Unintended consequences

February 10th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Shabham Dastgheib at Stuff reports:

The mandatory bicycle helmet law has cut the number of cyclists in half and contributed to 53 premature deaths per year, new research says.

The research, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, found a 51 per cent drop in the average hours cycled per person from the 1989-90 period when compared to 2006-09.

Colin Clarke, the honorary secretary of the Yorkshire Region’s Cyclists Touring Club in England who produced the research, has worked as a safety instructor and cycled in more than 20 countries including about 8000 kms in New Zealand.

Clarke estimates the 1994 law has translated to about 53 premature deaths per year (through adverse health effects from not cycling) and promotes discrimination in accident compensation.

He said safety should be improved through policies supporting health, the environment, and without the legal requirement to wear a helmet.

I actually think people have the right to risk themselves. Hence they can bungy jump, climb mountains, swim, work as salvors etc. That right should extend to wearing no helmet while cycling, and no seatbelt while driving.

With cycling, people should be able to judge for themselves whether the extra enjoyment they get from cycling without a helmet outweighs the probability of more severe damage if they crash. If you cycle 10 hours a week, and you have say only a 5% chance of a serious crash over your cycling life, then it is may be a reasonable decision to not wear a helmet.

Now some may argue that the decision is not one of people’s rights to take risks, but an economic one. That as we have a socialised health system, we should force people to minimise their chances of disease and injury, as otherwise we end up having to pay for their bad choices.

I have some sympathy for that argument, but it can be slippery end of the slope. You could use economics to justify making condoms compulsory for sex to reduce the prevalence of STDs.

But this story above, is a nice reminder that even if you do accept the economic argument to reduce risk by say banning cycling without a helmet, you run the risk of . In this case, the unintended consequence is alleged to be fewer people are cycling, and hence unhealthier, which has actually led to more premature deaths and a greater cost to the economy.

This is another reason why we should be extremely reluctant to interfere with people’s personal choices. You may have the best of motivations, but you don’t know what the impact will be.

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67 Responses to “Unintended consequences”

  1. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    It’s not necessarily the compulsory helmet law that has stopped people from cycling (although it might have been a factor). The cost of a helmet is small in proportion to the cost of a bicycle, and there are substantial benefits to wearing a helmet whether it was mandatory or not.
    The price of cars has dropped substantially since 1989 with the removal of tarrifs and allowing second hand car imports. This would lead to people who otherwise would cycle or walk to being able to drive.
    The change in the culture of parents, putting their kids in cotton wool would have had an effect also.

    It cannot be blamed entirely fining people not wearing helmets.

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  2. Nick R (504 comments) says:

    This story is only a good reminder to be wary of unintended consequences if you accept the validity of Colin Clarke’s research.

    That’s a pretty big “if”.

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  3. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    Struggling to come up with an unintended economic consequence of wearing a seat belt.

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  4. ironswan (14 comments) says:

    Helmets should strongly be encouraged to be worn. I am not sure if it should be illegal not to wear one, but if you dont then if you get a head injury then the taxpayer shouldnt hvae to stump up for the hospital care. In a freak accident I hit a parked car at 40km/h. My helmet saved my life even though i suffered a severe head injury and fractured spine meaning I was off work for 3 months. I therefore have some personal credibility to saying that helmets save life and people should wear them. Unfortunatley most people are morons so without it being compulsory then they wouldnt wear them, but I do not contend to the argument that the fact that are compulsory means people are put off riding. It is more a fact that most people are too lazy to cycle

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  5. orewa1 (428 comments) says:

    Load of bunkum – the linkage of effect (less cycling) to cause (helmets) is extremely questionable.

    Nevertheless, I do think the legislation around compulsory helmets should be repealed in favour of an educational campaign. As DPF says, its my choice.

    Also, lets consider the possibility that cyclists should be allowed to ride on footpaths? Recreational cyclists who ride at modest speeds are much safer there than mixing with road traffic. There would have to be some speed limits and a clear rule giving pedestrians right of way, but it would make a lot of sense and arguably, save many lives. (And where I live the really big threat to pedestrians is aging petrolheads speeding on their mobility scooters, motorised, many of them approaching the size of a large motor cycle!)

