Monday, June 9, 2014

Bicycle helmet laws are sexist

The furore that happened after the Adelaide Advertiser reported that I thought bicycle helmet laws was sexist, was ... well quite ridiculous.

Among many things that I'd said to David Nankervis (interviewing journo), we did touch upon the fact that I thought helmet laws acted as a significant deterrent to women and that I thought they were an unnecessary barrier to women for commuter-style cycling. Clearly it was a snazzy headline ...

... and my phone didn't stop ringing, what with Channel 9 news, their Today Show, the Project, 2GB, John Laws, the ABC etc - and the intense interest didn't stop on these wacky shores - global red-neck tops ran it in their papers too - like the Toronto Sun, and the UK Daily Mail, and even Reddit got rantily involved (I'm linking none of them because it was all rabid nutty stuff) ... sigh ...

But it got me thinking that Australian (or any) bicycle helmet law truly is a sexist matter, and does unfairly discriminate against women ... and you know what else ...

... to all you 'me-haters' out there, I can't help that you don't understand what you don't understand.



  1. Might still be worth taking advantage of the media interest to get across 2 important points
    reduced cycling = worse health and lost environmental benefits
    reduced cycling = reduced safety in numbers = increased danger per cyclist.

  2. Of course the helmet law is sexist ad anyone who says it isn't doesn't understand women and cycling.

    While this topic is worthy of serious academic study, I will touch on one or two points.

    Women and men may approach safety differently. While some males may prefer the plastic bowl on the head to feel safe, women may cycle slowly and carefully on sturdy upright bikes away from heavy traffic. Why should the masculine approach be imposed on others ?

    It is entirely natural for people of both sexes to use clothing, headwear and hairstyle as a form of self expression. To explain to the males reading this consider how you would feel if you were made to wear women's hats to ride a bike ? You may protest that women's hats don't make you safe. Well we don't feel your helmets are safe either.

    There has been a lack of empathy towards women bike riders by male law-makers, police, magistrates and sports cycling leaders. I am a female victim of this sexist law. This was never more apparent than when I was arrested for non payment of helmet fines and taken by armed male police , when 6 months pregnant to gaol .

  3. I don't know if the law is sexist, in and of itself, since it applies equally to men and women, but I think you could argue that the consequences of the law are sexist - in the same way that some laws are worded so as to apply to all people, but in practice they affect certain racial or ethnic groups more than others. It's clear that MHL's do discourage women from cycling. One simply has to look at the gender ratios of cyclists in Australia (not counting the NT) vs other countries to see that this is true. And I'd hazard a guess that this is because women are, on average, more risk-averse than men (probably because society presents lots of positive images of risk-taking male role-models, but not so many of risk-taking women). Any action or law that promotes the idea that cycling is dangerous will probably deter women (especially those who might be considering taking up cycling, rather than already be dedicated cyclists) more than it deters men.

  4. I'm a man. I don't like helments fucking my hairstyle. I don't like them chafing the collars on my shirts and suit jackets, and picking at my scarves. They also make it a goddam nuisance doing the shopping. I can manage shopping on a bike with kids, but juggling a number of helmets to travel 700m is bleeding annoying. They truly interfere with practical cycling - I don't want any 'gear'. Anyway, hope my rant is okay as a male cyclist.