A cheaper way to increase cycling

August 21st, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Jamie Whyte announced:

“The National party yesterday announced a $100 million cycle-way that just happens to go through the marginal seat of Hutt South,” said Leader Dr Jamie Whyte.

“The Greens want to spend many hundreds of millions on cycle-ways. ACT’s contribution to this bidding war for the cyclist vote would double cycle use and cost nothing,” said Dr Whyte.

“We need only abolish the law that makes wearing a cycle helmet compulsory. Since 1994, when Parliament established an instant fine of $150 for failing to wear a helmet, has declined by over 50%. Overseas experience also indicates that laws making it compulsory to wear a helmet dramatically reduce .

In fact a study from The Netherlands found that not having a compulsory helmet law has led to much higher levels of bike use.

“This law does not even save lives,” said Dr Whyte.

“On the contrary, it costs lives. Before the legislation, few people died from cycling accidents and, of those who did, only 20% died from head injuries alone.”

“Research reported in the New Zealand Medical Journal (see http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2012/vol-125-no-1349/article-clarke) shows that, over a 10 year period, only 20 Aucklanders were killed in cycle accidents and only 4 might have been saved by wearing cycle helmets. This same New Zealand Medical Journal article concluded that life years gained from the health benefits of cycling outweighed life years lost in accidents by 20 times” said Dr Whyte.

This is what The Netherlands study found also.

“The diminished health resulting from the reduced cycling caused by compulsory helmet-wearing costs 53 premature deaths a year. ACT would simply abolish the $150 fine for not wearing a helmet. That would save $100 million on cycle-ways in marginal seats, double cycle use and save 53 lives a year,”  said Dr Whyte.

I’d do both.

Note there is a huge difference between saying helmets should not be compulsory, and saying that people should not wear them.

One day I suspect someone will try and mae helmets compulsory for skiing!

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81 Responses to “A cheaper way to increase cycling”

  1. thedavincimode (6,606 comments) says:

    This is the same kind of dangerous thinking that suggests we are better off having 9 people get jobs as a direct consequence of the 90 day trial period even if it means that 1 person might get unfairly treated.

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  2. WineOh (624 comments) says:

    I’d support both too. Safety for cyclists is important, there are other passive ways to help this. While I don’t agree with much (most?) of what Celia has done in Wellington, recently I have noticed that many of the storm grates at the edge of the road are being replaced. The old versions ran parallel with the road, so a cyclist ran the risk of their front wheel going between the rungs and causing a serious accident – or forcing the rider to ride further away from the curb and disrupting traffic. The new ones have rectangular grills, which is a good non-intrusive way of improving road safety and does not infringe on personal freedoms. Good initiative, and much better than the green paint at the front of every major intersection which does nothing except cost the ratepayers money, and again when they need to be redone every couple of years from road wear.

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  3. flipper (3,914 comments) says:

    Where I live, the law on this is honoured by non observance.

    I sat behind a Police car outside a secondary school recently (waiting for grand-house apes to emerge) and watched the procession of non-helmet wearers. They were ignored by Police, who seemed more concerned with their radar guns, and double parkers.

    Excellent post David.

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  4. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    When we were up skiing this year it was amazing how many people were wearing helmets – I’d guess 80% or so, and all the kids. Without any law making it mandatory. Amazing that.

    If cycle helmets weren’t compulsory we could have a borrow a bike scheme that actually worked. People who were riding in dangerous areas, or training and the like would all still wear helmets. Those who are commuting or trundling around town might not. In the city centres that’d be awesome – most of the traffic isn’t going fast enough to knock you off anyway.

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

    Mind you – we could drop the road toll to about fifty a year if helmets were compulsory for everyone in cars as well. Imagine the outcry if that was announced as policy.

    Whyte has it right here – the cycle helmet laws were an emotional response to one woman and her advocacy.

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  6. Redbaiter (8,234 comments) says:

    “Note there is a huge difference between saying helmets should not be compulsory, and saying that people should not wear them.”

    Yes, very true a huge difference. Funny thing is few self described liberals are able to appreciate this difference and react to all expressions of disapproval of some kind of behaviour as if it is a call for legislation.

    However the reality is that these same self professed liberals are the generation that has expanded our legislative documentation by thousands of pages, all the time professing to be caring of freedom.

    It should be each individual’s decision as to whether they wear a helmet while cycling. However it is these very same “freedom” loving liberals who elected the politicians who made it compulsory.

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  7. kowtow (8,107 comments) says:

    Holland’s flat.

    I’d also guess insurance is expensive. Here ACC negates that.Makes motoring cheap here.

    That’s 2 other big incentives to “get on yer bike”.

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  8. simpleton1 (174 comments) says:

    Many schools had “bike sheds” to augment the education system.

    Now I am well aware that the “bike sheds” have been done away with as cycling to school in some areas has diminished to zero, and it another cost to keep , and store helmets.

