On Nov 21st, I posted the results of the Bicycle Network’s Helmet Law Survey. I was delighted this week to see some topical debate about the results taking place amongst the wider Australian cycling community. I was most impressed by the active, critical engagement and points raised by the Freestyle Cyclist Editor, who yesterday posted a very interesting commentary about the Bicycle Network itself and it’s handling of the Helmet Law Survey. If you haven’t see it yet, here it is. Always good to hear differing points of view and advocates pushing for more thoughtful approaches of key issues for further positive action! You can add your voice to the Helmet Law Reform here. Enjoy, NG.
Will Australia’s largest bike riding organisation be influenced by the majority of submitted participation/injury evidence and surveyed public opinion when it decides over the next few months whether to continue supporting Australia’s mandatory bicycle helmet laws?
The Bicycle Network has published the results of its open survey during August and September on public and membership opinion of the helmet laws.
- The survey was completed by 19,327 respondents
- Respondents were mostly Bicycle Network members and people who ride bikes with varying regularity.
- 2.6% of respondents were from overseas, and 1.9% of respondents said they never ride a bike.
- 58.3% of respondents said there should be a change to helmet laws, while the remaining 41.7% said helmets should be mandatory all the time
- 40.7% believe helmets should only be mandatory when the risk is high, for example, when racing, on road or for young people
- 30.4% would ride more if helmets weren’t mandatory
- If laws changed, almost all people who currently wear a helmet when they ride would continue to do so and the number of people who never wear a helmet when riding would only increase by 3.7%
- As expressed by the Bicycle Network’s media release: A survey of almost 20,000 people has found that nearly two-thirds don’t believe you should have to wear a helmet every time you ride a bike in Australia.
Which sounds similar to what Freestyle Cyclists has been saying for the past decade.
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richard says the network will use the membership and public responses when evaluating its position on helmets, along with literature and expert opinions, with a decision expected in April 2018. “It’s great to get such a large amount of public opinion about bike helmets. It’s something people are clearly passionate about and it’s helpful to see how Australia’s helmet laws may impact people’s decision to ride,” said Mr Richards. “The opinion of our members and people who ride bikes is important and will help inform our policy on Australia’s mandatory helmet law. Along with academic research and information from experts, we will be able to make a fully informed decision.”
The Bicycle Network has about 50,000 members. Its influence could force media and political consideration of the helmet law issue if its policy review objectively considers the mountain of evidence proving Australia’s helmet law failure and if it does the right thing in April by recommending repeal.
A majority of Bicycle Network members are lycra cyclists who always wear helmets and it is interesting that 38.9% wanted some form of repeal in their survey responses. Among the network members, 70.4% would continue to wear a helmet every time they ride.
Among all respondents to the Bicycle Network survey, 17.6% believed that bicycle helmets should never be mandatory, in line with the Freestyle Cyclists opinion that they should be voluntary among all ages. Only 1.9% of survey respondents said they never ride a bike and 30.4% of all respondents said they would cycle more if helmets weren’t mandatory.
Of course, the survey wasn’t measuring the hundreds of thousands of people who would actually ride a bike in the first place if not threatened with police punishment for cycling without a helmet.
The public health and traffic safety benefits would be enormous with both more cyclists and a 30% increase in current cycling duration. All the newly participating riders would otherwise probably be driving a car and the hospital data suggests fewer cyclists will be crashing and injuring some part of their body.
The Bicycle Network is under pressure from many within its own membership, from Australia’s pro-law academia and from the media to make no change to its long-standing position of support for mandatory bike helmet laws. Most mainstream media such as in Western Australia continue to ignore any reference to the Bicycle Network’s helmet policy review, let alone the survey results.
The few media outlets that have published stories online or in press about the survey results have highlighted the medical community’s opposition and/or quoted one of the many helmeted cyclists who so frequently crash and are convinced it has saved their life.
It’s likely that well over 99% of Australians are unaware of the review or survey, adding weight to the 19,327 who did know and let their majority helmet law opposition be known in the Bicycle Network survey.
Freestyle Cyclists urges the Bicycle Network to objectively evaluate the real world evidence of Australia’s mandatory helmet law failure and accept that its own pro-repeal survey results support the mountain of submitted evidence that the laws discourage a huge number of people from riding a bike, and with highly questionable injury results.
Readers are urged to read the expert opinions linked at the bottom of the Bicycle Network’s policy review page.
All 32 opinions are worth reading but we recommend those submitted by Freestyle Cyclists, Professor Chris Rissel, and researcher Chris Gillham.
This post was originally posted on Freestyle Cyclist (5th Dec, 2017) and the full text has been reprinted here as per the original. Text emphasis is my own. Images my own sources.
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