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Have helmet laws put the skids on Australia’s bike share scheme?

Public bicycle hire schemes have the potential to generate the well-known health benefits that come with increased exercise. But while Australia has bravely adopted such schemes, mandatory helmet laws…

Would-be cyclists are deterred by mandatory helmet laws. Jase Wong

Public bicycle hire schemes have the potential to generate the well-known health benefits that come with increased exercise.

But while Australia has bravely adopted such schemes, mandatory helmet laws continue to deter would-be cyclists.

Worldwide, more than 135 cities have developed bicycle share schemes to help reduce vehicle congestion and car parking problems, including Paris, London, Hangzhou, Montreal, Mexico City.

Melbourne and Brisbane started similar but smaller schemes last year to encourage bicycle use for short trips.

But unlike other schemes, Australia is the only country to mandate the use of helmets.

Benefits and risks of cycling

In this week’s British Medical Journal, researchers looked at the health risks and benefits of users of the “Bicing” public bicycle sharing scheme in Barcelona, Spain.

The researchers considered the 181,982 resident users of the bike share program and looked at deaths related to physical activity, road traffic incidents and exposure to air pollution.

Overall, they concluded that the additional physical activity from cycling instead of driving played a role in preventing 12 deaths.

They estimated the health benefits of riding a bicycle outweighed the risks of injury by a huge ratio of 77:1 – even if the bike was only ridden for comparatively short journeys.

The main reason for such a large benefit-to-risk ratio is the relatively low injury risk of cycling, despite minimal bicycle helmet use.

These findings are consistent with several other studies, including one published by the British Medical Association in 1992 that reported a cycling benefit-to-risk ratio of 20:1.

A more recent analysis from Holland found the health benefits of cycling added between three and 14 months to a person’s life.

This compares with the potential effect of increased inhaled air pollution (0.8 to 40 days lost) and the increase in traffic accidents (five to nine days lost).

Bicycle loan schemes are also interesting because they contribute a new source of data on cycling risk relative to exposure.

Cycling on the upright urban style of bicycle used in most of the schemes appears to be very safe indeed.

There have now been more than six million users of the “Boris bikes” in London. Distances cycled total more than 10 million kilometres, with few serious injuries. In the first three months the accident rate was estimated to be 0.002%.

There are similar observations from Dublin and other schemes.

Australia’s schemes

There are 50 bike stations and 600 bikes situated around the Melbourne CBD. Melbourne Bike Share is designed for short trips, which is why the first 30 minutes are free to subscribers (who pay $50 a year). Trips lasting longer than two hours can be expensive.

Brisbane now has 1,000 bikes at 101 CityCycle stations, with another 1000 bikes planned at a further 50 stations. For annual subscribers the first 30 minutes are free.

While figures on usage of the Brisbane and Melbourne schemes are hard to come by, the available information suggests the usage rate is very low, at about 10% of comparable programs in London or Dublin.

The poor uptake is likely due to a combination of poor cycling infrastructure and the requirement for users to wear helmets.

I’ve heard of potential users seeing the bikes lined up and going to have a look, only to turn away when they realise they needed a helmet and didn’t have one (and despite them being available in a nearby store in Melbourne for minimal cost).

Few people carry a helmet on the chance that they might want to borrow a bike for a quick trip to run an errand.

Only the Australian schemes require users to wear helmets. Mexico City (last year), and Israel (just last week) have repealed their adult helmet legislation, in part to make their bicycle share schemes viable.

Other factors, like population density and location of the bicycle stations play a role in usage of the scheme, but these things cannot be readily changed.

Given there is clear evidence from around the world of substantial health benefits and minimal risk from public bicycle share schemes, Australia should allow an exemption of the mandatory helmet legislation for such schemes.

Have you taken part in bike share schemes in Australia or abroad? Why/why not? Are mandatory helmet laws a deterrent? Leave your comments below.

Join the conversation

53 Comments sorted by

  1. George Crisp

    logged in via Facebook

    Great article. I have been having thos discussion repeatedly over the last couple of years ( in Perth ) where there was a noticeable reduction in cycle commuting around the time of cycle helmet laws ( anecdotal perhaps ). It never ceases to amaze me how many people, Dr.s included, who cite anecdotal evidence of " I /friend/ relative/ some bloke I don't know / had a crash and the helmet saved my life but do not seem to accept the real evidence that our inactive lifestyle is exactly a very heavy toll in illness and secondary economic effects.
    Is it a case of behaviour justifying ideology ?