    Of course traffic is worse as the car delivers and pick up children as the parents include the school in their commute, or run a 2nd car

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  9. hj (6,794 comments) says:

    The libertarian approach doesn’t produce cycleways, it produces sprawl. The helmet no helmet argument isn’t the same as the cycleway argument. A helmet won’t help you if you are clipped by a truck mirror.
    People need to remember, also, that the ability to get around on a bike is a welfare issue since it means a cyclist doesn’t need to own a car. Act is full of magical thinkers.

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  10. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Those who engage in philosophical debates about the rights and wrongs of helmet use have never had their lives saved by one…I have (in the opinion of both the ambos who attended and the bike shop guy who saw the state of both the bike and the helmet).

    My children don’t ride up and down the drive without one, much less venture onto the road.

    So here’s my take: … compulsory helmet use for kids; adults can decide whether they want to take the risk….and make no mistake, it’s a big one…if your head butts a car at 30-40 ks – as mine did – and you don’t have a helmet, it’s goodnight nurse for you…or becoming a dribbling vegetable

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  11. mister nui (1,016 comments) says:

    Our “safety” culture has gone mental.

    The other day whilst driving I saw what I thought was a dwarf road worker, as it was a guy standing on a corner in a hi-vis vest…. Yet, when I got closer it wasn’t a road worker at all, but a poor child on a scooter being followed at a distance by over-bearing mum. This poor child had been dressed in a hi-vis vest (about 20 sizes too large) helmet, knee pads and god knows what else. FFS, a little bit of rough and tumble does kids good. What is this little princess going to be like when he goes to school and some other kid throws some sand at him while playing in the sandpit?

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  12. simpleton1 (174 comments) says:

    Extensive urban sprawl, needs cars and buses.

    Bicycles (also walking) mean more handy shops, and schools.

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  13. hj (6,794 comments) says:

    One of my memories of Tokyo is a graceful Japanese woman on a mamachari (bike with basket), sitting upright, hair flowing behind.

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  14. michaelmouse (12 comments) says:

    Having cycled for many years, and seen plenty of cycling accidents, there is absolutely no way i would ride without a helmet.

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  15. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    I’d cycle if there was no helmet law.

    I was a mad cyclist from the age of 8 to 21 (when I went to Australia), and spent hours cycling around the Miramar peninsula and doing the round the bays run into town and back. I wasn’t a speed cyclist, I’d just do it for fun.

    Now I don’t cycle, even though I have a bike downstairs and a helmet. The last time I cycled was last year because my car was stuck behind a slip in Otaki. And in order to do so, I had to wash my very dusty, unused helmet, because I had to stick the damn thing on my head just for a short jaunt down the shops and back.

    For women, helmets create this phenomenon of “helmet hair”, where the hairstyle is completely ruined by the helmet. Also, on hot days especially, because the head is covered up, the helmet causes sweating, which requires a shower after cycling. For men is probably not a big deal, but women take far more time with showering and grooming, and it’s a big turn off when thinking about cycling. It’s no longer fun.

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  16. Yogibear (359 comments) says:

    The Sandal Wearers (aka Cycle Action) really are an funny bunch

    I favour White’s approach and, as a lycranaut, I’ve had my share of “offs”

    I wear a helmet as a personal choice and a helmet probably kept me being a useful taxpaying member of society on at least one occasion.

    But here’s the thing: The Sandal Wearers that make up the cycling lobby throw up a bunch of studies that are either overseas studies that don’t differentiate on quality of infrastructure compared to NZ (the Netherlands has far better quality infrastructure that makes the likelihood of a crash much lower), or cite a number of bogus NZ studies.

    I say the NZ studies are bogus because they equate the drop in cycling in NZ to the cycle helmet law introduction.

    They completely ignore that in the same year, we deregulated used car imports from Japan, and massively changed the costs of transport as a result.

    I’m pretty sure I could show a correlation between the number of used Japanese vehicle imports and a drop in cycling in the same way researchers show cycling dropped because of the helmet law. My point is neither are proved because correlation does not equal causation.

    Of course, that does not fit the sandal wearer narrative.

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  17. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Far be it from me to suggest any rules on DPF’s blog…but Michaelmouse’s post suggests this to me: How about anyone who comments on this thread also adding one sentence at the bottom: “I have/have not ever had an accident when riding my bike.”

    Believe me gentle readers, when you head butt a car (it turned in front of me without warning) when you are travelling at 30-40 k’s – not at all hard on the flat – and wreck the bike and destroy the helmet…and are unable to walk for several days because your spine has “telescoped”, it is a pretty sobering lesson…once you wake up.

    Yogi: Well said…another excellent example of that old adage that correlation is not necessarily causation.

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  18. anticorruptionnz (210 comments) says:

    The first 1.5. meters from the foot path should be designated cycle lane. or make all footpaths shared cycle foot path areas.

    Many of the incidents occur because of the lane issue.

    when my son was 14 and cycling to school the traffic came to a halt . he continued cycling. a van turned left out of the traffic and on to him.

    it turned ut to be his fault as when the traffic stopped he was undertaking . This is stupid .

    My son was injured and left to walk to school while ignorant van driver drove his son to the same school and left my son to walk.

    If we want kids to cycle to school the rules need to be simple.

