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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

What helmet?

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In Backlash an item stated Byron Shire Council supported the opening of a cycleway from Suffolk to Byron. Whilst I feel this is a very worthwhile project, as this will obviously encourage more cyclists, I am dismayed by the absolute lack of action, apparently only in the Byron Shire, in enforcing the cycle helmet laws.

I have contacted the police, Council, and the local member of parliament and have been faced with the usual ‘it’s not our problem’, ‘we don’t have the manpower’ or it’s ‘just a waster of time’.

Even the responsible minister has been ignoring my requests for an answer to this serious problem over the past four months.

It seems like we don’t wish to offend our overseas tourists whose countries don’t have compulsory helmet laws.

The problem is that many locals are now following suit and ignoring the law. I am told fining visitors would be a waste of time as they will leave the country without paying.

However, I have pointed out that the tourists all carry credit cards and if you receive an on-the-spot fine overseas you pay then and there with your card.

We get fined for not wearing seatbelts, but not for not wearing a bicycle helmet. Both protective devices have been proven in studies to save lives.

Do we wait for a cyclist’s death in this area before we act? On the spot fines, immediately deducting the amount from their credit card, would soon correct the problem.


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48 COMMENTS

  1. Dear dr Richard Harvey, you must be over yourself with worry about the wellbeing of cyclists. Though I cannot imagine riding a racing bicycle without a helmet, i could reassure you that in countries without MHL cyclists are not falling by the dozens. I urge you to transition your fears from individual injury to the fears of public health and economic loss in the absence of cycling uptake for reasons of transport I.e. leaving the car and using a bicycle. As the recent study suggested: we need to talk about infrastructure and policies, not helmets. Kind regards Dr Robert Teunisse

    • I was in Byron Bay on Monday afternoon. I saw a lot of people riding bikes. Maybe 1 in 10 wore a helmet. I don’t recall seeing a road racing bike. But regardless, it’s how you ride more than what you ride. I’ve ridden road bikes for decades, in all sorts of conditions and circumstances, and a helmet has never saved me.

  2. Dr Richard Harvey? These tourists come from countries where helmets arent even thought of. Why? Because of the false lies,facts surrounding helmets and how they’save’ lives…. You have to have an accident before that ‘theory’ can come into play.. & nearly all will never have that accident… & the others? Will still die with their helmets on…didnt save them one bit….??

  3. One of the joys of visiting Byron Bay is the crossover cycling culture where European ease with the bicycle meets Australian laid back beach culture. That means helmets optional, with an appropriate slow speed cycling style, so different from the geared up helmeted road racers out on the Pacific Highway. And not only does the good doctor want to stamp out this healthy approach to transport and exercise, but he even wants to empower the police to raid our credit cards to achieve this. I can’t believe this man’s arrogance and presumption. Thankfully the local authorities seem more sensible than in most of our mollycoddled country, and have ignored him.
    And before we all get sanctimonious about helmets saving lives, let’s remember that in the rest of the world, which has not been sucked in by our fear of cycling and helmet fixation, cycling is just as safe, if not safer than in Australia.

  4. Dr Richard is very uninformed about cycling safety. The helmet is the least effective way of preventing injury and is completely unnecessary for the wonderful, laid back style of cycling that Byron Bay is famous for. Of all the places in Australia, it is one of the most accepting places to ride a bike in the European style. The local Police, the Council and the Member of Parliament are to be congratulated for encouraging everyday transport cycling. Why would Dr Harvey want to punish and drive away our tourists by robbing their credit cards for this healthy activity ? Dr. Harvey is also incorrect when he says helmets have been proven to save lives. This statement is easily made and repeated, but there is no evidence from population studies, that this is true.

  5. As a doctor I’d have thought you’d be more concerned with the unintended consequences of the mandatory helmet law. Cycling participation fell like a stone when these poorly thought out laws were forced on the states by the commonwealth government, and has never really recovered. Consequently all the benefits of a healthy activity have been lost.

    All you see are the sports cyclists like me who would wear a helmet anyway. The urban wheeled pedestrian that forms 99.5% of cyclists in Europe and Asia is almost entirely absent – chased away by the kind of overzealous policing you are hoping to engage.

    Yes there might be an early death from someone hitting their head, but based on the benefit to risk ratio, there will be 20+ early deaths prevented by the exercise from all that cycling (based on 2016 numbers out of Denmark where no one much wears helmets). Why do you not see that? Talk to an epidemiologist.

    Has it occurred to you to ask yourself why virtually no one has followed Australia down the helmet compulsion path? Do you ever wonder why they point to our experience and say “we’re not doing that!”

