Hel­mets are al­ways a safe bet

Sunday Herald Sun - - Opinion - KATIE BICE KATIE BICE IS THE SUN­DAY HER­ALD SUN DEPUTY EDI­TOR katie.bice@news.com.au @kt­bice

ABID to go hel­met-free on bikes is bonkers. The Bi­cy­cle Net­work’s call to free rid­ers of their hel­mets is a des­per­ate and mis­guided at­tempt to in­crease the num­ber of peo­ple us­ing bikes. How can a body that is the voice of its mem­bers ap­par­ently con­done those same peo­ple be­ing hurt in the pur­suit of their hobby?

The bike body ar­gues adults should have the choice to go hel­met-free when rid­ing on foot­paths or off-road and it wants a na­tional five-year trial. It ad­mit­ted it couldn’t sup­port a to­tal lift­ing of the hel­met law be­cause cars still posed a risk.

Bi­cy­cle Net­work CEO Craig Richards knows that the plan will be di­vi­sive.

“Some peo­ple will look at this and say ‘Thank good­ness’; some will say ‘Why didn’t you go fur­ther?’; oth­ers will say ‘What on earth are you do­ing?’’’ he said.

In Vic­to­ria, only 1 per cent of peo­ple travel to work by bike and on av­er­age eight cy­clists die on the roads every year. The idea that more peo­ple will take to bike trails be­cause they don’t have to wear hel­mets is lu­di­crous.

Any­one who is stay­ing off a bike be­cause of hel­met hair isn’t go­ing to be a con­vert to cy­cling for long.

Peo­ple can’t ride to work be­cause those in the sub­urbs live too far away and those in town value their lives too much to ride on our busy roads.

In sup­port of their hel­met-free ar­gu­ment, the rider lobby points to the low num­ber of deaths.

That may be true, but hel­mets aren’t only to stop peo­ple dy­ing. They also pro­tect rid­ers against con­cus­sion — an in­jury we are only just un­cov­er­ing the sever­ity of — as well as head and fa­cial frac­tures and lac­er­a­tions.

By any­one’s cal­cu­la­tions, there can only be one win­ner out of skull ver­sus con­crete. It doesn’t take a high-speed col­li­sion with a car for some­one to end up with se­ri­ous or life-al­ter­ing in­jury.

Other cy­clists on bike trails pose a risk, as do pedes­tri­ans, many of whom are dis­tracted by head­phones or mo­biles.

The spin-off of al­low­ing rid­ers to go hel­met-free on paths is that in all like­li­hood they will end up on the road as well. Very few peo­ple live di­rectly on a bike path so it’s in­evitable they will have to use sub­ur­ban roads to get to one.

We don’t ask cy­clists to be reg­is­tered, we don’t force them to wear knee and el­bow pads. We want them to wear one pro­tec­tive item to save their heads.

It doesn’t seem like a big ask.

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