Petition to reform helmet laws in Australia and new Zealand

Freestyle Cyclists Australia and New Zealand have a petition going on the home page of their website. The petition calls for the reform of mandatory helmet laws in both countries, to promote and increase cycling. Although information about this petition has already been put on the helmetless riders forum, I'm posting it here to reach a wider audience.

This petition is not about the performance of helmets in a given situation. Nor does it concern an individuals preference for wearing a helmet when cycling. It is about whether people who choose to ride without a helmet should be fined for doing so. The law currently imposes a fine for riding without a helmet on all roads, off-road bike trails, parks, National Parks and footpaths. Reform would include removal of the law in any of those places.

This is an opportunity for those who prefer to wear a helmet to support those who sometimes or always do not. It will free up Police from the job of fining cyclists to concentrate on more important road safety issues. Furthermore, if the repeal of the law results in more cyclists, this will increase demand for cycling infrastructure and contribute to a diverse cycling culture in this country.

The Freestyle Cyclists petition has already attracted over 1000 signatures and is growing into an important movement in this country. The recent launch of the campaign in Melbourne included speakers from the ACT, NSW, Queensland and Victoria. The group will be campaigning everywhere until the State laws are changed.

To support this petition go to

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I don't think there is robust evidence that mhl brings a health benefit. Or that removing it brings a health benefit.

Cycling is good, no doubt about that. Not the only exercise option by any means as most of us seem to agree.

But for me it's a wish to remove a bum law. I picked my bike up from repair this week and had no helmet at the time. Of course I rode it home from the station.

What a great campaign!   There are way tooo many people put off from cycling believing it to be a dangerous activity!  I can remember riding thousands of km as a kid through the country and makeshift BMX jumps !! I may have fallen off a few times but I never had more than a few bumps and grazes.  I don't need a nanny state to tell me how i should protect myself!

The more people we get out there cycling the better it will be for the rest of us cyclists and so much better for the environment and our health costs associated with 'lifestyle illness' . . .

Great call Kathy - I'm signing up now!

Australia has been subjected to mandatory helmet law for 20+ years. This law which imposes hefty helmet fines for non- compliance has discouraged many people from cycling and we are now reaping the rewards of rising obesity and healthcare cost. This mandatory helmet law experiment using Australians as human guinea pigs have clearly failed. It is time we repeal mandatory helmet law. We can then rejoin the rest of the cycling world where people riding a bicycle sans helmet is not treated as a criminal.

Yesterday Baa Baa commented "Oh what great fun another helmet discussion / argument." and I thought geez, what a negative, sarcastic remark.  But now I start to understand where that comment comes from.  It's really a bit tiresome to see these arguments raging about the most trivial nth degree of the finest point of an argument.


The comments on this discussion are now evenly split between well-wishers congratulating Kathy for this awesome initiative and a single, spiralling conversation into the finer points of one aspect of the argument for reforming helmet laws (actually, I think the argument is forming the majority right now).  It's boring, it's a turn-off and it detracts from what is otherwise a REALLY POSITIVE INITIATIVE from Freestyle Cyclists who are doing their bit, in their own way, to improve cycling in Australia.


Not everybody agrees that removing the Helmet Laws in Australia and New Zealand is a good idea.  That's expected and respected.  But if you don't agree, please say so, state your reasons and move on.  Please, please don't be unclear about your position and instead argue semantics and pedantics about what people are saying.


Have a great weekend everyone.  Make sure you hop on your bicycle at some point.

I think Si is right in that repealing MHL isn't going to solve our obesity problem, but it can't make it worse! :)

The obesity epidemic is clearly a much, much more complicated problem and it's not going to be solved anytime soon - my patients are just getting fatter & fatter and making my job trickier...

Everything in our world is geared towards rewarding sloth (home cinemas, backyard pools, air-conditioning, drive-through everything, cheap motoring, high calorie 'cheap' food, and so on...) and we are quite happy to ignore the damage it is doing to us until it is almost too late. It's not only affecting our waistlines but also our relationships - people are more intolerant of others. It's the 'you are the most important person in the world' phenomenon.

Anyway, I am of the opinion that any barrier to increased physical activity, no matter how trivial it may seem to some, is important to address and remove. If our MHL had been the wonderful safety initiative (without any negative externalities) that we are constantly told it has been then sure, keep it by all means. But it really hasn't made any significant difference to cycling safety overall and we have certainly lost an entire group of people who may otherwise use a bicycle for that short trip around the neighbourhood - who knows though? This further pushes our neighbourhoods into being conduits for cars and not much else and the cycle continues. We have generations of new drivers who have *never* ridden a bicycle! That's scary...

One thing about repealing MHL that is attractive is that it is cheap - it costs nothing. Nervous politicians could even trial an exemption for bike share and actually collect some useful data for a change, rather than trying to decipher patchy data from years past. My worry is that nobody wants to risk producing evidence that shows repealing helmet laws is 'safe' so this is why they're not interested in addressing it. Pity.

Many people here freely admit to riding without a helmet from time to time and that's perfectly reasonable. That's how it should be and that's all we're really asking for. Because you can currently 'choose' doesn't mean that you really have a choice - it's illegal - and this is enough to prevent many people from exercising this pseudo-choice.

You can get away with it more in certain places (Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Manly) and not in others (Pyrmont Bridge, most of Victoria!). In a way this haphazard policing helps breed complacency because 'if I can get away with it most of the time' what's the point making a fuss?

My opinion on this subject (and helmets themselves) is:

- bicycle helmets are useful for certain impacts (but most people grossly overestimate this benefit - that concerns me) and theoretically worse for others.

