A lobby group has made it their mission to change current helmet laws in a controversial protest to make helmets optional.
Freestyle Cyclists president Alan Todd believes that Australian helmet law is inferior to other countries with no fine for helmet-less riding; “Internationally bike helmet laws have been almost universally rejected. It is seen that these laws prevent the uptake of cycling while offering no significant safety benefit”.
In a speech made at the protest Todd claimed “Riding a bike is a safe activity when carried out at sensible speeds in decent conditions. The practice of fining people for this healthy and benign activity makes no sense”.
A view shared amongst many of the helmet free protestors in attendance including Carlton North local Edward Dixon is inconvenience posed by the inability to wear a hat as “Wearing a helmet means that I cannot protect my face from harmful UV rays”. He supports Todd believing that safety is not an issue – “In quiet roads with no speed limits the risk is significantly lower”.
There are two other countries with mandatory helmet laws; New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates, with many other countries such as Italy successfully blocking the law. Bikes can account for 5% to 50% of trips in many European cities and towns whereas according the 2015 national cycling participation survey Australia is still stuck on the 1% it has been at for twenty five years.
The ride has caused much controversy among the general public, among them long time cyclist Patrick Danaher whom wears his helmet religiously. A cycling accident involving a collision with a car left his helmet in pieces, and both arms with breaks. “I would most likely be dead without a helmet. Luckily I came out of it [the accident] with a few broken bones but could have easily been much worse off … This protest is completely ridiculous and dangerous”.
Australia’s cycling death and injury toll is in fact no lower than other countries without helmet laws. Although when legislation was first introduced there was a 23 per cent reduction in head injuries throughout Victoria, in its latest annual report, the OECD found Australia and Canada were the only two countries out of 27 members to record an increase in cycling deaths between 2000 and 2011.
Despite their efforts, it’s not looking like the current law is going to change anytime soon. When pressed on helmet laws, transport minister Luke Donnellan insisted “there will be no discussion of helmets in the current review of Victoria’s cycling strategy”.
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