We support helmet choice

We support helmet choice – this should come as no surprise to anyone who has passed by this website before. Check out our ‘Helmets‘ page for the quick run down of the issue at hand.

But this time we have put it down on paper. The following is a letter of support that we have sent Freestyle Cyclists in Australia to be read out at their campaign launch on Saturday.

We the undersigned New Zealand cycling advocates welcome the launch of Freestyle Cyclists in Australia.

It is well known that the benefits of cycling, even without a plastic hat, outweigh the costs by a massive proportion. Bicycle Helmet Legislation is based on a denial of this reality.

Every 30 minutes in New Zealand an individual is fined under our Legislation for undertaking an activity which overall benefits their health and saves Society and business money. That this is allowed to happen, and indeed required by Law, is unjust, and counter to the best interests of all New Zealanders.

Helmets have undoubtedly saved some lives in some accidents, and make good sense in a sporting context, but have also been proven to increase the likelihood of accidents by increasing risk compensation by drivers. Overall bicycle helmet legislation has not produced any significant benefit.

We understand that Helmet legislation was introduced with the best of intentions; but as an experiment, and in the big picture, it has patently failed, reducing cycling mode share, undermining the only real guarantee of safety: the number of people on bikes.

The results of this experiment – low mode share and unnecessarily high casualties, in both countries, are internationally held up as a shining example of what not to do. Very few jurisdictions have followed; those that have then experienced the same problems and lack of success as in Australia and New Zealand; and some have since rescinded all or part of their laws.

In recent times, it has become clear that public cycleshare, game changing in enabling the growth of cycling as a practical, modern transport mode, has failed miserably in the few countries with helmet laws, while being massively successful elsewhere. Some countries with helmet legislation, including Mexico and Israel, have effectively abandoned it to encourage everyday A to B cycling, and specifically cycleshare.

We join Freestyle Cyclists in calling upon our Governments to repeal helmet legislation and return to our Citizens the freedom of choice, concomitant with being members of a democratic society, to use good judgment in safety matters, in an activity which is already beneficial to them and Society.

They have a petition that you can sign and some great links to the media around this issue.

What I really like about their website is the pictures of people enjoying the perfectly normal (apart from NZ and Oz) pleasure of cycling without a helmet. You’ll spot Prince Charles, some policemen, an athlete and some celebrities among the helmet free – very strange if it is as dangerous as our governments would have us believe.

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14 thoughts on “We support helmet choice

  1. I signed this petition a few weeks ago and I wholeheartedly agree. I want to decide whether I wear a helmet or not. I think I am perfectly capable of assessing whether I should need to wear a helmet on not. I always wear a helmet when I am mountain biking or bike along a busy road but would never wear a helmet if cycle in Hagley Park. Helmets are in some ways the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. We need to make cycling safer and not rely on a piece of plastic. Doing away with the helmet legislation and building decent cycling infrastructure will make cycling more popular and there is safety in numbers.

  2. while we wait for legislation to change and infrastructure improvements, we still have to protect ourselves. High vis vest, lights, helmut and alert road skills will go along way.
    Talking about safety in numbers – i think it must be time for another Critical Mass?

  3. Warning: this post contains devil’s advocacy, and some cold sobering facts – which is which you’ll have to figure out ;-)

    Two posts so far as I write this one says “we need to make cycling safer” and the other “we still have to protect ourselves”…

    What is so special about cyclists that requires society to spend money to make their lives even better?

    The benefits of cycling outweigh the costs – riding a bike benefits the individuals health, unlike the poor motorists who gain no health benefit at all from driving. But are those cyclists satisfied? No, they want more!

    Head injuries? Jeez, cyclists head injuries pale in comparison to those of ladder climbers and drivers. But who calls for better protection for those folk, nobody! Yet again it’s the cyclists who want more.

    Cyclists – they’re healthier, they live longer, they’re happier, they learn better in schools, they save money, they pollute less – win, win, win, and yet all they can say is “make it even safer/better for us”.

    OK, I think that’s enough or I might get lynched with an innertube ;-)

    A marketing campaign was run in NZ with the aim of selling a product. This required creating a need for the product, as such campaigns do, so the myth was created that bicycling is fundamentally dangerous and only knuckleheads would risk it without using the product.

    It was a very effective campaign, no shame in being taken in, but it’s a myth – the benefits of cycling while wearing ordinary everyday clothing – no lycra, tights, plastic hats, etc. – outweigh the costs. No ifs, no buts. No need to believe me just ask the experts, worldwide they only argue over the size of the benefit not its existence. Closer to home? Try Prof Kingham at Canterbury University – he recently presented a public lecture on this.

    The ongoing cost of that campaign is enormous, anything from contributing to the increase in obesity to scaring parents into disallowing their children from cycling – and hence denying them the benefits it brings. Even if we abolish the law tomorrow it will probably take decades for these costs to work their way through the system, and the longer we wait the greater the costs.