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  6. ben (2,418 comments) says:

    I haven’t read the study and the effect is plausible in its direction, but I wonder how the research disentangled income effects and technology changes and cost changes from the effect of compulsory helmets legislation. It seems like a big effect given many people would choose to ride with a helmet anyway. I know I did prior to the nanny state coming to the rescue (thanks government!).

    Gazzmaniac, the cost of the helmet is not confined to the price you pay for it, it is also (and perhaps mostly) in the loss of enjoyment while riding.

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  7. ben (2,418 comments) says:

    IHStewart

    Struggling to come up with an unintended economic consequence of wearing a seat belt.

    That’s an easy one: it causes drivers who now feel safer to drive faster and to kill more pedestrians. I believe the empirical research on this is unambiguous on the effect. I think Sam Peltzman discovered this in the 1960s.

    I believe Eric Crampton’s blog Offsetting Behaviour is named for exactly that unintended consequence.

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  8. virtualmark (1,528 comments) says:

    I haven’t read the full research article, since I don’t have access to the NZ Medical Journal.

    But I’m interested to know how Mr Clarke was able to isolate the helmet law as the cause of this apparent cut in the number of cyclists. As opposed to the effect of a bunch of other possible causes other than the helmet law.

    And I must say the finding that there’s been a 51% drop in the number of cycling hours seems at odds with my own experience of cycling enjoying a real resurgence. Recreational cycling at least. Cycling is the new golf for the middle-aged middle class. I’d wager there’s a lot more bikes being sold now than in 1989, and based on the popularity of events like Round Taupo, Karapoti, multi-sports etc it’s hard to see where the 51% drop in cycling hours has come from.

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  9. Pete George (23,420 comments) says:

    I wondered too how he knows wearing helmets has caused the decrease in cyclists/cycling hours.

    Clarke estimates the 1994 law has translated to about 53 premature deaths per year (through adverse health effects from not cycling)

    I also wonder how he estimated this.

    And how many lives has wearing a helmet saved in comparison? My stepson came off his bike on a BMX track and landed on his head. He broke his helmet and his neck, the latter fortunately he has recovered from with the help of some metalwork, but I’d estimate that it would have been much worse if he didn’t have a helmet on.

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  10. Bazar (38 comments) says:

    I used to enjoy using a bike as a kid, then they introduced the helmet law.
    They then forced bikes to go on road, rather then use the pedestrian lane.

    What turned into a fun and plesent trip as a child, i can’t see the value in as an adult.
    I’d rather take my car, then show up at my friends place with sweaty ruffled hair.
    I’d rather no go at all, then be on the same lane as arsehole car drivers.

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  11. Dave A (61 comments) says:

    Colin Clarke, the honorary secretary of the Yorkshire Region’s Cyclists Touring Club in England who produced the research, has worked as a safety instructor and cycled in more than 20 countries including about 8000 kms in New Zealand.

    Er, this character is not a medical researcher, he is a cycling advocate. A propagandist, in other words.

    I wonder who “peer reviewed” his work for the Medical Journal? The same Greenpeace activists who “peer reviewed” the IPCC’s fantastical claim that the Himalayan glaciers would all be gone in 23 years?

    Oh yes, it’s been quietly admitted today that there has been no ice lost at all!

    http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/highest-peaks-have-cut-no-ice-in-past-10-years/story-e6frg8y6-1226267186824

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  12. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    Virtualmark “I’d wager there’s a lot more bikes being sold now than in 1989″ – possibly, but like gym subscriptions many may have only been used a couple of times.

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  13. m@tt (626 comments) says:

    This research makes the classic ‘mistake’ of ignoring analysis of a contributing stat; the number of cars on roads.
    The number of cars on NZ roads ballooned from the mid eighties with the introduction of Japanese imports. Two cars per family, amongst other things, meant kids were dropped to school and more cars on the roads at these times equal more car vs cyclist action for those that do cycle.
    A quick Google search on Colin shows this is a long held belief of his therefore it is easy to assume that the outcome of this report was entirely predetermined. I wonder if it was publicly funded.

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  14. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    The reason that cyclists have to ride on the road and not the footpath is because cars backing out of driveways can’t see them in many situations.

