasing does not mean that helmets are not useful in saving lives and injury. It is important to keep the use of helmets mandatory so that young people, the ones just learning and most likely to crash, will not be tempted to ride without one.

      1. Dono, I think what you meant to say was: “in my opinion” it is important to keep the use of helmets mandatory.
        No one is saying helmets are not effective or that people shouldn’t wear them. People are saying that you shouldnt have to wear them at all times or be fined. Kids can still be made to wear helmets by, get ready for this… PARENTS!!!
        As for people saying cycling recovered 2 years after the introduction of these laws- rubbish. My old High school used to have a bike shed about 50m long that was removed after about 2 years and never replaced. There is still no bike shed there today.
        No doubt Bicycle Network will have an excuse ready when Melbourne’s bike share scheme inevitably fails. Without MHL’s the only problem the bike share scheme would have would be supplying enough bikes!
        MHL’s have turned cycling from a normal activity into something now perceived as practiced by a radical minority.
        And yes, I would still always wear a helmet.

      2. The question is not whether helmets are useful, but whether helmet laws are useful. All the evidence suggests that there are more deaths and serious injuries per cyclist than would have been expected without the laws. This is probably because of reduced cycling, reduced safety in numbers and risk compensation
        On top of that, discouraging a healthy and environmentally form of transport leads to increased brain damage from heart attacks and strokes and increased healthcare costs.
        Repealing helmet laws is therefore a win-win-win situation – safer cycling, a better environment and reduced healthcare costs.

    2. Why do we allow pedestrians on our bike paths in Melbourne? SURELY footpaths are for pedestrians – it would make bike paths safer if they were without dogs, pedestrians and walking children.

  3. Personally I believe helmets should not be mandatory. Surely as adults we can make up our own mind if we want to wear a helmet or not. If I cycle on a road I share with cars I’m happy to wear a helmet, but a lot of my cycling is done on rail trails or bike paths that are not accessible for cars with grass instead of concrete along the paths. There is no reason to wear a helmet then. Even if I would come off my bike the worst I would have is a sore head. I also believe that road safety for bicycles is the responsibility of ALL road users, not just cyclists.

    1. totally agree Gerda… and with this law that begets a fine, it smacks of bureaucracy gone wrong, and money chasing. I ride a bike to work and choose not to wear a helmet, however i do not ride on the main street, i’m lucky enough to have service roads all the way to work. The wearing of a helmet should be voluntary. By the way has any one ever seen a 0 yr old size helmet?

    2. While in a utopian world, I would agree with you, the reality is it’s the general public who will have to support somebody who suffers a brain injury through costs to the medical system, disability pensions, etc. Accidents happen everywhere and, as the stats show, many are in the circumstances you describe.
      So, shouldn’t we take all reasonable steps to reduce the impact to the general population and not just consider one selfish person and their ‘choice’?
      Wearing a helmet is not a big deal.

      1. Population won’t support those that suffer brain injury when riding without a helmet. So why are we supporting cancer treatment for those that smoke or medicare care for heart attacks for people who are overweight. What a pointless and silly argument. You are more likely to get a head injury walking down stairs, or climbing a ladder, than riding a bike. All helmets do is make bike riding appear more dangerous than what it is. If you want to reduce head injuries then make helmets mandatory in car but no wait, that would make cars appear to be as dangerous as they really are and we can’t have that now can we.

    3. Everyone always seems to think that because you are on 2 wheels you will fall off automatically and therefor it’s dangerous and you should wear a helmet. I must admit I have fallen off my bike a few times in almost 50 years of cycling due to tram tracks, gravel, wet road or cycling too close to my cycling partner. I’ve always been able to break my fall by landing on my elbows somehow. I don’t like wearing a helmet. I get hot and sweaty because the heat doesn’t properly escape through the openings. I used to not wear my helmet and found cars behaved much more polite around me then with one. But it was getting too expensive, with the bicycle gestapo often hiding behind obstacles to fine these “non-obeying citizens”. In my opinion the helmet laws are putting off much needed safe infrastructure for cyclists. All this talk about us not paying tax, so we don’t deserve it! Do pedestrians pay separate tax? And btw: Don’t forget that cyclists can also be car drivers, so they do pay road tax already, and they pay council rates to pay for infrastructure.
      I would like to see that the current hostile approach by police, car drivers and pedestrians changes. Don’t forget that because of so many people cycling, we don’t clock the roads like cars, have no exhaust fumes and look after our general wellbeing (even without a helmet)-yet we don’t get appreciated for it…..And btw: I’m not against helmets, but it should not be mandatory, especially when I just go about my way commuting from A to B at low speed.

    4. I am a very experienced rider doing about 4,000kms per year. 9 weeks ago on a clear sunny day with perfect weather conditions, I was getting towards the end of a 60kms ride, which included riding through Sydney’s CBD, riding down a very quite suburban cup-de-sac (there was a cycleway at the end of the road) when I came off my bike (over the handlebars) due to a P plater coming towards me around the tight bend on my side of the road. I landed on the top of my head breaking my C1 and C2 neck vertebrae and causing the dissection of one vertebral artery. I was very lucky – I didn’t die, I am not a quadriplegic and I had no brain damage. If I shared Gerda’s point of view, and was not wearing a helmet, I would probably not be able to write this reply. Whether they are mandatory or not, I implore all cyclists to always where a helmet.

  4. Quite simply put, if you have the option and don’t want to or won’t wear a helmet, you are a moron. Prof Rissel, that means you. I was a senior weapons engineer for several years. We are a very fragile species, the head being the most vulnerable element. How can someone that has put so much effort into developing their intellect not automatically reach for the very best hemet available? Flabbergasted doesn’t even begin to describe my reaction.

