Cycling in Sydney Australia
This discussion is not so much about helmets, their efficacy or even helmet laws.
It is a discussion to obtain some feedback on a site that Dave & I have put together, called HelmetFreedom.org
The site (and our personal view) is not anti-helmets, but it is anti-mandatory helmet laws.
You'll get responses don't worry. They will include the usual rubbish studies being quoted which have absolutely nothing to do with helmet legislation! Don't give up though - send a response!
We're in the process of gathering people's responses to put them on the website for all to see. When people start to realise that Governments are just blowing them off with impersonal 'off the shelf' replies which don't actually address the questions raised, they'll start to get annoyed... and hopefully the bureaucrats will take notice.
The big organisations are not interested in it at all. They've largely been reduced to events organising organisations, which they do well, but that's about it. The big organisations in the UK are strongly opposed to MHLs - interesting that their positions are at polar opposites.
The smaller organisations ARE much more active in this and other issues. May I suggest that you join the Brisbane CBD BUG and attend at least one or two of their meetings if you possibly can. These guys are excellent cycling ambassadors and I would say they do more for cycling that the bigger organisations. They have achieved a lot to date and are much more active in lobbying government than BQ is... not surprising since BQ is essentially funded by government!
What you are experiencing in Victoria seems quite different from Sydney. From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that the Victorian state is the home of the nanny-state mentality. Is that accurate?
In Sydney, attitudes toward the mhl are quite different. An online poll done by the herald last year found a majority in favour of repealing the mhl. Most people are sympathetic towards helmetless riders. When I ride without a helmet, pedestrians are more friendly and accommodating, and motorists are more respectful and considerate. It is a striking difference. People seem more accepting of helmetless cyclists than helmeted ones.
Only two types of people are still strongly in favour of the mhl.
In 3 years of riding helmetless in Sydney, only one idiot asked me “Where’s your helmet?” It was a cyclist.
I think you are forgetting the big businesses which stand to benefit from less people cycling. Not sure if you read about the UK family of 3 who have cost the NHS over 1.2 Million pounds. Over 900,000 pounds of this was in obesity-related medication in 15 years http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1368567/The-76st-family-t...
So I actually think that the big pharmaceutical companies must be keen to stop any healthy active transport initiatives and am sure that they will be "supporting" our pollies to keep the status-quo. There are also others of course:
While we do use humour to get the point across on the site, we try very carefully to be as factual and non-emotional as possible if people take the time to read it.
Derogatory statements in the public realm better be carefully worded... but that's what our legal friends are for and we haven't needed to release them yet.
It is a sad indictment on large parts of our 'society'...
In my day-to-day job I save many more lives (and see many more deaths) than they will ever see in their lifetime - perhaps even a hundred lifetimes... Oh well... back to work.
I was shocked by this article too Etienne. Why? Because Max Cameron repeats the same misleading claims he tried a few weeks before, although they had been refuted by many commenters. I'm referring in particular to his claims that adult cycling did not decline after the helmet law, and that the helmet law had been effective at reducing head injuries.
He must be aware his arguments are invalid from the comments in his article. Yet he seems to have no shame repeating the same misleading claims. This is similar to what BB was doing in this forum, by making misleading statements, ignoring the rebuttal, and then repeating similar misleading claims a few weeks later.
This is odd for an academic. Such open dishonesty is not common.
Why such dishonesty? I have only observed this unethical behavior in two scenarios:
I am aware that Max Cameron did a lot of "research" in the 1990's, funded by the govt, which defended the helmet law using misleading claims. Yet that doesn't explain why he would do this now.
The religious fanaticism matches the dark ages mentioned by Etienne. It fits with the hatred and the attempts to ostracise helmetless riders. It is also consistent with helmet zealots being oblivious to the damage done to cycling by the helmet law, notably by making people believe that cycling is more dangerous than it really is.
This dishonest behaviour is reflected in much of the misleading “research” funded by the govt. Some of the most outrageous was a claim that cycling levels increased after the helmet law. This was done by using a counting site where a large bicycle rally passed through after the helmet law, artificially inflating the numbers. Despite being exposed as invalid by an independent researcher, this misleading claim is still quoted as if it was the truth, for example in the latest propaganda.
Honesty & ethics is not high on the agenda of helmet fanatics, some who seem to believe that it is virtuous to deceive people to make them wear helmets.
What could be the motivation for such openly dishonest behaviour?
Does it pay that well to publish misleading “research”, or could there be other incentives?
One ray of hope in the SMH article was:
"In Victoria, the Metropolitan Transport Forum, representing 20 local councils, has called for research to be done into whether mandatory helmet laws are necessary.
"Forum spokeswoman Jackie Fristacky said compulsory helmets were harming Melbourne's bike-share scheme and the Government should consider an exemption for the scheme's users as well as reducing speed limits in the city centre."
Convincing the Metropolitan Transport Forum that Max Cameron and other helmet-law proponents made deceptive claims might make them powerful allies. People don't like being deceived. It effectively discredits everything helmet-law-proponents say, and opens the way for a full independent review examining the lost health benefits from discouraging cycling and the effect on injury rates of risk compensation and reduced safety in numbers.
Another positive development is Luke's GetUp campaign to review helmet laws:
NB - to make it advance in GetUp's rankings, people need to join and give it 3 votes. Some people who have left comments in support of the proposal don't have the vote symbol beside their names, suggesting they haven't voted for it.
By itself, The GetUp campaign won't be enough, but I believe there will be an accompanying petition that hasn't yet been set up.
Let's hope the initiative continues!
Max Cameron and other helmet-law proponents made deceptive claims might make them powerful allies. People don't like being deceived. It effectively discredits everything helmet-law-proponents say
Good point, the dishonesty of the helmet zealots is likely to play in our favour. It’s becoming too obvious. The fake studies that are shown to be misleading, the political statements now embedded within those fake studies, the repeated claims that cycling increased after the helmet law, etc.
With misleading material, you can fool people for a while, but you can’t fool them forever. When it doesn’t match reality, people notice. In an open world with free travel and internet, people can see the far more effective safety measures that are being implemented in Europe, which puts Australia to shame with its blind faith in the helmet law.
Australia has not only shown the rest of the world what a bad idea the helmet law is, but how incompatible it is with bike share. The govt still claims that the helmet law cannot be blamed for the failure of bike share. They won’t be able to fool people for much longer.
I love the website. I have the letters printed and ready to go now, but take Stephen's point that these are of limited value.
In my mind I see the major problem being the cycling lobby groups. Given they are the ones getting 'consulted' by government, and are supposed to represent the interests of cyclists, they really should be pro helmet choice. The message they send by being pro helmet law is that cycling is a dangerous fringe activity - which we all probably agree it is not.
By the way Paul, keep up the great work.
The other thing that might help is a doctor willing to write medical certificates for many people - maybe in Brisbane they could argue that the sun is a problem (in which case you better ride with a hat), or maybe that helmets influence balance, risk compensation, whatever. A fleet of legal helmetless riders would really raise publice awareness and generate quite a deal of publicity. Know anyone?
Thanks for the comments Chris. We have a response to the Walters, Churches, et al. paper in the works...
I don't know if I'm ready for politics. I see the rough treatment people like Clover Moore receive and it makes me mad... she keeps it cool... I don't think I could.