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The Bicycle Network is canvassing views on the issue – but doesn’t want the debate to descend into “a wild brawl”

Australia’s largest cycling organisation is considering changing its stance on cycle helmets, under which it currently endorses legislation that makes it mandatory for riders to wear one.

Craig Richards, CEO of The Bicycle Network which has more than 50,000 members, said that while the charity was not seeking to pre-empt the outcome of a review it is undertaking of its position, it believes the time has come for a debate on the issue.

However, writing on the organisation’s website, he acknowledged that there was a risk of discussion over the “emotive” issue descending into “a wild brawl.”

“What I hate most about the mandatory helmet debate is that it’s hard to have the debate,” he said.

“Yes, emotion should be part of any argument. Decisions are made with both the heart and the head.

“But when emotions spiral out of control, what should be a thought-provoking debate soon becomes a wild brawl.”

After citing instances in which, due to his post as head of the organization, he had been criticised by both supporters and opponents of compulsory helmet laws, he continued: “The sad reality is that when people can’t accept that reasonable minds differ, important issues are avoided.

“The result is that we don’t question, investigate and analyse.”

He urged people on either side of the debate to hear the opposing point of view rather than dismissing it out of hand.

“If we’re ever to turn Australia into the nation of bike riders we all dream about, both sides need to be prepared to listen to what the other side has to say,” he explained.

“As with all policies, we should regularly ask ourselves, ‘Have we got it right?’

“It’s for this reason that Bicycle Network has decided to review its position as a supporter of mandatory helmets,” he continued.

“But let’s be clear: the fact we’re conducting a review is not preempting an outcome. We may conclude our current position is the best one. Or we may conclude it’s not.

“We understand reviewing mandatory helmets will get messy. We understand the risks and that we can’t please all of the people all of the time.

“But we’re a member-based organisation. We need to listen as well as lead. We need to be courageous, curious and open-minded. We need to constantly be looking for a way to wake Australia from its slumber and turn it into a nation of bike riders.

“So as we embark on the review … I would really appreciate one thing: a little patience.

“We understand like many people you’re probably passionate one way or the other about mandatory helmets,” Richards added.

“But please understand that reasonable minds can differ. And whether we stick to our current position or change it, like you, our aim is to do what’s best for bike riders.”

The bicycle network is undertaking a survey, open until 22 September, of members and other parties such as town planners, transport professionals and people in the medical profession to help it decide whether to change its position.

It said it hopes to finalise its review by April next year.

Australia introduced compulsory helmet legislation in 1990 with the laws implemented on a state-by-state basis and varying in their application and the penalties that apply for those found not wearing one.

In Northern Territory, for example, cyclists do not need to wear one when riding on a cycle path, but do need to comply with the law when they are on the road.

Critics of the law maintain that by making it compulsory to wear a helmet while cycling, people are deterred from riding a bike in the first place.

They also insist that any benefits of wearing a helmet – itself a topic that is fiercely contended – are outweighed by the impact mandatory helmet laws thereby have on wider public health at a time that Australia, in common with many other nations, is attempting to tackle issues such as lack of exercise and child obesity.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

22 comments

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Ush [1018 posts] 3 months ago
6 likes

Australia == Troll Nation

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hawkinspeter [1139 posts] 3 months ago
4 likes

Grabs bag of popcorn

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ConcordeCX [510 posts] 3 months ago
12 likes

'doesn’t want the debate to descend into “a wild brawl”'

good luck with that one.

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Rich_cb [496 posts] 3 months ago
8 likes

I think the evidence is pretty clear from a public health point of view.

Mandatory helmet laws are harmful.

Here's hoping Australia changes tack.

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ktache [627 posts] 3 months ago
1 like

ConcordeCX, you took the words right out of my mouth.

 

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handlebarcam [1064 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

Perhaps they should take a leaf out of David Cameron's big book of conflict resolution techniques, and hold a referendum. As a helmet user (80% of the time) but non-legal-compulsion advocate, it'd favour a popularity contest between the status quo and everyone's individual projections for what the alternative might bring, with no concrete plans to spoil even the delusions of the most extreme fantasists.

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congokid [325 posts] 3 months ago
9 likes

Thanks to decades of legislation, relentless helmet promotion and the work of Uncle Tom so-called 'cycling advocate' organisations such as Bicycle Network, the majority of Australians have now been brainwashed into acceptance of compulsory helmets, especially, but oddly, those who never ever ride a bike.

If Bicycle Network was serious about changing its stance on MHLs, it would be embarking on an independent review of the scientific evidence, not canvassing already highly polarised and uninformed opinion or asking for a debate on the issue in a country that already largely wants cycling to disappear altogether.

I therefore don't expect this exercise to improve or change matters one bit for cycling in Australia. The bicycle helmet Kool Aid can't be undrunk.

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burtthebike [1222 posts] 3 months ago
8 likes
congokid wrote:

Thanks to decades of legislation, relentless helmet promotion and the work of Uncle Tom so-called 'cycling advocate' organisations such as Bicycle Network, the majority of Australians have now been brainwashed into acceptance of compulsory helmets, especially, but oddly, those who never ever ride a bike.

