Helmet Laws: Cycling Geelong’s submission to the Federal Senate Enquiry

Cycling Geelong recently responded to a call from submissions for a Senate Enquiry into “Personal Choice and Community Impacts” which was sounding out whether to remove mandatory bicycle helmets for all riders.

Here is our submission (prepared by Maree Burn and Helen Lyth):

Senate inquiry into measures introduced to restrict personal choice ‘for the individual’s own
good’.

Personal choice and community impacts”
The economic and social impact of legislation, policies or Commonwealth guidelines, with
particular reference to:

d. bicycle helmet laws, including any impact on the health, enjoyment and finances of cyclists and non-cyclists

Cycling Geelong Inc. strongly agrees with mandatory helmet wearing for cyclists.

Helmets reduce head injuries in an accident – without a helmet, a person is more likely to suffer a head injury and more likely to suffer a severe head injury.

The impact of treating head injuries and providing for brain damaged individuals in the long term is a huge dollar cost to the community.

We certainly do not want to say that cycling is unsafe but, in Australia, cyclists are at ‘greater risk’ because of –

  • the lack of separated infrastructure (in Europe, for example, there is excellent cycling
    infrastructure, quite separate from motor vehicles);
  • the lack of continuous safe routes within towns and cities;
  •  the long distances travelled by some cyclists on high speed roads;
  • the lack of understanding by motorists (for example, travelling too close to cyclists; cutting cyclists off when merging left; sometimes simply not ‘seeing’ cyclists on the road; not acknowledging cyclists as legitimate road users).

Younger cyclists are also at greater risk than adult riders because they lack the physical and cognitive skills to cycle safely.  We need to protect our young people in their development because they do not have the maturity to make decisions such as the wearing of appropriate safety gear.
Our submission is based solely on the safety issue of wearing helmets. We argue strongly against safety laws being rolled back to fuel economic vested interests e.g. the low uptake of the bike share schemes blamed on mandatory helmet wearing.
Other proven safety measures – such as motorcycle helmets, seat belts, air bags – are not being considered. Does this mean we should also make these optional in future?
The Committee and members
Cycling Geelong Inc.
Personal choice and community impacts
Submission 215

All the submissions may be accessed here.

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2 thoughts on “Helmet Laws: Cycling Geelong’s submission to the Federal Senate Enquiry

  1. I would prefer freedom of choice IF as you say we had the type of infrastructure as in many European countries. The only thing I would add is a helmet is not a once off cost. Most manufacturers and cycling articles recommend replacing your helmet every 2 to 3 years dependent on use and how clean you keep it. In particular the inside can react to perspiration and scalp oil secretion leading to degradation of the foam, which is the protective component. If helmets remain compulsory then the community needs to be made aware of regularly replacing helmets for maximum safety. If you riding around with a 6 year old helmet chance are you may as well be riding without a helmet.

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