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  15. minto57 (197 comments) says:

    I just wish they would get off the footpath

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  16. hj (6,794 comments) says:

    Dutch Kids Pedal Their Own Bus To School

    In the Netherlands, bikes abound. And now, they even take kids to school. Behold, the bicycle school bus.

    http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679248/dutch-kids-pedal-their-own-bus-to-school

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  17. john.bt (170 comments) says:

    Instead of making helmets compulsory for cyclists why not make it compulsory for the dickheads to learn the road rules ?

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  18. redqueen (550 comments) says:

    @John.bt

    Are you referring to the cyclists or the drivers?

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  19. gump (1,608 comments) says:

    Most people don’t realise it, but New Zealand and Australia are the only countries in the world that require all cyclists to wear a helmet.

    I put in fairly serious road and track mileage and I voluntarily wear a helmet when I ride. But I agree with the conclusions of Colin Clarke’s study. The introduction of the helmet law did result in a huge decrease in cycling participation.

    I think that there’s some merit in requiring children to wear helmets, and I think that helmet use should be encouraged. But I believe that has been a social cost that cannot be ignored.

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  20. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    I think like most “research” of this nature, it’s bunkum. But then again, the media consume all sorts of reports about alcohol having massive negative impacts etc, so no reason not to have some going the other way.

    I suspect there is some reduction in cycling. I certainly have had instances when I couldn’t bike because a helmet wasn’t to hand, and I bike less for short journeys now – I used to jump on the bike for a 2 minute run to the shops, but somehow putting a helmet on turns it into something I only do when I’m going for a proper ride.

    I suspect the reduction is not all due to helmets though, and that most of it is just people getting fat, lazy and rich. But as DPF has pointed out, there are real unintended consequences of all these laws.

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  21. berend (1,695 comments) says:

    +1 gump.

    Really guys, in The Netherlands everyone bikes, and helmets would kill people like they do here. Because there are two more unintended consequences: fewer cyclists means motorists are less aware of them. But most importantly helmets restrict your hearing, I’m quite convinced you’re more prone to accidents as you are less aware of your surroundings.

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  22. berend (1,695 comments) says:

    +1 john.bt

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  23. gump (1,608 comments) says:

    I forgot to mention it above, but there has been some interesting research into the effect of helmets on risk compensation behaviour.

    A researcher in the UK was surprised to find that car drivers respond to helmets by driving closer to riders that are wearing them (because the perceived risk to the rider is lessened). Here’s a link to a summary of his findings:

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-helmets-attract-cars-to-cyclists

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  24. eszett (2,390 comments) says:

    I am sure it’s just the helmet that keeps you from taking up cycling, David.

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  25. decanker (222 comments) says:

    Great considered post DPF, much appreciated.

    Perhaps if we insisted cars have roll cages and drivers wear helmets (in case they get hit by a truck) then motorists might have more sympathy with the plight of cyclists.

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  26. David Garrett (6,912 comments) says:

    My contribution may surprise some given my political beliefs…but like Ironswan above , I also had my life saved by a bike helmet many years ago, and since that time have religiously worn one. I insist that my children do too, regardless of the fact that it is the law.

    As others – even DPF himself – have noted, the libertarian “I am entitled to take risks and injure myself” argument is severly dented by the fact that in this country we have socialised health care, and it is not possible to opt out of it. That means that the consequences of ones choice are paid for my everyone else, both in taxation, and more directly, taking up hospital beds that could be available to someone else.

    If it was possible to opt out, then I would be all for voluntary helmet use, voluntary seat belt use etc. But I would still wear a helmet and so will my kids.

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  27. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    Perhaps if all drivers had really really large boobs they’d be safer?
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2098909/Huge-breasted-model-31-walks-away-horror-crash-38KKK-chest-acts-airbag.html

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  28. KevinH (1,192 comments) says:

    DPF:

    “The mandatory bicycle helmet law has cut the number of cyclists in half and contributed to 53 premature deaths per year, new research says.”

    That sentence is a laugh out loud statement because it is patently ridiculous and non verfiable. People don’t cycle because they are to lazy to , taking the car, bus etc is an easier and safer option. Also the non wearing of helmets has more to do with a bizarre fashion opinion where some folks don’t like the look that safety helmets give them.
    I am a regular cyclist myself, daily, and would not go out under any circimstances without my helmet. Kiwi drivers are at times nutcases and the roads can be unsafe. Wearing a helmet does reduce the incidence of serious injury, no excuses!.

