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.


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.


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. 


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:

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bosnia and Herzegovina Repealed Their Bicycle Helmet Law!

With the recent repeal of their mandatory all-ages bicycle helmet law, Bosnia and Herzegovina has become our best model for similar efforts. Congratulations to all their citizens and visitors for the return of the freedom to ride bikes normally, without a helmet.

Mandatory bicycle helmet laws undermine efforts to increase bicycling by making bicycling seem more dangerous than it is, then putting the blame on cyclists if a crash does occur. If we expect more people to ride bikes, these laws must be removed from the books. Such repeal efforts usually seem impossible because of the emotional, overblown rhetoric that caused their passage in the first place. Mexico City is one rare example of a successful total repeal. Israel is a partial example by repealing at least the adult portion of their law. But there were no nationwide total repeals. Until now!

Join with us in celebrating this important victory by forwarding this post and reposting the press release from the Centre for Environment, pasted below:

Repeal of obligatory bicycle helmet law in Bosnia and Herzegovina

After six long years of campaigning for the abolition of the compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Centre for Environment welcomed the adoption of the Law on Amendments to the Law on traffic safety on the roads of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With exceptional joy and pride we can confirm to all the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina that they can now choose whether or not they want to wear a safety helmet. We would especially like to thank Mr Zoran Andric from the Ministry of Communication and Transport of Bosnia and Herzegovina who proactively informed all stakeholders as well as gave us opportunity several times to explain our facts and figures that were against obligatory bicycle helmets. The conduct of the representatives from this ministry during the public hearing process and decision making is a model for all public institutions. 

Tihomir Dakic, Transport Program Coordinator at the Center for Environment: "This is a major step towards greater and easier promotion of the use of bicycles as a means of transport. It returns the focus from reducing the consequences of crashes, to minimizing the causes of traffic crashes. Since 2006 until now cycling was incorrectly presented as a dangerous activity. In fact the health benefits of the daily use of the bicycle outweigh the traffic risks by around 20:1.  Now it is up to the local communities to pay more attention to the traffic regulation, demotivation of the use of motor vehicles, promotion of healthy ways of movement and reducing air pollution. We invite all those who stopped using the bicycle due to the helmet law to return to it, to respect traffic rules and enjoy all the benefits that cycling provides. "

Milenko Dzever, Associate for roads and licenses at the Agency for Traffic Safety of the Republic of Srpska: "On behalf of the Agency we welcome the changes to the Law, and we wish to note that Article 102 does not prohibit the wearing of helmets, but gives the choice to people whether they want to use it or not. Of course, we recommend that children wear helmets until they master riding a bicycle well enough. So far the old article of the Law discouraged bicycle use, and it should be the opposite, to discourage users of motor vehicles, especially in urban areas. Since the motor car is still seen as a status symbol in our country about 80% of trips are made by personal motor vehicle. This urgently needs to be changed. By investing in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure for the local community we will significantly improve traffic calming, increase the level of traffic safety, which in turn will significantly improve the health of people and economic development of local communities".

About changes in the law in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they said:

Ceri Woolsgrove, expert on traffic safety, the European Cyclists Federation, Brussels:

"European Cyclists Federation (ECF) believes that cyclists should be able to choose whether to wear or not to wear helmets and reflective vests. We do not agree with the mandatory use of helmets and reflective vests. We welcome the excellent work of the Centre for Environment, a member of the ECF that highlighted this important issue representing the interests of cyclists to the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Cycling is not an overly dangerous activity and brings tremendous health benefits for individuals, and has a positive effect on the environment and society as a whole. Defending cycling in all its forms, helmeted or non-helmeted, is important to the development of cycling and the use of all its benefits. We welcome the work of the Ministry of Communications and Transport for allowing citizens the freedom to choose their clothing with which they want to ride a bicycle. We also expect that the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina contribute to facilitating the development of safer traffic, especially for cyclists and pedestrians".

Sue Knaup, Executive Director of the international association One Street, Prescott, Arizona, USA:

"Bosnia and Herzegovina has set an important precedent with this repeal. Any law that mandates the wearing of helmets or other articles, criminalizes the use of bicycles as an efficient and affordable means of transportation. We at One Street applaud this important repeal and look forward to showcasing Bosnia and Herzegovina as a model for jurisdictions ready to remove their own unjust laws against bicycling."

Before the campaign started the paragraph about bicycle helmets in the Law adopted 2006 was:

“Article 102
Riders of bicycle, bicycle with a motor, light motorcycle or motorbike and persons transported on those vehicles must wear protective helmets while riding.“

During these years the police rarely fined cyclists, but they started to lobby to integrate better definition of bicycle helmet wearing as well as impose reflective vests.

Then police and transport safety experts lobbied for defining it further to protect cyclists and Ministry of Communication and Transport changed it in 2010 to this:

“Article 102
Riders of bicycles, mopeds, light motorcycle, motorcycle, tricycle, light quads or quads and persons carried on those vehicles must properly use safety helmet while riding, and in the period from dusk to complete dawn, as well as during the day in case of low visibility, cyclists must use reflective vest.“

This was the moment in which we started to investigate all Laws on traffic safety from different countries and soon we found out that we were “The worst”.

We spent countless hours and days over six years lobbying with no funds, only huge enthusiasm and energy to repeal this most serious negative impact on cycling promotion.

Then, with the help of the authorities noted above, this was the result of our struggle:

“Article 102
(1) The rider of a moped, light motorcycle, motorcycle, tricycle, light quads and quads, as well as persons transported on these vehicles must carry on his head buttoned protective helmet.
(2) The rider of the bicycle during the period from dusk to complete dawn, as well as during the day in case of reduced visibility, they need to use reflective vest or reflective appropriate equipment that provides adequate visibility of the rider or the bicycle.”

We succeed to exclude the word “bicycle” from paragraph (1) and the protective helmets became history. Meanwhile in paragraph (2) we added second part after reflective vests to allow a choice of ways for making us, cyclists, more visible and with more comfortable accessories.

For more information contact Tihomir Dakic at tihomir.dakic{at}czzs.org or visit Centre for Environment's website at www.czzs.org.

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