Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Damage Done by America’s Bike Helmet Fixation

I’ve worked with bicycle advocates all around the world who are pushing back against rampant bike helmet promotions, most of which lead to threats for mandatory helmet laws. This blog touches on many of these cases with articles labelled Fraud & Deception. I take pride in all these efforts and yet I live in the most helmet-obsessed country in the world. That can be tough at times as I see too many horrific bike helmet promotions to even respond to, including the one pictured here from the nearby city of Phoenix. So embarrassing as an Arizonan and so horrific as a bike advocate to imagine the terror of bicycling this image caused in so many kids.

So, I was very pleased to find this recent article confronting America’s fixation on bike helmets, and it’s even an American blog. There’s hope! Here’s how the article starts:

In the United States, official bicycle safety messaging heavily emphasizes helmet use. In a way, it’s worked: American rates of helmet usage are high. But by almost any quantifiable safety metric, the helmet fixation has failed. People bike at low rates in the U.S. compared to international peers, and suffer higher injury and fatality rates per mile of cycling.

It’s not a coincidence that bicycling remains dangerous in our helmet-obsessed safety culture, according to University of Heidelberg professor Gregg Culver. Emphasizing helmets as a singular solution to bike safety — rather than designing streets for safer car speeds or better bike infrastructure — upholds a political structure that favors “unfettered automobility,” Culver argues...


Sue

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Malta Repealed Bike Helmet Law as Incentive for More Bicycling

Just two days ago, the transport ministry of Malta announced their repeal of their mandatory bicycle helmet law as part of a package of incentives to increase bicycling. This is fantastic news, not only because it adds Malta to the growing list of places repealing these harmful laws, but because Malta’s officials have recognized the harm their helmet law had caused. This makes Malta an excellent example for other places – cities, regions, and nations – also considering repealing their mandatory bicycle helmet laws.

Monday’s article from Times Malta highlights this helmet law repeal and lists other incentives the government is taking to increase bicycling. The article starts:

A series of initiatives to encourage the use of bicycles was announced on Monday by Finance Minister Edward Scicluna and Transport Minister Ian Borg. Listed among them is the removal of the obligation of using a bicycle helmet, especially when renting pedelecs.


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Sweden Is Moving Beyond Vision Zero and Helmets

I’ve never liked the concept of Vision Zero. This program, started in Sweden twenty years ago with the goal of preventing all deaths in traffic, seemed to me to set the stage for heavy handed safety initiatives. I could just hear the shouts justifying unjust laws, “If it saves one life, it will be worth it!” This is a common justification for mandatory helmet laws. And Vision Zero seems to create a perfect footing for it.

So you can imagine how impressed I was when I read about a new initiative coming from Sweden that not only recognizes such concerns about Vision Zero, but offers a far more effective approach, including steering away from mandating bicycle helmets. Here is the summary of their key points:

According to the Swedish Traffic Safety Council for Active and Sustainable Mobility the main tenet of Moving Beyond Zero is that the active element of cycling should be included within the road safety/public health discourse. This has these key elements:

  1. The socioeconomic models that dictate our infrastructure investments must begin to take into account illness prevention and increased life quality provided by active mobility.
  2. The Transport Agency must be tasked with increasing active mobility. It is unacceptable that the Swedish Vision Zero national plan for cycling begins and ends with helmet promotion and lacks national cycling goals. Cycling is currently not mentioned in the Transport Authority’s mission statement nor in the national transport plan.
  3. Sweden needs a Vision Zero that saves, improves, and lengthens lives. Modern environmentally sound and healthy transport planning has to create a vision for a more active and healthier population.
  4. The Council calls on the Swedish Minister for Infrastructure Tomas Eneroth to develop a new goal for traffic and health that looks beyond Vision Zero. A new goal should lead to traffic that saves lives and improves quality of life in addition to reducing traffic fatalities and injuries by promoting active mobility in the form of cycling and walking.

Read the rest of the article here: Moving Beyond Zero.

Sue

Monday, September 4, 2017

Bicycle Network Questioning Helmet Law


Bicycle Network, Australia's largest cycling organization, has recently begun questioning their support of their country's mandatory helmet law.

Help them work through this admirable process by taking their survey. You do not have to be a resident of Australia to participate.

Also on that page you will find a means for uploading academic papers to support your postion. Please take a few minutes to add your voice and perspective.

https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/our-campaigns/policy-reviews/helmet-review/

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cycle of Reform Film Nails Problems with Bike Helmet Laws

This recent film, The Cycle of Reform - Mandatory Helmet Laws, demonstrates the most harmful effects of these laws in a clear, easy-to-understand format. Australian bicycle advocates have struggled for many years to articulate the harm of their country’s all-ages helmet law as it continues to undermine bicycling initiatives.

