So, for those of you anti-MHL, are you also opposed to legal requirements for lights at a bike at night? Why not?
You are making an assumption. I am opposed to the legal requirement for lights at night because it is a law attempting to remove the onus for keeping a look out and having adequate illumination for that purpose from the operator to the potential victim. It is the operators responsibility to drive safely and within their capacity. Trees, wandering animals, kerbs, boulders are not required by any law to wear lights or other distinguishing marks. Occasionally, stone walls at right angle turns are marked with black and white chevrons, but that is just because of the strength of the insurance lobby to try and reduce payouts to careless drivers. We need for people to realise that they are responsible for their own actions whether they are on a horse, walking, riding a bike , driving a car etc while on public thoroughfare.
I believe in complete freedom , civilisation and human decency.
I think you might not enjoy reading Zaldah Kirley's letter in this month's RoyalAuto. S/he is very concerned with collisions and believes all cyclists and motorcyclists should be required to wear "reflective vests or such like" because they can be hard to see on "treed mountain roads".
And I think this highlights the key point of the MHL debate - at what point is it necessary/helpful/harmful to mandate that we do something that reduces a risk to ourselves? It's a balancing act between how likely is the risk, how serious are the consequences, how easy is the mitigation to implement, how effective is the mitigation and what adverse side effects are inherent in the mitigation.
In this case we're talking about a risk of head injury arising from a crash while riding a bike.
The risk is real insofar as there is a definite possibility that a cyclist can fall from a bike and strike his/her head hard enough to do serious injury. The frequency of the event, however, is comparatively low.
The consequences can be extremely serious. However, it's only a smallish proportion of that comparatively low number of "head-strike-crashes" which result in extreme consequences.
The mitigation is relatively easy; a helmet which can be purchased relatively cheaply. The mitigation does have some inconvenience associated with remembering, transporting and storing the helmet as I mentioned above.
Effectiveness of helmets has been studied and, recently, found to be somewhat helpful in the case of serious, on-road crashes involving motor vehicles. I haven't seen anything about crashes in other circumstances.
I alluded above to a small number of kids being strangled when their helmets got caught in play equipment. There have also been studies which have concluded that the overall harm to society's health (obesity, cardiac illness, strokes, diabetes, blood pressure) through reduction in cycling as a result of MHLs is greater than the health benefits obtained through reduced trauma arising from head injuries. And then there's the fact that MHLs make a hire bike scheme practically unworkable thereby maintaining higher than necessary levels of traffic congestion in the CBD.
So I would argue that MHLs are not necessary nor helpful and they may even, on balance, be harmful. Which is not to say that helmets are either unhelpful or harmful in and of themselves but they are also not necessary in all circumstances.
Let me turn the question around: If you are in favour of Mandatory Helmet Laws (i.e., the removal of an individual's right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet), why? Why do you believe that our society should force a decision one way or another on this issue?