Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bicycle Helmet Laws v The Paying Passenger

(Photos: Maureen Donnelly)(Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - a 'no-bicycle-helmet-law' land)

In Australia:

* Why don't paying passengers on bicycles have to wear helmets
* Why do non-paying passengers have to wear helmets?
* Why is it thought to be safer to pay a fare?
* Why is it thought to be more dangerous to not pay a fare?
* What is the government rationale?

I am completely mystified - any clues? anyone?


  1. Hi Sue,

    I agree - totally ridiculous! This, to me, highlights that the helmet is of no use whatsoever in protecting a person from the sort of accident that they are marketed to 'protect us' in - ie. being hit by a car, etc.

    In Queensland the helmet section of the Queensland Road Rules (Reprint 4 - 2007), reads thus:

    Bicycle helmets
    (1) The rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider’s head.
    Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.

    (2) The rider of a bicycle must not carry a passenger on the bicycle unless the passenger is wearing an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the passenger’s head.
    Maximum penalty—20 penalty units.

    (3) Subsection (2) does not apply to the rider of a 3-wheeled or 4-wheeled bicycle who is carrying a paying passenger.

    (4) A person is exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet if the person is carrying a current doctor’s certificate stating that, for a stated period—
    (a) the person can not wear a bicycle helmet for medical reasons; or
    (b) because of a physical characteristic of the person, it would be unreasonable to require the person to wear a bicycle helmet.

    So there you go. Interesting that the RIDER still has to wear a helmet when riding a three- or four-wheeled 'bi'cycle but the PASSENGERS are exempt - but only if they PAY!

    Surely this highlights what a joke these laws are? If some big business suffered from mandatory helmet laws I bet they would have not been introduced (cf with cigarettes & big tobacco).

    Good luck with the appeal coming up, Sue.

    Kind regards,

    Dr Paul Martin

  2. Hi Sue

    In addition to what Dr Paul has just outlined, I find it amusing that the policy/law makers clearly recognised that it wouldn't be convenient to ask fee paying passengers to carry their own helmets around with them. I mean, this law suggests that they do understand that forcing fee paying passengers to carry their own helmets wouldn't work (and frankly, I would never wear any helmet offered by the bike rider that had been used by other people and I don't think I'd buy a disposable helmet at the corner store as mentioned on some other blog as a possibility for Australian bike schemes). They also must have understood that enforcing helmet wearing on the passenger would therefore quickly put the rider out of business which would then mean they don't even need this bit of the law in the first place!

    So frustrating that they can clearly see that convenience is an essential ingredient if people are to use a cyclist to transport them around, but they can't seem to see that it also applies to cycling generally as well. Forcing people to carry around helmets everywhere is just sooooo not convenient and means many non sporting cyclists have simply resorted to driving, for even the most ridiculous short distances.

    Sue, who do you get support from? I don't imagine it's too many of the cycling clubs. I'm so tired of seeing bike clubs advocating cycling by holding great big lycra clad, high vis wearing bike rides on a Sunday or whatever. I'm just not interested in that nonsense. Real bike riding for me is just getting on that bike to get from A to B wearing normal clothing and feeling smug for doing my bit for the environment as well. It would be just much nicer if there were many others out there as well.

  3. In South Australia, the only other way legally to avoid being forced to wear a polystyrene hat is by changing religion:

    What is particularly stupid about the fare paying passenger exemption is that it applies to the passenger but not to the rider. Why the difference if helmets have the magical properties that are claimed?

  4. Australian Standard 2063 covers bike helmets. It is discussed in an article in Australian Cyclist (

    Note at the bottom of the page the tests they are subjected to to pass the standard. One involves being dropped 1.5m - apparently to simulate a fall and to measure energy absorbed. I could be wrong but common sense tells me the amount of energy absorbed by a piece of brittle polystyrene is limited.

    But note that the helmet "cannot be subjected to more that 300Gs if the helmet is to pass". What? Why are these things not rigorously tested? If they were, I am certain it would be shown that they do not have the magical properties that are claimed (see eg: Instead we might get some focus on investing in decent infrastructure.

    I would love to be corrected if anyone knows how helmets are tested.

  5. Edward,

    Thanks for the PDF link - yet another ridiculous anecdotal 'helmet saved my life' story; but this one takes the cake - it's published by Standards Australia!


    I wonder if the 'husband & father' (I'm trying not to gag on my coffee) cycled for a while before realising his helmet was cracked?

    “When I looked at my helmet some time later, I noticed a crack from the crown all the way down the left hand side. It’s pretty impressive and that helmet is the reason there isn’t a crack from the crown of my head all the way down the left side."
    (my emphasis)

    This sort of minor damage (which is what happens with the slightest of bumps) instantly renders the helmet useless and he may as well have been cycling without one. I bet he didn't know that; but Standards Australia should have before publishing such tripe.


    Dr Paul Martin

  6. hey paul, lss & edward - thanks for all your comments and links - after reading all that stuff i continue to be baffled by the nation's total acceptance of such tripe - we are so easily corraled and regulated - what a law! what a country!