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need to wear a helmet and schemes in Mexico City and Tel Aviv were not allowed to go ahead until their laws had been rescinded or reduced in scope.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

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Joy of Sailing at Sailability Middle Harbour

Sally O'Neill Sailing Coordinator
Twice a month on Sunday mornings,  winter, spring, summer, autumn, in sun or drizzle, a group of volunteers and sailors take over the dock outside the Australian Olympic Sailing Team HQ at the Middle Harbour Yacht Club. This is where they launch their Access 303 dinghies.  

Sailability Middle Harbour is right next to MHASC laser club, we share the same entrance to  the harbour. The Sailability sailors are usually coming in from their last sail as we rig for our afternoon Laser races. 

Last Sunday I took my camera onto the dock to capture some shots of the sailors and volunteers and to learn more about it.

Volunteers are trained to help sailors with the greatest care and respect
Sailability Middle Harbour has been going for five years and is supported by Northbridge and North Sydney Rotary Clubs. They have five boats stored at the MHYC with another boat soon to be donated.

At Middle Harbour they sail the Access 303. It is safe and easy to sail by one or two adults.  10 ft long ,4 ft wide with a 3.5 ft draft, the boat is steered with a manual joystick.

Some sailors come in groups which include Sunshine Homes, which provide adult care for those with Downs Syndrom, CROWL a home for intellectually disabled adults and the Celebral Palsey Alliance. DARTS provides transport for wheelchair restricted people.
Lachie Clear

Sailability Middle Harbour costs only $5 per sail or $40 a year. The club welcomes new sailors and volunteers.

The lone sailor is  Lachie Clear. Lachie sails regularly by himself and competed at the Access World Championships in England in 2010

There are 350 local Sailability clubs around the world. Sailability was introduced to Australia in 1991 and there are over fifty groups on the continent.  
President John Taylor (JT) supervises a crane assisted boarding

To find out more about these extraordinary sailing clubs click on these links.

The joy of sailing
Off for another adventure on Sydney Harbour