As is the case anywhere, single factual statements are shot down with emotional reactions. Simply presenting the data that bicycling has decreased dramatically since the helmet law was passed is usually met with a cry that if one life is saved it is worth it. Showing that bike helmets offer little protection in a crash with a motor vehicle is met with exclamations that any protection is better than none.

Finally, through this superb film, viewers can see these issues in the context of a place that has suffered these effects for many years. We see quality of life and the saving of lives set into legitimate perspectives, including zero proof that any life has been saved because of the law.

Whether a bike helmet law is at the local, regional, or national level, the population effected suffers the same degradation of their bicycle community, infrastructure, and support system. If your area is pinned down by such a law or if you know of efforts to pass such a law, please watch this film to learn how you can fight back. With this film, Australia is sure to gain momentum toward a nationwide repeal of their mandatory all-ages bicycle helmet law.

My only concern is their emphasis on “low-risk” versus “high-risk” cycling. This angle was used in Spain and resulted in laws that set strange parameters for mandatory wearing of helmets based on individual officials’ opinions of risk. Let’s hope that Australian officials avoid that ridiculous route and simply repeal their law for all cyclists, leaving the choice to individuals. 

Sue

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Australian Bike Helmet Laws Ignite Heated Discussion


A tweet by John Myers, our resident cyclist has sparked the mandatory helmet law debate once again.
 
Deputy Brisbane Mayor Adrian Schrinner went head to head with Queensland’s Road Minister Mark Bailey after our tweet lit the fire.
 
Cr Schrinner tweeted that the Brisbane bikeshare had recorded 1.9 million trips since 2010. Nothing to crow about when compared to daily bikeshare trips in cities like New York (50,000 trips on average per day).
@mediawisemelb said that if helmet laws were relaxed trips would soar. “It’s not rocket science, just how the rest of the world succeeds in bikeshares”.
 
With around 1,000 bikeshares around the world only a handful have mandatory helmet laws. No surprise to see them all failing.
 
Cr Schrinner called on Minister Bailey to make helmets optional for Brisbane’s CityCycle scheme.
 
Like Cr Schrinner, MediaWise would love to see a one year trial for relaxing the helmet laws for bike share in Brisbane and Melbourne where daily trips are very low. Just watch those daily rates soar!
 
Footnote – Our bike riding Director is not against people wearing helmets, he just wants the act of riding helmet free not to be a crime. He is currently bike touring in France with a helmet and his sporty lycra on during the day but riding helmet free without lycra in towns most evenings.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Portugal Drops Mandatory Helmet Study Following Public Backlash

By Mark Sutton at cyclingindustry.news

27 April, 2017

Portugal’s Government has dropped exploratory plans to introduce a mandatory helmet law for cyclists on the back of strong public opposition.
Launched to public consultation over the Christmas break, cyclists responded by organising a march through Lisbon, while over 500 written objections landed with the Road Authority.
Evidence based on studies of countries that have employed mandatory lid laws have largely resulted in a vast decrease in cycling levels, somewhat counteracting the aim of the legislation. (See the base of this piece for more on that)
Almost simultaneously a public petition calling for better conditions for cyclists on the roads surged past 10,000 signatures. On the back of this a meet with the Minister of Internal Affairs in parliament is now to take place with representatives from various Portuguese cycling and road safety organisations set to press cycling’s case for safe infrastructure provision. By law, the discussion has to take place and in theory should now provide legal results for improving active travel conditions, reports the ECF.
Ceri Woolsgrove, the ECF Policy officer on the Portugal victory; “Excellent lobbying activities in Portugal has seen some great results for cycling safety and promotion. Dropping the mandatory helmet proposal will remove a barrier to the uptake of cycling and the new road code will improve cycling safety. It is to be applauded that the Portuguese public authorities have listened to public pressure and cycling associations. We sincerely hope that this dialogue continues in order to improve cycling safety in the future, particularly regarding vehicle speeds which are a major road safety factor and are being reduced throughout Europe.”
Portugal saw Europe’s largest drop in road deaths between 2010 and 2015, delivering a 37% drop, some 20 points higher than the average 17% decline in cyclist deaths. Bicycle use has been steadily increasing in the region in recent years.
Aside from cycling levels, Portugal’s reputation as a heartland for industry manufacturing got a shot in the arm recently with the news that Fritz Jou will set up a manufacturing plant. 
Why helmet compulsion very often has undesired effects: