Bike Helmet Debate hits ABC Radio Nationals Background Briefing
September 22, 2010
The law here is that cyclists must wear helmets, but in Europe it is not mandatory, and yet it’s much safer to cycle. Some say helmets make cycling more dangerous and others that they actually cause brain injury and the law should be repealed. The debate makes climate change look like a walk in the park. Reporter Wendy Carlisle.
Wendy Carlisle: If you thought climate change was divisive, then get ready for the bicycle helmet wars. It’s bitter, polarised, and not in the least bit civil.
Chris Rissel: The whole idea has become one of faith, rather more than science, to some extent.
Wendy Carlisle: Australia stands virtually alone in the world making it compulsory for cyclists to wear helmets. At stake, say those opposed to our helmet laws, is the very future of cycling as a viable mainstream transport option. Depending on who you believe, helmets either protect your head, or they’re an agent of the nanny-state and have unwittingly killed off cycling.
Sue Abbott: Helmet laws made cycling dangerous. They frightened us; they bought into this whole argument of buying armour as such, for when you do this extreme activity. It isn’t a dangerous activity, it’s an everyday activity, and I think helmet laws destroyed that. They killed off cycling.
Wendy Carlisle: Throw into this heady argument a good old scientific blue about whether helmets themselves can cause brain injuries, and you’ve got a highly emotional debate.
Bill Curnow: There’s an advertisement in which they tell people to strap it on your brain, that’s the helmet, strap it on your brain. And they say that people increase their chances of escaping serious injury or death if they wear a helmet.
Wendy Carlisle: You say that’s wrong?
Bill Curnow: Yes, it’s never been shown that wearing a helmet had saved a single life, I’d say.
Posted for the love of a good debate by Liam.C