Cycle survey questions helmets
Cycling advocates say around 60 per cent of cyclists believe they should be able to ride without a helmet if they want.
A survey by the Bicycle Network of almost 20,000 people has found that if current mandatory helmet laws change to allow Australians to ride a bike without wearing a helmet, more than 30 per cent would ride a bike more often.
Under current laws, it is compulsory to wear a helmet whenever riding a bike in Australia, except in the Northern Territory.
NT bike safety laws allow cyclists not to wear a helmet if they are above the age of 17 and not riding on roads.
There are now calls for the rest of the country to follow the NT.
Anti-regulation, pro-civil liberties Senator David Leyonhjelm says people should be left to ability to assess the risks posed to them by helmet-free riding.
“It's true that if you fall off, land on your head and you're very unlucky you'll end up very severely injured,” he said in a recent Darwin radio interview.
“But the chances of that occurring are absolutely tiny, and that possibility does not justify telling all the rest of us what's good for us.
“You guys in the Northern Territory are allowed that decision, you're treated as adults, while the rest of the country are treated as children. We can't make that decision for ourselves.
“People say; ‘Oh, the helmet, I can't be bothered fussing around with a helmet and finding the damn thing’, and so they drive their car and miss out on exercise.”
Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards said the organisation conducted its survey to understand the shifting views of its members.
“Organisationally we have been strong supporters of helmets, but the question now is about whether helmets should be mandatory,” Mr Richards said.
“That's something that we've opened up and had a good look at.”
The Bicycle Network says it will review research and literature before arriving at an official position in April.
Mr Richards conceded there is some valued to the NT's relaxed approach.
“It's the only place in Australia where you don't have to wear a helmet at all times, and we've seen that it doesn't really seem to be as big an issue,” Mr Richards said.
“One of the big arguments is around the number of people a helmet stops being physically inactive.
“The other argument, of course, goes it's also the government's responsibility to pay for the care that's given to people who suffer illnesses as a result of being physically inactive.”
Senator Leyonhjelm says he will bring up the helmet issue with parliamentary colleagues responsible for coordinating COAG initiatives.