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  2. Tobin Richard

    Software Development Manager

    I have used hired bicycles in Germany, though not as part of a mass share scheme. It was primarily a convenient alternative to walking. I never wore a helmet when riding over there.

    In Melbourne I have never hired a bicycle because if I have a helmet with me I have my bicycle with me too. There are also occasions where I can't reasonably take a helmet with me, such as going out to dinner in the city.

    There is always a trade off between safety and practicability and for bicycle helmets we have not set it at the right level.

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  3. Paul Martin

    logged in via email @me.com

    A reasonable proposition for nervous politicians would be to have a trial helmet-law exemption for riders of these bicycles. It would be easy to implement and would generate some useful data - something we actually don't have in Australia! Helmet exemptions currently exist for (paying) pedicab passengers (but not the rider, oddly) so a precedent exists already, not to mention the Northern Territory's cycle- & foot-path exemption for adults.

    A helmet exemption is just that - an exemption, not a ban…

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    1. Murray Nicholas

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Paul Martin

      Interestingly it's not just government that's "nervous". A while back I looked at the bikeshare website to see how it worked and left some feedback in the "how can we make it better" section. I suggested that the operator (RACV) advocated for just such an exemption. The reply I received was basically that helmets protect heads and anyone seeking such an exemption would leave themselves liable to a lawsuit if a user exercised the personal judgement not to wear a helmet and subsequently suffered a head injury.

      Not sure why giving someone the choice to wear a helmet makes you more liable than giving them the chance to use the bike in the first place but our law can be a very contrary and irrational beast at times.

      I've missed numerous opportunities when I've taken the train to town but not brought my helmet.

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    2. Tobin Richard

      Software Development Manager

      In reply to Murray Nicholas

      This is even more odd when you consider that they have now publicly said that when they do start recycling the subsidised helmets they will be clearly marking the ones that are not new so people can make their own decisions.

      Apparently you're allowed to choose you own potentially unreliable helmet without worrying them overly that you might sue if it fails to perform.

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    3. Tobin Richard

      Software Development Manager

      In reply to Murray Nicholas

      Has anyone asked the transport minister if he believes the $2million used to subsidise the helmets will save at least that amount in medical costs?

      Seems like now that we're socialising the cost of safety equipment it should be relatively easy to determine the cost to benefit ratio. In purely monetary terms at any rate.

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  4. Kai Brach

    logged in via Facebook

    Same story here. Would have hired a bike on many occasions if I didn't have to worry about helmets.

    We have so many things coming out of vending machines, why is it still impossible to set up a system that spits out helmets? Or alternatively have a box on the back of the bike carrying the helmet in it?

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    1. Paul Martin

      logged in via email @me.com

      In reply to Kai Brach

      Kai,

      Melbourne Bike Share does have some vending machines for helmets (one is located Southern Cross Station) but it has made little difference to usage figures.

      For some of the issues surrounding the legalities of supplying helmets, see this post:
      http://helmetfreedom.org/1026/bike-share-helmet-laws-will-it-blend/

      The wording of the legislation combined with the AS/NZS2063:2008 'Bicycle Helmet Standard' document to which it refers makes the helmet provision for public bike schemes legally challenging and potentially damaging to Government if they get it wrong.

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  5. Paul Richards

    Great article, thanks Chris.
    Compulsory helmet laws send a clear message of probable risk. Being honest with ourselves, societies focus has been an antiquated 1950s notion that 1.5 tonnes or more of metal should have priority in the modern city. Sadly mandatory helmet laws are purely a response to the resulting dehumanised cites and the risk from tonnes of metal. Cycle friendly European cites have discovered this, reversed the damage done and humanised cityscapes. Any realistic attempt to get people riding must change the cycling landscape, which interestingly dramatically improves all city business. The models are there for us to see in Europe, good evidence of a win, win scenario for life in any city and naturally compulsory helmet laws are redundant there.

