Tuesday, July 16, 2013

You, my dear Australian, still need bicycle helmet law

(Cycling in Pienza, Tuscany, Italy)

When bicycle helmets were launched onto the unsuspecting Australian public in 1991, their illusionary allure of safety was pedalled further by those who had an interest in them...aka helmet promoters - no surprise there.

But why did the Australian media just parrot the delusion in their annoying pollyanna manner which has continued to this very day?

I will never get why the Australian media didn't see that mandatory helmet laws were just a pseudo-solution to road safety, nor will I ever get why they embraced them so wholeheartedly without questioning any of the data presented whatsoever.

Brilliant PR, brilliant spin, yes...but as a result helmet promoters and their industry of manipulation have hoodwinked the Australian public without ever being properly held to account - ahem, 4th estate, where are you?

What really intrigues me is that more and more whether via travel, or blogs or other social media, we're discovering for ourselves the big world out there uses bicycles mostly without helmets yet instead of us then thinking something like...'ok maybe it's not so bad after all - why don't we try it too'...we succumb to neat little 'psy-op' manoeuvres that deftly remind us that despite fabulous overseas bike share programmes and fabulous bicycle cultures anywhere-else-but-here we Australians still need bicycle helmet laws - why do we fall for that crap?

If the ABC had someone doing a 'video news release' (VNR) from Leipzig on The Business last week, why didn't they have someone covering Velo-City 2013 in Vienna, just down the road.

Arguably one of the biggest bicycle conferences in the world with all 'Matters Bicycle' completely covered, the Australian mainstream media were sorely missing in action - pathetic, and there's no way I'm going to fall that neat little brainwashing message broadcast on The Business whispering to me that 'no matter what you see around the world, you, my dear, still need your mandatory bicycle helmet law.'



  1. Again I refer to :

    This shows that the media (in 2010) presented a relatively unbiased reportage of MHLs with equal visibilty of both pro and anti- MHL opinion in the letters' pages.

    The retraction of Rissel's paper was not even reported.... I would have thought this showed a bias towards the anti-MHL position.


    Seamus gardiner

    1. Seamus, mainstream media are infatuated with both helmet laws and all who advocate them especially when those that advocate them are perceived to 'add up' because really, I ask you what would the average ED doctor know about helmet laws, public health, criminal law, its effect on society, discrimination, bullying, even the actual mechanics of bicycle helmets, etc etc...?

      Here we are in 2013 and the media are still committed to their position of 'you've gotta wear a helmet otherwise we'll report that you're a bad mother, father, auntie, uncle, grannie, grandad, girl, boy' - that's how it is, Seamus, and you and I both know you know it.

  2. Hi Sue,
    I don't quite get what you're saying here. You assert that the media is 'infatuated with helmet laws...and all who advocate them '. You may be correct but the very limited research that I have done on the matter shows otherwise.
    Do you have examples of pro-MHL bias in the media? I also presumed this to be the case (given the normal anti-cyclist media editorial position see: ) but I have not been able to find any examples. I'm sure they exist, just not available on a casual internet search.

    I don't agree with your statement:
    "Here we are in 2013 and the media are still committed to their position of 'you've gotta wear a helmet'" because I haven't been able to find any examples of bias; or rather, the examples that I have noted are quite balanced, i thought.

    I think those who are 'infatuated with ...helmet laws' are the anti-MHL activists, to be honest. Which is fair enough, I'm not denigrating the passion or the opinion of anti-MHL activists. The only thing I object to is conspiracy seeking, mistruths and flagrant bias.



  3. Sue,

    I live in the UK, so I don't know much about Australian media, but I know quite a lot about the media and cycle helmets here, and it mirrors precisely your experience.

    The BBC is widely regarded as being a paragon of unbiased, objective reporting, but their bias on cycle helmets is blatant and obvious, just google for BBC articles on cycle helmets, they will almost all be overt cycle helmet promotion, with no objective discussion. Just one example will suffice to demonstrate. There is a BBC radio programme called "More or Less" which has the declared aim of debunking the myths by examining the data, and they had an article about cycle helmets, and I thought "good, the BBC will finally have an objective view". I was much more niave then.

    I listened to the article, and was appalled. For the first and only time in the programme's history, no data was examined and the only people interviewed were pro-helmet, including our local helmet zealots, BHIT, and the presenter made it very clear that he was in favour of helmets. The BBC has very clear editorial guidelines about bias, accuracy and presenters not making their personal views known, so I complained, demonstrating exactly where the article had failed to follow those guidelines. Unfortunately, the BBC complaints system has one aim: to exonerate it's employees. Despite the clearest possible evidence, the complaint failed. This is just one example, but the media in the UK is utterly biased on the subject of cycle helmets, with almost no dissenting voices, so this isn't just an Australian phenomenon, it appears to be global.

    As you rightly point out, the question is why is the media so biased? I believe that it is down to the fact that most reporters and editors don't ride bikes, and do drive cars, so cyclists are an "out group" who can be safely attacked without reference to facts, or indeed, reasonable discussion. Not quite sure how we change this, but there do seem to be more people out there who are aware of the limitations of helmets and are prepared to respond to ill-considered media reporting, and that has to help.

    Richard Burton