  6. Problem? Seriously, there’s a problem? If Dr. Harvey, assuming he’s a medical doctor, is so concerned about head injuries, perhaps he should direct his energies to fining car occupants for not wearing helmets because after all, head injuries from car crashes FAR outnumber cyclist injuries. And can we *please* put to bed this false equivalence of seatbelts and bicycle helmets? A seatbelt is attached to a car and prevents the occupant from being flung from the car. A bicycle helmet does not prevent a car crashing into a cyclist. The solution is to have separated infrastructure, not fine cyclists for ignoring a moronic law. Exactly how many cyclist deaths have there been in Byron Bay the last few years anyway?

  7. Millions of people all around the world ride bikes happily and safely without the use of any bicycle helmet. Safety is all about how you and other road users behave towards one another, and the design of the road system. No bike helmet EVER stopped a collision or fall happening.

    I presume that you wear a helmet while walking, driving your car, climbing ladders, and advocate for this to be made mandatory in all such situations?? Because bike crashes are exceptionally rare, bike helmets appear effective – if you ignore the 99.9999% of instances in which they do nothing at all.

    The seat-belt law equivalence is an irrelevant argument, and a fallacious one. There is NO equivalence. No-one ever stopped driving their car because of the seat-belt law. Seat-belts do not need to be carried about with you, fitted every drive, mess with your basic appearance, nor cost anything up to 25% of the price of the vehicle.
    .

  8. This letter makes me want to visit Byron Bay, it sounds like paradise for cyclists. I ride without a helmet much of the time, and in summer I couldn’t bear to wear a helmet due to heat. I would have to drive to the beach where parking is scarce. I’d much rather ride my bike, safely on the back streets, and leave the car parks for those who have to drive a car.
    Byron Bay is much hotter than where I live. I would imagine that enforcing helmet laws there would mean many fewer people would ride. They would drive. Is traffic congestion what you’d like to see in a beautiful beach side town?

  9. You’ll probably find the visitors who are unaware of our silly helmet laws come from countries with strong cycling cultures, where riding a bike isn’t a marginalised activity and people have better things to do than worry about whether or not people are wearing foam hats. If you are truly concerned about safety perhaps you should partition for compulsory helmets for the occupants of cars seeing as this is where the majority of head injuries in our community are sustained

  10. Population (or sub-population) level studies of helmet laws don’t show any safety benefit from mandating their use. But helmet laws are well understood to stop people cycling and this comes with a significant health cost. You would like to think Australian doctors were better able to grasp this pretty simple stuff – they get it everywhere else in the world.

  11. Thanks you for your strong words on this serious problem Richard. The most recent Australian epidemiological study just published by the UNSW Transport and Road Safety Research Centre shows a drop in deaths of some 40% since Mandatory Helmet Law (MHL). It concluded: ” In the absence of robust evidence showing a decline in cycling exposure following helmet legislation or other confounding factors, the reduction in Australian bicycle-related fatality appears to be primarily due to increased helmet use and not other factors. ”

    What those who do not wear helmets and advocate abolition of MHL ignore is the role they play in undermining the normalising of helmets among kids and impressionable young adults. When UK’s Ministry of Transport examined the issue it noted:
    “The role model effect of adults is an important factor in enhancing helmet wearing in children. It is also more difficult to enforce a law for one age group. Countries such as New Zealand or States or Provinces which have enacted universal legislation have attained high wearing levels. ”
    My own observation is that more adults and more children comply with MHL in Ballina while in the Bay where ignoring MHL is widespread more children do not wear helmets.

    The overwhelming majority of Australians support MHL and the majority of ordinary cyclists in other places wear them; those that ignore it show little respect for our laws and have no social licence to do what they do. I support your call for enforcement of MHL and suggest it be targeted at adults in the morning and afternoon when kids are coming and going from school.

    Finally I would note that the reaction you describe of the local Member of Parliament is yet another reason for those who support safe cycling in our region to preference the Greens last this Saturday.

    • You have clearly not read the bike research on the RMS website which states that cycling declined in the years following the introduction of MHL and which the researchers you quoted above conveniently ignored.
      If you think that cyclists abroad all wear helmets you are very mistaken. Yes, in the Tour de France they do, but that is a far cry from a casual ride to the beach.
      Did you know that the safest place to ride in Australia is the NT, where helmet laws are very relaxed and not enforced? And where there is more cycling than in any other state?
      If you think the majority of Australians want MHL, read the other commenters on this article and think about what the have to say.

      • I am well are of research which suggested a decline in the number of cyclists immediately after the introduction of MHL. When UK Ministry of Transport examined that and other data it concluded “There is some evidence that legislation may have resulted in decreased levels of bicycling (for example in Victoria, Australia) but there are confounding factors and no clear long-term trends.” Canadian pediatricians meta research between MHL and non-MHL provinces similarly could not conclude any impact on cycling numbers., while the Dennis et al study “The effects of provincial bicycle helmet legislation on helmet use and bicycle ridership” in Canada found Canadian youth and adults are significantly more likely to wear helmets as the comprehensiveness of helmet legislation increases. Helmet legislation is not associated with changes in ridership “.