    On the water motor powered vessels give way to wind powered vessels . Why not have motor vehicles give way to cycles on roads.

    Grace Haden Independent For Epsom.

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  19. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    David,

    Believe me gentle readers, when you head butt a car (it turned in front of me without warning) when you are travelling at 30-40 k’s – not at all hard on the flat – and wreck the bike and destroy the helmet…and are unable to walk for several days because your spine has “telescoped”, it is a pretty sobering lesson…once you wake up.

    I don’t think I’ve ever traveled that fast on a bicycle. That’s the problem, I think, in that there is this assumption that everyone is a male lycra wearing speed cyclist, who are a danger, not only to themselves but to the slower cyclists around them (was almost taken out by one years ago).

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  20. Padriv Ustoev (45 comments) says:

    In my country the bike is a favourite form of transport second only to camel. And the youth love it. They still “Pimp” their rides and go hooning around, but none gets hurt. It is a win win.

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  21. Gulag1917 (850 comments) says:

    Amsterdam is a great place for cycling. Nothing better than riding a bike without a helmet. The statistical possibility of hitting one’s head is pretty minimal.

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  22. tim81 (1 comment) says:

    That strawman about increasing the cycling rate and only talking about deaths is pretty silly. As David Garett says you are more likely to have other injuries than be killed in a cycling crash. Possibly incapacitated permanently.

    I have been a cyclist for a few decades, I’ve also been a motorist so know both sides of being on the road. During my time cycling I’ve had a few crashes over the handlebars, and if that happens, the first thing to hit the ground is normally your head.

    I can’t say that wearing a helmet has saved my life, but I can say that instead of being a fulltime worker and taxpayer, I’d be a vegetable on an invalids benefit. Poor Aaron Oaten did eventually die at age 37.

    If you are going to compare the status quo to optional helmets, make sure you consider the extra health costs

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  23. Redbaiter (8,234 comments) says:

    Bicycles, bicycle helmets and cycle lanes- the discussion that is the urban liberal’s wet dream.

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  24. Berend de Boer (1,695 comments) says:

    One thing not mentioned: without bike, cars are far more careful around you.

    With helmet I had an Indian lady + daughter actually attempt to drive over me as cars obviously always have right of way!

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  25. band4u (18 comments) says:

    The reality is you cannot make cycling safe any more than you can make hang gliding or parachuting ‘safe’. The best way to reduce cycling deaths is to keep them off the roads. A cyclist will never win a skirmish with a car.
    Interestingly though statistics show almost half of the cycling deaths in the last few years have occurred with no one but the cyclist present!
    We all need to know however that this sudden passion for cycling being driven by town planners and the like is a Green agenda being brought in through the back door. It is essentially social engineering via United Nations Agenda 21. Hence the cycling ‘Action’ groups . Check it out . Google Agenda 21 and cycling. we will all be crawling around a cycling pace if the planner have their way.
    The Greens don’t need to win at a National level. Their agendas are being introduced via local bodies and town planners

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  26. Berend de Boer (1,695 comments) says:

    And secondly, roads needs to be far, far more bike friendly. Trying to cycle in Auckland is madness because of all the lane changes. I have to bike a route at least 10 times before I have figured out exactly where I am supposed to be biking.

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  27. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    @David: when did you join the “I know better than you” brigade? You’re quite right that for many people in many situations wearing a helmet makes sense. When I used to ride seriously (well, more seriously than now) I always wore a helmet. When I was in Valancia in Spain recently and used their bike scheme, I didn’t use a helmet. I didn’t fall off my bike and die (the bikes were pretty slow actually), and I couldn’t have used it at all if helmets were mandatory.

    You are very right that falling off a bike is dangerous. But you need to put things in perspective. I have friends who are paranoid about sharks too, but very few people actually die from shark attack: http://www.gatesnotes.com/Health/Most-Lethal-Animal-Mosquito-Week

    The point is that everything is a tradeoff. Lots of people get killed when walking, no doubt helmets would help there, or maybe just staying inside. But the actual risk in any given year is very low – you’re much more likely to get killed in a car crash, or from being fat and lazy and staying inside all the time.

    My view is that you mitigate the risks that you can easily mitigate that don’t impact on your lifestyle too much. If I bike from home I wear a helmet. If I use a bike from a bike rental place, I don’t. No doubt my chance of dying in any given year is 0.001% higher than if I always wore a helmet. So be it.

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  28. PaulL (6,013 comments) says:

    @Grace: is your son OK now? I mean, if you ride up the inside of a lane of stopped traffic, there’s a reasonable chance you’ll get hit. All kids learn this one way or another. Requiring that the car give way wouldn’t have helped – I’m presuming the van didn’t see him, rather than seeing him and thinking “I have right of way, I’ll just drive over that kid”. It sounds to me like just another one of life’s little lessons, with no particular harm done.

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  29. ciaron (1,414 comments) says:

    I’ve only had one accident on my bike.
    140+kg Polynesian man/mountain stepped out from stationary traffic, into the cycle lane, 1 car length in front of me. I didn’t have a speedo then but I would confidently say I hit him at around 30kph, having nowhere else to go.

