It’s time to talk about helmets…
Since it was introduced in the early 1990s, Bicycle Network has supported mandatory helmets for people who ride bikes.
However, as Australia’s biggest bike riding organisation with more than 50,000 members, we need to make sure that our position is the best one.
As part of this policy review, we’ve taken a transparent and evidence-based approach to assess our stance on Australia’s mandatory helmets laws.
Outcome: Let people decide
We’ve finally finished our mandatory helmet law policy review, 14 months after we began.
After carefully considering the extraordinary amount of evidence, we’ve reached the conclusion that:
Australia’s mandatory helmet laws should 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.
With more than 80% of bike crashes caused by people driving vehicles, we still believe that not enough has been done to improve Australia’s on-road conditions. This is why we can’t support a full repeal of MHL and bring Australia into line with the rest of the world.
We want to make one thing clear: our new position doesn’t mean we’re saying that bike riders shouldn’t wear helmets. We’re simply saying that in low risk situations, adult bike riders should be able to decide for themselves.
Click the link below to read more and see Bicycle Network’s full mandatory helmet law policy paper.
Reviewing our policy
In conducting our review, we asked ourselves what’s the impact of mandatory helmets on four key things:
- The essence of bike riding: freedom and convenience?
- The number of people riding?
- The number of crashes?
- The severity of injury if there is a crash?
To answer these questions, we’ve spent the last 14 months reviewing the studies, the experience of others and seeking out the views of those interested.
We also wanted to make sure that we capture a diversity of opinions — we heard from members, roads authorities, place-makers, town planners, medical professionals and the wider bike riding community.
1. Public and member survey
What does Australia think?
Our mandatory helmet law survey results are in.
Almost 20,000 people responded and there are many different points of view.
Together our voices are stronger
We know that collective action makes a difference. Join Bicycle Network, Australia’s biggest bike riding organisation, and help make real change in the community for people who ride.
Together we can make it easier for people to ride.LEARN MORE
2 SPEAKING TO EXPERTS AND ADVOCATES
What do the experts think?
In September, we asked you to identify any experts, advocates, medical professionals or public officials that you’d like us to invite to contribute to our helmet policy review.
We invited more than 120 industry experts to give their opinions. We received 32 responses.
Here are the list of experts who gave permission for us to make their opinions publically available: :
- Alan Todd, Freestyle Cyclists
- Amy Gillet Foundation
- Bob Morris, Mountain Bike Australia
- Ceri Woolsgrove, European Cyclists’ Federation
- Chris Gillham
- Chris Oliver, University of Edinburgh
- Professor Chris Rissel, University of Sydney
- Ed Hore, Cycle
- Dr Dorothy Robinson
- Dr Elliot Fishman, Institute for Sensible Transport
- Evan Humble, Evan’s Motorcycle Training
Bicycle Network is calling for a change to Australia’s bicycle helmet laws.
Thoughts from our CEO
Let's not lose our heads
As we kick off our policy review into mandatory helmets, Bicycle Network’s CEO Craig Richards shares his thoughts on the hot-button and often, highly emotive issue.
What I hate most about the mandatory helmet debate is that it’s hard to have the debate.
Yes, emotion should be part of any argument. Decisions are made with both the heart and the head. But when emotions spiral out of control, what should be a thought-provoking debate soon becomes a wild brawl.
In my time as CEO, I’ve copped it from both angles.
I’ve had a spinning-eyed, helmet-less stranger jabbing me in the chest yelling, ‘You’re ruining my life!’
I’ve also been given a stern warning from high places that if I even consider reviewing helmet laws, Bicycle Network will no longer be seen as an organisation with credibility.
The sad reality is that when people can’t accept that reasonable minds differ, important issues are avoided. The result is that we don’t question, investigate and analyse.
If we’re ever to turn Australia into the nation of bike riders we all dream about, both sides need to be prepared to listen to what the other side has to say.
As with all policies, we should regularly ask ourselves, ‘Have we got it right?’
It’s for this reason that Bicycle Network has decided to review its position as a supporter of mandatory helmets.
But let’s be clear: the fact we’re conducting a review is not preempting an outcome. We may conclude our current position is the best one. Or we may conclude it’s not.
We understand reviewing mandatory helmets will get messy. We understand the risks and that we can’t please all of the people all of the time.
But we’re a member-based organisation. We need to listen as well as lead. We need to be courageous, curious and open-minded. We need to constantly be looking for a way to wake Australia from its slumber and turn it into a nation of bike riders.
So as we embark on the review (which we’re aiming to complete by April 2018) I would really appreciate one thing: a little patience.
We understand like many people you’re probably passionate one way or the other about mandatory helmets. But please understand that reasonable minds can differ. And whether we stick to our current position or change it, like you, our aim is to do what’s best for bike riders.
— Craig Richards, Bicycle Network CEO