Bicycle Network is calling for a change to Australia’s bike helmet laws that would allow adults to decide whether they should wear a helmet when they’re not riding on the road.
In all Australian states and territories, excluding the Northern Territory, it is currently mandatory for people to wear a helmet whenever and wherever they ride a bike.
The group is recommending that these laws be relaxed with a five-year trial permitting people older than 17 to choose whether they wear a helmet when riding on footpaths or off-road cycle paths.
Bicycle Network has been a supporter of mandatory helmet laws since they were introduced in the 1990s, but is now calling for change after a 14-month policy review.
CEO Craig Richards said: “Australia is one of only two countries in the world with fully enforced mandatory helmet law.
“The number of people who ride a bike isn’t increasing and there has been no decrease in the number of bike rider fatalities.
“It’s clear that our bike policies aren’t working, so it’s important that we review everything.
“Our recommendation is to give people the freedom to choose if they wear a helmet in low risk circumstances, because that’s what bike riding is ultimately all about – freedom.”
The network however believes that Australia’s road networks have not been developed to a stage where they can confidently recommend a full repeal of mandatory helmet laws.
Richards added: “More than 80 per cent of bike rider crashes are caused by someone driving a car, but sadly, we haven’t seen enough done to reduce interaction between bike and cars.
“Instead of removing the risks and causes of bicycle crashes, the solution has been helmets which, like all personal protection equipment, is the least effective way to prevent injury and reduce risk.”
Bicycle Network’s three-part helmet policy review began in August 2017 when nearly 20,000 people completed a survey about Australia’s current helmet laws.
Bike riding and medical industry experts were also asked to make submissions and a review of more than 2,500 academic studies was conducted.