Freestyle Cyclists are launching their campaign for reform of Australia and New Zealand’s bicycle helmet legislation next month with a keynote address from Chris Rissel, Professor of Public Health, University of Sydney.

Other speakers include lawyer and cycling activist Sue Abbott, independent Queensland filmmaker Geoff McLeod, and City of Yarra Councillor Jackie Fristacky.

The event will be held on Saturday 6th of October at 1pm at CERES Community Environment Park, Cnr Roberts & Stewarts Streets, East Brunswick (Melbourne).

Following presentations, there will be a demonstration of civil disobedience involving cycling along the nearby Merri Creek bike track while not wearing helmets.

So why not join them at the launch or sign their online petition for helmet law reform?

About Freedom Cyclists:

Freestyle Cyclists seeks the reform of bike helmet law in Australia and New Zealand to get more people riding bikes.

Repealing helmet laws will give people a choice, and remove the barrier for those occasions when a person decides to ride without a helmet.

Discouraging cycling is bad for public health because the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by a large factor – including when not wearing a helmet.

In 1990, Victoria became the first place in the world to require people to wear a helmet when riding a bike. The rest of Australia (with the exception of the Northern Territory, which allows choice on footpaths and bike tracks) followed soon after. Regrettably, the other states did not wait for an evaluation of the effects of the legislation in Victoria before passing their own laws.

World wide, only New Zealand has followed suit with a nationally enforced all ages ban on cycling without a helmet. A handful of Canadian provinces and some local US jurisdictions have legislation enforced to varying degrees, while a handful of countries require children to wear helmets. All in all,after over twenty years the idea hasn’t spread.

The idea hasn’t spread, because mandatory bike helmet laws simply do not work. The hoped for reduction in head injuries did not happen. The risk of head injury per km cycled showed no measurable change, while the risk of other injuries actually went up. The numbers of Australians cycling dropped dramatically, particularly amongst women and teenagers. Even today, despite years of “cycling promotion” by governments and public health agencies, participation in cycling of all kinds is less per head of population than it was in 1986. One in five Australians report that they are put off riding a bike by the helmet requirement.

Cycling has become almost exclusively a sporting activity in Australia. Visitors from Europe remark on how fast and recklessly Australians ride. The normal use of a bicycle to get to work, visit friends or do the shopping has all but disappeared. Even the small growth in inner city cycling in Melbourne and Sydney in recent years looks trivial when compared to the successful cycling cities of Europe and Asia. Policing of cycle safety is almost exclusively restricted to dishing out fines for helmet non-compliance. Cities as diverse as London, Paris, Dublin and Barcelona have achieved impressive results with their new public bike sharing. Australia has the dishonourable distinction of playing host to the world’s least successful schemes in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Australia is the helmet experiment that failed. The rest of the world has learned from our mistake and powers ahead with the integration of the bicycle into their urban transport systems. We have stubbornly refused to learn. There is something wrong with a country that can win the Tour de France and gold medals in Olympic cycling, but bans it citizens from going about their daily business by bicycle unless they wear an ineffective polystyrene hat.

Its high time to ditch this petty, irksome and pointless barrier to the use of bicycles by ordinary Australians.