    1. This isn’t a question of whether people should wear helmets. It’s whether helmets should be mandatory.

      You can still wear a helmet without mandatory helmet laws. No need to be flabbergasted my good friend!

      1. Have you my good friend, ever been first on scene at an accident involving severe head injuries, with blood and spinal fluid pooling across the bike path ? It’s not just the dead guy that gets messed up !

    2. Drivers and pedestrians would be measurably safer if they were forced to wear helmets as well.
      Drivers would be measurably safer if stereos, radios and phones were completely banned.

      We would all be safer if cars were completely banned. If cigarettes were outlawed.

      The point is that helmets do not appear to make enough of a difference to be justified as compulsory. The nanny states in Europe agree that there are better health outcomes by encouraging more people to ride than there are by discouraging riders with helmet requirements.

      1. Fair enough – but if you chose not to take steps to protect yourself (by wearing a helmet) you should not be entitled to compensation or tax-payer funded medical care. If you’re not going to try to look after yourself, why should we when your choice goes bad?

        1. The law doesn’t work like that. Even now with MHL, not wearing a helmet has no effect on contributory negligence (because not wearing a helmet is not a factor which can lead to an incident). This would not change if the MHL was abolished, so your suggestion is weird. FYI we have universal health care in Australia – even smokers and alcohol drinkers and those who get the cancer short straw get medical care.

    3. @Geoff Williams….Do you wear a helmet while driving your car or out walking? If not, is it ok for me to call you a moron, without any knowledge of the type of walking or driving you do?
      Try to at least put a tiny bit of thinking in before posting offensive remarks.

      1. The difference is the 1.5 – 2 tonnes of specially designed crumple-zones between you and the road when you’re in a car. Essentially, you are driving INSIDE a giant helmet.

    4. With you there Geoff. People advocating not wearing a helmet have another agenda they are not disclosing. There can be no other explanation for it.

    5. Geoff, it would be easy to extend your argument to people travelling in cars, who die and are seriously injured in far greater numbers than cyclists. Presumably, anyone travelling in a car also has the option to wear a helmet but chooses not to – does that make them morons too? Because that would cover pretty much everyone in the country, including – I assume – yourself. While we’re at it, we’ll have to include pedestrians in the moron crowd as they were also dying on our roads in greater numbers than cyclists the last time I checked (happy to be corrected if someone has recent stats).

      As others have pointed out in the comments, there are many different types of cycling and while it might be reasonable for, say, road racers to be wearing helmets, it doesn’t typically make much sense for someone on an off-road bike path.

      What would make us all much safer is to have better cycling facilities, as Professor Rissel points out; and I would add, a more pro-cycling road culture in which we didn’t give cars the level of priority that we currently do. Those countries that have done this successfully, such as Denmark and the Netherlands, have cyclist mortality rates far, far better than ours; and they don’t have mandatory helmet laws.

      1. Our family can vouch for helmets. 2 of our teenage children suffered broken helmets, one with an accident with a car, the other a solo accident on a bitumen road with no traffic. Quoting overseas situations is hardly applicable to Australia, having driven cars in Europe I find that drivers there are more courteous, better behaved and more alert. Also the greater numbers of cyclists on the roads there makes drivers more alert and ACCEPTING of them. Also, having to travel/commute greater distances in Australia means we cycle faster, hence increasing injury severity. I remember travelling to highschool or university both trips 45 mins by bike. Those complaining about helmets obviously either don’t value their brain functions or memories or worry too much about their image. What concerns me is the large number of academics who are against compulsory helmets, don’t they understand the statistics. If people think cycling is too risky then it is the interface with the 1-30 tonne of steel “flying” past, with a good proportion of drivers using phones or being affected by “substances”. These are primarily reasons why people are reluctant to use bicycles ( and of course the readily availability of the family car).

  5. It would be interesting comparing head injury rates of other countries which do not have mandatory laws for bike helmets. I recently was in the Osaka area in Japan and hired bikes to explore local areas. The bike riding experience there was so different to Aust with slow paced commuter bikes, little traffic, lots of other commuting cyclists and the freedom to ride on pavements. If I have to ride on the road in Oz I wouldn’t do it without a helmet. Yikes!

  6. The anti helmet brigade are doing cycling a massive disservice because their premise is so obviously flawed that it causes the public to view all cycling advocates as fringe dwelling loonies. Vehicle – bike clashes are always going to end badly for the cyclist, helmet or no, but the severity of single or multi bike crashes is capable of being managed and helmets are the answer to this.

  7. There are two issues.
    1. Should a helmet be worn, and
    2. Should the omission of a helmet be an offence.

    1. Yes, duh, see above.
    2. No, this nanny state crap hurts things like the bike share scheme – with the health and economic benefits that would otherwise accrue.

    Ugly truth: Australia’s roads are dangerous because her drivers are dangerous. Fix that.

    1. Have had the pleasure of cycling in both Europe and Australia. Motorist is Aus. have appalling driving manners. Europe most respectful. Changes to the road rules for motorist to be responsible for their bad habits and be prosecuted for injuring cyclist and pedestrians. Monetary fines jail terms would quickly change drivers attitudes to other road users cyclist, motorcyclist and pedestrians.

      1. I should add that a helmet is a must for me. Not because the law says so – I just feel more comfortable wearing it. I have seen the consequences of not wearing it even on passive bike routes!

    2. You can’t have it both ways – if you chose not to wear a helmet, don’t expect me or any other taxpayer to foot the bill for your medical care and diability support.
      You have to completely own your anti-nanny-state mentality and not pick and choose as it suits you.
      As a society, we are entitled to put conditions on who and why public money is accessed. Wearing a helmet (if it’s made voluntary) is a reasonable response. With every decision comes consequences.

