Monday, June 28, 2010

Who's responsible for my medical bills?

Our fatuous belief in bicycle helmets has facilitated the general acceptance of some pretty implausible ideas pertaining to their protective capabilities...

...and I have to admit I was 'gobsmacked' by some of these 'implausible ideas' whilst handing out 'anti-mandatory helmet law' postcards in Newtown last weekend!:

Oh World! We, the people of Australia, do solemnly swear that we do truly believe that bicycle helmets offer us superior protection against:

* cars
* buses (!)
* semi-trailers (!!!)
* CBD cycling
* all city traffic
* pedestrians (?)

Oh World! We, the people of Australia, do solemnly swear that the magical properties of bicycle helmets will protect us on bicycles far and wide (even in the Netherlands - where can we find one when we're there?)

Oh World! We, the people of Australia, do solemnly swear that anyone who refutes the superior qualities of helmets is a cavalier renegade. Therefore we do humbly recommend that if such an individual does not don a helmet and then suffers an accident whilst pedalling their free heads, that unfortunate individual should be compelled to pay for their own medical bills or go without treatment - tiddley-pom!


This fundamental belief has completely denuded us of any abilitiy to disseminate fact from spin. Consequently, helmet promoters have successfully embedded a perceived bias in favour of their helmets, and we, the Australian mob, will not countenance any discussion on the subject - end of story.

When we routinely call for injured unhelmeted cyclists to foot their medical bills, we glibly dispense with the very ethos of our medical system! Why? - we certainly don't clamour for such ruthless medical care with regards to the tubby, the puffers and / or the boozers!!!

What is it with us & cycling?

Contrary to popular opinion, bicycle helmets do not offer an omnipotent mantle of superior protection!!! - clearly!


  1. I think it's interesting that there doesn't seem to be much of a public debate about road safety. Other more difficult issues are debated much more, such as economics for example. Is it better to lower taxes, or is it better to make public investments in education, science and health? In the end the answers depend a lot on what values you have.

    Road safety is the same, but for some reason there seems to be no room for debate about what the priorities should be. Consequently, many people don't realise what the tradeoffs are. Helmets vs health is a a good example, but there are others. You're ten times safer in a bus than a car for instance. Hence, making it easier to drive cars might worsen road safety if it gets people out of public transport and into cars.

  2. I *really* get tired of this response.

    Moreover, it is a terribly aggressive & assaultive thing to say, somehow implying that a non-helmet wearing cyclists deserves to suffer terribly because they weren't wearing a helmet... never mind the fact that the likely reason they are suffering is because someone has used their vehicle as a dangerous weapon!

    As you say, we don't deny healthcare to smokers, morbidly obese and people who have no regard for themselves at all - and nor should we. What is it with some people? Verbal violence is as bad as the real thing.

    Dr Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

  3. It was a lovely evening here in Hamilton, Ontario yesterday and there were many cyclists out as dusk passed into night.

    More than half of the cyclists wore helmets. Most of those with helmets had no lights. Yet they are apparently concerned about safety.

    We as a society have not invested much thought in the whole cyclist-safety thing. We've just swallowed snake oil and now we hope for the best.

  4. Great blog. I also detest helmet laws as irrational nonsense, and have various reasons for arguing that the laws themselves on the whole results in more dangers to society. My views and some links are here

  5. Thanks for all your comments!

    It's a mystery to me why everyone doesn't appreciate that Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHLs) only benefit helmet promoters and politicians. In effect MHLs have allowed the latter to abrogate their responsiblities to provide us with cycling infrastructure & motorists' education by demanding that the cyclists provide their own safety in the guise of an obligatory 'coffee cup'!! - nuts!!

    Thanks for the link to your blog too, Cameron! - looks great!