    I wouldn’t ride without one.

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  30. Indolentbystander (2 comments) says:

    I have no problem with voluntary helmet wearing with the caveat that in the event of head injury the state is absolved of all responsibility.
    After being hit from behind losing three teeth but still alive and, years later, ruefully looking at a damaged bike and a badly damaged helmet after being hit by a “blind” driver, I prefer compulsion.

    I’m not a lycra type and bike as a sober recreation.

    It is wrong of Jamie to equate Holland with NZ. Holland is wonderful for cyclists. Biking there is safe and a real pleasure. Cyclists have dedicated tracks alongside roads, traffic invariable gives way to cycles, The cycleways are full of families on bikes there is a totally different culture and attitude.
    New Zealand on the other hand is a very dangerous place for cyclists.

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  31. RRM (9,756 comments) says:

    Know what would make RRM cycle more?

    A bike with a decent cargo tray, low down to the ground for stability and capable of holding a 20kg sack of chook food. And low enough geared that skinny RRM can pedal it home up the continuous slight grade of our street, with said 20kg sack of chook food on board.

    I might have to buy a couple of old bikes for parts, and get my welder out and make it…?

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  32. RRM (9,756 comments) says:

    I agree with Jamie Whyte, but the one thing I will say in favour of the cycle helmet law, it introduces kids at a young age to the idea that there are laws and rules about how you behave on the road.

    And it gives kids years to get used to this, so that by the time they learn to drive, the idea that it’s an environment controlled by strict road rules just comes naturally, and I think that’s a good thing for young drivers…

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  33. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    There are plenty of other road rules to teach young cyclists, RRM.

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  34. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    RRM,

    Years ago, cyclists used arm signals to let the traffic around them know where they are going. Now, I see the occasional signal, but mostly it’s full pelt with head down. So the helmets have changed how cyclists behave on the road, reducing their sense that there are rules.

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  35. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    I’m not sure that conclusion follows the premise, Lucia.

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  36. Redbaiter (8,234 comments) says:

    Well of course the other issue is compulsory govt health care and insurance.

    Directly related to compulsory helmet use.

    NZers claim to care about freedom and liberty but they seem incapable of living without govt caring for them.

    Helmet use is only the tip of the iceberg punters.

    You’re in for much more.

    All for your own good of course.

    Just keep up the govt dependency mindset you helpless little commie losers.

    Why am I irked?

    Because I don’t use or need any of that shit but by your vote, you force me to pay for it because you think you need it.

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  37. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    I have no problem with voluntary helmet wearing with the caveat that in the event of head injury the state is absolved of all responsibility.
    After being hit from behind losing three teeth but still alive and, years later, ruefully looking at a damaged bike and a badly damaged helmet after being hit by a “blind” driver, I prefer compulsion.

    The same argument could be applied to pedestrians in Wellington, given the number that are hit by buses.

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  38. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    Mike,

    I’m not sure that conclusion follows the premise, Lucia.

    Just following RRM’s logic!

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  39. Fentex (913 comments) says:

    I used to cycle a lot. I am positively discouraged from doing so by helmet laws. I would however, if cycling a fair distance these days, likely choose to wear a helmet because our roads have become distinctly more dangerous – especially since the earthquakes which have pushed the population to my side of the city.

    I would not however wear one on a short trip to nearby shops through seldom used winding back-roads.

    Thus I support the suggestion of eliminating the requirement, though I suspect for it to be politically achievable a requirement for children to wear them may need to persist.

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  40. Mike Wilkinson (71 comments) says:

    David Garrett,

    I believe you are not thinking through this issue fully. I had a head on bike crash at 30-40kph while wearing a helmet about nine years ago. I suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and, in some ways, I’m still recovering now. I argue NZ’s helmet law contributed to my brain injury, rather than reduced it. If it hadn’t been for that law, I think it would be unlikely I’d have had my accident.

    Once upon a time, the widely known Helmet Lady visited my primary school. I’ve worn a helmet while riding every since and continue to think they’re sensible. However, our laws making them mandatory cause cyclists to be less common on our roads. Drivers are less familiar with them and how they move.

    In my accident, a van driver cut me off at an intersection by turning in front of me. He said he did so because he thought that he had right of way. He thought this because I was on the left hand side of the road, suggesting to him that I was turning left. I was on the left hand side of the road because I was riding a bike! Instead of turning left, I was heading straight through the intersection and thought I had right of way. He looked like he was waiting, but accelerated when I was less than ten metres away – I had no where to go, but crash into him.

    The facts of my accident strongly suggest that, if the driver had been more familiar with cyclists, my accident wouldn’t have happened. Is that lack of familiarity because of our helmet laws? It definitely looks to me that way to me. In fact, I’d go as far as to say our ending it is a no-brainer.

    Cheers,
    Mike

    P.S. Here’s my sentence at the bottom: “I was almost killed in an accident when riding my bike, an accident I think our mandatory helmet law contributed to.”

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  41. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    Mike W,

    Do you know the arm signal that a cyclist should give to traffic if they are going straight through an intersection?

    These arm signals used to be taught to all school kids by the traffic police many years ago.