      1. Actually Adam in a FREE society you can.
        You sound like one of those 3aw listeners who were saying to leave that guy in Bass Straight when he needed rescuing a few years ago.
        Lets also ban skydiving, himalayan expeditions and anything else YOU consider too dangerous.
        How do you react to people on mainstream media saying you shouldn’t be entitled to “taxpayer funded” medical help because your a cyclist?
        No one is telling you not to wear a helmet.

  8. I am one of the commuter cyclists who wears a helmet every time I ride to and from work.

    That said, having to wear a helmet does stop me from making shorter journeys to the shops. It is those incidental journeys which people make in cars rather than bicycles, which are on lower speed suburban streets, which are ideal for helmet free riding.

  9. I love a good ‘saved by my helmet’ story but is Meredith Edwards a real person or was she created to show that even riding slowly on a bike path is dangerous? Maybe it’s time for the training wheels to go back on. In Australia there is already a lot of European style bicycle infrastructure, only we call it the ‘footpath’. And for Geoff Williams I suggest don’t visit Europe if you think it is full of morons.

      1. No, you’re not right here, for several reasons. Firstly, if you come off a bike head first you can quite easily be killed or suffer serious brain damage. That means life changing brain damage. Secondly, are you going to assert the same right of choice when someone takes you to a public hospital and get treated, free of charge, to the limit of modern medicine? No, I think not. Since you cannot be held accountable for the costs of your care should you have an accident, we, your fellow taxpayers, should have a say in the law. People used to use all these arguments about the wearing of seat belts too and they’re just rubbish.

        1. The funny thing about the cost of healthcare for people who die is that everyone, eventually, dies. Many people claim that smokers and fat people put a huge burdon on the health system but the reality is that they save the public a lot of money. Health fanatics actually cost the most because people who live a very long time are more likely to get hip replacements and other expensive treatment while smokers tend to get cancer and die just after they stop paying income tax.

          So don’t be so quick to suggest that treatment in hospitals is more because someone falls off their bike without a helmet. The truth is probably very complicated.

          1. Paul – I think you are guessing. You offer no reliable data or peer reviewed research to substantiate your point of view.

      2. I’m also a real person with a very similar story to Meredith’s. Dedicated bike path, perfect conditions, no one else around. I just fell. Don’t know why, but it happened – it happens. I was luckier than Meredith – no concussion evident, but my helmet was destroyed. At the hospital they said that they might not have even bothered cleaning my wounds before sending me for an MRI if I hadn’t been wearing one.

        I’m therefore too biased to really comment on the compulsory wearing issue. I do know that I cringe a bit whenever I see someone riding without a helmet.

        1. Agreed.
          Came off for no reason anyone riding with me could see.
          Helmet in pieces – gash in head and torn jersey.
          Doctor said good thing I was wearing a helmet.
          I ride in Singapore 35’C and meg-humidity and Perth WA – 40’C and dry-as – no problems with over heating, visibility etc. Really don’t see what the problem is !

  10. I’ve read and listened to the arguments for & against helmets since inception, and there isn’t any rational resolution. However, while you’re legally obligated to wear a helmet, I’d suggest you either (1) wear one, or (2) don’t ride a bike. I wear one because I’ve had accidents with & without and prefer to have something between me and the road. Whether you do or don’t is up to you, but if you don’t wear one, have an accident on the road in which you sustain head injuries, I’d suggest the TAC has reasonable cause not to cover your costs.

    1. Norm, unfortunately, the helmet laws have contributed to vast numbers of Australians deciding to take option 2 – not riding a bike (and driving the car instead). This is a massive loss, from a public health, and safety point of view.

    2. Your opening line shows that like many others, you are confused. No one is arguing against helmets, just helmet laws.
      A helmet will reduce the risk of a severe head injury but the same is true for drivers and pedestrians. We allow drivers and pedestrians the right to assess that risk, and curiously 100% decide it’s fine, but cyclists, no matter what the level of risk relevant to their individual riding style or location, are denied that same right.

      1. it’s mandatory to wear seat belts in a car, are you arguing this should be a Darwin Award privilage as well ?
        Lets face it, whether you die of a heart attack from not riding a bike because you didn’t want to wear a helmet or die from head injuries from riding without a helmet you’re still just as dead and still an idiot !

        1. PS. Reading between the lines the non mandatory argument is swaying me to that opinion ! Legislating to keep morons safe just breads more morons ! Darwin’s theory has never been less in question than now !

          1. Actually Al,
            Anthony didn’t mention seatbelts, you did. Anthony raised the issue of the amount of head injuries sustained every year by motorists involved in crashes.

    3. Do not assume TAC will cover you. If you hit a parked vehicle and not riding to work, you are not covered by the TAC. Discrimination at its worst against all other cyclists. Re helmets they have saved myself twice from horrific injuries. I survived without one at school. I survived firecrackers. Others didn’t. Statistics say the risk was too great. Laws are sometimes introduced for the better, this is one of them. Whilst our infrastructure is so bad and drivers so careless we have no choice! And seriously helmets are so light it’s a vanity furphy.

  11. The issue is the compulsory nature of the legislation. If we were so concerned about head injury, we would compulsorily wear helmets in cars and we would also ban contact sports. Helmet wearing is sensible and should be encouraged but not legislated for.

    1. Why not? The cost is carried by the public.

      Unlike the other circumstances you mention, riding a bike is the only one where you are grossly over-matched. Sport is like-against-like, as is a car accident (not to mention the car’s safety features and seatbelt laws which are the equivalent of bicycle helmet laws).

  12. There is evidence that with an increase in riders, the total number of injuries goes down.
    The media got it wrong: Bikeshare programs don’t increase head injuries

    The total number of injuries went down as ridership went up across a number of cities. The increase was due to bikeshare. Bikeshare is a complete failure with helmet laws. And finally you could conclude that in a city with bikeshare, the reverse is true: having helmet laws will in fact result in more injuries. So helmet laws are actually making things worse for cyclists in general.

    There are a large number of people willing to cycle who will not cycle with a helmet. It is far better for everybody to have these people on the road or path.

  13. My head, and my life, have been saved on several occasions by the use of a helmet, and I would not take to any road anywhere without one.

    No amount of legal and safe riding can prevent the fact that collisions, however minor, are inevitable. I would have to state that this is more so in NSW than Victoria, due to poor road infrastructure, driver education and a lack of consideration by other road users.

  14. There is research that suggests wearing a helmet in a car would reduce deaths due to head injuries by 80%. Can anyone imagine a government that would bring in a compulsory helmet law for car drivers? This is the nature of democracy. A government will bring in a draconian law only if will affect a minority. Us.

  15. Can anyone confirm if riding without a helmet is less dangerous than having a sedentry lifestyle? Logically, it makes sense to me because millions of Australians are overweight and this causes them to die early. In comparison, a few hundreds of Australians are likely to have significant head injuries if they ride without helmets. I don’t have the stats to back my claim up and would love to know if I am right or not.

    In my opinion, the main reason parents drive their children to school is because mandatory helmet laws have given them the crazy idea that cycling is dangerous. In the studies I have seen, children mostly WANT to cycle to school but paranoid parents instead put them into the very bad habit of driving everywhere. It is no wonder so many people are fat.

  16. The one time I had a serious bike accident (requiring hospitalisation) it was on a separated bike path, with no motor vehicles involved. My bike helmet was probably the only thing that saved me my life, or a permanent disability. Let’s not think the only hazards from bike riding arise from motorists. Helmets are good.

  17. Your own personal safety should be YOUR own choice.

    If you don’t want to wear a helmet that should be your call and your call ONLY.

    Mandating against it is simply a joke:
    1. It exhausts resources (I’d prefer my Police force to be POLICING REAL CRIME!)
    2. Is motivated by money hungry agencies (insurances mainly & government ie: fines) in the guise of “SAFETY”.

    People take responsibility and BE accountable for yourselves.

    1. I agree Anth. And the same choice should also be available to who pays for your for your rehabilitation and care, if rehabilitation is possible (’cause I don’t want to).

  18. Without delving deeper, it’s always difficult to figure out what may have been overlooked in each study’s methodology. Particularly when the circumstantial evidence offered seems like such an obvious “proof”.

    I’ve yet to see a balanced comparrison of head injury cost-savings versus the increased cost of any other injuries (e.g. rotational injuries) plus any other health dis-benefits (sedentary lifestyle illnesses) associated with mandatory helmet wearing.

  19. The question about ‘why doesn’t the rest of the world have a MHL’ is interesting. When you travel a lot like I do, it is quite easy to place Victoria’s attitude to bikes in a global context. Basically, we fine bike riders a lot of money for any transgressions involving no helmet, red lights, and other matters that are far less policed in other countries. We are treated as seconc class citizens, in that _our_ network of cycling infrastructure is never complete, and never receives the Fed. and State investment is is due. Other countries see things differentlyand actvely encourage bike use much more.The MHL is one outcome of a hierarchical attitude among road authorities in VIC and even among the general public; vehicles first, then motorbikes, then us. MHLs protect riders somewhat from bad motorists [and the occasional stupid accident you caused yourself] – but it absolves the authorities from doing more than they have, about the main causes of bike accidents – being hit by motorists who drive badly, and not providign safer infrastructure. As somebody who cycled for 40 years overseas with no helmet, I find Australia’s law to be a BandAid on a vehicular problem: scrap it and get serious.

  20. I have been riding for over 50years. Long before helmets came in. Since the introduction of helmets I have worn one every time I get on the bike. I have been involved in two car door openings this year alone and the helmet saved me on both occasions. Would it have made a difference if I had’t been wearing one. I don’t know and I don’t intend to find out. I am now 67 and average 100klms each week. Rain or shine.

  21. I am a 63yo male. I race and ride. I have damaged helmets in my falls over the last few years (which got replaced). When I was young I raced and rode also. I only wore the minimum protection of the day. I reckon helmets save you, but, I never had any hint of head contact in the old days. This is probably due to the stack hats not being as bulky as they are now. An 80yo friend fell last week and died his helmet did not help. Now I have a stiff neck but my head is OK.

  22. I can’t believe we are still having this debate. I have two cracked helmets in my shed to remind me to keep wearing the third one.

    As my 11 year old reminds me, “People who don’t wear helmets, don’t need helmets.”

    ‘nough said.

  23. Our son would not be alive today if he had not been wearing a good quality helmet when hit by a truck side on earlier this year. His head (helmet) smashed the trucks wind screen. So yes keep helmets compulsory. I would not ride a bike without one.

  24. What is so inconvenient on wearing a helmet? Is it just that it will mess up your hair? Adding to the ‘saved by helmet’ side. Hit by car, used side of head to slow myself down. With helmet – most of helmet side gone, all skin off ear gone, chipped teeth, knocked out. Without helmet? Most of side of face gone? Death?
    Even a slow speed falling from a seated position can lead to damage. Wearing a helmet may not save your life but it won’t make an incident worse. Who cares what they do elsewhere. Who cares if someone doesn’t ride because of being anti rules. People who complain about helmets should stay off a bike – gives ammo to those who say riders are a law unto themselves.

