Monday, February 22, 2010

"Bicycle Helmet Laws" are the "Emperor's new clothes"

(Photos: Georige Abbott) (Essaouira, Morocco - a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' land)

When will a 'little child' in an Australian crowd alert us to the reality that Australia's "Bicycle Helmet Laws" are nothing more than the 'Emperor's New Clothes', leaving us naked and ridiculous?

Bicycle helmet manufacturers are not unique in their aggressive pitch for market share - check out 'Big Pharma' - and it appears their intense commercial reality has dictated that any adverse data is discounted. We only have to glance at spin-based helmet promotion tactics, coupled with the frequent use of sensational quotes and unsubstantiated statistics from various medical opinion leaders, to appreciate that this is the case.

Notwithstanding, helmet spin is eagerly adopted by the Australian public media even though conclusive evidence pertaining to helmet safety is absent. It is a great shame that the Australian public media so willingly contributes to the advertising campaign for bicycle helmet manufacturers without the slightest 'investigative' thought:

*Why do the Australian public media so readily swallow the market research and press releases so generously distributed by bicycle helmet PR companies?
*Why don't the Australian public media take up the invitation to delve further into this issue?
*Why don't the Australian public media ponder for more than a glib one-liner as to why the majority of Europe so successfully cycles in their urban and rural areas, and in such large numbers, and so safely?

Upon reading James Hansen's excellent article "We are selling indulgences", it occurred to me that our bicycle helmet laws parallel proposed "cap & trade schemes" of energy companies, promising the notion of heaven on the whiff of a prayer, but paid for dearly by us. Not only have mandatory helmet laws notionally hoodwinked us, they have completely failed us in terms of cycling safety, traffic congestion and any 'street-cred' in negotiations for a global climate accord. Given that many countries are now facing the consequences of oil-saturated societies, and have been urgently required to discuss the issue of climate justice & access to climate justice, Australia urgently needs to comprehend that we have responsibilities that ought to include a new approach to cycling and a 're-visiting' of our mandatory helmet laws.

We cannot afford to miss these deadlines in our charter of global responsibilities - mandatory helmet laws must go.


  1. Last year I lost a friend to a horrible bicycling accident when he was killed.
    Had he signaled properly this accident may never have occurred.

    Why turning signals are not a requirement for all bikes, I'll nver understand.
    I purchased mine at

  2. hello, anonymous, and thank you for your post - i am sorry to read about your friend and can understand why you considered that 'turning signals' might be a good idea - personally i think "intensive education" for motorists on sharing the roads with pedestrians and other road users should definitely be a requirement and i know that such education is sorely lacking here in australia

    thank you again for your comments

  3. Hi Sue, I absolutely agree with you that driver education is the way to go. That, along with proper infrastructure is the only way that cycling can be made safe. Unfortunately, here in the UK, we look to be headed for compulsory helmet laws in the next few years as the media and public continues to blame cyclists for accidents - despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I see a direct parallel with this 'victim blaming' in cyclists/motorist accidents and the unsympathetic manner in which the courts and police handle rape cases. The law needs to change to protect vulnerable road users. As it stands, killing someone with a car is the perfect way to literally get away with murder.

  4. thanks, coshgirl, for your comments which i completely agree with - geez i hope you manage to avoid mandatory helmet laws - they are utterly depressing and completely sabotage cycling as a mode of transport - good luck!

  5. Milohurley2004@yahoo.comJune 17, 2010 at 11:06 PM

    Do you know anything about exemptions from helmet laws on medical grounds? I've had lots of skin cancer including a melanoma and wear a baseball cap (long peak), long sleeves, etc.


  6. Milo!

    I think you would satisfy the criteria on medical grounds - a letter/document from your GP/specialist would likely be required - NSW's claims that there are no available grounds whatsoever, but as you may be aware I am currently contesting that (in fact hoping to meet face- to face with relevant minister this week)

    South Australia has a specific regulation in their Road Rules that exempts people of the Seikh religion - so there are exemptions out there. Basically it's worth a try, and you are entitled to put your application for exemption together for the relevant authority's consideration.

    Good luck!

    1. Any luck with the minister, Sue?