        Byron Bay by the way has one of the lowest peak temperatures of any place in Australia and its highest ever ever is lower than London’s. But anti MHL advocates never let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

    • Oh, good Lord, Peter, that “research” by the mandatory helmet law cabal is simply a joke. Fancy assuming there was no decrease in exposure post MHL introduction. How gullible are you to believe it!

    • Hello Peter,
      I think you’ll find that the paper you refer to says that there is no credible evidence that cycling numbers dropped in Australia post early 90s mandatory bicycle helmet legislation; and as somebody who was around in the early 90s I think that statement is wrong.
      So I respectfully suggest you look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics numbers on pushbike riders and you will see that there was a substantial drop, in the order of +40%, meaning that the post helmet law drop in rider numbers EXCEEDED the post helmet law drop in rider deaths and serious injuries.
      To be clear – after mandatory helmet laws were introduced cycling became MORE dangerous in Australia (probably because most cyclists left were sports riders who get out on the road and mix it with the cars)
      Australia still suffers year after year fall in cycling participation (as a percentage of population).
      The rest of the world have looked very closely at Australia and what has happened following mandatory helmets, the rest of the world have seen Australia’s shocking cycling participation numbers and they are not so stupid as to follow us.
      The rest of the world do not have mandatory helmet laws and they are reaping the environmental, public health and safety benefits that Australia can only dream about.

  12. Being able to cycle without a helmet is one of the joys of holidaying in the small coastal towns of NSW. It is also something I enjoy when cycling in other countries. It’s a wonderful thing to just hop on a bike if the mood takes you. Sadly it’s not something you can legally do in Australia. It is busy-bodies like Richard Harvey who make it so.

  13. Dear Dr Harvey
    What are you doing about all the alcohol, drugs and junk food consumed in Byron Bay?
    Seriously, would you prefer people to drive and increase congestion, pollution and don’t exercise?
    in 99% of the world this is not an issue. Fining people for a healthy transport option is just plain wrong.
    The world followed Australia with regard to seat belts but not the bike helmet law. There is a reason for this, do some research and you will see why.
    Kind regards, John Myers

    • The reasons other countries did not implement MHL is not because of the evidence from research but because it is politically unpopular. The Netherlands The Road Safety Research Foundation (SWOV) for example has recommended helmets be compulsory for children and the elderly and similar calls have been made by the medical, epidemiological and road safety groups in Europe. Opponents from cycle groups refer to data from the early period on MHL in Australia but UNSW researcher and statistician Oliver – who is cited by SWOV – noted of those and other anti-MHL data: ” When the majority of evidence against helmets or mandatory helmet legislation (MHL) is carefully scrutinised it appears overstated, misleading or invalid. Moreover, much of the statistical analysis has been conducted by people with known affiliations with anti-helmet or anti-MHL organisations”. QUT road safety researcher Professor Haworth has noted: “While there is evidence that helmets reduced cycling rates 20 years ago, it isn’t the case today. For most people the reason they don’t cycle is because it doesn’t fit in with their lifestyle…. Professor Haworth said the research also showed helmet wearing by all age groups was effective and limiting the scope of the rules would see an increase in cyclist head injuries.”

      Cycle groups make facile comparisons with European cycling rates, ignoring that other places like the UK and US that do not have MHL and also have low cycling rates.

      BTW Are you aware Byron Bay has fewer fast food places then about anywhere else comparable in Australia?

      • Mr Hatfield, I don’t know why I’m bothering, but your claim that the MHL hasn’t reduced participation is simply false.

        All benefits of the MHL assume that participation isn’t reduced, but it did, and still does.

        There’s no debate here. Ardently wishing it wasn’t true, doesn’t change it. Count the bikes at the local high school where the MHL is enforced, you’ll find empty racks. Where they aren’t you’ll find bikes. We’ve had a 25 year test and the results are in. The only measurable effect of the helmet law was to reduce the number of cyclists. It didn’t get safer, in fact per rider it got worse. In reference to Canada, cycling didn’t fall because the bicycle helmet law in BC , where the fine is $20, isn’t enforced. Helmet wearing went up a bit, but safety didn’t improve and is no better than next door in Alberta. With lower wearing rates and no MHL.

        Touting studies paid for by motoring groups, doesn’t change the fact that other countries look to Australia and NZ as an example of what to NOT do.

        I will confess, there is a single benefit to the MHL. It helps spot loony authoritarians, but that’s about it.

