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Wearing a Helmet is Fine. Persecuting Cyclists That Don’t is Bad.

December 27, 2012

You’d think a modern, progressive country like Australia would be the last place to ban cycling. That’s right. If you want to just hop on your old, forgotten bike for a leisurely ride along a quiet beach path or to the local shops and you don’t have a helmet, you are BANNED. If you come across a public bike-share and haven’t carried a helmet with you, you are BANNED.  For any reason you choose not or cannot wear a helmet, you are BANNED. Repeat: BANNED from cycling. If you do ride, you risk aggressive persecution from police and vicious fine equivalent to a speeding motorist. Yes, a motorist that can kill others with reckless behaviour is the equal of YOU out there doing something fun, healthy and fundamentally very safe, and good for the environment. There is no mercy under the law. Refuse to pay and you are hauled in front of court, and potentially jailed. Yes, jailed! All for the criminal offence of not wearing a helmet while cycling.

Strangely, the government, or even so-called health advocates, don’t feel such sympathy or need to intrude against far more egregious ills on society in terms of health costs and preventable deaths like motor vehicle crashes and pedestrian road deaths, beach and boat drownings, drownings from rock fishing, skin cancer from baking in the sun, or even dietary choices, smoking and boozing that can lead to obesity or cause serious diseases and cancers or social violence. Why? That’s right. Most of these helmet-law advocates and typically non-cyclists engage these activities themselves and are not interested in enacting something that affects them. So they bully the humble cyclist because he’s such a minority and they can pretend they’re doing good for society and feel good about it.

Other than this obvious infringement on civil rights and blatant discrimination, there’s several direct problems of helmet laws.

1) They promote an activity as oppressive and dangerous when it is actually fun and safe.

2) They place an unrealistic emphasis on crash survival rather than crash prevention.

3) They promote a false sense of security. There’s a reason cycling helmets are all labelled as not to be worn by motor cyclists. Because they are simply ineffective at any impact over 20kph. Some are rated even less. There’s a reason you never hear anecdotes like “I was hit by a car and my helmet saved me”. These people don’t survive.

4) They promote a false sense of protection. You’re wearing a helmet, so you can choose to ride like a maniac instead of being vigilant. You’re wearing a helmet so instead of taking the quieter roads or bike-paths, you choose the busy road. Sub-consciously, you’re actually making your ride more dangerous.

5) Motorists take more risks. They see a cyclist with helmet, they believe he’s protected so don’t provide the right room when overtaking or make dangerous manoeuvres.

6) They promote that any crash leads to head contact when actually head contact is incredibly rare. Even if you land on your head, it must flush on the crown to get the full benefit. Most so-called “head injuries” are actually minor scrapes and bumps.

7) The increase in bulkiness to the head area leads to more impacts. Without the helmet, maybe a graze or even your head misses altogether. There’s also concern with the torsional aspect of a helmet when it digs into the road, or angled impacts from tear-drop designs, that lead to brain damage and neck and vertebrae injuries.  When tests showed much higher rotational acceleration of brains from soft-shell helmets compared to then Australian Standard hard-shell helmets, the Australian Standard was actually lowered to accommodate these to make cycling helmets more comfortable.

8) They make governments lazy: instead of building infrastructure, they legislate helmets and believe that’s the panacea to safe cycling. It’s not, and never will. Governments have also changed the initial “encouragement” fine  of $20 (in Victoria)  to a viciously punitive $176. That’s incredulously the same as a speeding motorist. Australian governments just don’t want you cycling. Their token efforts in CBDs is more for tourism imagery than legitimate regard for cycling.

Ignore medical reports like the infamous “Cochrane Review” that are predicated on a reaching a specific finding.  A bunch of doctors formed Cochranes for the Queensland state government. The reduction they cite of up to 90% of head injuries is based on 90% of those being minor scrapes and bumps. They use arm/head injury ratios because torso/head and leg/head ratios don’t deliver the right answers.  They fail to distinguish between children and adult accidents, with or without motor vehicles. The figure they conveniently ignore to quote is straight out fatalities. Even with far greater infrastructure since the helmet law was introduced in the early 90s, those figures have seen little change from their historically already low levels. They also discriminate against cycling by ignoring motorists and pedestrians in any helmet research. Considering cycling represents less than 3% of all road head trauma, you’d think their sympathy would be all inclusive. No, just pick on a minority, because they don’t cycle themselves, so it doesn’t affect their own conceited, selfish lives.

Helmet laws are not only bad, they are pure evil. There’s a reason no other countries have followed Australia and New Zealand with such draconian and ill-conceived all-aged helmet laws. They are a failure, discriminatory and a gross intrusion on civil liberties.  End this brutal, vindictive and destructive law now.

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From → Cycling Free

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