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  29. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    Clarke estimates the 1994 law has translated to about 53 premature deaths per year (through adverse health effects from not cycling)

    The unintended consequences would seem to be based on the premise that those who reduced cycling hours undertook no other physical activity in its place: jogging, walking, sports. I am not at all convinced that Clarke showed that, or even attempted to (it certainly wasn’t shown in the Stuff report.)

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  30. Richard Hurst (821 comments) says:

    Its not helmets that stop people taking up cycling. Its howling winds and sideways rain in winter, burning sun in summer- compare that to the air-con enclosed comfort of a car…and of course the outright terror of being caught between 2 SUV’s on a narrow bit of road.

    As for the ‘research’ of Mr Colin Clarke the honorary secretary of the Yorkshire Region’s Cyclists Touring Club, well I suspect it consisted of goin down ta pub and ask’in a few lads deep into their 6th pint of beer ” does wear’in a helment stop ya rid’in ta bike?”

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  31. Longknives (4,686 comments) says:

    Rightnow- Kudos. You are in fine form today my friend…

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  32. davidp (3,571 comments) says:

    The helmet laws don’t go far enough. A person’s head can bounce off the side of a car in an accident and all motorists should wear a helmet. Similarly, helmet use should be mandated for pedestrians crossing a road; people climbing ladders; people climbing stairs; people walking down the aisle of a moving bus or coach; airline passengers; people with books or ornaments on high shelves in any area of seismic risk; people playing cricket, rugby, or any other game where players might collide or suffer injury from a hard object like a ball; hill walkers; anyone standing or walking after or during the consumption of alcoholic beverages; skateboarders; rollerbladers; horse riders; children playing in a playground that includes climbing features; people jumping in to swimming pools; bungy jumpers; anyone on a boat that includes a sail boom; anyone leaning back in a chair; anyone living in Christchurch at any time of the day or night; and anyone standing or walking within 10m of a Wellington bus.

    Think of the children!

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  33. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    Thanks Longknives, slow day at work ;)

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  34. berend (1,695 comments) says:

    Richard, can please read the article before hitting the keyboard:”Its not helmets that stop people taking up cycling.” This isn’t about taking up cycling. We are cycling far less since the helmet law.

    Helmets should be optional. And socialist healthcare abolished.

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  35. BeaB (2,104 comments) says:

    Here’s a direct link.
    Within 12 months of helmets being made compulsory we ripped out over 500 bike stands from school because they were no longer being used. The kids would rather walk than wear helmets. The only ones who do like them are the middle-aged lycra lads trying to look like racing drivers.
    It is a pity a crusading mum with a brain-damaged son turned one tragic case into a massive loss of freedom for everyone else.

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  36. berend (1,695 comments) says:

    +1 beab

    Helmets are massively inconvenient in many cases. And people who want to wear helmets always can.

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  37. ben (2,418 comments) says:

    David Garrett, socialised health changes little in this case. If health care were paid for through insurance rather than taxes, by how much might we expect annual premiums to go up if we do not wear a helmet? $5? $10? $50? Which is small potatoes compared with the cost of bearing the injury itself. In other words, I doubt very much that socialised health care makes any difference in this case.

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  38. XChequer (350 comments) says:

    Bollocks.

    Loss of freedom by introducing a safety measure that is patently right? I’ve cycled competitively on and off for 20 years and, even though I was not in favour of helmets to begin with, they have saved my life and taxpayers money a couple of times. For the cost of a $100 helmet it would save hundreds of thousands in medical bills. Even though I have no research to back that up, I’m willing to bet my left nut that this is the case.

    As to kids not cycling to school because of the uncool skid lid…..well that premise falls into the bollocks bin too. If you were given the option of either cycling 4 kms to school or walking the same distance, any kid, by virtue of just having to get up 1/2 hour earlier to walk and being an inherently lazy schoolchild, will choose a bike. It’s the parents that drive the decision as to whether to bike or walk – not the kids. After all, the current crop of school kids have grown up with no other way than to wear a lid.

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  39. XChequer (350 comments) says:

    And further to the moronic yorkshiremans research, did he perhaps check any correlation in injury to cyclists and the immense increase in cars on the roads during the time specified? What a git.