If Bicycle Network was serious about changing its stance on MHLs, it would be embarking on an independent review of the scientific evidence, not canvassing already highly polarised and uninformed opinion or asking for a debate on the issue in a country that already largely wants cycling to disappear altogether.

I therefore don't expect this exercise to improve or change matters one bit for cycling in Australia. The bicycle helmet Kool Aid can't be undrunk.

Absolutely!  Asking the opinion of people who have been subject to thirty years of propaganda and expecting a rational answer is rather more than wildly optimistic.  If they presented those people with the facts and then asked their opinion, it might be different matter, but all the evidence shows that once someone believes something, no matter how untrue, it is almost impossible to change their mind.

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BehindTheBikesheds [993 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

BN, the shameful excuse for a representative group, the evidence, or rather lack of for implementing MHL has been there for years. BN even supported a NSW government sponsored 'meta analysis' that contradicted the authors own stance from a couple of years before about how meta-analysis is flawed. Not to mention he used odds ratios to prove the point that helmets are beneficial and basically dismissed the peer reviewed paper that debunked the massively flawed helmet studies.

That's on top of the impinging on human rights and the fact it also flies in the face of the  Australian constitution. You only have to look at the cost to Australia of motoring head injuries to understand that this law and the law makers of Australia have really onlyhad one reason for introducing it and not subsequently repealing it after it was found to be disastrous in every aspect, that is to get people off bikes and into cars, the extra revenue in NSW was just a bonus for Gay et al.

there is a chink of light, those in the NT have been cycling for almost 2 decades sans helmet and not being pulled by plod, this paves the way and the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

There are also many real advocacy groups such as Modacity and freestyle cyclists that do lots of great work.

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Morgoth985 [99 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

there is a chink of light, those in the NT have been cycling for almost 2 decades sans helmet and not being pulled by plod, this paves the way and the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

 

Are you sure about that?  I've not come across that argument before.  And even if you're technically correct, you might find yourself with a pissed off plod when you try to argue with him at the side of the road on the basis of the constitution. 

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kitsunegari [327 posts] 3 months ago
5 likes

I think Australia has a long way to go before it becomes a biking nation.

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Edgeley [513 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes

"citing instances in which, due to his post as head of the organization, he had been criticised by both supporters and opponents of compulsory helmet laws"

Perhaps there should be manadatory flack helmets for organization heads.

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surly_by_name [551 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

That's on top of the impinging on human rights and the fact it also flies in the face of the  Australian constitution....

.... the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

Sorry - I think this is (very) wrong, but am happy to be corrected. Could you please point me to the relevant provision of the Australian Constitution.

I understand that you contend that if a person ordinarily resident in NSW commits a criminal offence in Tasmania (by reference to the laws of Tasmania; criminal law being a matter within the competence of State governments rather than the Federal government, save where the States have ceded competence) I cannot be prosecuted in Tasmania if the offence is not also a crime in NSW?

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Paul_C [523 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
ConcordeCX wrote:

'doesn’t want the debate to descend into “a wild brawl”'

good luck with that one.

the comments on the Guardian article rapidly descended into a brawl...

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DaveE128 [955 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
Craig_Richards wrote:

Yes, emotion should be part of any argument. Decisions are made with both the heart and the head.

Hmm, because decisions made with the heart and legislation made with emotion are usually good, well thought out things?

I don't think so.

This is one decision that can easily be made with hard evidence regarding public health benefit and hard-headed reasoning.

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DaveE128 [955 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes

oops duplicate post.

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antigee [453 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
surly_by_name wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

That's on top of the impinging on human rights and the fact it also flies in the face of the  Australian constitution....

.... the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

Sorry - I think this is (very) wrong, but am happy to be corrected. Could you please point me to the relevant provision of the Australian Constitution..................

the only other time I've seen BehindTheBikeSheds point raised has been on road.cc and by a poster with a name something like superpython(?) and I didn't understand it then and not seen anyone in Aus' claim this 

a quick look at  "The Senate Economics References Committee Personal choice and community impacts Interim report: bicycle helmet laws" from 2016 gives some background to the legislation and how it developed in the various states and became included in the Australian Road Rules (pages 4 and 5 - not phone friendly its a 49page pdf download  

http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Economics...   )

"1.19 The requirement for use of bicycle helmets is included in the Australian Road Rules (ARR), a national model legislation which is adopted (with variations) by the individual states and territories."  I'd safely assume that ARR works within the constitution

as to the survey BicycleNetwork (formerly BicycleNetworkVictoria before recently invading other states )  has been accused of being out of touch with its members - specifically over opposing minimum passing distance laws in Victoria - this survey is nothing but an attempt to claim members are now being listened to

 

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FluffyKittenofT... [1892 posts] 3 months ago
1 like
surly_by_name wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

That's on top of the impinging on human rights and the fact it also flies in the face of the  Australian constitution....

.... the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

Sorry - I think this is (very) wrong, but am happy to be corrected. Could you please point me to the relevant provision of the Australian Constitution.