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  6. Simon Chapman

    Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney

    I lived in Lyon, France in 2006 & used a public bike almost every day. I did not have a helmet although occasionally borrowed one from a friend. Gini Stein did a doco piece for SBS on it when I was there. I've also used one in Hangzhou, China. In Europe & China, there are long traditions of cycling, with many cycleways. My route to work in Lyon was entirely via a marked cycleway through the CBD and beyond.
    My sense is that two human factors: cyclist experience and motorist attitude -- are both likely…

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    1. Paul Richards

      In reply to Simon Chapman

      As an Australian cyclist I have had the near misses and know our mindset toward cyclists isn't as evolved as the European. I can assure you Simon that many stories never surface regarding driver aggression and dominating behaviour on our roads. We have followed the US model of the car being dominate in our culture, public spaces need to alter. Our car dominated cities are the cause of the "legions of stories about abuse, near-misses and a general culture of antipathy to them"

      An example Australian cultural mindset to cyclists is how we build our roads
      From our left we build :
      - footpath - parking space - cycle lane - main vehicle lane
      Exposing all cyclists to 1.5 tonnes or more of moving metal.
      Best humanised cites build:
      - footpath - cycle lane - parking space - main vehicle lane
      Protecting cyclist with parked cars from 1.5 tonnes or more of moving metal.

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    2. Derek Bolton

      Retired s/w engineer

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Hmm.. not sure I like the idea of cycling between parked cars and footpaths any better. Vastly greater risk of being doored on that side.

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    3. Paul Martin

      logged in via email @me.com

      In reply to Derek Bolton

      "Vastly greater risk of being doored on that side"

      Not so if they are well designed unidirectional paths like those in The Netherlands.

      If it is a bidirectional path then there is even less chance of a dooring incident (eg. Bourke St Cycleway in Sydney) for a number of reasons:

      - the passenger door is adjacent to the cycle path
      - there is a wide kerb offering some physical separation
      - the adjacent cyclist & car driver are always facing each other so the risk is very much reduced.
      - the outside of the door is presented to the cyclist, not the 'inside' if they are facing each other.

      Add this to the fact that this type of incident should be taken much more seriously by the law.

      The Dutch know what they're doing so instead of looking locally for 'best practice', perhaps we should ask the experts?

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    4. Paul Richards

      In reply to Derek Bolton

      Good point Derek,
      that is another risk cyclists have.
      Cars are parked and doors always opened on the cycle lane in Australia.
      - footpath - parking space - cycle lane - main vehicle lane
      A car always has a driver, but not often a passenger.
      So when cyclists crash due to an opening door, they also risk being run over by 1.5 tonnes of moving metal.
      Is it any wonder 'we' have a distorted view of cycling risk and helmet use?

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    5. Derek Bolton

      Retired s/w engineer

      In reply to Paul Martin

      Paul M, that arrangement sounds terrific, and I would be all for it. Thanks for the info.

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    6. Paul Martin

      logged in via email @me.com

      In reply to Derek Bolton

      It works extremely well. I had the pleasure of riding around The Netherlands recently (http://cyclingdutchstyle.com.au) and it was an eye-opener (and I thought I knew what to expect based on my research).

      Unlike in Australia, car parking in The Netherlands does NOT take a precedence over pedestrian & bicycle movements. The door-zone cycle lane is a prime example of this disregard here.

      One of the problems we have in Australia with 'bicycle infrastructure' is that it is often very poorly implemented and often an obstruction to smooth, efficient cycling. Opponents - hard core 'real cyclists' - then jump on this as an excuse to be against any sort of physical separation, rather than the bad design. If they were to spend a few weeks in The Netherlands they'd soon change their minds... and the Dutch only started turning things around 30 years ago!

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  7. Mike Marriott

    Library Manager

    A well written piece - and I tend to agree. Perhaps the idea of a trial is worth considering, with the CBD and immediate areas designated "helmet free".

    I was in Barcelona several years back and noted just how common the use of shared bikes where and thought to myself "We need something like that!".

    I think it is still a viable scheme that could be "tweaked" with helmet free zones.

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    1. Paul Martin

      logged in via email @me.com

      In reply to Mike Marriott

      Hi Mike,

      I support zones that are 'helmet choice' not 'helmet free' - but I know this is what you meant by your words.

