Bicycle helmets in Australia
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (May 2013)|
Because Australian bicycle helmet laws came into effect before such laws were enacted elsewhere, much of the data about mandatory bicycle helmet use comes from Australia. Debate continues, without consensus, about its efficacy.
History: lead-up to the laws
In 1985, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport Safety recommended that cooperation of states and territories should be sought to "review the benefits of bicycle helmet wearing ... and unless there are persuasive arguments to the contrary introduce compulsory wearing of helmets by cyclists on roads and other public places". A federal parliament committee was set up in 1985.[unreliable source?]
By 1989, just before the government decided to introduce compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets, an officially-commissioned survey showed that public support for it was 92% for children and 83% for all riders.[full citation needed] Opposition was fragmented and ineffective; no major cycling groups opposed the law in public.
Introduction of the laws: legal requirements
The law[clarification needed] is laid out in Part 15 of the Australian Road Rules. It specifies that "the rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider’s head, unless the rider is exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under another law of this jurisdiction." The law also requires helmet use by certain bicycle passengers. As of June 2013[update], the legally-required standard for a bicycle helmet is AS/NZS 2063.
Mandatory helmet laws were first introduced in Victoria in July 1990, followed in January 1991 by laws for adult cyclists in New South Wales and all age-groups in Tasmania. In July 1991, New South Wales extended the law's reach to child cyclists. In the same month, laws covering all cyclists were adopted in South Australia and in Queensland, where the law was not enforced until 1 January 1993. In January 1992 helmet laws were introduced in the Northern Territory (NT) and Western Australia and in July 1992 in the Australian Capital Territory.
In Tasmania, the law only applies on public streets, while in the NT since March 1994 there is an exemption for adults cycling along footpaths or on cycle paths.
The Queensland government announced in April 2013 that exemptions on religious grounds from mandatory bicycle helmet laws would be granted from 2014.
Ongoing debate: after the laws
Academics within and outside Australia continue to express professional opinions both supportive and unsupportive of the laws.
Shared bicycles in Brisbane and Melbourne are used about ten times less than is typical in areas without compulsory helmet laws. Various factors may be responsible. One response has been to improve the availability of helmets to users of bicycle-sharing schemes, while Brisbane City Council has suggested trialling helmet-free zones.
Studies of helmet use by injured cyclists were published from the late 1980s, some in Australia, both before and after helmet legislation. These have concluded both for and against the encouragement of bicycle helmet wearing and/or bicycle helmet legislation - the debate continues, without consensus.
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- Is the law on helmets why bikeshare is failing? Alan Davies. The Urbanist Feb 12, 2012 5:39PM http://blogs.crikey.com.au/theurbanist/2012/02/12/is-the-helmet-law-why-bikeshare-is-failing-in-australian-cities/
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