        • I do not know either why you bother to decry a law which, outside paalces like Byron Bay where youth fashions and risk taking behaviour are common, is supported and adhered to by most cyclsits and parents in Austrlalia and which the evidence shows prevents death and injuries. I prefer the view of Olivier et al that there is no robust evdience of a drop in cycling exposure when the confounding factors are taken into account. As the Norwegian road safety institue advised its govenment a dip in numbers cycling can be expected on the introduction of MHL but that does not mean a drop over time and the type of cyclists who stop are those who cycle least , and so there is little impact on health. The empty bike rack in UK schools do not result from MHL – a protective approach to journeys to school and a rise in kids being driven in common to anglo countires with or without MHL.

          Ours is a small community where we care for those who live and stay amongst us. It is not authoritarian to expect those whocycle here to set an example to our young people and obey the laws our democraticaly elected NSW parliament has put in place .

  14. Who, exactly is this whining kill joy of a man writing this miserable piece of nonsense ? What a sanctimonious, fun killing, superior idiot. Just shut up and naff off !

  15. Wow. What a deep rich flow of authoritarianism runs through Dr Harvey’s veins. How dare people enjoy a bike ride without an ugly plastic hat. Like you know, the rest of the entire damn world. It’s not enforced on tourists, because half of them will just flat out not believe it, or pay it, because it’s, well, completely insane. Byron residents should be thankful the police are spending their time on actual crime. Instead of punishing a healthy and SAFE activity.
    Dr Harvey should go back to operating within his level of competency, instead of lecturing about bike safety. Which from the evidence, suggests he knows nothing about.

  16. About 10 times as many pedestrians die each year and many injured with tramatic brain injuries – that walking helmets would undoubtedly save. The MUARC found driving helmets in the form of soft shell bicycle helmets, would save on average several hundred dollars per vehicle by injury prevention.

    Why do doctors and other do gooders persist only with bicycle helmets?

    Byron Bay is a great example of how Australian cycling should be.

  17. I think Australia should re-evaluate the worthiness of this law. The writer of this article pointed out that other countries don’t require their citizens to wear helmets when riding the humble bicycle because other countries understand that bicycle riding is a inherently safe activity and it is the interacting with motor vehicles that is the danger to people on bicycles. I think Australia should be looking to change our laws to allow adults to ride without a helmet on paths separate from the road and cars or where motor vehicles have been sufficiently slowed down to 40kmh or less.

  18. In commenting on the recent UNSW study which found helmets do save lives , co-author Grzebieta refers to an” ill-informed small but vocal group of anti-helmet advocates” who blame helmets for reductions in cycling that have resulted from other factors. The post’s here have been prompted by a Facebook site representing those views. Like much of the commentary here, the site is replete with selective bias-confirming references to studies cherry picked by cycle advocacy groups and dismissive of the epidemiological and medical studies that show their benifits of helmets and which cast doubt on the notion that helmets deter cycling.

    On their FB site I read of Dr Harvey: “exactly who is this little, whining man ? For pity’s sake … he should have been a parking inspector or a prison guard. Yawn. Naff off self-appointed fun police.” “typical Australian wanker:” ” Dr Dick is a dick” “wanker” . This is the sort of hate speech directed at a member of the Byron community who dares support a sensible measure to keep cyclists safe, and will give readers a measure of how much credence to put on the AntiI-MHL lobby.

  19. I thought doctors were supposed to DO NO HARM!
    Just think the number of people who will avoid cycling because of the exaggeration of the risks of cycling.

  20. Peter Hatfield makes the statement that “like much of the commentary here, the site (I assume he referring to a public Facebook page, where anyone from anywhere can leave a comment) is replete with selective bias-confirming references to studies cherry picked …..” I suggest this is exactly what Peter is doing himself, and indeed has done extensively on Facebook in the recent past.

    The trouble with battle by google, where all parties just link to the studies that suit them, is that there is little room left for original clear thinking about the real issues involved. So here is my two bob’s worth.

    The argument should be about helmet laws, not about helmets. They are different.

    Riding a bike (with or without a helmet) is universally agreed to be good for your health, and if you do it instead of driving, it is also good for those around you. So you have to have pretty good cause to ban the activity just because the cyclist doesn’t want to use a helmet.

    What is usually missing from the debate is some acknowledgement of the level of intervention. It’s not like discussing whether to recommend that patients take drug A rather than drug B. We now have doctors recommending that the police stop and fine people who cycle with bare heads. It seems to me that a much greater level of harm, and a much higher standard of proof ought to be needed before advocating such a step.

    For example, doctors are pretty certain that surgery is an effective treatment for some types of cancer. But can you imagine doctors campaigning to make it a crime to decline a surgical excision? The idea would be totally against the principles of ethical medicine: major surgery can only be done with the patient’s consent.
    So why do some doctors feel happy to recommend that the criminal justice system enforce their preferred intervention in the case of cycle helmets? What happened to the principle of patient consent?

    There is nowhere near universal agreement, even amongst epidemiologists (and especially outside Australia), that a bicycle helmet is even a particularly useful or effective safety intervention at the population level. The recent UNSW study that Mr. Hatfield refers to does not change this. It is just one among many, and in my view not a very convincing one, as it assumes that cycling levels were unchanged by helmet laws, which I consider to be fanciful.

