Simon has put up the propositions that countries with good cycle safety don’t need helmet laws and countries with bad cycle safety do. I disagree. I think that countries with bad cycle safety need proven safety measures, not unproven ‘popular’ ideas such as our helmet regulation. Here’s why:
The helmet regulation was introduced for the sole purpose of making it safer to ride bikes in NZ. The question is therefore whether it has made it safer to ride bikes in NZ.
To answer this question, we need evidence. Measurable evidence. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough of that. The authorities haven’t bothered to keep the records that would allow us to measure.
The next link in the thought chain usually goes “Can’t hurt, probably helps.” But. When we are legislating on matters that affect whether people live or die in a given situation, we need to know – really know – that we are not causing harm.
Do we know it can’t hurt? No. We don’t. We can’t, because we didn’t measure.
Think about this. Measuring’s pretty important when you’re telling people they’re safer. How do you reckon this kind of approach would go over on a city construction site? “OK chaps, we’ve heard that people reckon this will help, but actually we have no idea – it might even hurt you for all we know. Aaaand we’ll never know, because we’re not going to check. You’re fine with that, aren’t you chaps?” OSH would have a field day – and so should we.
There is growing belief that helmet mandation does hurt. The theory – the expert theory – is that it does this by putting people off riding. And we already know that when fewer people ride, the safety of the remaining riders is jeopardised.
So. It’s my very firm belief that we should scrap the helmet regulation and implement proven cycle safety measures. Measurable measures. Measures that have been measured in a number of locations across a number of scenarios. Measures such as the ones in countries with good cycle safety records.
You know the ones. The ones without helmet laws.