It’s been more than a week since we announced the outcome of our mandatory helmet law policy review and the response has been huge.
A large response was expected, but there have been some comments that we think we need to address.
Many people on social media, talkback radio and in letters to the editor have said that they don’t mind if people ride without helmets – but don’t expect any care, help or respect if you’re injured in a crash.
People are entitled to their opinion and we encourage discussion, but to say that someone doesn’t deserve assistance after a serious incident is wrong, hurtful and against the values of Australian society.
One comment we saw said that bike riders “should be allowed to opt out ONLY if they forgo the right to be treated for a head injury incurred while riding their bike”.
Another said “Just don’t ride in front of my car, cause a crash, then expect me to suffer for the rest of my life just because you decided not to wear a helmet.”
Bicycle Network’s policy is that we should let people choose if they wear a helmet when riding a bike off the road.
Sadly, what people don’t get to decide is if they are involved in a crash and how serious it is.
We know that in around 80 per cent of crashes involving a bike rider, a person driving a car is at fault. We also know that the root cause is poor road networks where bikes and cars aren’t separated.
With this is mind, why should a person on a bike not be entitled to assistance if there is a crash? And why should whether they had a helmet on be the deciding factor?
Or what about car drivers who get injured in crashes? Do these people also think that we should strip them of their right to rehabilitation because they choose not wear helmets when behind the wheel?
When Keith Richards fell out of a coconut tree he didn’t get turned away from the hospital for not wearing his tree climbing helmet.
When someone is injured while riding a bike, what they were or weren’t wearing should never ever affect the level of care and assistance they receive.
We want to see people continuing to discuss Australia’s mandatory helmet laws and what we can do to make bike riding better, but before you start tapping away on your keyboard, please think and ask yourself a question.
Should I really say that people deserve to be injured if they don’t wear a bike helmet?
What happens now?
As well as sending the outcome of our mandatory helmet law policy review to our members, we also sent it to politicians, government bodies and industry groups.
A number of discussions have since been held with these people and it is been made clear that relaxing Australia's mandatory helmet laws is one of Bicycle Network's aims.
We will now continue to push for this change and it will be part of all on going campaigns and appropriate government submissions.
As always, we encourage any members or bike riders who would like to discuss our policies to contact us.