    If after almost thirty years, we are still arguing about this, and the rest of the world has not, I repeat not, followed Australia’s “lead” on this, I’d suggest we might be the ones who got this wrong.

    If some people have been fairly strong in their criticism of Dr. Richard Harvey, it is doubtless in part because they are outraged by his authoritarian disregard for “patient consent”. He would also appear to have little understanding of the harm his proposed “crackdown” would do to Byron Bay’s friendly and inclusive bike culture. As a cyclist in Australia, especially after the introduction of helmet laws (yes, they did change the culture for the worse) we are far to used to being blamed for our own vulnerability, rather than encouraged for our choice of healthy transport – I’m talking here about cycling for transport, not the quite seperate “sport” of cycling. Byron Bay is one of the few places where I have found a much better attitude towards everyday cycling, even from motorists. Let’s keep it that way.

  21. As a cycle loving Byron resident who ALWAYS wears a helmet, I am gob smacked that the good doctor sees the lack of helmets is worthy of writing in this prestigious rag about. If there is anything that Byron possesses that poses an extreme and imminent danger to the safety of cyclists it is our potholes and the dodgy fixes that the council workers are poorly funded to repair properly. Last week riding slowly down Middleton Street next to Byron Public School scared my daughter half off her bike for the atrocious condition of the road surface. Yes, she too was wearing a helmet. A public road in this country should never be in that state of disrepair, it is simply not safe for road users.

  22. Statements like that shout “cycling is a dangerous activity”, when it’s good for the individual and good for the planet. Does Dr Richard Harvey go up to anyone smoking to tell them to put their cigarette out, or to a fat person to tell them to go on a diet? I doubt it, that would be considered their personal choice, so why be so anxious about cyclists?

  23. What a sanctimonious, whining man. You missed your calling as a parking inspector or fun policeman. For pity’s sake, have you studied the statistics on this matter or are you just scared for the sake of being scared as seems to be the trend in this ever-small thinking country. What a nanny country we have become since your days as a boy growing up with the freedom to ride around on your bike without gripping fear ! No wonder we have a childhood anxiety epidemic in this country. Listen, I’m all for helmets with road, MB and fast cycling etc but for heaven’s sake – we need as many bike riders around to make it safer. Lighten up, relax and look at the rest of the world in places like NY, London, Amsterdam, Paris ….. they casually ride around free and happy, and their sky hasn’t fallen down yet !

  24. You might engage in research by Google seeking bias confirming material; after decades of analysing complex issues for the Commonwealth I certainly do not. It is important we do consider those studies and read the meta studies by academics and public health bodies that have assessed the data. It is you that wants to change the law. To propose changing the law you would need to show a clear and unequivocal and measurable benefit, but as you state yourself there is no agreement among epidemiologists as to the impact of the introduction of MHL at the population level.

    There is debate within the academic circles about the impact of helmets on cycling and data that show a drop at the time of the introduction of MHL. But there is no consensus that cycling rates over time are significantly impacted by MHL, and there is no study that shows the corollary would occur – a significant increase of cycling resulting from the removal of MHL. There is broad agreement on the benefits of helmets and that MHL increases use of helmets. You are unconvinced by the current study by Oliver et al which shows the benefits of helmets but if you read it carefully it did not make any assumptions about cycling levels but rather found a lack of robust evidence of any decline. Olivier and his colleagues’ analyses are well cited in the literature including by public health bodies like the Netherlands Road Safety Institute in its recommendation that MHL be introduced for kids and the elderly. The most useful studies are those from Canada which has a cycling environment not unlike ours and MHL differs between provinces. There is again no consensus that MHL has decreased cycling and the study which examined compliance found no impact on cycling levels. None of that is the last word but it does deny suggestions there is any consensus internationally of a negative impact of MHL that would support changing the law.

    Lobbyists against helmets try to undermine the normalisation of helmets by referring to them as “sports” helmets and suggesting they are only applicable to road riding for sport. The law has broad support and compliance in Australia not just among the sports community. The most recent serious bike crash in the Byron area which resulted in the rider being airlifted to the Gold Coast, involved a friend riding an ordinary bike on a social ride downhill. Byron Bay is part of NSW and its laws apply as much there as anywhere else; kids in Byron Bay are just as susceptible to modelling of poor behaviours as kids anywhere else and we value them as much as kids anywhere. In nearby Ballina there are also high levels of transport and recreational cycling across all ages and even wider range of socio-economic groups than in Byron Bay; a very friendly culture among cyclists; awareness and respect from motorists that is at times almost embarrassing; and helmet compliance rates that are much higher than the Bay among both adults and kids.

