Helmetless riders


Helmetless riders

Sick of fools yelling "where's your helmet"? Can't understand why a safe mode of transport like cycling has been singled out for mandatory helmet wearing? Want to ride with the breeze in your hair? This is your group.

Members: 141
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Discussion Forum

Radio National and Bicycle Helmets

Started by Alan Todd. Last reply by sydneyCommuter Jul 18. 1 Reply

A helmet protected my brain

Started by John of Willoughby. Last reply by John of Willoughby May 24. 33 Replies

Comment Wall

Comment by Martyn P on August 23, 2012 at 8:39pm

That was a great read Dan. Totally agree that repealing MHL is the quickest way to incentivise utility cycling. 

Comment by Ride2Wk on August 23, 2012 at 9:31pm

+1 nice work Dan.

Comment by stephen on August 23, 2012 at 10:50pm

FYI the invisible blow up helmet is not legally accepted in australia as far as i am aware -please correct me if I am mistaken. ?

If anyone ever comes up with but look it's an invisible helmet be sure an let them know under our extreme helmet laws it is not legally certified for use - the only way one could legally use one when riding is by repealing bike helmet laws then it could be legally used - so they should support repeal so these can be used if people want to wear them.

The Ignorant people promoting this air bag thing as a reason we don't need to worry about intrusive helmet laws are exactly that ignorant and uninformed.

They are going to get a sudden case of the emperors new clothes when they see the price tag and find out it's not even certified to the Australian standards for helmets.

Another negative of the technology is if one were to throw or drop this item it may well activate rendering it worthless and it also may launch it's self with great velocity in some random direction and injure someone.

Once activated it's useless much like a dropped bike helmet (well the salesmen will say anything to sell you another one) but how is anyone to know if it's been used ?. If many people wore them how could the police which people were not wearing one if it's invisible - much like safety belt laws it would then be very difficult to enforce since you cant easily tell without close up inspection if the device is being worn properly or at all.

Yes I am wearing an invisible bike helmet - how can you tell i am not when it is  invisible.

Comment by St Etienne on August 24, 2012 at 9:37pm

Both approaches ("package of measures" and "independent of infrastructure") are absolutely valid and useful. We should not say one is wrong but recognise the strengths and weaknesses of each.

I regard the "packet of measures" argument as one based on reality, in that it is very unlikely that your average lawmaker is going to touch helmet laws on their own. This doesn't mean I agree with this argument (I think it is bunkum) but I can understand why some who are sitting on the fence think it's the best strategy for reform. A lot of cyclists I speak to are not fierce defenders of MHL but are nevertheless sick and tired of the subject constantly being raised on its own. There's also the fact that any mention of reform can attract some seriously nasty responses so I can understand why people want to keep away from the issue completely. For them it's all about getting some decent bike lanes or separated paths.

I know some hard core anti MHL folk who are absolutely useless advocates for cycling infrastructure and vice versa.

Oh god yes! I've had quite a few conversations with a handful of VC types who are both anti-MHL and virulently against Dutch-style infrastructure. There was one who was against reducing speed limits because he thought it was dangerous to ride faster than cars (not sure if I've ever reached 30km/h in my life) and a lot of them regard pedestrians as more dangerous than motor vehicles. I respect a lot of their opinions but count me in as someone who thinks traffic calming and proper infrastructure is vitally important.

The cynic in me says that this is actually a deliberate strategy used by those who  support helmet laws to make it appear that they support choice - but only when the infrastructure is 'right'.

The "right" infrastructure is purely subjective. A large part of my riding is done in the inner city of Melbourne where a great deal of work has been done to calm traffic and provide bike lanes that take up almost half the road. It's not the Netherlands but it's some of the safest bike riding you can do in Australia. Nevertheless, there are still those who think even this is not good enough, and I have no idea how long we'll have to wait before their ideal conditions are realised. Probably never.

Comment by Nicholas Dow on August 24, 2012 at 9:49pm

Thanks for this interesting discussion. 

Personally I campaign for better infrastructure through my local BUG, and campaign for helmet reform via Freestyle Cyclists (and if you haven't signed up to support helmet law reform at http://www.freestylecyclists.org then why not?).

If you take the view that helmet reform can only come about when some nirvana of appropriate infrastructure arrives you will wait forever. Getting better infrastructure, as somebody noted above, is accellerated by getting more people riding.  Getting rid of helmet law will assist with that, and the whole virtuous cycle of more people riding leading to better infrastructure leading to more people riding, that whole cycle will go faster if the discouragement of helmet law is removed.

As more people are riding, and Sydney numbers are rapidly increasing thanks to Clover, we are seeing a new demographic (I use the term losely, not just age/sex/income/etc but attitude, riding style and speed etc).  There are more people riding European style bikes, wearing normal clothing, etc.  This demograhpic is the future of cycling if it is to increase substantially because there is no barrier to entry, it is compatible with using bikes as a default means of transport.  I believe that this demographic (i.e. most of the population) is more put off by helmets than the hard-core "sport" cyclist that dominated in the '80's and '90's.  So helmet law is going to be a stronger and stronger brake on the increase in cycling that we want to see.

