Time to lift the Aussie lid law?

Sydney cyclist / Getty Images
6th October 2010   Words: Matt Lamy Photo: Getty Images

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Australian researchers call for trial helmet law repeal.

Next year it will be two decades since Australia’s compulsory cycle helmet laws were introduced, but researchers based at Sydney University’s School of Public Health have said that they think it’s time to repeal the legislation.

Dr Chris Rissel has been studying the effects of the helmet law and although he concedes there has been a reduction in head injuries during the last 20 years, he believes this can be explained by other general improvements in road safety. Dr Rissel also believes the helmet law is putting people off casual cycling, thereby making Australian society less fit than it otherwise could be.

“I’d recommend a trial repeal in one city over the course of two years to allow researchers to make observations and see if there’s an increase in head injuries,” Dr Rissel said. “On the basis of that, you could come to an informed policy decision.”

Perhaps surprisingly to British readers, Dr Rissel’s suggestion wasn’t welcomed by the local cycling body, Bike New South Wales. “Some cyclists say they’d prefer not to have a cycle helmet, but very few complain about having to wear them because they realise there’s a potential benefit,” Omar Khalifa, the chief executive of Bike NSW, told the Sydney Morning Herald.

In the UK, most major cycling organisations are against helmet compulsion and it is not a law that has been widely taken up elsewhere. Only New Zealand has followed suit, although, as we reported back in April this year legislators in Jersey decided to make it compulsory for cyclists under the age of 18 to wear helmets and now the Northern Ireland assembly is thinking of bringing in a helmet law for children.

This article was first published in the October 2010 issue of Cycling Active magazine