    No one has recommended the criminal justice system deal with non-compliance with helmets law. It is not a criminal offence. Richard Harvey has raised legitimate concerns about cycling without helmets that local health professionals see harming people within our area. For his trouble he has been subject to an orchestrated write-in from people outside the area and abusive comments on the web that you try to diminish as “fairly strong”. He is not proposing any new “step” simply that our local authorities ensure those who come here obey our laws. If you want to change that law by all means provide the case to do so, but in the mean time please allow us to keep our area a safe and law abiding one.

    • Peter Hatfield, earlier you stated “Like much of the commentary here, the site is replete with selective bias-confirming references to studies cherry picked by cycle advocacy groups” but then you go a do exactly that.

      You mention the Canadian study but fail to mention the main conclusion of that study.
      “Helmet laws didn`t make a difference to hospitalization rates for head and brain injuries,” said study author Prof. Kay Teschke.
      https://www.cbc.ca/amp/1.3308238

      “These results suggest that transportation and health policymakers who aim to reduce bicycling injury rates in the population should focus on factors related to increased cycling mode share and female cycling choices. Bicycling routes designed to be physically separated from traffic or along quiet streets fit both these criteria and are associated with lower relative risks of injury.”
      https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/5/11/e008052

      • I’m amused by all the references to the diminished risks involved in the chilled out, laid back riding done in the Bay. So laid back that many don’t feel the need to use lights or light coloured clothing at night, stick to the left side of the road or look before they dart across traffic lanes. I loved the freedom of the old days pre MHL but I wouldn’t describe the Byron Shire as a safe cycling area. I was a once keen cyclist but rarely feel relaxed on a bike in this area with its lack of welcoming infrastructure for cyclists. Perhaps if we had a rail trail …

      • Forap Mu et al I was not referring to Teschke’s study which is about the efficacy of helmets, not cycling rates. I have noted Teschke’s findings but meta studies of the efficacy of helmets show most studies find them effective, The UK Ministry of Transport analysis of the literature for example concluded found “bicycle helmets have been found to be effective at reducing the incidence …and severity of head, brain and upper facial injury and “…effective in reducing head injury for users of all ages, though particularly for children”. My comments were referring to the cross provincial meta-study of Canadian pediatricians which was similarly clear on helmet’s benefits and found no clear link between cycling rates between provinces that had MHL and those that did not and also that of The Dennis et al “The effects of provincial bicycle helmet legislation on helmet use and bicycle ridership” in Canada found Canadian youth and adults are significantly more likely to wear helmets as the comprehensiveness of helmet legislation increases. Helmet legislation is not associated with changes in ridership”.

        It would appear from another comment some MHL advocates find detailed research on this subject difficult and boring, but until they are able to find some easy to read, highly entertaining and exiting studies that show dropping MHL will bring about a marked rise in cycle participation that is what we have.

        I fully agree with the sentiments, Forup Mu, of the British Medical Journal article, and as places like Canberra and Ballina with a safer cycle environment show, it is no way inconsistent with compliance with MHL. Regular readers will know my friends and I incessantly lobby in the Echo for a safer cycling environment for transport, recreation and tourism in this area. UNSW Transport and Road Safety Research Centre’s Professor Grzebieta has lobbied recently to lower speed limits and is a strong advocate of bike helmets, and my suggestion in the popular Voice of Byron Facebook site that Byron Shire was well placed to trial his speed limit proposals inter-alia to enhance walking and cycle safety was generally very well received.

        In response to yet another comment above, I am not aware of any study I have quoted having been funded by a motoring lobby and am unclear what would be the relevance of doing so. Many motorists are also cyclists or have children who do, and most people are concerned about the personal safety of vulnerable road users. Referring to helmet wearers as “loony authoritarians” is interesting as they are the majority of cyclists in Ballina where I live and the majority of other places in Australia.

        Finally in response to the comment asking if Dr Harvey would “…go up to anyone smoking to tell them to put their cigarette out”, only he can answer that. But I would expect any responsible person concerned about their community to politely tell people who are smoking where it is prohibited not to do so.

    • Dear Peter,
      You say “To propose changing the law you would need to show a clear and unequivocal and measurable benefit”. And to that I say the mandatory Bicycle helmet legislation debacle makes it clear that Australian governments should “show a clear and unequivocal and measurable benefit” BEFORE they legislate.
      We recently visited Scandinavia, and saw a high school in an ordinary provincial city with a population of 80,000 people and 675 students with about 400 pushbikes In the schoolyard – and the weather wasn’t so good (but not snow).
      If you walk around Australian high schools you will be lucky to find 2 or 3% riding bikes to school even out in the flat rural areas with good weather all year round – the obvious conclusion (unless you are on the government payroll) is that the rest of the world are not so stupid as to follow Australia and in fact Israel, Mexico, Cyprus and Bosnia/Herzegovina being some of the very few countries who did follow Australia have changed their mind and undone there bike helmet legislation.
      (and if you’d like to publish a postal address/PO Box et cetera I will send you a photo of the high school and the bikes)
      (And finally – respectfully suggest you do some reading on “cognitive dissonance”)