- the 'low speed' impacts which they are good for usually result in broken arms & clavicles as people usually protect their heads automatically (funny that).

- the current standard is not good enough and needs improving

- the law needs to be relaxed/repealed

It is such a divisive subject (helmet use) in the cycling world but it is all the more frustrating when it occurs from behind the 'wall' of helmet compulsion. In countries without helmet laws, bicycle helmet use is indeed a distraction from things that do improve cycling safety (slower speed limits, separated infrastructure where appropriate, priority at junctions, filtered permeability and so on) but this does NOT mean that it is a distraction in countries with such laws - quite the opposite. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem which is hard to prove until you try it.

I'm starting to wonder if the only thing that will really shake people out of their laziness is a recession and an oil crisis (at the same time). The problem is that my garage full of bicycles will be suddenly quite attractive to thieves - lucky they'll all be fat & lazy!! ;-P

Tom, maybe you do get it now, but when you started out stating...

Remember as well that we're part of a group of people who are *so* enthusiastic about cycling that we go to the effort to sign up to a forum like Sydney Cyclist and invest our time engaging in these forums and reading these posts. We're the minority and we're the tenatious few who won't be deterred by the minor inconvenience of putting a platic lid on our heads and who won't be put off by the perception that cycling is more dangerous than it actually is.
....that you are only here to discuss "the most trivial nth degree of the finest point of an argument."

My guess is most, if not all members of SC have a pretty good understanding on what is right and wrong about helmets and the MHL. Being lectured to by people who see themselves as martyrs is a real fail of the MHL debate.

Why SC works is that it helps people who have started to ride, or may ride a bit, to ride more by sorting out safe routes, offering moral support, and if needed a go to it when things may need a change at a council level and so on. This is totally different to the hypothetical of trying to change a state law, that probably won’t change, so that some people may ride more.

Where do I stand? I ride with a helmet during the week and without most weekends and have done pre and post MHL. To be quite honest I now tend toward being not pro MHL, but anti, anti MHL because of the lack of common sense, endless reference to statistics and whinging and whining around the “theories” on the anti side.

FWIW, I live in a suburb with low helmet compliance. Has not been a problem for 20 years, but it was not until council lowered speed limits and put in workable infrastructure that riding (with and without helmets) took off. No one around here mentions helmets it is all to do with how tricky riding on the roads are away from the work council has done. It was simple horse before cart stuff and a model for other councils to run with.


 'lectured to by people who see themselves as martyrs is a real fail of the MHL debate.'


baa baa - can you please explain this statement. Could you give some examples of the MHL martyrs and what their martyrdom entailed ?

read Toms statement as above

Not sure I see the martyrdom in his post but maybe I'm just being obtuse. I do see an element of dismissiveness towards those that don't agree with his position and this is unfortunate as it alienates people and creates subdivisions within the cycling community.

I think Si's points are very interesting and I'm inclined to agree that repealing MHL probably won't have much impact on health. With that said there are plenty of other reasons to repeal MHL other than from a health perspective. Paul has summed most of them up nicely as usual. For me the mandatory helmet laws are about promoting a culture of fear and intolerance towards a low risk activity.

Like Kylie, I think the demonisation of those who do wear lycra and helmets is counterproductive and creates differences between cyclists where none need exist.

Thank you Martyn, I certainly don't feel that I'm disadvantaged or inconvenienced or anything else that would qualify me as being a martyr.

I also wasn't trying to be dismissive to others points of view. I don't feel this way and it wasn't my intention to be creating divisions or differences.

I get that this is a discussion site and that this means we should have lively debate on these pages. But I don't get that this means we should be arguing about a minor point of just one element of what the original posting was about and letting that splinter discussion dominate and diminish what the original discussion was supposed to be about. The posting was about the petition - it was an invitation to sign up to the petition and I didn't really think it was Kathy's intention that the discussion become a proxy for yet another helmet law debate.

I'm starting to be accused of a lot of things here and a few names have been casually thrown my way. My statements have been misrepresented, my thoughts have been guessed at (incorrectly) and I feel I need to respond in some way. I'll make a few points:
- I have never knowingly demonised any cyclist based on type. There is a short poem on my blog which was intended as an irreverent poking of fun at a particular group of cyclists who ride their expensive bikes to the park. It was light-hearted and definitely not meant to be offensive in any way. I'll probably start a theme out of this by covering other types of cyclists. If anything, it's intended to be a celebration of diversity.
- my blog, the dapper cycle, is nothing to do with Freestyle Cyclists. At all.
- dapper cycle has virtually zero readership and I'm surprised that it came up in this discussion. I'm guessing that someone did some research.
- I did not mean to lecture to anybody. I was merely trying to show enthusiasm for the petition at Freestyle Cyclists. I can see my original post might have been a bit "preachy" which I'm sorry if it came across that way. Like I said, I'm just really enthusiastic about this petition as I think it has the potential to transform cycling in Australia by helping remove what I believe to be a barrier for many non-cyclists.
Apparently similar petition in Vancouver
It mentions the (world famous) Melbourne bike scheme.

Come to think of it, actually, since MHL has made Australia famous, there's one real reason I know for steadfastly keeping it.
This is what's wrong with mandatory helmet laws :

This picture couldn't happen in this country ... Two people spontaneously share a bike for the sheer joy of doing something silly .... Apart from breaking the law, the guy would have a helmet on and so, inviting the girl to sit on the back, would be seen to be "endangering" the young lady by not providing her with similar protection ... The Moment is lost and our country is the poorer for it.

All the other arguments mean nothing to me ...


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