Push to scrap compulsory cycling helmets — for some

SOUTH Australian cycling groups have joined a national push to dump compulsory helmet laws when adults are riding on a footpath or off-road.

Bicycle SA and Freestyle Cyclists have backed the idea of a five-year trial put by Victorian-based national lobby group Bicycle Network.

Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards said the organisation stopped short of the total removal of helmet laws because the roads, and specifically cars on the roads, were still too dangerous.

"The risk for bike riders is substantially created by people driving vehicles,'' a report to be released by the organisation today states.

But Mr Richards said bike riding was languishing and a review of mandatory helmet laws was needed. The network's call comes after a survey of 20,000 members, with 60 per cent wanting laws changed.

Bike SA chief executive Christian Haag said his organisation also was surveying members about the issue and any changes during the trial would have to take account of local law differences.

 

Bike SA chief executive Christian Haag.
Bike SA chief executive Christian Haag.

 

Helmets were made compulsory in Victoria in 1990.
Helmets were made compulsory in Victoria in 1990.

 

"Ultimately, our objective is to see more South Australians riding and mandatory helmet requirements may inhibit that outcome - hence our survey work,'' he said.

Freestyle Cyclists SA spokesman Sundance Bilson-Thompson said most of the world had laws which recognised cycling was safe.

"I think this is a great step and we are long overdue in Australia for recognition that riding a bicycle is safe, not an extreme sport,'' he said.

"A trial will really kick this issue along. The total solution is that roads also be made safe, and when you do that you don't need to mandate safety equipment.''

Victoria passed the world's first mandatory bicycle helmet laws on July 1, 1990. Other states and territories, except the Northern Territory, followed during the 1990s.

 

The Bicycle Network says helmets are still required for riding on roads.
The Bicycle Network says helmets are still required for riding on roads.

 

However, few nations around the world have followed Australia's lead, and Mexico and Malta, are repealing their laws. Mr Richards said: "The number of people who ride a bike isn't increasing and there has been no decrease in the number of bike rider fatalities. It's clear that our bike policies aren't working".

Bicycle Network also sought submissions from cycling experts, as well as reviewing academic studies.

One in three cyclists said they would ride more if helmets were not mandatory.

The report revealed bike deaths in the 1990s fell when the laws were introduced but the drop was in line with overall road fatalities trend.



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