    Take any safety precautions you like while cycling, plastic hat to rabbit’s foot, just know that without them you’re still winning. Enjoy the benefits it gives you, tell others! Don’t fuel the myth.

  4. good comments Nigel. cyclists asking to be safer still?… yeah i would like to see dedicated cycle lanes, comprehensive cycle routes to and from the city, better road surfaces. Am i asking for society to buy my helmut, vest, lights or other safety gear? – no. thats my cost not yours. As far as campaigns wasting you taxpayers money, the amount per resident would barely bare mention. Increased “benefit’s to cycling will improve lives for all, ie less cars on roads will get motorists to their destination quicker for instance. I will happily agree to being called greedy for wanting comprehensive cycle routes as opposed to the stop start token stretches we ride on. It’s not a conspiracy Nigel

  5. Peter, I’m not sure if you got the post or not ;-)

    Conspiracy? Certainly not in the sense you probably mean, just a humungous screwup.

    The benefits outweigh the costs, be happy, keep cycling! :-)

  6. … benefits out weighing the costs isnt a revelation, i couldnt agree more with that statement. Be happy – for sure : ) keep cycling – absolutely.

    keep up the subscription of Investigate Magazine.

    Now lets campaign for those marginaized Motorists and ladder climbers, they need representing.

  7. Peter, I see what your last comment was getting at now.

    A marketing campaign is not a conspiracy, why would you think it is?

    There is an ad on TV at the moment designed to sell hand wash, it shows a kid playing in the mud and has mum saying “I need to keep him safe for all those germs”. I bet you grew up playing in the dirt without needing special hand wash, I know I did :-) The ad is just selling a product by creating a perceived need. It’s not a conspiracy.

    The helmet campaign was designed to create a perceived need for helmets, how do you do that? Well their choice was to make folks think cycling is dangerous, and they were very successful in doing that – decades later cyclists are still saying they need to be protected, and parents are stopping kids cycling because its too dangerous! It wasn’t a conspiracy, it’s just marketing.

    In the early/mid 2000’s the LTNZ/LTSA (they change their name so often!) were charged with trying to increase cycling as part of then government policy. However it was rather hard as they’d just spent years telling everyone it was dangerous and at a public meeting in Christchurch they stated they’d “shot themselves in the foot” with the helmet campaign – a rare moment of honesty.

    There was no conspiracy, just marketing which created a myth. And today we have cycle advocates who keep insisting on fueling that myth, as the LTSA would say “shooting themselves in the foot”.

    Meanwhile every 30 mins the Government fines someone to maintain the myth… That’s not a conspiracy either, its politics.

    [Donning flame suit :-)] The only possible conspiracy here would be a “conspiracy of silence” from CAN who implicitly support fining a cyclist every 30 mins…

  8. You know I have had plenty of crashes on motorcycles and cycles and I have never hit my head on the ground. The body seems to naturally keep it from smashing as it is a sensitive area.

  9. Hi folks, we’re discussing the issue of helmet wearing tomorrow! Love to get your calls on this after 8.40am on Newstalk ZB we’ll be on 03 340 10 98! Cheers!

  10. biking what a bliss,moving to lyttleton,i discovered the joy of going down the hill, it’s fun ,however it s becoming more urgent ,that i get my brake fixed,i try the shop in colombo st but they cant help til 8 january,i heard someone fixe bike in lyttleton but the info office is stil closed .any suggestion ?

  11. Has anyone come across a kid who has been knocked off their bike, head speared into the gutter?
    Has anyone seen the effect of a head hitting the ground at 45kph?
    Has anyone felt the impact of being cut-up by a car turning left whiulst communting to work?
    Has anyone heard of the “Darwin awards’?
    Perhaps those who advocate not wearing a helmut also are secret creationists at heart?

  12. You’re kidding right? Please keep helmets as compulsory equipment.
    While they are an ambulance as opposed to a fence, I’d rather have an ambulance than not.
    OK, enough mangled metaphors.
    If people are worried about the fashion statement of helmets, and if this view is seriously a barrier to cycle use, I agree with it. We want awake, alert people who share with care, not people who are worried about how they look. After all, who actually looks good on a bike?
    I don’t want more people on bikes, I want more intelligent people on bikes.
    If you’re too vain or stupid to acknowledge the role of an ambulance, stay in your car.
    We must not endorse anything like ‘let he who rides decide’, and we must advocate for mandatory safety equipment.

  13. The last 2 comments seem to think that bicycle helmets are designed for high speed crashes of incidents involving motor vehicles. Unlike motorcycle helmets, they’re not! They make virtually no difference, and there’s a reason that the safest countries to ride a bicycle have no helmets or hi vis. In Europe, we learn how compulsory safety gear makes cycling more dangerous. In Germany, maybe 1 of every 7 or 8 bicyclist wear a helmet and that is considered a huge amount compared to elsewhere.

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