MP flips lid over law

A GROUP of 22 cyclists ditched their skid lids on Saturday to ride from Maylands to the CBD as part of a national protest against helmet laws.

Australia was the first country to introduce mandatory helmets in 1990 and there’s been ongoing debate about whether they make cyclists safer or simply put people off a healthy past-time.

The Perth protest was organised by Freestyle Cyclists WA, and Liberal Democrat MP Aaron Stonehouse joined them for the illegal ride into the city.

The 27-year-old is WA’s youngest MP and after being elected last year he declared war on the “nanny state”, in keeping with his party’s libertarian ideology.

“Mandatory bicycle helmet laws are perhaps the most glaring example of nanny state paternalism and finger-wagging in Australia,” the MP says.

• MP Aaron Stonehouse joined the helmet-free protest ride into Perth’s CBD. Photo supplied

“Adults should be free to manage the risks involved in a bike ride, and not have the government imposing laws to protect us from ourselves.

“I’m not arguing for people not to wear a bicycle helmet. I’m arguing for the right of adults to decide for themselves whether they need one when they ride a bike.” Mr Stonehouse says cycling rates in cities like Seattle have “plummeted” after the introduction of mandatory helmet laws.

“Helmet laws only strengthen the idea that bicycles are a dangerous mode of transport. That leads to a decrease to the number of cyclists, and that again leads to a decrease in road safety, because the more cyclists there are, the more other road users will consider them.”

The Perth protest was trouble-free, but in Sydney the police deployed seven patrol cars to crack down on helmet-free protestors who were riding around Centennial Park. WA cyclists can be hit with a $50 fine for not wearing a helmet.

Butting heads

A 2011 study in New South Wales found helmet laws resulted in 29 per cent fewer head injuries, and a 2010 study found helmet-free riders were five times more likely to have intracranial bleeding or a skull fracture if they fell off.

But health researcher Colin Clark argues cycling improves people’s fitness and reduces the burden on the public health system. Helmet-free supporters say extra cyclists would make drivers more vigilant and less likely to crash into them, while there’d be less traffic congestion and the government would be more likely to improve cycling infrastructure.

by DAVID BELL

5 responses to “MP flips lid over law

  1. Peddling the notion that removing compulsory helmets will increase the number of cyclists is right up there with “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. I could argue this issue till I’m blue in the face but imagine I would get precisely nowhere. So I merely suggest that all those who elect to not wear a helmet also have the seat belt and air bags removed from their cars. Then we let Darwinism take over and eventually this issue will go away.

    • Sorry to deflate your balloon but the evidence is in and you are wrong. The NT has already done the experiment and cycling rates rebounded after helmet laws were relaxed for low risk environments like separated bike lanes and off road cycle paths.

      We are just asking for a similarly pragmatic set of rules.

      You make cycling sound far more dangerous than it is.

  2. I want to protest about the wanton abuse of bicycles by fat buggers trying to score political points. That poor bike!

  3. ross cheyne, hope you wear a helmet in the car then. We have the worst laws in the world for cyclists, combined with lowest mode share and worst injury rates. yet some people are convinced we are right and the rest of the world is wrong. Even government studies here recommend the laws be toned down. Queensland government said they would ignore the study before they read it. ACT is in the process of reviewing now. NT already has done so. Flat earth and talk back radio audiences are what keeps such a failure of a law in place

  4. Great to see that someone finally understands the evidence around the dreadful unintended health consequences of this poorly thought out law. Maybe now we can admit it was a well-intentioned mistake and go where the evidence leads, moving on to measures that really do make a difference to cyclist safety, like presumed civil liability and proper investment in separated infrastructure instead of worrying about plastic hats that are of marginal benefits at best after the crash has already occurred.

    Then we can make a dent in our skyrocketing obesity and inactivity related diseases rates.

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