  25. Its all revenue B/S!
    Its my head, its my decision.
    I also ride a brakeless fixie / track bike.
    Unlike 50% of the bikes on the road that have either worn out or incorrectly tuned brakes, my brakes work every time. as there aren’t any pads to wear out, cables to stretch or adjust or even snap.
    NICE TO SEE VICTORIA POLICE performing road blocks on bike paths and lanes, purely to fine people for things like not having a mechanical brake or wearing a helmet. Raise the cash and build that stash. Victoria Police definitely made the world a better and much safer place after they booked a group of girls who regularly meet at the Carlton gardens to practice tricks on their fixies FOR NOT HAVING BRAKES OR WEARING HELMETS!! If they were concerned about safety then skateboarders, bladers, kids on razors & scooters even pogo sticks would all require the wearing of helmets. Double standards crap. Just like it being illegal to ride through Flagstaff gardens… oh unless yr a family..
    Get real.

  26. There are some interesting and surprising views out there…..and no shortage of war stories! The basic premise of helmet protection is that a force sustained is absorbed and spread to protect the wearer. The entire mobile phone cover industry was built on the principle that the screen and electronics are very fragile, in much the same way that the human brain is very fragile. Some impacts are clearly going to be too great and the brain itself can be injured due to focal, coup and contre-coup forces. But the basic physics cannot be rebutted, that the helmet will provides some degree of protection from impacts.
    As has been suggested, helmets worn in cars, would logically improve the outcome of car crash victims who suffered brain trauma…..but this is a multi-faceted problem and wearing helmets may cause an increase in crashes due to reduced peripheral vision…..Its not as simple as one solution being the panacea.
    As a paramedic, an avid cyclist and a reasonably logical person, the one truth that cannot be disputed is that crash prevention will always be better than a hospital visit!

  27. I agree with wearing a helmet having the chin straps correctly tightened also there are so many are not. Wearing fluro tops helps to be visable as are outdoor workers.

  28. Why is nobody designing other bike gear to minimise injuries? If you look at motor bike gear now, so much has been done to minimise back and neck injuries but a cyclist falling off will lose a lot of skin and often break a collar bone. Surely a jersey with some protection is not impossible?
    Also, if you are at all serious about safety, how can you wear a (low visibility) black jersey which so many do?

  29. Every time I see data analysed by some professor I know that it is going to have a nonsense spin applied to it. How ridiculous is it to suggest helmets do not prevent serious head injuries. Anybody who has ever come off a bike reasonably hard knows the value of a good helmet. I am one of them several times over. To suggest otherwise is just plain stupidity.

  30. The helmet helps in case of accident. No question about.
    Over 18 years old I would leave it as a personal choice to wear it or not.
    Please do not tell me that the hospital cost for riders is higher than hospital cost for smokers or overweight people. However as far as I know people can still smoke and can still go to McDonald’s.
    I would love the freedom to wear it whenever I like to as I did in Europe.
    If we go down to $ than we should ask our politicians to stop selling cigarettes (ops what about the tax income) and close Maccas and the like

  31. Being separated from traffic will make no difference to safety of wearing a helmet or not. I was riding the Western Ring Road path when a group of cyclists raced passed me going faster than I was riding. Being forced to the left on the path, my bike hit some loose debris on the path and slid from under me. I sustained serious injury to my shoulder breaking my collar bone in two places. My helmet hit the ground in a whiplash fashion, and had I not been wearing this helmet, it would have been my head hit the ground. The lining in my helmet cracked with heavy scrapes on the outside. Infrastructure will not save lives. Correct fitting and correct wearing of helmets will. Please keep the helmet laws to protect our riders.

  32. Personally, I don’t really understand what the issue for people when it comes to wearing a helmet? Is it that inconvenient? It takes more time to work out what to wear for the weather conditions than to clip up a helmet. And as far as helmet hair, riding gives anyone wind swept hair, both can be fixed with a brush. Lets get over it people, it is no more inconvenient than putting on a seat belt is it?

  33. Is it just a simple case of helmet or no helmet? Cars have seat belts, why not helmets in a car? Instead of wearing a helmet why not have a shield/cover that fitted snugly, kept the weather out and was more aerodynamic that also fitted close to the body and head as part of the bicycle, then there is no need for an additional accessory like a helmet plus it would provide additional safety for the rest of the body. Think it as a safety belt for bikes.
    Noticed how many folks wear a cap instead of a helmet? Stats state riders accidents in the 0 – 19 age bracket, how many 0-3 year olds have you seen riding a bicycle lately?

  34. 1. Makes me think what dirty government gets kick backs from where the helmets are made.

    2. When I see police pulling up people for not wearing a helmet and fine them. They should not complain about being under staff and over work.

    3.Makes more sense to were them in a car with all the head injuries in car accidents.But that will never happen while politicians are in cars might mess up there hair.

  35. Cycling is NOT safe, especially on roads. Helmets do make it safer but will not help you if a car runs over your head, nor protect you from snapped limbs and ruined tendons. Do not expect to ride roads without a small but real risk of total and permanent life-changing disablement. I am a very keen biker but have judged it too dangerous to commute after many near-death experiences. A strip of paint creating a lane filled with parked cars does not rival true dedicated bike paths. I’d prefer optional helmets and mandatory bike infrastructure.