    Edited to add: Though, the default should be an arm signal to turn and the straight through one only be used if there is doubt. Which, if traffic was more familiar with bikes, they’d assume you are going straight through, unless you signaled that you weren’t.

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  42. freedom101 (490 comments) says:

    The URL for the NZ Medical Association’s Journal article is:

    http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2012/vol-125-no-1349/article-clarke

    This shows conclusively that the compulsory cycle helmet law is unhealthy! The safety benefits are swamped by the negative health benefits, meaning that NZers are worse off as a result of this well-meaning law.

    People should be able to manage their own risks, wearing a helmet when they think they need to, and not wearing one on other occasions.

    This is not a binary discussion – it’s not a case of no one wearing a helmet or everyone wearing a helmet. It’s about people making decisions about when and where to wear a helmet. Those who insist that they would never ride a bike without a helmet can do just that, but it should be their choice.

    If the argument is that ACC is paid by all so therefore helmets should be compulsory then let’s be logical and extend that to skiing, rugby etc. Don’t pick on cyclists. There are many risky activities that people engage in where the costs are socialised.

    In the case of cycling, the NZ Medical Association article proves that as a nation we are worse off as a result of the compulsory helmet law.

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  43. freedom101 (490 comments) says:

    There’s an interesting mini-doco on how wearing a cycle helmet has some unintended consequences in terms of how car drivers treat cyclists. This shows that wearing a helmet can actually increase the risk of cycling on a street.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuZOAiga_9A

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  44. Scott (1,759 comments) says:

    Totally agree with DPF’s post. I used to bike to high school and before that to intermediate and before that to primary school. Then I went to Massey University and heaps of us used to bike to university from town.
    With the introduction of helmets bike use has fallen dramatically. Here in Masterton nobody bikes to school even though we have wide flat roads with comparatively very little traffic. At Massey University there are very few cyclists now.

    I would like to suggest that compulsory helmets for cyclists is repealed nationally and instead local government makes the decision as to whether or not to allow cyclists to wear helmets. That way we can see some variety and local communities can make decisions based on their own circumstances.

    Some communities might allow cycling without helmets and that would give the country the opportunity to observe whether cycling use does increase or not and whether there is any increase in cycling related injuries? How about we let communities make decisions on this issue based on their own local conditions?

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  45. Mike Wilkinson (71 comments) says:

    Lucia Maria,

    I do know of that signal, although it’s not often used by cyclists. In the case of my accident, neither my friend I was with that day nor I believed there was any doubt. There was a lane for traffic turning left that had peeled off by the time of the main intersection – we weren’t in this lane. What’s more, the driver looked to be waiting for us.

    My accident occurred at the corner of College and Merton Roads near Mt Wellington in Auckland. Now, the intersection is an roundabout, which is safer for cyclists. Nine years ago, however, it wasn’t. What’s more, NZers had to put up with a strange rule that those turning left give way. I think that the ending of this rule has also improved cycle safety.

    What would improve cycle safety even more, though, is ending our mandatory helmet law. As well as likely having negative effects on the health of NZers, generally, it has negative effects on the health of cyclists, those it’s meant to help. Every time I hear of someone getting hurt on a bike, I think about the pain they and their loved ones are going through. Our laws don’t have to further contribute to that pain, as they do now.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  46. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    Mike Wilkinson,

    Thanks for your reply.

    It’s sounds like you were entirely in the right, except you’ve made a point I hadn’t considered:

    What’s more, NZers had to put up with a strange rule that those turning left give way. I think that the ending of this rule has also improved cycle safety.

    As a young cyclist, I was never aware of that rule, and never used it. Not that it really mattered, as cyclists stayed in the left so if they turned a car could normally turn safely next to them, and all was well.

    What would improve cycle safety even more, though, is ending our mandatory helmet law.

    I agree!

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  47. labrator (1,889 comments) says:

    I think society should have responsibility towards those under the age of consent. As such my preferred option would be helmets compulsory for those under 18. Society should be geared towards the big shove at 18 with a little certificate saying “congratulations, you’re an adult, now everything’s your responsibility. I hope you were paying attention”.

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  48. RRM (9,756 comments) says:

    Just following RRM’s logic

    Speak for yourself Lucia.

    I can only speak for my own experience, in saying that learning the road rules as they applied to cyclists (and the compulsory weating of helmets was a conspicuous part of that) as a child, I believe has been a factor in my good driving record as an adult.

    As I said I take Jamie Whyte’s point, however cycle helmets are inexpensive, comfortable and easy to use, I see very little downside to them and only potential upsides… this just seems like a strange battlefield to choose for the fight for more freedom and less regulation.

    BTW there is a hand signal for turning left, for turning right, and for stopping, I don’t recall one for going straight ahead…?

    BTW you really need to drop this habit of sneering at anything you don’t agree with or don’t understand (“RRM’s logic”)… I have noticed it a lot on your own blig site and it just makes a reader want to not bother. There are more things in heaven and on earth than are written in anyone’s philosophy, I’d have thought a good christian like yourself would be on board with that, my mistake.

