[Photos: Flickr, Amsterdamized, 'Any other (Satur)Day']
I am preparing a news commentary piece for a unit in my master of media practice (USyd) and it's going to be looking at...yay you guessed it...Australia's bike helmet legislation!!
As we all know...(ho hum you just have to put up with the next little bit...I'm practising being a dinky-di journo, right!!)...mandatory bicycle helmet laws were introduced into Australia in 1991 on a state by state basis. Whilst there was general compliance amongst people who continued to use bicycles, there was an unexpected consequence that ought to have been of great concern - cycling numbers in Australia dropped by 40%.
Moving right on by a couple of decades, numerous folk across the board in Australia have clamoured to have the regulations repealed, and to date only the Northern Territory has done this in a manner of sorts by repealing the requirement to wear helmets when cycling on separated bicycle paths. Unsurprisingly the Northern Territory has the highest participatory rate of cyclists than any other state or territory in Australia.
I'm really interested in the Australian media’s 'pretty much' unquestioning support for these regulations even though 22 years on academics across the world still hotly contest the efficacy of such laws, and even though very few other nations have been convinced to follow the Australian cycling position.
First up in the piece and before I write anything I will definitely disclose to the reader that my interest in this angle goes beyond that of an ordinary bystander!!! Hehehe!
A keen bicycle and public transport activist, I'll mention that I've been an anti-helmet law campaigner for some time and that my position has thrown me under the scrutiny of the police and the courts, which in turn has attracted media attention. I'm thinking of doing the disclosure in a mini slideshow format (soundslides)!!!...hmmmn new territory in the multi-media department for me but gives potential readers the option of not having to listen/read/hear all about that 'shit' again!!!
Since I am really keen to explore what exactly convinced Australian mainstream media that mandatory helmet laws were a good idea (aren't we all?) and what evidence in particular proved to them they were a good thing, for my primary research I conducted 4 interviews with peeps working in and/or contributing to and/or observing Australian MSM.
I interviewed Wendy Carlisle, ABC investigative reporter (interviewed me on bicycle helmet laws nearly 3 years ago), Adam Spencer, host of ABC 702's 'Breakfast with Adam Spencer' (soon to be calling it a day!), and Dr Michael Dinh, coordinator of trauma at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and occasional contributor to 'The Conversation.'
For alternative expert opinion taking another view (yes, my view), I interviewed Dr Paul Martin, a specialist anaesthetist from Brisbane, Queensland, who despairs at increased levels of obesity, diabetes and heart related diseases (already impacting hospital theatres as evidenced by complete overhaul of many hospital theatre-beds due to massively increased size of hosptial theatre-bed users) and mainstream media's scare-mongering portrayal of cycling as an activity necessitating helmets.
Now that those interviews are complete, I'm also thinking it could be good to get a comment from outside Australia too...maybe from Marc of Amsterdamize who took the fabulous photographs at the top of this post...(hmmn, 'good thinking, 99!')
...I'll drop him a text or a tweet!!!
So who's going to be interested in my news commentary story? I'm guessing people who either use bicycles now or would like to, in addition to other road users apart from motorists...maybe I'll pitch it to the Guardian Bike blog again after their interest in my bicycle escapades last year.
Naturally I will also publish it here!!!! - stay tuned...