Saturday, October 27, 2012

Mandatory Helmet Laws - The Consequences.

Laser sailing and riding bikes go together. Cycling is a great way to develop leg and hiking strength, endurance and aerobic fitness. It seems to be the best form of training other than actually getting on your Laser.  Riding a bike is also a really good form of transport especially for short distances around your suburb.

But in  Australia we have compulsory helmet laws. Here you can’t just put on a sun hat, 
grab a towel, hop on your bike and go to the beach. If you get caught without a helmet there is a fine, if you don't pay the fine they take away your drivers licence and then send the bailiff to seize your possessions.

At first glance our helmet laws might seem right.  Seat belts save lives, they are compulsory and no one objects to them.  

But there has been an unintended consequence.  According to
the enforced cycle helmet laws resulted in much less cycling. In Australia falls in cycle use averaged more than 30% and in Canada 28% to 40%.  Much higher levels of abandoning cycling have been recorded among teenagers.

In European countries, cycling is one of the forms of physical exercise most frequently undertaken by children out of school and any reduction in cycling can impact significantly on children's fitness. In all the countries with enforced helmet laws, there is a high level of childhood obesity. On the other hand, in countries with high levels of cycling and low levels of helmet use, childhood obesity is much less of a problem.

Everyday cycling, like walking, is a low-risk activity, and one where the health benefits outweigh the risk of injury by 20:1 or more. The bottom line is that people who cycle regularly live longer, on average, than people who do not, with healthier lives and less illness. (health impacts of mandatory bicycle helmet laws)

Good evidence of the safety of cycling comes from city bike hire schemes worldwide. Up to 2011, the popular schemes in London and Dublin had generated over 8 million cycle journeys with no serious casualties of any kind. This is a very low level of risk and few riders wear helmets.

Helmet laws also kill city hire bikes. Schemes in Melbourne, Brisbane and Auckland have all failed to attract much use due to the need to wear a helmet and schemes in Mexico City and Tel Aviv were not allowed to go ahead until their laws had been rescinded or reduced in scope. Other helmet law towns are campaigning for law changes before they will invest in bike hire.

You may be lucky to live in a country with a strong everyday cycling culture and no helmet laws, take care to avoid the mistakes we have made here in Australia.

To know more about the issue check out these advocacy organisations

You can also sign a petition here

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