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  40. gazzmaniac (2,319 comments) says:

    OK what about compulsory fencing around swimming pools? Not sure about NZ, but in Queensland one kid drowned a few years ago because her mother wasn’t watching what was going on. Now everyone who has a pool must have it fenced to a particular standard, even if children never use the pool.
    Similar argument here to compulsory cycle helmets. Parents can ensure that their kids wear helmets; there is and should be no legal madate for it. I would still choose to wear one.

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  41. David Garrett (6,912 comments) says:

    ben: read my post. If we were all required to pay for health insurance – in return for a rebate on the proportion of our taxes that pays for healthcare – then I would agree with you. Now that ACT has self destructed there is very little chance of that scenario occurring anytime soon.

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  42. DavidC (179 comments) says:

    My (now) wife got knocked off her bike about 25 years ago by a motorbike that ran a red. She lost her hearing in one ear and her sence of smell totally, her hearing came back partially. ACC have probbaly spent $100K on her over the years. The impact above her ear on one side would have been well dealt with by a decent helmet.
    She would have died if a doctor didnt happen to be going past in his car.
    When ACC and state health services are scrapped in favour of private funded schemes then yes let people take their lives into their own hands, but not until then.
    Dont like seatbelts? they make you drive too fast? go take the airbags and crumple zones out of your car!

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  43. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Like David Garret helmets are mandatory here and just as well as probably saved my life a few weeks ago. Have a MX track on the farm and was racing the kids, little shits were beating me and I lost it on a corner. Hit bank doing about 60k. Very munted for about a week. The consequences of not doing certain things right are just not worth considering.

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  44. davidp (3,571 comments) says:

    gazzmaniac>OK what about compulsory fencing around swimming pools?

    That is compulsory in NZ, but again people haven’t been thinking of the children and therefore the current law doesn’t go far enough. These things should also be surrounded by fences to stop children harming themselves: Roads, with gates at pedestrian crossings and traffic lights; rivers; beaches; kitchens; lakes; driveways; climable trees; skateboard parks; playgrounds; garages if they contain tools or chemicals of any kind; forests unless adequately signposted to prevent a child becoming lost; bathrooms; Christchurch; drains and manhole covers; stairs; climable statues and other public sculpture; carparks; workers using heavy machinery; and open windows.

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  45. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    I’m inclined to agree with davidp – imagine how much safer NZ would be if all roads had 6 foot high fences around them, separating pedestrians from vehicles. There would only be gates at approved crossing zones, and they would only unlock when pedestrians have the green cross light, at which point bollards would pop out of the road on either side of the crossing.

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  46. BeaB (2,104 comments) says:

    Just because a helmet isn’t made compulsory doesn’t prevent anyone from wearing one – if they choose. Which is the point.

    And the kids who wouldn’t wear helmets (and still don’t) actually did prefer to walk to school so lates increased. Just look round the gates of any high school when the kids are arriving or leaving. Hardly a bike to be seen.

    Some Kiwis clearly think anything they deem good/safe/moral/acceptable should be turned into a law for everyone.

    What is wrong with a safety campaign and let people choose. I still ride round my quiet suburb with no helmet and thoroughly enjoy it and hope the kids who see me (shock horror) understand that a bit of civil disobedience is good for the soul. Hardly a car all day and, yes, I could fall off but then I could also drown in my fenced swimming pool or set myself on fire with the bbq or fall down the stairs.

    We have become a nation of bossy boots who use the law to impose personal prejudices and choices on others.

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  47. davidp (3,571 comments) says:

    RightNow… You still aren’t thinking of the children! There are bollards stopping cars driving on to the Wellington waterfront. I have spotted children standing on these bollards while they are rising. Imagine a child falling off a rising bollard and injuring their head? Children must be required by law to wear an approved helmet while arsing around on rising bollards, and ideally all bollards should be fenced with a child proof gate.

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  48. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    The usual thing here. The people passing the law are not those who are impacted.

    There is a good body of research demonstrating that wearing helmets in the car would reduce death due to head injury. As there are a lot more car users than cyclists, the impact of introducing this law would be a substantial reduction in deaths and in costs to the health system. The reason that one law has been passed and not the other is that there are enough car drivers to vote against it, and not enough cyclists to vote against it.

