INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cycling Health Opposes Helmet Law

Published: Wed 10 Sep 2003 08:10 AM
Cycling Health Opposes Helmet Law
Cycling Health is a national organisation of cyclists which exists to promote cycling as a safe, healthy, environmentally friendly and convenient form of transport. We oppose the bicycle helmet law because:
1. Cycling is healthy and safe! The risk of fatality or serious injury per hour of bicycling is similar to the risk from travelling by car. The risk to other road users is minimal compared to the risk of driving a car. The benefits of cycling, even without a helmet, are known to far outweigh the risks. According to Professor Emeritus Mayer Hillman of the Policy Studies Institute, London, this may be as much as by 20:1.
2. The bicycle helmet law hasn't worked. Head injury and fatality statistics show no detectable effect of helmet wearing, despite some research claiming the contrary. The Minister of Transport and the LTSA generally refer to two studies, both of which have been shown to be flawed (See Note 1.) The benefit-cost ratio for the law, initially estimated at 8:1, has been recently estimated at 1:26. In other words, the cost of the law has outstripped its benefits by 26 times. (See Note 2.)
3. There are better ways of improving cyclists' safety. Increasing the number of cyclists on the roads decreases the accident risk for all cyclists. An increase in cycling won't be achieved by continuing to emphasise danger in an effort to justify the bicycle helmet law.
4. The bicycle helmet law is discriminatory. Australian Federal Office of Road Safety (FORS) research predicted that compulsory bicycle style helmets for motorists would save 17 times more in injury costs than compulsory helmets for bicyclists. If we believe that mandatory helmets are necessary, surely they should be applied first where they will do the most good.
5. The law discourages bicycling. Compulsory helmet wearing makes cycling appear to be a dangerous activity, requiring special protective gear. This image puts people off cycling, with a real public health cost.
Currently three Cycling Health members have been ticketed for bicycling un- helmeted and each faces fines of up to $1000. Graeme Trass, from Taupo, will attend Taupo District Court on Wednesday September 17th to defend his charge. On the same day, Gregor Campbell will be defending his charge in the Dunedin district court. Peter Keller, a Wellington anaesthetist, is waiting for his court date for a defended hearing.

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