Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Dominant Paradigm - let's shift it

Letters received so far: 1 from the Premier's Department of Tasmania (already noted), 1 from the Premier & Cabinet of the NSW Government, and 1 from the Member for Upper Hunter - all very polite and all full of promises of further representations and referrals...

...and guess what! Bicycle NSW also sent me a little email, composed by an advocacy team member who was at great pains to point out that he was not talking on behalf of the organisation, but that anyway he felt the helmet rules were OK and helped save lives - all well and good and I respect his sentiments but I'm going to take the 'moral high ground' here and ask why are my sentiments not respected and why must I be required to wear one? - why is it that groups such as Bicycle NSW cannot see that it should be a matter of choice and why aren't they advocating accordingly? - in fact exactly what are they advocating?

I stumbled across this proposed motorcycle helmet performance study and felt depressed - why is it that cyclists and motorcycle riders are always declared to be 'overrepresented in road casualty statistics due to the relatively lower levels of protection afforded to them than other vehicle occupants during a crash'? - oh dear! not that old chestnut again! - haven't these students read that there are recommendations 'out there' for motorists to wear helmets too? Australia cannot get out of this 'helmet rut' and we continue to subscribe to the dominant paradigm that cycling is not a safe means of transport, that it's dangerous and extreme, and therefore requires significant modification to the anatomy in terms of a medical device to surround the head - who is funding this project apart from the listed partners?

We would do well to read Malcolm Wardlaw's excellent journal article "Three lessons for a better cycling future" and consider the salient facts that cyclists do better when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles, that deaths of cyclists have increased since the introduction of helmets and that attendant safety campaigns destroyed cycling participation, compromised public health, increased risks on the roads, and decreased road skills for all concerned.

No! it is easier for governments to fund more of the 'same old same old' than to invest the millions required for a 'system overhaul' that would deliver in terms of safety and public health, as well as a reduced carbon footprint. Governments applaud such 'helmet' strategies because the costs are completely borne by the consumers - government is off the hook in terms of committment and dollars, but looks caring and devoted with the paternalistic legislation - it is so hard to shift a paradigm but shift it we must!!!! - because it is only cheaper in the short term.

... and just thinking further about the 'helmet rules' that the guy from Bicycle NSW loves, doesn't he think it's daft that regulation 256 subsection 2(a) mandates that a passenger on a bicycle that is moving, or is stationary but not parked, must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the passenger’s head, unless the passenger is a paying passenger on a three or four-wheeled bicycle - so could that mean if we cycled the Danish Christianias and we creatively attributed our children's pocket money to fund the necessary jaunts around town that they wouldn't have to wear helmets?


  1. "Helmets saves lives?" That's a lie!

    Bicycle deaths & injuries have increased since the helmet law. That is what a poster has shown here, with some data to back it up.

    It has been known for a while, but the government is doing its best to hide the truth. It keeps repeating the same lies. Few people question them.

    How stupid is this regulation 256! When a law is shown to be ineffective, why not make it worse? If this had anything to do with safety, why would paying a fare let you out of it? This is ridiculous. Have you ever seen the bicycle taxis in the sydney CBD? They are forced to wear a helmet too! Ludicrous considering their riding position. This little change was probably designed to avoid putting them out of business.

  2. "overrepresented in road casualty statistics"
    is standard government speak to justify additional restrictions on cyclist.

    What they don't tell you is that countries like Holland that have built bicycle paths have much less bicycle injuries than us... with no helmets.

    What we're in Australia doing is not working, but that's not stopping theses people.

  3. thanks, Herve, for your comments - very relevant and spot on!