      It could be done in conjunction with large painted '30km/h' symbols on the roads when drivers enter these areas (like school zones - or London's 'congestion zones').

      One way or the other a trial exemption would put the helmet law issue to rest with respect to bike share bikes... but perhaps that's precisely what Government is worried about!

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  8. Alan Todd

    logged in via Facebook

    A timely article Chris. We have known that compelling all cyclists to wear helmets has had no effect in reducing head injury rates in relation to the ammount of cycling done since Dorothy Robinson started publishing her findings in the mid nineties. Unfortunately the political will to do anything has languished for many years.

    What the public bike share schemes of recent years have done is to give a very clear and measurable demonstartion of two things. One is that such schemes cannot succeed…

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  9. Derek Bolton

    Retired s/w engineer

    Not sure that concentrating on days of life expectancy lost gives a proper comparison. Arguably a day of life at age 35 (maybe a parent of young children) is worth 2 or more at age 65. It would be much more than that in strict economic terms. (Being retired I can say these things.) Conversely, improved quality of life at advanced age may be more desirable than merely an extended one.

    I do like the idea of helmet-optional zones, but these would need to be extensive enough to provide worthwhile commuting and leisure trails. And maybe a minimum age for going helmetless.

    Studies in one country/city might not carry over to another. Pollution levels and driver behaviour need to be considered. Sydney drivers don't score well, and don't cycle on the roads of Auckland without full body armour.

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  10. Chris Gillham

    Journalist

    You can get a useful comparison of Melbourne bike hire usage over six months compared to other cities with similar schemes at http://www.cycle-helmets.com/bike-hire-schemes.html#bikehire

    Incidentally, how can anyone claim mandatory helmets are successful after the Israeli parliament's decision a few days ago to repeal helmet laws for adults in all cities and towns, following four years of helmet legislation?

    The Israeli politicians voted after considering the results of the law in Australia, New Zealand and their own country. Why are Australia's MPs and media so contemptuous of public health and safety?

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  11. Stuart McMillen

    Brisbane

    I am a member of the Brisbane CityCycle scheme, and my yearly subscription paid for itself within months of my registration, due to avoided public transport fees.

    Even as an enthusiastic user, it does require an element of forward planning. There have been occasions when I have found my plans have changed throughout the day. I am required to travel a journey that could be easily accomplished via CityCycle, but which would be illegal for me to do, because I don't have a bicycle helmet on hand.

    I'm…

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  12. Paul Richards

    The idea of an integrated card system sounds feasible and the idea shows great foresight. As for the Melbourne's MBS, it has cost over five million dollars just to set up. Because there is little transparency it is difficult to imagine how the quango would respond to adding the MBS to Melbourne's public transport - Myki card. Particularly as a leading stakeholder, is a promoter of 'auto-mobiles', and a 'business as usual' model of cities.
    Introducing an integrated transport card in either Brisbane or Melbourne, may simply depend on the culture of the stakeholders and the political centre of gravity.

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  13. Peter Teow

    logged in via email @yahoo.com

    It so happens I was in Brisbane a month or so ago and passed many Bikeshare racks which were completely full, so full that I figured the scheme had not started yet.
    Admittedly I didn't look too hard as I wasn't carrying a large piece of Personal Protective Equipment on my body.

    It was a pity because unlike NSW , cyclists are allowed on footpaths in QLD and it would be excellent to ride the Botanic Gardens and across the bridge to the South Bank precincts.

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  14. Tim Churches

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Given that both cycling helmets in general and the Australian mandatory bike helmet laws in particular have been shown to reduce head and face injuries in the overwhelming majority of studies and meta-analyses (for the most recent see http://theconversation.edu.au/putting-a-lid-on-the-debate-mandatory-helmet-laws-reduce-head-injuries-1979 ), a great deal of care needs to be taken before modifying a successful injury and disability prevention measure which has been in place for two decades. It may…

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    1. Etienne de Briquenel

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Churches

      Tim, the Melbourne scheme is indeed much smaller than the Paris and Barcelona schemes, however it's actually larger than the Dublin scheme. The latter has enjoyed phenomenal success in a city without a proper bike infrastructure while the Melbourne scheme has developed into an international embarrassment.