      • Micheal Whether MHL might have been better implemented is a question of social and d transport history. It is interesting that none of those referring to a drop in cycling after MHL choose to examine if it might have been done better. It was introduced and the research shows it saves lives, and there is no clear body of evidence of any significant impact on cycling over time. It is up to those who want to change to show why and none has shown a convincing case that cycling would increase. It will be interesting to monitor if changing MHL leads to higher rates of cycling in those countries that have ended it ; I am not aware of any study on that. Low rates of cycling to school are common across Anglo countries including those like the UK without MHL. Rates of cycling to school are generally high in countries with good infrastructure such as those in Scandinavia and in those whee cars are not preference over active transport.

        I can appreciate cognitive dissonance is an issue which is why there are any number cycling bodies and enthusiasts happy to refer us to selective reports that ensure there is no dissonance with their belief that helmets are ineffective or MHL reduces cycling rates.

  25. You want people like me jailed. Police choice of power without even a word. Helmets course great harm and should not force anything or even your pet to wear like AD century war of the Aztecs warriors. We are in 2019 and having a helmet war repealed Helmets are only chocking devices to discourage cycling at its best with government and police to halt it. Say no to Mandatory helmets and yes to freedom as Australia deserves.

    • MHL has broad community support in NSW. Abolitionists had the opportunity to raise this issue in the NSW election and it did not become an issue in NSW. While cycling infrastructure was an important issue in the seats of Ballina (which includes Byron Bay), Lismore and Tweed, helmets were not mentioned. Whether you choose to obey the law, and pay any fine you receive for non-compliance is entirely up to you. I do not know anyone who enjoys cycling and does it regularly who has any concern about wearing a helmet and I frankly doubt those who claim it discourages them from cycling are really that interested in more than occasional cycling for recreation or transprot.

  26. Peter Hatfield, cherry picker in top gear, and now splitting hairs as well – you say “No one has recommended the criminal justice system deal with non-compliance with helmets law. It is not a criminal offence.” I certainly never said it was a “criminal” offence. It is a civil offence, which also calls in the power of the police, the courts to back them up, and the sheriff’s office too in the event of non-payment. And yes, if you dispute your fine in court, you may well end up with a conviction which stands against you forever. It is precisely because this blunt instrument use of the justice system is brought to bear on what should be a matter for informed personal consent that we object in the strongest terms to this unhelpful and illiberal law.

    It is now clear from both this letters column, and your recent activity on Facebook that you are a man who likes to have the last word. This doesn’t make you right of course, but frankly I don’t care, and I’m happy to sign off. I’ve said what I have to say, and won’t waste more time on this.

    For readers who may well be bored by arguments about studies of varying quality, I’m going to leave you all with the scorecard in the great mandatory helmet football match. It’s been going on now for almost thirty years, and despite a few free kicks, penalties, and disallowed goals -think Spain (not enforced in urban areas), Israel(repealed), parts of Canada and the USA(mostly children only), Finland(no fines possible), Bosnia-Herzegovina(repealed), Mexico and Malta(both repealed) – the final score is:

    Countries with all ages nationally enforced helmet laws 2
    Countries without all ages nationally enforced helmet laws 193

    (be warned, Peter Hatfield may well come back with a “study” by his favourite authors disingenuously presenting a map with 273 jurisdictions with some form of bike helmet law usually not enforced, and mostly only applying to children. This is designed to obfuscate, as these are provinces, municipalities and individual cities, not countries, and in no way are a picture of things at a national level.)

    • Alan I am not trying to change this law but it appears you are. Helmets have been shown to be effective not just by my favourite studies but by meta studies across the litterature conducted internationallly by medical and road safety bodies and of course that done by Oliver et al. We know too adherence to MHL is good in Austrlalia outside a few places like the Bay.

      If other countries want to live with higher rates of head injures form cycle crashes as occurs in the Netherlands – that is up to them. In NSW and most of Australia we have the law in place and it is quite reasonable to push back on poeple who want to undermine it and in particular want to a swamp a local who is trying to address the lack of adherence in this area. If you want to change it you come up with the evidence to support your case. As it stands nothing written above shows any evidence that removing MHL would lead to any significant cycling uptake.

      For my part, I would prefer to spend my time arguing for a safer total cycling environment in the Northern Rivers and in other parts of Australia

  27. Please go find something worthy to whine about, like cigarette smoking or alcohol or gambling… all legally damaging our families.

