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Sarah Wilson stuns cycling helmet zealots on Sunrise

March 14, 2013

When Sarah Wilson said on Channel 7’s Sunrise on March 12 that she rides a bike without a helmet, the expressions on the faces of her colleagues were priceless. OMG! That’s suicidal. How could you do that. Is she serious? David Koch was stunned; Wilson’s fellow panelists incredulous in their laughter.  The mandatory helmet law for cyclists has seen a once perceived fun and safe activity become one of oppression and hysterical danger. How did it reach this?

This is the exchange between Wilson and Koch:

W: I ride a bike everywhere, as you know, Kochie, and I get captured (on helmet cameras) everywhere with people telling me I should wear a bike helmet… I get captured down main roads… everything is captured
K: You do wear a bike helmet?
W: This is another debate for another segment I think
K: You don’t wear a bike helmet?
W: I don’t wear a bike helmet [Koch stunned look]
W: It’s for reasons I outline in my blog, in a number of posts. There’s very little, in fact no, evidence to suggests it (mandatory law) saves lives. In fact, the best way to save lives [stunned group laughter from girls]. The best way to save lives is to get rid of the compulsory helmet law. [still laughter]
K: Another topic.
W: It’s another topic that needs a fair bit more time I think [more girl laughter]
K: All emails send to Sarah Wilson.

David Koch stunned

David Koch stunned

It just shows how good intentions can lead to drastic consequences. This ridiculous and ill-conceived law has marginalised the activity so much that it is no wonder Australia is so far behind the rest of the world. People aren’t stupid. They examine a typical cycling helmet, see that it’s mostly flimsy foam, and if they have this deep-rooted fear that cycling is so dangerous, it’s an easy conclusion that a helmet won’t protect them, so they don’t cycle.

Angels incredulous laughter

Angels incredulous laughter

Thankfully, Wilson is a smart woman, and will be prepared if the issue becomes a segment on a future show.  The key issue is not so much that a helmet could protect (Wilson will wear one when she believes it suitable), it’s the extraordinary low risk of being injured while cycling. Then there’s the discrimination that motorists and pedestrians are not made to wear helmets despite the obvious benefit there that would save lives (hundreds of lives and thousands of head injuries per year). There’s no mandatory life-jacket law for swimmers despite 3 just drowning last weekend in Victoria.

Cycling is an easy target because the base is so small. There’d be no voter backlash and, more importantly, these conceited self-anointed nannies of the state don’t ride a bike hardly ever, if at all, so it’s easy to infringe on civil liberties when they are not your own. These pompous clowns still want to drive to the beach in their convertible cars with wind through their hair, lie in the sun and get skin cancer, go swim in the surf, booze, smoke and stuff their already fat tummies with excesses of fatty food. They’ll never infringe on the freedoms there, because it’ll will affect their own glorious and self indulgent lives.

The most ill-conceived aspect of the helmet law is that proponents confuse vulnerability with danger. Yes, cyclists are vulnerable. They see cyclists humming along in traffic and think, ooh, we must do something. If you believe that, then surely the job is to remove the danger, not try and protect against it. That’s why there’s speed limits, not motorists made to wear full face helmets and fire-proof suits, nor cars with heavy roll-cages. Cycling should be treated equally, especially since it’s never been dangerous, the statistics have never shown that, and it’s never been an impost on society. In fact, a bigger impost is the reduced physical activity from not cycling.

From Wilson’s blog…

* UK research has pointed out that it “takes at least 8000 years of average cycling to produce one clinically severe head injury and 22,000 years for one death“.

Six times as many pedestrians as cyclists are killed by motor traffic, yet travel surveys show annual mileage walked is only five times that cycled; a mile of walking must be more “dangerous” than a mile of cycling…” The proportion of cyclist injuries which are head injuries is essentially the same as the proportion for pedestrians at 30.0 % vs. 30.1 %.

* In the first 400 days of Dublin’s bike share, 1.3 million trips were made (average duration 16 minutes), equating to 3.7 million kilometres of riding, not one incident. Not one.

* In the first season of Montreal’s bike share, 3.5 million kms were clocked, with only five accidents, none involving head injuries

Then there’s the aspect of helmets that sees them simply not designed for the crashes that advocates believe will help protect. In fact, the current soft-shell helmets came against advice that they cause increased rotational forces on the brain compared to hard-shell helmets of the time. Soft-shells were approved because they are more comfortable in terms of weight and ventilation. They are really only to protect against minor bumps and abrasions, not significant impact. The test for them is so weak. They are dropped from 1.5m, to impact at 19.5 kph. If they don’t shatter, they are approved. If a helmet shatters in a real world impact, it has failed. Of course, a doctor will still tell a patient that the helmet saved their life, just so the doctor can push the pro-helmet message. Yet the same doctors won’t make submissions to government that a helmet would have saved the life of a motorist or pedestrian. Galling.

In all senses, the helmet law is just a symbolic, ill-conceived legislation that discriminates against a healthy and safe activity and a general increase in cycling all for negligible – if any – gain in individual safety.  Are we serious that we want such vicious persecution of cyclists for failure to wear a flimsy piece of foam? Virtually no other countries do, and they manage fine. Remember, if you are such a strong advocate for wearing helmets, you can still do so. Making them optional does not stop you.

The test now will be the response to Sarah Wilson. Already responses on her blog, particularly spamming from a nurse called Nina, slammed her as irresponsible. So what about the broader community – especially if Sunrise does a full segment? Typically a cavalcade of self-righteous politicians, police and associated conceited do-gooders will deliver a full frontal assault demonising Wilson for her actions and comments, possible calls to have her sacked, condemning the network for allowing her to speak, demands for an apology, or at least muzzled. She was reluctant to say anything even on this particular broadcast for fear of consternation from her own colleagues. Amazing that you can’t even say “sometimes I choose not to wear a helmet while cycling”, so no wonder the action itself is deemed so reprehensible.  Don’t even think Australia has freedom of speech. Fascists need to suppress that to keep their fascist laws that subjugate minorities in place.

Wilson’s blog

Wilson on Sunrise (watch from 4:30)


From → Cycling Free

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