  36. Not a surprise RideOn will tackle this, starting by setting the scene of Meredith. Nevertheless, it’s still nice of you to refer to the Rest of the World in your article that have looked at the unintended impacts of the helmet LAW in Australia (and NZ, only 2 countries with all-age MHL), the generation of drivers who were never cyclists since MHL was implemented and the very fact that Australia cycling statistics do NOT have any clear advantage over other countries when weighted by it’s (reduced) number of riders tells you it’s already a failed public policy, and still threatening bikeshare schemes across the country.

    I’ve ridden in countries where helmet law isn’t required, and guess what? it doesn’t stop me from wearing one if I wanted to, and it sure doesn’t stop me from using their Velib for a quick commute, or indeed anyone else from riding (unlike here). This means more drivers having a loved one who rides – and guess how those people would drive around cyclists. So when someone talks about Helmets saving them after being hit by a driver, SMIDSY or dooring(s), maybe they should weigh what the LAW played in the scenario the found themselves in.

    By the way, a simple search should tell you how many Australians acquire traumatic brain injury a year, I’m sure you can find stories of Merediths in too.

  37. Well at least after twenty or more years of denial BNV finally accept that the “debate” is not over. The debate though should properly be called “the helmet law debate”, not the “helmet debate”. A couple of things are very clear from all the available evidence. Firstly, that while a helmet may reduce the extent and severity of head injury (not the same as brain injury) in the event of an accident, the effect on injury rates across a whole population of a helmet law has been negligible. Secondly, mandating helmet use, when enforced, reduces cycling participation in the short term, and remains a significant barrier in the long term. It is for these two reasons that the rest of the world has not followed Australia’s experiment.
    To deny (as do BNV and other supporters of MHLs) the benefits of bicycle riding to anyone who does not wish, for whatever reason, to wear a helmet, is simply wrong. There is no justification for punishing people for the healthy practice of bicycle riding, just because they don’t buy into the helmet paradigm. This is a case where the rest of the world really does know better. It would serve BNV well if they were to change their current policy on mandatory helmets, which at present could best be described as “world’s worst practice”

  38. This is a classic case of the ehical dilema- rights of an individual vs the rights of many.
    Frankly I really wouldnt care if others dont wear a helmet if we didnt have to fork out taxes to pay for the care and rehabilitation of cyclists with head injuries. If you dont want to wear a helmet, buy an insurance policy that will maintain you in a vegetative state for the rest of your miserable life, Go ahead just, dont expect others to look after you. Otherwise wear a helmet, they work.

  39. As a regular rider & also a regular driver I feel that the thoughtlessness of some riders is extraordinary. I see some cyclists without helmets in dark clothing with weak lights or often no lights on roads at all times of the day, let alone dusk & at night & I think of the poor motorist who will be guilt ridden for knocking over this stupid cyclist who in many respects was just asking for trouble. I am amazed that the police do not pull over these fools. Also to those who say drivers do not wear helmets, have you noticed that airbags now protect them from many injuries, let alone the large protective shell that modern cars are. We cyclists need to accept that unfortunately we are vulnerable when sharing the roads & do the best to both educate drivers (who most cyclists are also) & protect ourselves! Even when riding on bike paths when commuting, with many cyclists seeming to be doing high speed time trials, the risk is still also there. Do your self & the taxpayers who pay for our hospitals a favour & care for yourself. Your significant other probably also deserves to be asked for their opinion. If they don’t care if you are wearing safe clothes & a helmet, at least you will know where you stand!

  40. In this context I also wear a helmet when snowboarding in a variety of conditions and terrain, its a no brainer. Take a look at the voluntary uptake of helmet wearing across all snow sports, is it a “fashion thing” or are they all just smart/educated middle class people enjoying themselves.More telling is that I don’t even have to convince my son to wear one when he goes skiing. Bike riders who shun helmets are morons. period.

    1. Have you looked at the death/injury stats from the North American ski fields since helmet use spread? No, I didn’t think you had. I ride a bike (quite slowly), I don’t wear a helmet, I am not a moron. Period.

  41. As a rider that suffered a moderate speed crash the weekend, I can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t wear a helmet. I came down in a rather unfortunate way and slammed the back of my head into the road. The end result? A cracked outer shell and and smashed Styrofoam inside but ultimately my head was fine. If that break was my skull and not my helmet then I don’t think I am coming home to my young family.

  42. Make helmets optional for those over the age of 18 who are riding an unpowered bicycle fully compliant with the Australian design rules at no more than 25 km/h on a road or path with speed limit of 50 km/h or less. This would allow those who wouldn’t otherwise ride to undertake short commutes or errands, whilst still requiring helmet use for the overwhelming majority of circumstances in which serious head injuries occur.

    Forcing helmets on those for whom it makes only a marginal difference in safety (when we do not also do this for motorists) simply reduces the cycling participation rate and makes the roads more dangerous for us all.

  43. The helmet law should be reformed so that Australian’s can begin the long process of catching up with world’s best cycling practice. There has been no improvement in cycling safety measured during the 23 years when Australia relied on helmet law as the major cycling safety initiative. Meanwhile bike riding is booming in other countries where normal cycling has been made safe and attractive through measures like traffic calming, separated cycling lanes and successful bikeshare schemes.

  44. Stop scaring people about riding bicycles. There is no need for helmets. There is a need for competency and safety. If we need helmets why don’t we need steel toed boots and long sleaves and trousers? Why? I wear steel toed boots when I ride my bike, because if your foot slips in the spokes when going fast your toes can be ripped off. My friend fell off his bicycle while wearing a helmet, but the helmet did not stop his neck from breaking. I find that the helmet straps alter the focus of my multi-focus glasses – I would rather be able to see clearly.

    1. no worries with me !, you obviously value your toes more than your brains, you are truly a good argument for not wearing a helmet, by all means remove yourself from the gene pool ! Just do the job properly and don’t leave others to pay for your medical expenses.