    • I have no problem with thoughtful, respectful critical and evidenced comment on this issue but Dr Harvey is a resident here who has raised a local issue. Are you suggesting a person from a community should not draw attention to an issue that they see occurring in their community and among people they know in the community? Are you suggesting those of us who live in this area cannot ask our local area police to act on laws we believe are important to our community, and ask our council and our newly reelected member to ensure it gets our priority? Or should we just allow the once strong culture here of community leaders speaking up for our kids and neighbours, and urging respect for our police and law, to be once again trashed by newcomers, tourists and outside commentators who think they know better how we should live here?

  28. Peter Hatfield, you seem to be the man with statistical knowledge, for me please do your stuff and work out the percentage drop in cyclists between 1985/1986 and 2017 after taking into account Australia’s population increase. I would be interested to know if you agree with my understanding that there has been a serious drop in the number of cyclists since mandatory helmet laws and that is as a total so when taking into account Australia’s more than doubling of population over that period of time the evidence is even stronger to show a severe and sustained drop in cycling since mandatory helmet laws and note I’m not here looking for comment on why just the numbers, the information I have is:
    * in 1985/1986 there were 1,645,900 bicycle trips per day by Australians aged 9+
    * in 2017 there was 1,119,638 bicycle per day by Australians (no age group just a total)
    Statistics from:
    For 1985/1986, Department of Transport and Communications federal office of Road safety ISBN ISSR OR = 0158-3077, Title and Subtitle Day-to-Day Travel in Australia 1985-86 Antbor(s) Adena, MA Montesin. HJ Performing Organisation (Name and Address) INTSTAT Australia Pty Ltd GPO Box 709 Canberra ACT 2601
    For 2017, National Cycling Participation Survey 2017 Prepared by Cameron Munro Publisher Austroads Ltd. Level 9, 287 Elizabeth Street Sydney NSW 2000 Australia Phone: +61 2 8265 3300 [email protected]

    • I prefer the work of UNSW’s statisticans nad epidemiology in interpreting the data on cycling exposure. As they note there are too many confounding factors – the increase in car affordability among high school and uni students for example and the large increase in the number of kids being driven to schools across anglo countries including in the US and UK without of MHL for another example – to conclude that MHL has been responsible for any significant drop in cycling exposure. There view is supported by road safety experts in palces like Norway , Nehtrlands and the UK which have reviewed our experience and concluded thee is a dip in cycling attributed to MHL but it is probaly temporary and mainly relates to occasional cycilsts.

      • Thanks for replying Peter.
        I respectfully note you do not answer the question posed, and again respectfully one expects the reason for your avoidance is that the Australian Government statistics undermine your position and as most of us know that is uncomfortable.
        You now seem to be looking for other reasons for the undeniable fall in rider numbers, that’s okay I similarly have looked but to date the research is inconclusive.
        Notwithstanding our discussion the most interesting and undeniable point is that the recent UNSW paper (as reported) says that credible evidence for a huge fall in rider numbers post helmet legislation does not exist when the numbers are easily found in the public forum from the most credible source, see my above 2/4/19 post.
        The UNSW statisticians would have been convincing if they had have acknowledged the Australian Government statistics that show a huge drop in rider numbers but (as you now do) put forward evidence of other reasons, the fact that they avoided available statistics and did not put forward alternate reasons arouses suspicion.
        In a nutshell – statistical arguments fail when they avoid available but contrary numbers.

  29. What of the heat trapped by even the best-ventilated helmet? With a BMI of 37, I am apparently seriously obese, and in some kind of high risk group. With 5 bikes and regular riding (often up serious hills), I am also apparently quite fit.

    But when I ride I get extremely hot, and my head gets hottest of all. Am I to wear a helmet and overheat my head to the point that I lose consciousness and die? Or should I just overheat my head till I get a severe headache, become impaired in an alcohol-like manner, and become extremely aggressive? I have had this happen to me, and it is extremely unpleasant and rather frightening. My understanding is that getting out-of-it in this manner contravenes the drug legislation, as well as being very dangerous.

    I will never be thin, or even of normal build, but if people are going to bleat at me about obesity or the pleasures of wearing bicycle helmets, they can come to my place and we can go on one of the many rather pleasant bike rides, each involving the large hill I live on. And be warned, complainers – I pedal hard. You will breathe heavily and get very sweaty.

  30. Hey
    Helmets are unconfortable, but for safety reasons i wear it 60% of rides. Here in Nova Scotia CA we have aggressive helmet laws. Its compulsory for all wheeled actovities also for adults on skates, inline, foot scooter. On foot scooter I vomply every ride with the law because its small wheels make it dangerous on potholes etc. But its sure a problem with ventilation on hot summer days. We rode with foot scooters, I and my girlfriend to swimming pool. We both were legerly dressed with shorts and tank tops but I must admit we had helmets on and correctly fastened, but ITS unconfortable. So my proposal is to make helmets mandatory for all types of wheeled transport, but NO fine. Or a very little fine and please poor enforcement. I think its overreacted to fine people massively when this person dont want to wear such protecting device.

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