      As for the rest of your comments, you are basically repeating the tired old excuses that Bicycle Victoria has been churning out for the past year and half. Even if the Melbourne scheme was extended into the much more bike-friendly inner suburbs (which they should have done in the first place) it is never going to come close to operating at its full potential while the helmet requirement is in place. For those of us in this city who are passionate about acheiving the same kind of transformative effects of other bike share schemes around the world, it is absolutely gut-wrenching to see our own scheme waste away due to the utter intransigence of people like yourself.

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    2. Michael O'Reilly

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Churches

      If mandatory helmet laws were effective, you'd think the effects would be easily demonstrable.
      And yet for much of this year we've had researchers furiously sparring over data, modelling and the like, and to any disinterested observer, neither side has produced a convincing argument.
      That, to me, indicates that helmet laws have had little demonstrable effect on bike safety.
      Is Australia a haven of cycling safety? Do other nations look to us and think, lucky you, you have helmet laws that keep you…

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    3. Tim Churches

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Etienne de Briquenel

      Etienne,

      Yes, I agree that the size of the Dublin scheme is similar to that of the Melbourne scheme, and that its utilisation seems to be much higher than that of Melbourne. In that respect Dublin appears to be an outlier amongst bike hire schemes. Mandatory helmets in Melbourne may be one factor in this difference, but my point is that it is very unlikely to be the only factor, nor is it necessarily the most important factor.

      It was remiss of me in my earlier comment on Chris Rissel's article…

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    4. Michael O'Reilly

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Tim Churches

      Yes but the use of a share bike for less than 30 minutes is free in both cities. The bikes are intended mostly for quick point-to-point trips, not long and winding tours. And really, $13 v $50 for a year's subscription isn't a vast discrepancy.

      As for your suggested and well-described "tedious" collection of data ... by the time that long, expensive and, ahem, epidemiologist-employing exercise is completed, the bike share schemes would have likely been scrapped for lack of use.

      Why so worshipful…

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    5. Paul Richards

      In reply to Michael O'Reilly

      I agree with what you said Michael.
      My take has more to do with a level of understanding or awareness.
      I put it this way.
      Conservative thinkers are looking backwards for a 'business as usual' model. It's comfortable, or known.

      Where as progressive thinkers are looking forward and seeing the European model of humanised cityscapes installed here at little cost and adopting level playing field - ⅓ car ⅓ cycle ⅓ public transport.
      As this model shows, there is - no need - for compulsory helmet laws.
      There accident rates have fallen, and continue to decrease yearly.

      " .. sparring over data, modelling and the like .. "
      What you said is so true, unfortunately because the future is imagined, it is always charged with emotion.
      The emotion we are fighting is fear. - Fear of change

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    6. Chris Gillham

      Journalist

      In reply to Tim Churches

      I've read a lot of the blog opinions on the web over the last year about why people aren't using Melbourne's BikeShare scheme. I'd say about five have referenced the high cost, another 50 have complained about cycling infrastructure, and about 5000 have directly blamed the bicycle helmet law.

      Tim is clutching at straws and ignoring the 20 year mountain of evidence in Australia and New Zealand that helmet laws discourage cycling participation. He ignores it because recognising it would invalidate…

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    7. Tim Churches

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Chris Gillham

      Not all public policy is (yet) made entirely on the basis of opinions expressed on blog pages. Carefully conducted research published in peer-reviewed journals still carries some weight. Or am I hopelessly naive?

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    8. Paul Richards

      In reply to Tim Churches

      Tim I agree, and you are not naive.
      From my observations, policy is driven by the 'political centre of gravity' or you could say populist choice.
      Yes, you are right, policy is backed up by research published in peer-reviewed journals.
      But who commissions the research published in peer re-viewed journals?
      Where this forum can work, is to help change the general 'centre of gravity.
      This done the politics follows. - New research - is commissioned and change is installed.

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    9. Tim Churches

      logged in via email @gmail.com

      In reply to Paul Richards

      In public health at least, in the vast majority of cases, no-one commissions research which is published in peer-reviewed journals. Researchers formulate their own research questions and apply for study-specific funding from the NH&MRC or the ARC to investigate them, or use existing block or institutional funding. There are exceptions, of course, and academics often do commissioned consultancy work "on the side" (most are allowed to under their employment contracts), but much of such commissioned work does not appear in the peer-reviewed journals, and appears in unpublished reports or self-published technical monographs. And of course, even then, commission does not automatically equal bias, although sources of funding must always be declared and be entirely transparent.

