Thursday, September 23, 2010

Helmet Hypocrisy!

The bicycle helmet debate is continuing to gain media coverage , the latest being the ABC Radio Background Briefing story just this week. There was an opportunity to highlight the issues that mandatory helmet laws have created in this country and that is the culture of fear.
Is riding a bicycle dangerous ? Now that depends on several factors, though the law is generic in its term for bicycle riders like the 'cyclist shall wear an approved helmet when riding a two wheeled pedal vehicle'.

Riding your bike can be dangerous if used in the following manner:

Using your bike at the Skate park

Mountain Bike Racing

BMX racing

Road Racing

Also the danger can be created by poor infrastructure that puts the bike rider in proximity to heavy objects moving at fast speeds, these include unprotected bicycle lanes on 'high speed high volume' roads. During the interview on the Background Briefing story ,the doctor that had been recording cyclists accidents at the RPA(Royal Prince Alfred Hospital), stated that there is a significant difference between cyclists that had been wearing a helmet and those that hadn't. Though from further reading on the RPA's submission to the Inquiry vulnerable road users ,42% of Accidents presented at the hospital involved road vehicles. Why have we in this country ignored the building of safe infrastructure and allowed our officials to risk the lives of so many.

Sydney, M4 motorway

Now I'm not getting in to the debate that a bicycle helmet can cause greater brain injury or not ,I will leave that to the experts. What is clear is that helmets haven't made riding your bike safer in terms of cycling accidents and deaths. In this country we have 35 deaths and several hundred serious accidents and when you compare this to the Netherlands where 7 people are killed and about hundred seriously injured and they don't wear helmets and there cycling rates are significantly higher.

The mandatory helmet laws in this country have provided an excuse for poorly designed infrastructure that puts the cyclist at extreme danger on high speed - high volume roads with just a painted line for separation. The argument that we can't afford to build separated cycleways is nonsense.


Anonymous said...

The annual cycling-related death tool in the Netherlands is about 60 per annum. The number of cycling-related deaths in Amsterdam is about 6 or 7 per annum.

Martin said...

Hi, I took the figure from this story out of the SMH, , It does say for the country but am happy to stand corrected. What cannot be argued is that it is much safer to ride a bike in Holland than in Australia and when you compare the distance traveled vs fatality rate. Holland way out in front and has nothing to do with helmets. It is out in front with lowest road fatalities per 100,000 in population compared to anywhere else, because of the high quality infrastructure and policies like Sustainable Safety.