(Images: Amsterdamize, Flickr "PS 'helmut' is not a typo, but slang for plastic placebo")
[Totally the best thing I did asking Marc from Amsterdamize for thoughts on the aussie media's toxic love affair with helmet promotion...and his thoughts are so good I'm posting them in their entirety because the message is stark and necessary and fearless - we are not going to be watching the Dutch cave into misleading and deceptive helmet promotion like we feeble Australians did.]
by Marc Van Woudenberg, Online marketing strategist, photographer, proprietor of Amsterdamize.com, Bicycle Ambassador
Recently, Australia's Bicycle Network Victoria published their version of the 'news' that bicycle helmets were 'heading to Holland.'
Aside from the fact there's no country called 'Holland', BNV failed to mention (let's call it that) that the "road safety authorities" responsible for this scheme (handing out thousands of helmets and fear mongering booklets to elementary school students) are anything but 'authorities'.
Instead we're dealing with a private(!) Health & Safety organisation that teamed up with a tiny energy and petrochemical company called Shell.
This should ring a bell.
It further claims that "Australian research on the reduction of brain injury is well known to Dutch 'authorities'", but that "local cycling organisations and most Dutch continue to oppose the promotion of helmets.".
Allow me to dismiss this false framing and broken record.
Dutch authorities (central government, provinces and municipalities) work closely together with highly sophisticated publicly funded cycling organisations and research institutes with a long and validated track record. This relationship was established over the course of three to four decades, dealing with the ramifications of post-war transportation policies.
From 1955-1975 the Dutch national cycle rate plummeted by over 75% due to the rise in car ownership, implementation of car-centric policies and the subsequent marginalization of people on bikes.
The canary in the coal mine of this demise were the children. By 1975, annually 450 children died while on their bike, killed by cars. The Dutch people found this to be unacceptable, organised and changed the course of history with the 'Stop The Child Murder' campaign.
It went national.
It got the public and political support and eventually generated a concerted effort to make the roads safe for all, by changing road infrastructure and urban design in favour of its functions, not just one particular mode of transportation.
Consequently, and through trial and error, the Dutch discovered all the correlating benefits of these measures and re-establishing the country's cycle legacy: growing cycle rates, rapidly declining injury and fatality rate, liveable streets/cities, improved commerce, greater health and happiness.
As Dutch planners and engineers say: "Building bicycle infrastructure is a no-brainer. It's more expensive to *not* build it, it's the only kind of infrastructure that has a return on investment..it's become an economic decision."
The results are in: the Netherlands can now boast about having the highest cycle density, the highest cycle rate and the highest participation rate in the world…*and*…
…the lowest casualty rate (by a very wide margin) at the same time.
Did we get rid of cars? Of course not. Dutch car ownership and use is up there with all the other industrialised nations. It's just not an either/or proposition anymore. For the foreseeable future the car will have its place. Just not all of it.
This country has concluded that road safety for cycling is achieved by creating a people-friendly environment, build for purpose (for all ages) and in which the vulnerable road users are prioritised and protected. The Dutch philosophy boils down to: 'Cycle safety is not a goal, but a requirement'. That, and they spotted the elephant in the room, the bull in society's China shop, if you will.
The actual Dutch authorities (central government and the aforementioned cycling organisations) have found that bicycle helmet promotion, laws and helmets themselves are highly counter-productive, ineffective and thus unnecessary.
Australia should stop chasing its tail, stop sustaining its confirmation bias, stop fighting symptoms, stop marginalising and (victim-)blaming people on bikes, start looking at the root causes and own up to it. It's definitely worth losing (political) face over.
Just ask any Dutch person…
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