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  49. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    Only compulsory because later generations of Kiwis love to be told what to do.

    Heaven forbid a timid Labour lite government trying to stop intrusion in our daily lives and respecting individual responsibility.
    Hell will freeze over first.

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  50. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    davidp – I think full headgear would be appropriate: http://www.especialneeds.com/toppen-77-soft-protective-helmet.html

    Also – these childproof gates around the rising bollards – will they rise with the bollard? We might have to design a childproof surround around the childproof surrounds.

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  51. Scott Chris (6,013 comments) says:

    Interesting to see the trend of declining numbers of cyclists. As a number of other commenters have noted, it is a very long bow to draw to attribute the decline in cyclist numbers to having to wear a helmet. And the attribution of 53 annual deaths to the helmet law is just plain ludicrous.

    Regarding the argument in favour of nannyism within the context of a socialized health system, another consideration is the impact reckless activity has on the ones you love and vice versa. If you’re dead, you will feel nothing, but the ones you leave behind sure will, especially your kids. Still, I guess it’s your choice if you want to be a selfish shit and you’re willing to stump up the cash to pay for any accidents or rescues.

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  52. davidp (3,571 comments) says:

    RightNow… I am distressed about your slack approach to child safety. The headgear you propose might safeguard the heads of delicate NZ children, but still risks broken limbs. I suggest an overall protective suit like this one is more appropriate:

    http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/313234280/Sumo_Suit_Inflatable_Sumo_Wrestler_Suit.html

    The photo at the link illustrates another advantage of this type of protective suit… It allows children to continue to beat each other up without injury, meaning that they can still enjoy robust playground hijinks of the type that is traditional in NZ schools. When combined with a kevlar layer it will also be proof against impalement and sniper fire.

    When I was at school I stabbed a kid in the hand with a blackboard compass once; I injured another student’s hand when we were having a bungy cord stretching competition to see who was most chicken and it turned out I was; and I caused a bloody nose when I scored an unusually accurate tag in a game of ball tag. I hate to think of the damage I was responsible for during games of bullrush. And in primary school I was the participant in a week long running lunch time battle fought with clods of thrown dirt that only ended when we’d run out of dirt and a teacher caught us digging up the playground with a shovel. With the benefit of hindsight I believe students should be issued stab proof kevlar gloves; bungy cords should be banned from schools; tennis balls should require a permit and supervision by a teacher; bullrush should be banned outright; and dirt should be fenced off with a childproof gate.

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  53. simonway (379 comments) says:

    no seatbelt while driving.

    Someone who doesn’t wear a seatbelt while in a car is a serious risk to the other people in the car.

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  54. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    davidp – I think you are the one negligent of child safety – these are all ambulance at the bottom of the cliff measures.

    The best protection is this:
    http://www.alibaba.com/product-gs/282272195/male_condom.html

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  55. Short Shriveled and Slightly to the Left (783 comments) says:

    “There are many things that we can point to that proof that the human being is not smart. The helmet is my personal favorite. The fact that we had to invent the helmet. Now why did we invent the helmet? Well, because we were participating in many activities that were cracking our heads. We looked at the situation. We chose not to avoid these activities, but to just make little plastic hats so that we can continue our head-cracking lifestyles.

    The only thing dumber than the helmet is the helmet law, the point of which is to protect a brain that is functioning so poorly, it’s not even trying to stop the cracking of the head that it’s in…”

    Jerry Seinfeld

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  56. laworder (288 comments) says:

    Like David Garrett and a few others here, I have personal experience of the value of a cycle helmet, gained the night I met this nice young Korean gentleman by crashing through his windscreen one night on the way to work….

    Once I extracted myself from the mess and rolled off his bonnet, the helmet shaped hole in his windscreen was evident. He was very apologetic, took me to Auckland Public Hospital, and when they couldnt see me because of all the drunks and losers that had come in prior, took me to a private hospital at his expense. Also later bought me a new bike. I ended up with a hairline fracture in my collarbone and a lot of severe bruising… without the helmet I doubt I’d be writing this now. Felt kind of sorry for the Korean guy, he was a student, and I probably did thousands worth of damage to his car (munted bonnet, screen, headlight etc). He was legally in the wrong, and should have been wearing glasses, but I learnt in talking to him that they been smashed earlier that night by streetkid scum that had attacked him in Albert Park…. poor little bugger.