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    10. Paul Richards

      In reply to Tim Churches

      Point taken Tim,
      ".....New research - is commissioned ......"
      it should have been written;
      commissioned research by consultants, discovering suitably published and peer reviewed studies. My apologies.

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    11. Simon Batterbury

      Associate Professor at University of Melbourne

      In reply to Tim Churches

      Speaking as an all-rounder researcher who has written a few things on cycling and done some studies, there is absolutely need to do an expensive multi-city comparison of bike scheme success in order to work out what is going on in Melbourne. We are primarily interested in our own low-uptake scheme, in this social context. The political economy of transport (context) , the streetscape (again, context), and cultural attitudes towards different transport modes (individual, but also collective) vary…

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  15. Guy Chapman

    logged in via Twitter

    The helmet law in Australia was introduced on the basis of a promised 85% saving in head injuries.It delivered reductions in cycle use but no corresponding reduction in injury rates among cyclists (head injury rate trended with pedestrians and was more likely a result of simultaneous changes to motoring law).

    Unfortunately because politicians are stubborn, and because the helmet lobby will instantly seize on any injury for political capital, the laws are still in force despite their manifestly having failed. And of course the helmet zealots see all cyclists as engaging in a dangerous sport - they fail to see the difference between extreme downhill and trundling to the shops.

    There is no credible evidence that cycling is especially dangerous, or especially productive of head injury, and no good evidence that helmet laws change this. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by 20:1. Time to drop the stupid and counterproductive law.

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  16. Simon Batterbury

    Associate Professor at University of Melbourne

    Check out the stunning reversal by The Age cycling correspondent Wade Wallace. Today he has decided that, following his experience with European bike hire schemes, helmet use should not be compulsory for the scheme in Melbourne.
    <a href="http://www.theage.com.au/sport/cycling/blogs/cycling-tips/change-of-tune-20110817-1iwx4.html"></a>;

    He says "I cannot see how the bike-hire schemes will succeed in Australia without relaxing our helmet restrictions on these particular bikes. These hire bikes are an excellent idea that are attempting to alleviate transport problems, make our cities more enjoyable to live in, and a making positive social change. We only have one chance at making this work.

    I’m not the first person to say this, but a solution to this problem is simple. This class of "utility" or "upright" bike should be exempt from our current helmet laws. "

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  17. Noel McFarlane

    Cycling advocate

    Thanks for the article Chris.
    I have just spent a week in Montreal using the share scheme. I also made the association between the Melbourne and Montreal usage levels around MHL. But reading Tim Churches' points above about some possible price issues I agree with him that the next stage must be to get the right statistical model working so we can accurately understand the role of helmets in the local schemes. Likely Chris would agree as he would think such a model would prove his assertion anyway…

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  18. Bill Ramsay

    logged in via LinkedIn

    Great article - compulsory helmet laws for bike share schemes is worth investigating. As a Melburnian who hasn't had the chance to use the new scheme (living in Ireland) I do think compulsoty helmet wearing works against the uptake. I read an article a while ago about the usage rates for both Melbourne and Brisbane and they both paled into insignificance to Dublin's scheme. The Dublin scheme is both cheap to subscribe to (€10 PA) and convenient. Same with the schemes I have used in Barcelona…

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  19. Luke Mancell

    Equities trader

    Karen and I were recently in France on a cycling holiday. We rarely saw people using bike helmets. We didn't wear helmets. We were riding on paths beside rivers, quiet back lanes and busy roads.

    The French have a 1 metre clearance rule. If a car comes within 1 metre of a cyclist the motorist has broken the law.

    If a motorist in Australia uses a car to run someone over, they are said to have used a deadly weapon. The exception is if the person they run over is a cyclist, then it's the cyclists fault for being so fool-hardy as to have ridden on the road.

    We adopted Enlightenment values of democracy, why can't we follow the ever sensible French in this law?