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  49. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Mike W: I am sorry you suffered that injury…but for an old fashioned and very uncool helmet, I would be you…if I was still alive. I’m afraid I don’t follow your logic that a compulsory helmet law led to you having an accident…I presume you are suggesting that if you didn’t have one, you wouldn’t have ridden so fast? I doubt that is the case.

    Lucia: It is very easy to do 30 kph on a modern 10 speed bike (and this was 20 years ago) and I wasn’t out for a training ride (yes, I did own the lycra gear in those days, it stops you getting chafing around the balls), I was going home from Uni…You are probably surprised to learn that the maximum speed on a bike – set decades ago – is over 100mph on the flat – admittedly behind a screen attached to a motorbike.

    Others have made the perfectly good libertarian point that if you choose to ride without a helmet and have an accident, you should not expect taxpayer funded treatment and the inevitably lengthy rehab you will probably require.

    Red: If you ride your penny farthing home from the RSA without a helmet you are a braver man than me…but then of course we have established that long ago…

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  50. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    RRM: Yes very well said…”…very little downside [in wearing helmets] and lots of upside”…certainly not an issue worth getting particularly exercised about…

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  51. Mike Wilkinson (71 comments) says:

    David Garrett,

    I’m sorry if I didn’t make my argument clear enough. I argue the law causes there to be fewer cyclists on our roads. This makes drivers less familiar with cyclists when they do come across them. My accident wasn’t caused by a driver who clearly indicated he wasn’t familiar with cyclists. These lead me to strongly argue that the law contributed to my accident.

    Hopefully, in this second comment, I do a better job of getting my point across. If you’re still unsure, can I suggest re-reading my first comment, after you’ve considered this one.

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  52. Ed Snack (1,828 comments) says:

    I do think this idea that drivers think cyclists are fair game because they’re wearing helmets therefore it’s OK to cut them off, is, well, stupid. I ride and quite a lot, road and off road. Drivers mainly cause accidents from one cause, they simply don’t “see” you at all. No sane driver causes an accident and especially not with a cyclist, for at least the most selfish reason that the cyclist will damage your car that will cost to repair ! All the cases cited above fit the “looked but didn’t see” category.

    I always wear a helmet, and yes, they can be a bit hot at times, maybe better design would help, I hate it when you get an itchy head from the heat under your helmet. But my own experiences (1 crash), my son’s crash (concussion and a broken helmet, evaded brain damage likely enough by using a helmet), and some years back a friends brother (no helmet, car door opened, hit the road, 9 months in hospital plus another 6 or more on rehab, head injuries) means I won’t ride without one. They can’t do everything, helmets only help, but something is better than nothing.

    Here’s my worry (and I’m typically a more freedom less regulation type), make helmets optional and the very first and major group who will forgo helmets are young cyclists from families where the parents don’t care enough to ensure that they use them. Adults, well, make it that non-helmet wearing adult cyclists aren’t covered by ACC and optional might work, but I’m convinced myself that helmets make cycling safer by reducing the chance and severity of head injuries in accidents, so at the least not optional under, say, 16. That might be hard to enforce though.

    Good discussion to have though, and an authoritative analysis of cycling injuries would be useful to have. My experiences are real, but not data as such on their own.

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  53. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Mike W: Thanks, yes, that clarified it.

    I think Ed’s comment just below yours gives at least some of the answer…I think you are probably right that helmets have to some extent lessened the number of cyclists on the road…but I don’t think the next bit is true: that if there were more of them cars would be more aware of their presence..

    I know of no hard data, but I strongly suspect that most cycle/car accidents are a “didn’t see the bike” situation, whether that is a car door opening in front of you when you have no chance to stop or evade, or a pulling out without looking, or a turning in front, as my accident was. I cant see the logic in the premise which argues that if more bikes were on the road car drivers would be more likely to see them.

    It seems there’s a bit of a consensus forming around “Adults should have the option, but if they get injured no ACC funded treatment and rehab”…Of course in our perhaps over benevolent society that’s not going to happen any time soon…I have long believed that obnoxious drunks at A and E departments around the country should be thrown out on their arse in the street, but that’s not going to happen either…

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  54. Fentex (913 comments) says:

    cycle helmets are inexpensive

    Not the $600 one I recently bought. And I don’t think an argument that some variety of ‘safety’ equipment can be bought cheap is a particularly convincing one that it’s a good idea.

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  55. Lucia Maria (2,250 comments) says:

    RRM,

    To signal that you are going straight ahead, you point your entire arm straight out in front of you.

    …you really need to drop this habit of sneering at anything you don’t agree with or don’t understand (“RRM’s logic”)

    You are imagining sneers where they don’t exist. That’s a problem with the internet, you can’t see the expression or hear the tone behind the keyboard, and with long time commenters such as yourself, I don’t put in all the niceties, because I kind of figure I don’t need to.

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  56. ciaron (1,414 comments) says:

    Not the $600 one I recently bought. And I don’t think an argument that some variety of ‘safety’ equipment can be bought cheap is a particularly convincing one that it’s a good idea.

