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In 1990, Victoria became the first place in the world to require bicycle riders of all ages to wear a helmet while cycling. By 1992, all Australian States had followed suit, under pressure from the Federal government, who threatened to withhold “black spot” funding if hey did not agree. Since then, only New Zealand and the United Arab Emirates have taken this up, with nationally enforced all ages bicycle helmet laws.
Outside Australia, helmet laws are generally seen as a failure, whose principal effect has been to reduce cycling participation, without any significant safety benefit at a population level. Indeed, whenever any jurisdiction considers introducing such a law, examination of the Australian experience is enough to knock it on the head as not in the interests of public health.
Australia has one of the poorest safety records for cycling in the OECD. The use of the bicycle for transport languishes at less than 1% of all trips, lower than almost anywhere in the developed world. Europe, and to a lesser extent, the Americas, have seen significant growth in the use of bicycles for transport in the past fifteen years. This has contributed to reduced traffic congestion, healthier citizens, and more liveable urban environments. This has not happened in Australia, despite brave attempts in a few inner city areas.
Despite Australia’s lacklustre record with cyclist safety and participation, local lawmakers, police, and medical agencies continue to back helmet laws using cherry-picked data chosen to justify the status quo, and ignore evidence from overseas, which suggests more fruitful policy directions. The result has been irrational transport policies and enforcement actions that overstate the risks involved in cycling, while failing to recognise the health and social benefits of active transport.
Join local CVAF member Alan Todd, and his co-activist from Adelaide Dr. Sundance Bilson-Thompson, as they lay bare the science, superstition and moral humbug behind the great Australian bike helmet swindle.
Arrive at 6:30 for a meal or the discussion at 7:30PM.
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