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  20. Nelly Kibly

    Teacher

    I see a lot of comments which have the idea of overturning compulsory helmet laws. I personally would never ride a bike without a helmet. Here is a different approach. What about a one-use, inexpensive cardboard helmet that the user purchases at a vending machine at the bike station? They could also be folded for a backpack, for later use. Anirudha Surabhi’s design -The Kranium" passed the British Standard (EN 1078) test for example. I don't know how this compares with the AS/NZS2063:2008 'Bicycle Helmet Standard' . The funds collected would help keep the bicycle program going.

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    1. Guy Chapman

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Nelly Kibly

      So let me get this right: you don't care that there is no real evidence they make any difference, you don't care if they are actually effective (i.e. made of cardboard), all you care about is that because you don't feel safe riding a bike in the same way as the Dutch, Danish and all the other nationalities with low cyclist injury rates, you think it's fine to retain a law whose only conclusively proven effect is to deter cycling.

      Um, no thanks.

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    2. Nelly Kibly

      Teacher

      In reply to Guy Chapman

      I don't know how you can say there is no evidence that helmets don't prevent head injury. It took me only about 10 seconds to find this pretty good reference from NEJM http://bit.ly/zIvecQ 85% reduction in serious head injury is not too shabby. I agree that European drivers have a better attitude to cyclists than Australia or US and that they do a better job of separating cars and bicycles- so the lower overall injury rate will be better. Guy has missed the point. On the few occasions when my head has met the pavement, I gave my helmet a big fat kiss.

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    3. Paul Martin

      logged in via email @me.com

      In reply to Nelly Kibly

      As a teacher, it would be prudent to do a little more reading on the subject, particularly if you are going to quote the very well known and long discredited Thompson study. You can start this journey here: http://cyclehelmets.org/1131.html

      In many (if not all) studies on this subject, "Head Injury" includes injuries to the face, eyes, orbits, jaw, teeth, ears, scalp, skull, and... what we really care about... the brain. It is this last one that the bicycle helmet will do little to protect if…

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    4. Guy Chapman

      logged in via Twitter

      In reply to Nelly Kibly

      When I say there is no real evidence they make any difference, I mean any significant difference in the real world. When Aus passed its helmet laws based on a promise of 85% reductions in head injuries, the cyclist head injury rates post-law actually trended exactly as those for pedestrians. The studies that predict massive reductions in injuries are not supported by the measured changes in head injury rates when there are substantial changes in wearing rates; any reduction in cyclist head injury numbers is down to reductions in the numbers cycling.

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    5. Nelly Kibly

      Teacher

      In reply to Guy Chapman

      Thanks to Paul Martin I started digging into the literature which I have not seen before (I do mathematics). Thanks Paul. In the W.J. Curnow paper, for example, it illustrates the trend you mentioned Guy, between the bicyclists and pedestrians. I would have to see a whole lots of statistics before I assumed that the two curves have any relationship at all. For Victoria, the paper noted that in the first year of compulsory wearing, cyclists’ claims on the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) for head injuries decreased by 51% compared to 24% for non-head injuries. In the second year, the respective decreases reached 70% and 28%. It would be a stretch to think that a decline in ridership happened so quickly. You would surely not suggest that a decline in pedestrian head injury was due to people walking less. I will read more of the literature. Good stuff. I had not seen the information relating to rotational theory and brain injury. Thanks for the input.

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    6. Paul Martin

      logged in via email @me.com

      In reply to Nelly Kibly

      You're welcome, Nelly. You will soon discover that it is quite a murky world.

      From all my reading I have come to the following two major conclusions:
      - Bicycle helmets can reduce minor injuries (but possibly worsen brain injuries)
      - Bicycle helmet *laws* do no good for cycling whatsoever and should be repealed

      These are two very different topics but helmet law supporters quickly turn it into an 'anti-helmet' attack in an attempt to confuse.

      There is every possibility that bicycle helmets…

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  21. Noel McFarlane

    Cycling advocate

    Since commenting on this thread several months ago my life has been saved by my bike helmet. However the incident has done nothing to change my view that we should discard MHL.

    I ride almost entirely on main roads and about 40% of my annual 13,000km is after the sun goes down. I'd be nuts to not wear a helmet. Indeed if I didn't you would not be reading this post as I'd be dead.

    The safety advantage from the helmet is qualified, and even in doubt in some cases as we read. But even if it was…

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