    I was told that spending lots of cash on a helmet didn’t necessary equate to better protection, but instead better airflow for cooling and less weight?

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  57. Fentex (913 comments) says:

    I strongly suspect that most cycle/car accidents are a “didn’t see the bike” situation,

    Last night while driving to my girlfriends I saw a cyclist about to enter the intersection I was turning into, unilluminated at night in dark clothes. I could very, very easily have missed seeing and collected him when turning.

    But that is not the most dangerous near miss I have witnessed with cycles and vehicles. That was not one which was due to a driver not seeing a cyclist either. Some time ago a friend and I were cycling to an evening game of indoor cricket, to do so we rode across a bridge over a railway. It was an old bridge (since demolished) with narrow lanes.

    I was riding behind my friend when a SUV towing a boat passed us. The stanchion of the trailer missed me by about a foot, my friends head by less than an inch.

    This is why I know engineering that separates cyclists from traffic should occur more than it does. The bridge for the new route over the railway, built just prior to Christchurch’s earthquakes, does not have separate facilities for cyclists, pedestrians and vehicles. It is a stupid design that ought not be tolerated in modern construction (I would have thought if cost were an issue simply making a path under the bridge for pedestrians and cyclists that obliged them to wait for occasional trains where vehicles wouldn’t have to would be adequate and affordable).

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  58. Fentex (913 comments) says:

    I was told that spending lots of cash on a helmet didn’t necessary equate to better protection, but instead better airflow for cooling and less weight?

    Comfort, in concert with effectiveness, was my objective.

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  59. ciaron (1,414 comments) says:

    Comfort, in concert with effectiveness, was my objective.

    Yes, but the point is that you don’t have to spend $600 doing it. I ride a $70 helmet, and it is perfectly adequate for my purposes, but I concede that if you’re doing big miles you might want something a bit more…”refined” :)

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  60. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Fentex: If you paid $600 for a cycle helmet, have I got a bridge for sale that would really suit you!

    the one that saved my bonce was an old fashioned very uncool one with a hard shell and no “ventilation”…probably cost today’s equivalent of about $50, which is certainly all I paid for the one I use now…Of course if you want a helmet that doubles as a fashion statement then I suppose the sky is the limit…

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  61. Yogibear (359 comments) says:

    Fentex – we’ve all accounted 2 wheeled Ninjas!

    Hasn’t the Coroner recommended that hi-viz be compulsory?

    Its kind of like the smoking vs drinking vs dope argument, impossible to tell the presence or absence of which has the most impact.

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  62. Yogibear (359 comments) says:

    DG

    Oddly the top aero helmets used by the pros over the last year (the Giro Air Attack being the worst offender in the fugly stakes) look suspiciously like 1980s stack hats

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  63. chaffnz (6 comments) says:

    Helmets should be mandatory for skiing and snowboarding, like they are in many other parts of the world.

    Actually… people who injure their heads skiing should not be entitled to public/ ACC treatment. If they are that keen to not wear a helmet, then they should get private insurance.

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  64. Mike Wilkinson (71 comments) says:

    David Garrett and Ed Snack,

    Of drivers to cyclists, the “sorry didn’t see you” is one of the most comment statements around. This is exactly why the number of times drivers encounter cyclists is so important. If drivers don’t see them often, they are more likely not to “see” them.

    Have you guys seen the invisible gorilla video before? It shows exactly what I’m trying to get at. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGQmdoK_ZfY

    Cheers,
    Mike

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  65. Viking2 (11,335 comments) says:

    Drivers mainly cause accidents from one cause, they simply don’t “see” you at all.
    ===========================

    Almost certainly the case along with cyclists whose goal is to beat the car.

    This morning went thru a rail crossing. Commented to my driver that railways haven’t changed their warning systems in 100 + years. Except for maybe upgrading lenses and lights.
    Now cars and trucks have changed, trains have changed but the warning system is still antiquated lights and if you are lucky a bell that cannot be heard in a car or truck cab.

    Rail of course don’t care and all round the world adopt the attitude the might is right. (and yes there are fools at crossings but plenty of crossings need better warning systems. If one was in a factory the systems would not suffice and OSH would be blowing your arse out.)

    Back to cyclists.
    Here’s the issue. Drivers don’t see you.
    Motor cyclists have the same issue don’t they. However most of them are now clued up enough to run with their headlights on.
    How many of you dumb arse lycra clads have a light marking you so you can be seen, on all the time? Some do in the evening.
    None, its not cool.
    Light yourself up. We do it on forklifts and all sorts of other moveable items.

    Why would you not protect yourself the same way?

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  66. ciaron (1,414 comments) says:

    V2,
    Personally, I make it my mission to be as visible as possible, I wear a day glow yellow jacket and a rescue orange backpack cover. I run flashing lights front and back and a 1200lm light on my helmet (only to have angry drivers tell me it’s too bright… go figure) which are on constantly and just last week I was almost taken out by an octogenarian driver drifting into the cycle lane.

