Out of town: cycling helmet laws in Australia and Sue Abbott

I used to live in Sydney, Australia, so I know all too well from first hand experience just how few cyclists there are out on the streets of Oz.  It's a sad sight indeed and stems directly, I believe, from Australia being one of the first countries in the world to enact a law that makes the wearing of helmets compulsory.  Shortly after the law came into force, levels of cyclists across Oz dropped by 20-40%.  When you consider that cycling regularly is apparently supposed to decrease the risk of heart disease by 50%, as well as all of the other long term health and environmental benefits associated with getting on one's bike, it was all a bit of an own goal for Oz, I'm sure you will agree.  It is worth noting that Australia currently has worse levels of childhood obesity than America.

Well, one determined lady - Sue Abbott - who lives in the pretty, quiet, back-country town of Scone in New South Wales was recently booked for riding without a helmet.  Sue is a well-regarded member of her local community - well educated, sensible, the wife of the town Doctor.  She decided to appeal her court case, and irrepressible Australian film maker, Mike Rubbo, followed her story.  The mesmeric film, below, is the result.  Mike also maintains a cycling blog with an Aussie slant, a jump to which can be found below and in my links bar.

I'm not keen to start an argument here as to whether helmets are a good thing or not, or that the earth is flat or round, merely that doing something that has a risk associated with it in life (be that cycling, smoking or walking down a busy road) should be the choice of the adult individual - and laws to try and force a decision onto us actually has a long term negative effect.  The sooner Australia falls in line with the rest of the world and bans the law on lids, the happier place it will be.

Mike Rubbo's blog:



Anonymous said...

Mark, as you know, I've written to you directly to thank you mainly on Sue's behalf for doing this.
She's pretty confused right now as to what to do next, but does so much appreciate support like yours.

I've also suggested to her (she is thinking of appealing) that that would be useless unless she can get the media to take an interest in what she's fighting for, and why.

If she/we can do that, then there's a chance the next court appearance might count for something and not be so demeaning.

So I'm wondering if those who read this and agree with myself and Mark, namely that helmets should be a personal choice(I wear one as you'll see from my blog below) then it would be very good if you over in Europe and the UK were, to let the media here in Aust. know what you are seeing and living in terms of vibrant bike activity, and wish it were like that back home here in Aust.

If Mark is keen, a list of who to write to, could be posted on this blog.

I've already written to most of the ABC news shows before the trial and so they'll know what you are talking about

Sorry to ramble on, but Sue has done something based on conviction which is very brave, as you'll see in my film, and our support is well earned.

Mike Rubbo, the film maker and blogger for Sue.

l' homme au velo said...

Helmets do not Protect in the Event of a Crash with a 1 1/2 Tonne Car worse than useless.They are only good if you fall off your Bike at 5mph. If you stick a Helmet under a Car and let the Car Tyre go over the Helmet it will be crushed. The only proper Protection is a Safe Cycling Infrastructure and the Netherlands and Copenhagen is best Practice. In Australia they are to Motor Supremacist,they need to put in Dedicated Cycle Paths away from the Traffic which means narrowing the Roads,also putting in Traffic Free Cities and Towns. Giving way to Cyclists at Junctions and putting in Traffic Lights that go Green for Cyclists at a Speed of 20kph.It would be also good for Motorists to do a Compulsory Cycle Training for two or Three weeks before they get their Licenses ,put them out on Bikes to show how it feels to be Menaced by Vehicles in Order to show Respect for Cyclists.

I think this Helmet Rule is Overkill by a Motorist Centred Country,they would want to change their attitude get rid of the big Stick and leave it up to the Individual to do whatever it feels comfortable for them.John Dublin Ireland.

Mark said...

All good food for thought, thanks for your comments guys. John in Ireland - I think the lack of appetite to build cycling infrastructure in Australia because it is perceived that 'nobody cycles', and this is the case, of course, because of the helmet laws - bit of a self-realising prophecy to be honest. As Mike so correctly points out there needs to be debate in the correct forums to get the law repealled and then the cycling revolution, and all the infrastructure that this would entail, will follow naturally.

Mike; I'd be happy to post here a list of people to write to in Australia to get the media interested if it helps - as you mentioned Sue has done something here based on conviction and belief, something which should be praised indeed in this day and age (especially when it's for such a simple, noble cause!)


Anonymous said...

The CTC Forum has quite a few details about the case,
'Sue heads for Court, helmets case, down under'
worth a read.

Mark said...

Sue has joined the blogosphere herself and can now be found tapping away furiously about her cycling experiences & trials and tribulations here:

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