Cycling Australias view on Mandatory Helmet Laws

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2 Nov 2018 Cycling Australia

Earlier this week Bicycle Network released a position paper in relation to Australia’s Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL). They recommended that Australia’s MHL be relaxed to permit people over the age of 17 to ride on footpaths and cycle paths without a helmet.

Bicycle Network, in their position paper, say “It’s time Australia realised that the bicycle is one of the best examples of where yesterday’s invention is the solution to tomorrow’s problems.”  Cycling Australia agrees with this statement and strongly believes that by being a more active, bike riding nation, we can help to address a range of problems from congestion to obesity and mental health.

We highlight two statements from the Bicycle Network paper regarding academic studies in relation to helmets and MHL:

  • If you are involved in a crash and hit your head while wearing a helmet, the chance of sustaining a serious head injury is reduced, and;
  • Studies don’t categorically establish whether MHL reduce rider numbers.

We agree with Bicycle Network that helmets aren’t the best way to avoid injury. However, as stated by the Amy Gillett Foundation we believe a debate around relaxing MHL is an unnecessary distraction and the focus should be on securing a metre matters laws in Victoria, and for the rest of Australia focusing on issues which are further up the “Hazard Control Hierarchy” (as illustrated in Bicycle Network‘s position paper), such as:

  • increased education and enforcement of "a metre matters" laws
  • minimum ‘cyclist aware’ content in driver licensing training and testing
  • safer cycling infrastructure
  • safer speeds
  • cycling safety education.

We also highlight the following points in relation to Bicycle Network‘s proposal:

  • In Cycling Australia’s view, allowing those over 17 the choice not to wear helmets sets a poor example to our children and may encourage them to ride without helmets
  • Cycling paths in Australia are often not accessible without some use of roads; if helmets are still mandatory for the road component of a journey, it makes little sense not to wear them for the whole journey.

    Accordingly, Cycling Australia encourages all Australians to ride their bikes more, to do so whilst always wearing a helmet and to focus on lobbying your local politicians to enact measures that will make riding a bike safer.
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