Darwin is one of the most unsafe places to drive or ride in a car in Australia and yet it is no more dangerous on a bike than the national average .

Moreover,  if your ride on the excellent cycleways and the footpaths without a helmet,  as you are legally allowed to do, you are safer than average.

How this strange situation came about,  remains shrouded in mystery. Anyone know? 

I'd heard rumors about this curious state of cycling affairs and went to Darwin expressly to check it out. What i found is on my blog and in the film called Darwin shows the Way, embedded in the blog.

What do you think? Are they onto something? Will they crack down and get into line if a whole bunch of  cycling tourists turn up, eager to enjoy this freedom?


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I understand that there was partial repeal of the MHL, which was never popular in NT, in about 1994.

Police apparently do not bother too much with enforcement where helmets are still legally required (i.e. on roads). As a result the NT has the highest rate of cycling to work and the largest proportion of female cyclists in the country.

Pity it's so bloody hot and humid up there...
I reckon whoever passed the legislation never wore one in the tropics. It would be impractical up there. Plus the pathways look so nice, you'd be a lot safer. I think the police would never stop people because they'd understand it's far too hot and humid to comply.
Answer to B: if lots of tourists turn up spending money, you can guarantee that noone will be cracking down on anything. They might have a happy hour, toss the boss, or some festival, but no crackdown when NT relies so much on tourism.
I hope you are right. They have tightened up other laws.
You are right about the heat being a reason, Neil. One person mentions it on film and several others in the rushes. But many do their riding in the early morning when it applies less.

You are also right about the police not enforcing Because of that I was surprised as to how many people stick to the footpaths. I think they just like going slow and worrying about cars. There's a natural slow bike movement going on it seems. Mike
We were in Darwin a couple of years ago and took full advantage of the cycle paths.
We rode everywhere and were very impressed.
Hired bikes nearly every day and of course never needed to bother with the helmet.
We really needed hats though.
Both of us had ridden in Sweden where cycling is very safe.
It reminded me of the cycleways in a town there.
But this felt the best and safest in Australia.
I dont think the NT government would want to spoil such a good system.
I just saw your film. Great film too and it was good to see Darwins bike system again.
Thanks, Peter.
Really liked your film Mike! Fascinating that cycling injury rates in Darwin are actually lower than in the rest of Australia!
That's a very interesting video of what is happening in Darwin.

There seems to be two types of cyclists: the first type is the roadies with helmets like we have in Sydney.

The second type is the slow cyclists on cycle paths and footpaths who feel safe and are safe: no head injuries reported from 9 years of renting mountain bikes is telling.

It seems ironic that the helmet law got rid of the slow cyclists who were the safest. Only NT seems to have woken up since and admitted that it was a mistake.

Does Darwin has something to teach us? Absolutely.

Are people open-minded enough to learn? I'm not so sure.
When you've been trained to believe that "helmets saves lives" and that helmets are the solution to cycling safety for so long, it's not that easy to open your mind to what really makes a difference in cycling safety.
So much easier to stick to what seems "obvious" and "intuitive", even if it damages cycling.


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