  45. Hi, wearing a helmet will not stop the cyclist from a collision.
    The real issues are poor infrastructure, lack of education &
    the very poor attitude most drivers exhibit towards cyclists.
    I have long advocated that bicycles be Registered in all states & territories so riders have 3rd party insurance, so then
    have some protection.

  46. Having twice been knocked unconscious during bicycle accidents due to vehicles failing to give way I know helmets protect my scull and reduce brain injury.

  47. After having had a fall on Beach Rd in the Blackrock area in an accident (my 1st accident in 14 years of riding), I can only say that if it wasn’t for the mandatory helmet law, I certainly would be brain damaged today if I hadn’t been wearing a helmet, my head hit the concrete gutter, the helmet cracked in half. I was still capable of riding back home afterwards. I’ll never get on my bike without a helmet.

  48. Why not just work out the percentages ?, when presented to a hospital with head injuries you pay an extra percentage of the treatment cost if you didn’t take the precaution of having Personal Protection. Same should go with smoking and other idiotic ways of self harm. Why should I pay for an idiot who thinks their safer riding without a helmet ?

  49. Hundreds of foot injuries present at hospitals around Australia from bicycle accidents involving people wearing thongs. Simple solution is to get the governmant to bring in a mandatory sensible shoes law.

    1. I was one of them, foot slipped off into spokes! do I wear thongs on a bike now ? Did I have ongoing health issues requiring big $$ ? Did I have someone watching me die in a pool of spinal fluid & blood ?
      Forgive me if wrong, but some state laws prohibit driving a motor vehicle in thongs don’t they ?

  50. I started bike riding when I was 11. It coincided with the mandatory helmet laws. Before that time, my parents were loathe to let me ride a bike, because they considered it too dangerous. So it was the mandatory laws that led to my bike participation, not the other way around.

    I then went on many ‘bike hikes’ as we called it with my friends as a teenager; overnight bike rides with way too heavy bikes and camping gear. A lot of fun.

    But on one of those rides, while descending Mt Disappointment, I came off around a corner and my forehead went straight into a cliff face at 60km/h. I had a headache and that was all. My Guardian yellow helmet was totally destroyed.

    Needless to say, I remain a bike enthusiast. But I wear a helmet. And I see no problem with compulsory helmet laws (as well as good bike riding infrastructure – they are not mutually exclusive!).

  51. -Is it necessary to wear a helmet when you ride a bicycle? TOTALLY! Cars are not the only hazard; even in a calm an empty park it can protect you from a tree branch above you didn’t see for any given reason.
    -Does it have to be mandatory? Let’s face it: if it’s not, youngsters won’t wear it & they are the most accident prompted group of people.

  52. A Nah Sayer PoV :
    Having lived and trained extensively in Europe for many yrs without a helmet or incident for me, my friends, acquaintances, cycle club etc would suggest for me the use of helmets is overrated. Certainly makes the bike-hire and go schemes like in Europe more compelling compared to Melbourne when a helmet isn’t part of the logistics. I am not convinced it is about infrastructure but more so on motorists behavior/education : In Europe it seems motorist (Italians aside)are more aware of cyclist, alert or used to their presences when compared to Aus Motorists. Dropping the use of helmets in Aus would require more diligent and bike friendly motorists. Think about the tight narrow roads in Europe shared between car and bike. I found motorists gave way to a bike

    Personally I think kids to 14yrs old should have to wear a helmet, for adults it should be discretionary, and for racing it should be compulsory

  53. The last time I was hit by a car, my helmeted head was the first thing to it the road. Years before that a car did a u-turn unfront of me;I went over the bonnet and rolled to the other side of the road, my helmeted head hitting the road at least 3 times. I’m 63, have been riding a bike on the road since I was a teenager and don’t feel safe without a helmet.

    1. Eugene – wearing a helmet doesn’t prevent you from being involved in an accident. What is does do is significantly improve your chances of survival if you are in an accident, particularly if you land on your head.

  54. I posted a comment last night which has not been published. Is this because I was critical of (though not in any way offensive) BNV’s policy on helmets? Seeking clarification, and concerned that this thread may be censoring debate.

    1. Hi Alan, nothing quite so sinister! Half of the Ride On team is out of the office today and the rest are grappling with a magazine deadline. All approved now.

  55. I am in Emmerich, Germany as I write this comment. We have just spent 4 days in Amsterdam and the main difference I see apart from no helmets, is the almost complete absence of drop handlebars. Riders here and in Amsterdam scoot along at around 20kph, but they are all sitting upright. I was also amazed to find motor scooters with helmet less riders also sharing bike paths and in many cases at significantly higher speeds than the bikes. A bit more independent research is required, not political research with the result suiting the agenda being pushed.

  56. I have been hit by a car twice, both cars turned in front of me,without my helmet in both cases I would not be here today as I bounced off the cars and my head bounced off the road smashing my helmet in both cases. I am 65, have been riding a bike on the road all my life and don’t feel safe without a helmet. I don’t really care if helmets are compulsory or not I don’t go out without one.

  57. The reason for the compulsory use of seat belts in cars is to help prevent your head from hitting another surface; since seat belts do not work with bikes, we wear helmets. I also belong to a recreational cycling club; almost all recorded accidents in the club over the last ten years have occurred on bike paths even though approximately 50% of our rides are on the road. Its a no brainer wear a helmet.

  58. A couple of comments. At the current rate of growth, Melbourne’s percentage of journeys to work by bike will return to 1950s levels in about 130 years time (based on data from 1956 planning study + census) we need to stop proclaiming how fantastic the growth in cycling is and acknowledge that it is an emergency in the context of population and urban density growth.