    While I accept there is a lot of “I didn’t see you”, I’d bet a fair bit is actually “I didn’t look”

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  67. RRM (9,756 comments) says:

    Ciaron – are you one of the cyclists who ALWAYS fail to stop for me just about every day on the pedestrian crossing on Thorndon Quay by the railway station? ;-)

    Most of them have a lot of bright lights too…

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  68. muggins (3,340 comments) says:

    I cycled to work for over 40 years after cycling to school for about ten. Not every day. When I was working and if the weather was really inclement I would take the car. Only started wearing a helmet when they became compulsory.
    I didn’t have any problems with wearing a helmet, but don’t really think it is necessary. The only time I can remember that a helmet might have been helpful was when I was going round a roundabout and tried to dodge some broken glass , tried to brake, but not quite quickly enough, front wheel hit the kerb and I went arse over turkey. But never hit my head, just fractured my arm. I wasn’t wearing a helmet, they weren’t compulsory then, but I could have easily hit my head.
    I remember watching a cycle race at Cooks Gardens in Wanganui back in the 1950’s , track racing, there were quite often crashes, the cyclists used to wear a helmet but it wasn’t all that protective, one night one cyclist crashed and hit his head and he was never able to walk properly again.

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  69. Ed Snack (1,828 comments) says:

    Just for a note, the cheapest helmets that look OK to me are $30-40, and there are programs that supply them cheaper (but not free, nobody respects a free item) for those that can’t easily afford them. I’d like a $600 helmet but I’m too cheap to buy one !

    Lights, well one reason lights and the like are easy and simple on powered vehicles is that they have electrical systems to run them, bikes need lights with batteries that run down easily. And weight is not a consideration on a motor bike (at least the weight of a light isn’t) but weight does matter cycling. That said, there quite a few people who use lights all the time. I don’t, but I tend to ride like I don’t trust cars not to turn or pull out in front of me. Luckily I live in a region with a pretty good cycleway setup and drivers who tend to watch for cyclists; and there are a lot of signs reinforcing the message. Leave 1.5 metres space and all that. Drivers are mostly pretty good though there’s the odd f***wit who either ignores it or sometimes it seems they try to get really close. Trailers can be a curse, drivers simply must be aware of the width.

    But my general experience is, where I am anyway, 99% of drivers are good and watch out for you. That goes for cyclists too, 99% are good, then there’s the odd idiots and at least one bunch group who seem to ignore courtesy rules; but that’s rare.

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  70. Concerned (41 comments) says:

    Amen brother. If they abolish helmets I promise I will go purchase a bike.

    No foolin’

    -D

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  71. ciaron (1,414 comments) says:

    @ RRM, not me mate… I’d need to catch a ferry to be on that road :)

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  72. David Garrett (6,905 comments) says:

    Muggins: With respect, it sounds rather as if you did hit your head! You post contradicts itself in every sentence…

    And as an aside, the “helmets” competitive cyclists wore not just in the 50’s but into the 80’s weren’t helmets at all…basically they were three or four strips of foam covered in leather and joined together so they fitted over your head…a school mate of mine was wearing such a thing when he crashed during a race and subsequently died…

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  73. burt (8,173 comments) says:

    I don’t expect Ski helmets to be mandatory – more likely skiing will be banned for all but Labour party leaders. It’s expensive and highlights the divide between the have’s and the have not’s – only special people will be allowed to ski & use secret trusts.

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  74. RightNow (6,961 comments) says:

    ciaron: “I run flashing lights front and back”

    Are those strobe front lights actually legal? I’m thinking of mounting a dozen or so on the front of my car.

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  75. ciaron (1,414 comments) says:

    I think you’d want to be careful about that Right Now, I go for the blink setting or the pattern effect rather than the epilepsy-inducing-megahertz-party-mode strobe…

    http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/cyclist-code/docs/cyclist-code-2013-low.pdf

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  76. burt (8,173 comments) says:

    I get the feeling the people who get bat-shit crazy about needing to wear a helmet on a bike are probably the same people who laughed at their grandfather saying he wouldn’t wear a seat belt in his car… Those things will choke you you know ….

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  77. Gulag1917 (850 comments) says:

    Maybe cyclists should drive a car and car drivers ride a bike now and again and then some understanding of the other side might go a long way to civilised behaviour on the road.

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  78. Fentex (913 comments) says:

    If you paid $600 for a cycle helmet, have I got a bridge for sale that would really suit you!

    Is it engineered to keep cyclists and pedestrians separate from traffic?

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  79. nasska (11,065 comments) says:

    Limit bag on the opening day of last year’s Road Lice hunt. :)

    Ref: https://www.dropbox.com/s/xkkbx0raf38aaqi/Trophies%202.jpg

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  80. Gulag1917 (850 comments) says:

    Punctures are the biggest annoyance of cyclists. Mountain bikers try this;
    Tubes
    http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/like/380954539571?limghlpsr=true&hlpv=2&ops=true&viphx=1&hlpht=true&lpid=107
    placed within tyres like this
    http://www.punctureresistantbicycletyres.co.uk/specialized-armadillo-crossroads-tyres.php

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  81. Gulag1917 (850 comments) says:

    Skateboard helmets are better than standard bike helmets for safety.

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