Saturday, October 5, 2013

Why can't we be Oxford? - helmet-law free

Bicycles & lanes

Bicycles & flowers

Bicycles & peeps

& more peeps

Bicyles & buses

& buses

& more buses

Bicycles & no-hands

Bicycles & nonchalence

Bicycles & earphones

Bicycles & theatres

Bicycles & red jumpers

Bicycles & back-packs

& back packs

Bicycles & dapper gentlemen

Bicycles & Oxford blues

Bicycles & buns

& pony-tails

Bicycles & bags

Bicycles & belts

Bicycles & singlets

... basically everything except the interfering arm of government insisting upon helmet law.

Consequently you find a bustling town with emphasis on many modes of transport which unlike many towns in Australia has not witnessed the disappearance of the bicycle because in this instance the British government has not intruded on behalf of [insert name of commercial provider] to shore up bottom-line of [insert name of commercial provider] ...

... let's face it, Australia, it's the only reason we have mandatory helmet laws - MONEY.


  1. Big Helmet Rules - a sorry indictment of Oz.

    Sue, you are a true revolutionary in leading the charge to unshackle society from Helmet Law. You have nothing to lose but your helmet.

  2. Sue, this video is in London, not Oxford, but I thought Bloomsbury continued the literary and academic theme:

  3. Despite your beaches and your (relatively) healthy economy, I'm so glad I'm not Australian!

    I mean, its bad enough here (UK) (and it is pretty bad - Oxford is better than average but its still not exactly the Netherlands).

    But at least the car-lobby here isn't quite so all-powerful that its even gotten a special law passed specifically to suppress demand for cycling, just in order to get those pesky cyclists out of their way.

    It seems to be doing its intended job though - as you've gotten cycling modal share down to less than 1%. And it seems you have obesity rates exceeded only by the US! Number two in the developed world! Quite an achievement.

    The helmet-pushers must be so proud! All those heart-disease and diabetes deaths! Mission accomplished!

    And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And he was wearing a ridiculous-looking polystyrene hat.

    1. These stats are a couple of years old and I think that cycling modal share has increased in both countries, but thhe graph on page 4 shows that the cycling modal share is greater in australia than in the UK - despite no MHLs in the UK.

      moreover, overall share is the same in Melbourne as in London. despite no MHLs in London.

      Cycling rates worldwide exist independantly (or at least hardly affected) by MHLs.



    2. OK, I accept that the level of cycling in Australia isn't _quite_ as dire as the figure I'd previously seen. But I would never suggest that the UK is a model to follow in that regard either. Frankly, the share in both the UK and Australia is derisory - to a first approximation nobody cycles in either country (the supposed 'cycling revolution' that gets talked about in the UK is a bad joke).

      Ergo, imposing a helmet law, that is a having the state endorse a symbolic expression of the unchallengeable political supremacy of motoring (sending the message that its always the victim's responsibility to try and minimise the risk created by others) is not helpful, its going in _exactly_ the wrong direction.

      The figures on that article in fact show that countries with compulsory helmet laws are all at the very lowest end of cycling share. They are all countries where nobody cycles, in fact.

      Not exactly an endorsement of the approach of those countrires, is it?

      MHLs are akin to dealing with a problem of men harassing women by passing a law ordering women to cover up more.

      The countries in which people actually use bikes - the countries one ought to look at for ideas - do not have such a law.

    3. Can you show me a country that achieved a respectable level of cycling while having a mandatory helmet law? Such laws are a sign of the political weakness of cyclists and the immense power of the motoring lobby.

      I would also add that if they imposed such a law here, I'd give up cycling and go back to walking (and public transport where I can afford it). Under no circumstances would I accept what would be a state-mandated symbol of victim-blaming. I find the notion of it offensive (and that's speaking as one who, currently, 9 trips out of 10 wears a helmet).

      Motorists create the problem and motorists need to face the legal impositions required to ameliorate it, not their victims. We already have to put up with constant redesigns of the urban environment to accommodate the reluctance of drivers to stick to sensible speeds, look where they are going, or obey the laws. There really has to be a limit as to how far others can be forced to adapt to their drivers' bad behaviour or it will never stop. Next it will be helmets for pedestrians and every building to be painted in high-viz paint!

  4. Well we've had MHLs in Australia for 22 years now and still no 'helmets for pedestrians' or 'hi-viz paint' on buildings but anyway why let evidence or logic get in the way of a good rant.

    Ye MHLs are overkill and should be rescinded but the fact that riding rates are less in states of the US without MHLs and roughly equivalent with the UK (no MHLs) should tell you that the biggest determinent in riding participation is not MHLs.

    At the risk of repeating myself, the biggest determinent of riding participation in Australia is motor vehicels and cycle infrastructure - at least that is what the studies would suggest. By all means make up your own reality if you don't like that one.



  5. About six years ago I wondered about bike helmet wearing rates in London and though I imagine there might be official data somewhere, one morning along my commute to work I did a sample count of people on bikes who were wearing helmets.

    The journey was about 5 miles and made around 8.00-8.30am on a mild, dry day, so most of those I saw on bikes would have been other people commuting to their workplaces.

    Of 100 people I counted, 82 wore a helmet. It's a small sample size done by one person on just one day on a single route, but in the absence of other data it's an indication of how popular helmets are among Londoners who commute by bike.

    It's very possible that the ratio would have been different if I'd done my count in another part of London, such as Hackney, where utility cycling is apparently more common.
    When the bike hire scheme began I counted how many hire bike riders used a helmet. The numbers were much smaller and the ratios varied a lot, depending I suppose on how many bikes I saw were ridden by regular commuters and how many by visitors or casual users.

    Since then, I'd estimate that the adoption of bike helmets in London has increased further, as the general call from supposed authorities and other interested parties continues for their use.

    The cycling population of Oxford mentioned above includes a large student population, whose habits regarding bikes are possibly more Dutch than British - they ride beat up bikes, often second hand, and I'd guess tend not to acquire expensive kit such as helmets.

    Thus, even without MHLs, the UK in general (and London in particular) is very much a nation convinced of the value of bike helmets.

    1. Great point. Australia, also, was starting to gain a large increase in helmet wearing before MHLs were introduced (largely as a result of strong grassroots promotion).
      It's one of hte most convincing arguments against MHLs, really.