    The often quoted Monash report that Melbourne cycling recovered from helmet law is dubious. Buried on p 44 of the report it says part of the observed recovery was due to a bike rally at one survey site. See the report at:

  59. The issue is simpler than most realise. The bicycle helmet is a minimal coverage device aimed solely at head injury protection, and thus barely covers several area of slightly lesser vulnerability. The release if the penetration test allowed the ventilation trade off to be accepted .. But the physics of impact are unrelenting, as case after case shows . The drop height from a bicycle is much the same or more than from a powered two wheeler. Survivability in a solid head impact is still less than 60km/hr exactly the same as other vehicles. The arguments for helmets in cars have indeed been out to Standards Committees, but the issues are confounded by rapid advances in internal retention and energy dissipation designs on the external and internal surfaces of cars.

    I really disliked the original Bell bicycle helmet, but modern ones are perfectly acceptable fir the protection that they offer.. And the as2063. Revisions were driven by Australia not the us or Bell.

    The initial drops in usage were intimately connected by the helmet usage requirement suddenly becoming an enforced and enforceable offence (nsw data at the time on police enforcement demonstrated the almost complete focus solely on this new offence)…

    The low performance of the melbourne bike share is at least as much due to the total unattractive ness of the almost historical designs adopted of a heavy and lumbering old style bike without even a simple helmet retention mechanism, credit card connection or gps to help rare users in a given area navigate at once. These concerns were cited even before the racv branded program..

    So most of the issues scanned here miss basic infirmation and this is well summarized in the article, which I found reasonable, readable and not overwhelmed with the evidence while citing it in context ..

  60. I’ll contribute my ‘2 bobs worth’.
    My disclosure first (50+ male, medium pace recreation rider, but also cycle A to B with urban area).
    And for those who don’t want to read further, currently I come out, on balance, on the side of retaining the current law requiring helmet to be worn; however if the law is repealed I hope that is on the basis of good evidence. The key parts of my rationale are outlined below.
    Key argument to retain the law: in the current environment, cycling is a relatively risky activity. ‘Facts’ include: much more risk of being injured than car travel or walking; even low speed impact to the head can be catastrophic absent a helmet.
    Key argument to change the law: in my humble opinion, the best argument is that removing the legal requirement would increase the number of people cycling, with consequent improvement in safety via greater tolerance from drivers, more political clout for better cycling infrastructure, etc. I can’t dismiss this argument.
    However, I do have some doubts about whether the legal requirement to wear a helmet is a or the main reason more people do not cycle. I think more important reasons include culture (eg 50 years of car based society) and poor infrastructure. While I readily concede that infrastructure may only be improved after more people cycle, I worry about the injuries in the meantime.
    Is there good evidence that repeal would increase the number of cyclists? Not as far as I am aware, however I’m happy to be informed and won’t assert that many legislative changes are based on good evidence. But the cycling community should try to do better.
    In terms of evidence (disclaimer, I am not a statistician), what about a survey of randomly selected individuals or a trial?
    If the decision is to repeal the current requirement, either with or without good evidence, I hope there is an appropriate, ongoing and graphic, information campaign. keep the rubber side down.

  61. I find this whole ramble about tax payers footing the bill for cycling-related injuries, deeply flawed. Surely those very same cyclists are paying for their own medical expenses through their taxes and therefore fully entitled to adequate healthcare, whichever way they get injured.

    Aside much mentioned smoking and obesity, following such logic we would start denying helthcare to anyone engaging in however dangerous activity, including riding a motorbike, driving the car and generally just leaving their house.

  62. I really wish people were more numerate and logical in this country – there is a wealth of statistical and scientific dishonesty put forward by the automobile apologists that would largely evaporate if people had a decent command of even high school level maths…

    The truth is that cycling levels in Oz are abysmal by comparison with similar countries/cultures – and this causes a substantially greater economic cost than a few head injuries (which are by no means isolated to cyclists).

    For those that are unable/unwilling to see the gaping flaws in the (often simply emotive) ‘evidence’ put forward – do you really believe that physics and mathematics work differently in Australia to every where else in the world?

    We have a disgraceful level of infrastructure and a massive problem with motorists – some are wilfully aggressive and should be charged with attempted murder, many are selfish and impatient and should be charged with manslaughter and there are plenty that think roads are an extension of their lounge rooms – MHLs are about as useful at combatting the real problems (and similarly disingenuous) as health warnings on cigarettes; to solve the problem, you actually have to solve the problem – it’s all rather pathetic really…

  63. My helmet is always hanging off the handlebars so when I get my bike it is easier for me to put it on my head rather than find somewhere else to put it.
    What is the problem wearing a helmet, I have always worn one even before they were mandatory and I don’t have much worth saving.

  64. If people honestly think 300g of foam on your head magically turns the perfectly safe activity of riding a bicycle from ‘dangerous’ to ‘safe’, then you need to check the definition of ‘risk’. That is, none of the stats confirm the MHL has provided us with a population-level (public health or transport) benefit since its introduction over 2 decades ago. And considering the amount of public money used to treat the tens of thousands of people injured or killed every day thanks to car accidents, this whole ‘must wear a helmet or no medical help’ is as sinister as it is inaccurate.

    I mean, really, there are so many anecdotes in these comments I don’t even know where to start…

    1. It it is true that saving one life is worth compelling people to do something, the helmets should be compulsory for pedestrian and more so for cars. Remember physics what matters is mass and velocity, both are greater in cars hence the higher risk. And if you save just one life it is worth it. So if it is valid for bikes, MHL for all?

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