I'd agree to a package if the offer was "let's build a whole lot of good quality infrastructure and get rid of helmet law at the same time", but not if it's "let's gradually build some infrastructure and think about helmet law once we have done that at some distant point in the future".  That's a bit like saying, "I'll think about ceasing to beat my wife once I've got over this alcohol addiction".

Comment by RidesToWork on August 24, 2012 at 10:18pm

Perhaps it's worth repeating here a letter from Professor Lars Bo Andersen, which hints at why all these arguments about whether or not we need infrastructure before repealing helmet laws are a distraction.

Giving cyclists a choice allows them to wear helmets if they wish to cycle in dangerous areas, or not when they think conditions are safe.

The evidence either way, as pointed out by the professor, is that cycling is safer than not cycling, so the argument that we should wait for the infrastructure is as stupid as saying that people should not travel in trains because they are only 5 times safer than cars, and that instead people should continue to drive cars until trains are 10 times as safe as cars. (NB trains are probably a lot more than 5 or 10 times safer than cars, I've just used arbitrary values!)

How can anyone say it makes sense to argue for laws that turn people away from cycling, under conditions that the cyclist feels are safe enough not to wear a helmet, into the much more dangerous situation for our health of not cycling.


Recommendation of a No vote on the bicycle helmet law proposal
By Professor Lars Bo Andersen, University of Southern Denmark

I have researched cycling and health over the past two decades and have published more articles and papers about the health benefits of cycling as transport than any other researcher in the world.

Mortality among cyclists is 30% lower than among those in the population who transport themselves through passive transport. Today, such a large percentage of the population cycles that this reduction in mortality results in a significant number of lives saved.

- According to Danmarks Statistik the cycling levels fell 30% between 1980-2000.
- This fall means that the total mortality (within the same age and gender) has risen by 4.8%.
- Roughly 60,000 people die each year in Denmark and the actual reduction in cycling equals 2880 deaths.
- This is in relation to the fact that only 30 cyclists died in traffic in 2011.

If a bicycle helmet law causes a fall in cycling levels, as it is expected to do, it will be cause a great deal of damage in the health of the Danish people.

Best regards
Lars Bo Andersen

Comment by Bernard on August 24, 2012 at 10:22pm

"If you take the view that helmet reform can only come about when some nirvana of appropriate infrastructure arrives you will wait forever."

That is a misrepresentation of what I see as being valid about the "package of measures" approach. It is not a linear process but a synergy - a recognition that attitude, awareness and environment influence each other.

I absolutely agree that MHL is a barrier to normalising cycling and avoids confronting the fact that safe infrastructure is the only real protection for bicycle riders.  So it's great that people are vocally opposing MHL. And to get people to see beyond MHL they have to feel safer and normal. Being inches from 2 tonne of speeding metal is not safe or normal so don't expect a rational response.

"Sydney numbers are rapidly increasing thanks to Clover....This demographic is the future of cycling ... I believe that this demographic is more put off by helmets than the hard-core "sport" cyclist."

What got that demographic out on their bikes - bike lanes. Who's now challenging MHL - that demographic.

Comment by Bernard on August 24, 2012 at 10:51pm

OK. I'll open betting. What do we think are the likely steps towards repeal of MHL? I'll lay 10 to 1 odds that it will begin with exemption for hire bikes and exemption for separated cycleways. What is probable is a good indication of where effort can most effectively be applied.

This is not about right and wrong - it's a recognition of the environment that we're working in. A quote from Sun Tzu: "the first act of war is making friends". Conflicts are won by alliances. 

This is not an academic argument. I see what I consider to be inflexible views alienating people that should be valuable allies. And without these alliances you'll be banging your unhelmeted head against a wall.

I've cycled all through Netherlands and Denmark. In Netherlands, MHL is laughed at. About 0.0001% wear helmets because they have sensationally safe infrastructure. In DK about 30% (!!!) of people on bikes voluntarily wear helmets and the MHL argument is getting real traction. Why? Because conditions in DK aren't that different to Australia in many places. 

I think Professor Lars Bo Andersen was being quoted as though he's commenting on this discussion which is not the case. He's putting a good case that MHL is bad policy. And we all agree. He's in a country without MHL looking at getting MHL. We're heading in the opposite direction. Do you really think the same tactics would apply to DK and Aus?

Comment by Colin on August 24, 2012 at 10:53pm
My summary of the argument so far:

The "package of measures" approach is, on its own, stupid. But it seems to appeal to the general population, and so might be the best bet for getting the MHL repealed.

My view is that you go in hard for what you want, and you only compromise right at the end to get the deal done. You don't compromise right from the start.
Comment by stephen on August 24, 2012 at 10:59pm

Well I don't think it's only the bike lanes - it's a combination of factors - greater awareness of bicycle transport and environmentally concious transport , and saving petrol money , saving time and getting some easy incidental exercise. It's also us the people campaigning against helmet laws making people realise that bike transport is safe and does not require intrusive and hostile safety measures against innocent people.

The helmet law is based on a mixture of ignorance, corruption , favoritisim, hostile and invasive laws, and greedy empire building politicians and their "public service"  - I would not call police booking anyone for a helmet violation a public service it's more like a public dis-service if you ask me.

We will break all of it down eventually.


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