I understand that you contend that if a person ordinarily resident in NSW commits a criminal offence in Tasmania (by reference to the laws of Tasmania; criminal law being a matter within the competence of State governments rather than the Federal government, save where the States have ceded competence) I cannot be prosecuted in Tasmania if the offence is not also a crime in NSW?

I haven't read the Australian constitution, but what would make sense to me is if it said the NSW fellow couldn't be prosecuted by Tasmania, _if he'd returned to NSW before a prosecution occurred_.

That would be similar to rules like those governing the European Arrest Warrant, which say you can't be carted off to another member state for trial if the offence concerned isn't an offence in the country you are in. But if they catch you while you are in the country the offence was commited in, they can prosecute you.

EDIT -

I guess this is it

http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedur...

And the relevant bits might be

116. Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion

The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

117. Rights of residents in States

A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.

117 would seem to be the relevant one but _only_ if you interpret the helmet law as 'disability or discrimination'. I think it is, on account of it not applying to drivers or pedestrians when there's no rational, evidence-based, reason why cyclists should be singled out - but I doubt a judge would rule that it was.

116 suggests Australian cyclists just have to found the Church of the Sacred Pedals with a bare head being a Holy Writ, and they are home free.

Avatar
ConcordeCX [510 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes
Paul_C wrote:
ConcordeCX wrote:

'doesn’t want the debate to descend into “a wild brawl”'

good luck with that one.

the comments on the Guardian article rapidly descended into a brawl...

they can't have been Australians. No true Australian would read the Guardian, and certainly no true Australian would get involved in an unseemly brawl with the muesli bunch.

 

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GerardR [143 posts] 3 months ago
3 likes

Ah well, now I know that - as a Kiwi - I'm justified in having opinions about Brexit, 'specially as you Brits have been brain-washed by the relentless propaganda.

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BehindTheBikesheds [993 posts] 3 months ago
0 likes
surly_by_name wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

That's on top of the impinging on human rights and the fact it also flies in the face of the  Australian constitution....

.... the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

Sorry - I think this is (very) wrong, but am happy to be corrected. Could you please point me to the relevant provision of the Australian Constitution.

I understand that you contend that if a person ordinarily resident in NSW commits a criminal offence in Tasmania (by reference to the laws of Tasmania; criminal law being a matter within the competence of State governments rather than the Federal government, save where the States have ceded competence) I cannot be prosecuted in Tasmania if the offence is not also a crime in NSW?

Maybe if you'd bothered to actually read the Constitution and understand it ...

117. Rights of residents in States

A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State.

Avatar
BehindTheBikesheds [993 posts] 3 months ago
2 likes
FluffyKittenofTindalos wrote:
surly_by_name wrote:
BehindTheBikesheds wrote:

That's on top of the impinging on human rights and the fact it also flies in the face of the  Australian constitution....

.... the residents of such areas can freely ride any other part of Australia without a plastic hat because it says so in the constitution. You cannot enforce a local state law if the state of that person does not have nor enforce that law here they normally reside.

Sorry - I think this is (very) wrong, but am happy to be corrected. Could you please point me to the relevant provision of the Australian Constitution.

I understand that you contend that if a person ordinarily resident in NSW commits a criminal offence in Tasmania (by reference to the laws of Tasmania; criminal law being a matter within the competence of State governments rather than the Federal government, save where the States have ceded competence) I cannot be prosecuted in Tasmania if the offence is not also a crime in NSW?

I haven't read the Australian constitution, but what would make sense to me is if it said the NSW fellow couldn't be prosecuted by Tasmania, _if he'd returned to NSW before a prosecution occurred_. That would be similar to rules like those governing the European Arrest Warrant, which say you can't be carted off to another member state for trial if the offence concerned isn't an offence in the country you are in. But if they catch you while you are in the country the offence was commited in, they can prosecute you. EDIT - I guess this is it http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedur... And the relevant bits might be 116. Commonwealth not to legislate in respect of religion The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth. 117. Rights of residents in States A subject of the Queen, resident in any State, shall not be subject in any other State to any disability or discrimination which would not be equally applicable to him if he were a subject of the Queen resident in such other State. 117 would seem to be the relevant one but _only_ if you interpret the helmet law as 'disability or discrimination'. I think it is, on account of it not applying to drivers or pedestrians when there's no rational, evidence-based, reason why cyclists should be singled out - but I doubt a judge would rule that it was. 116 suggests Australian cyclists just have to found the Church of the Sacred Pedals with a bare head being a Holy Writ, and they are home free.

That should be how it's interpreted but in fact isn't. Some  parts of Aus do not enforce cycle helmet laws,  (Mostly NT where blanket helmet wearing was rescinded in 1994 and even more so in 2004) Those residents cannot then be descriminated against in other states that do have or do enforce the law. 117 of the constitution is clear in that. whether a judge likes it or not you cannot just change the constitution as this is an absolute and the constitution can only (ultimately) be changed by the majority vote by citizens of Australia.

 

Interestingly and not surprisingly participation and injury rates of people cycling in NT are greater and lower respectively https://www.cycle-helmets.com/northern-territory-participation.html

You can also see the massive decline in cycling across Aus, even in NT people aged 9+ bike trips declined by 20% despite a population increase of 74%.