There is plenty of discussion on the interwebs on the pros and cons of compulsory helmets for cyclists. Personally I am against compulsory helmet laws and believe cyclists should be able to choose for themselves. After all, the people who suffer the most head injuries, car drivers and passengers, aren’t forced to wear helmets.

Helmets haven’t been proven to significantly reduce injuries for cyclists, but they are proven to adversely effect cyclist safety and it is suspected they may also encourage some cyclists to take greater risks than otherwise.
But surely the strongest argument against compulsory helmets and the most indisputable is that they do interfere with one’s hat wearing opportunities. No amount of decorative helmets can ever quite compensate for that! Having enjoyed cycling-in-hats for several years while living overseas I am finding helmets a poor substitute.

Recently Mikael Colville-Andersen was in Melbourne to speak at the State of Design festival. While here he also attended a protest ride held to demonstrate against the lunacy of compulsory helmet laws in tandem with a bike-sharing scheme. I just hope the re-awakening of this debate will eventually lead lead to a more sensible approach and the day when I can choose between the two options below when riding my bike.


4 thoughts

  1. Mmm, I’m not sure your statement that “Helmets haven’t been proven to significantly reduce injuries for cyclists” is correct.

    I’ve seen a handful of studies on the topic, and with the exception of one crackpot, they all support the notion that helmets reduce head injuries to cyclists.

    Whether that reduction is worthwhile is another question, of course, but the govt (via Medicare, TAC, etc) is the one who ends up supporting people with bad injuries, so maybe it’s fair for them to insist people reduce their changes of acquiring them?

    Would it be fair to say people can choose not to wear a helmet, as long as they guarantee they have taken out insurance that replaces the govt’s liability?

  2. I haven’t seen figures that support a ‘significant’ reduction and it is outweighed by the general decrease in cyclist safety that occurs when cyclist numbers drop. As they do when helmets are compulsory. This is the reasoning that has guided most countries.

    And if we’re going to insist because of the costs to the government then this argument should apply to all car users. Their insurances don’t even cover the tip of the iceberg for the injuries car drivers cause. Shall we make them exempt from all government or community-funded support also?

    What if you’ve chosen to use a tram and because of an accident end up with a head injury? Or a pedestrian? We don’t feel these people should be forced to wear protective gear, and are happy as a community to subsidise their care after whatever insurances involved, it seems a strange logic to single-out cyclists. 😉

  3. Hi Faithh, I notice that you’ve supported our demo with a commment on Mikael’s blog.

    if we do another ride in a couple of months time, a larger one, picking up Mixis from many different docking stations around the city and then riding to the Exhibition grounds for a helmet-less ride segment after getting there, would you be interested in joining us and perhaps helping to recruit some other riders?

    I live in NSW. Nick Dow, who you can see in the film on my blog towards the end, will be a main organizer.

    The film is Melb. bike share in trouble? on

    Mikael has said he’ll blog about it if we do go ahead.

    Cheers, Mike Rubbo

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