    Regards
    Peter J
    Webmaster for http://www.sensiblesentencing.org.nz

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  57. BlueDevil (92 comments) says:

    The same thing happened with school swimming pools.
    In the 1950’s there was an attempt to reduce the numbers dying from the ‘NZ death’ (drowning) by building school pools and teaching children to swim.
    About 10 years ago there was an outbreak of diarrhea that was traced back to swimming pools. This causes an outbreak of regulation writting that meant that each school needed a trained and certified pool maintenance person that needed to test the water at least 3 times a day (even when the pool had a automatic chorine dispenser). The number of swimmers per hour had to be recorded and there was a daily limit on the number of users. The whole process became time consumming and expensive, so many pools were closed.
    10 years on there has been a surge in drowning, what should we do? At least the drowned children didn’t get diarrhea!

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  58. Bullitt (138 comments) says:

    I was at intermediate when the helmet law came in. But my parents made me wear a helmet as soon as I started learning so Ive never known anything else. As an adult ive came off my road bike twice, once at relatively low speed and once at about 30kmh but both times the helmet hit the ground. Though I probably would have survived Im sure at least one of them would have caused long term damage if I wasnt wearing a helmet.

    Not only should helmets be compulsory (based on the cost to society as well as financial and non financial costs to their friends and relatives) I would have to question the sanity of anyone who chose to ride anywhere without one.

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  59. Rick Rowling (825 comments) says:

    We don’t need a helmet law. People with a brain protect it anyway (you never see mountain bikers without one even though the law doesn’t apply to tracks), and people without a brain won’t, just like the “cool” kids who ride with a helmet dangling off their handlebars, in spite of the law.

    However, the statistical analysis in the article is woefully inadequate, missing so many other factors as to be completely pointless.

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  60. MT_Tinman (3,092 comments) says:

    53 people have died without doing their mandatory five years mindlessly drooling and pissing in a nursing home rocking chair.

    Them’s real bad consequences!

    What a waste of effort.

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  61. Michael (903 comments) says:

    Lies, damn lies, and statistics.

    What is really stupid with our socialised healthcare is getting bowled from your bicycle you are covered even if not wearing a helmet. Just like you are covered if not wearing a seatbelt. All illegal acts should be excluded from cover for ACC, not just criminal acts. Then people will take more responsibility.

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  62. IHStewart (388 comments) says:

    @ Ben

    “That’s an easy one: it causes drivers who now feel safer to drive faster and to kill more pedestrians. I believe the empirical research on this is unambiguous on the effect.”

    Thanks. To be honest that never crossed my mind.

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  63. LeftPilot (63 comments) says:

    This is awesome! Fantastic satire DPF, bravo!

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  64. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    A cycle promoter weighs in…
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/6401251/Promoter-dismisses-bike-helmet-harm-study
    …and misses the point. Of course it is a good idea to wear a helmet. All the study has done is point out that making helmet wearing compulsory has reduced the numbers of people cycling and created an overall net loss of wellbeing. That has been known for some time.

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  65. Put it away (2,888 comments) says:

    As well as the decline in cycling due to jap car imports, there’s also been a significant movement of young people to skateboards and scooters. These stats are bollocks on many levels.

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  66. emmess (1,416 comments) says:

    So
    Cycling hours have dropped in the last 20 years
    And
    Bike helmets have been made mandatory

    Ergo
    Cycling hours have dropped in the last 20 years because Bike helmets have been made mandatory

    The guys a genius, with great logic like that someone should get him at job working at the IPCC

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  67. Brian Smaller (4,036 comments) says:

    Helmets fo rcyclists are rated to protect in impacts up to about 24km per hour. above that they are practically no use. Being hit by a car or bus going 100kph – a helmet wont make much difference in most cases. However, kids tend to ride a lot slower than 24kph so perhaps compulsory for people under 14. I hate wearing a helmet and riding from the Hutt into Wellington I only ever put it on in the places where I have to ride on the road. On the cycleway – no helmet.

    I have done a lot of reading on this topic and many people are injured or killed when their helmets hit the road and rotate (they tend to sit high on the head after all). Also, almost every jurisdiction that has introduced compulsory helmet laws has seen a big drop in the number of cyclists.

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