Bicycle Network helmet policy review
Change Australia’s helmet laws and let people decide

Bicycle Network is calling for a change to Australia’s bicycle helmet laws that would allow adults to decide whether they should wear a helmet when they’re not riding on the road.

In all Australian states and territories (excluding Northern Territory), it is currently mandatory for people to wear a helmet whenever and wherever they ride a bike.

Bicycle Network is recommending that these laws be relaxed with a five-year trial permitting people older than 17 to choose whether they wear a helmet when riding on footpaths or off-road cycle paths.

Mandatory helmet laws since were introduced in Australia in the 1990s. Bicycle Network became supporters of the law, however after a 14-month policy review has decided to call for change.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said that bike riding is languishing in Australia and we need to rethink our helmet policy. 

“Australia is one of only two countries in the world with fully enforced mandatory helmet law. The number of people who ride a bike isn’t increasing and there has been no decrease in the number of bike rider fatalities. It’s clear that our bike policies aren’t working, so it’s important that we review everything,” Mr Richards said.

“Our recommendation is to give people the freedom to choose if they wear a helmet in low risk circumstances, because that’s what bike riding is ultimately all about – freedom.”

“60% of bike riders called for change. They don’t believe they need someone to tell them whether to wear a helmet when they’re going down the beach or going for a slow Sunday pedal on a bike path.”

While Bicycle Network believes that in low risk, off-road riding environments people should be able to choose whether they wear a helmet, they also believe that Australia’s road networks have not been developed to a stage where they can confidently recommend a full repeal of mandatory helmet laws.

“More than 80 per cent of bike rider crashes are caused by someone driving a car, but sadly, we haven’t seen enough done to reduce interaction between bike and cars,” added Mr Richards.

“Instead of removing the risks and causes of bicycle crashes, the solution has been helmets which, like all personal protection equipment, is the least effective way to prevent injury and reduce risk.’

Making helmets optional for off-road riding would match legislation in the Northern Territory which is the only place in Australia without a blanket mandatory helmet law.

Bicycle Network’s three-part helmet policy review began in August 2017 when nearly 20,000 people completed a survey about Australia’s current helmet laws. Bike riding and medical industry experts were also asked to make submissions and a rapid review of more than 2,500 academic studies was conducted.

Click here to see Bicycle Network’s position paper with a full review of mandatory helmet laws.

Download the paper APPENDIX 1 Appendix 2

Bicycle Network’s recommendations for Australia’s mandatory helmet laws
  1. Australia’s mandatory helmet laws should be relaxed with a five-year trial permitting people older than 17 to decide whether they wear a helmet when riding on footpaths and cycle paths.
  2. Riding a bicycle on the footpath should be made legal for all people in Victoria and New South Wales so that the five-year trial can be successful. This would bring Victoria and New South Wales in line with all other states and territories.
  3. More must be done to protect people who ride a bike on the road by reducing and eliminating a key hazard: motor vehicles.

POlicy review