Australia: Helmets off to legislation

December 5, 2011
More people would cycle if they didn't have to wear a helmet, the research finds.

Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing cyclists to wear helmets were repealed, according to new research published today in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia.

One in five adults surveyed in Sydney said they would ride a bicycle more if they did not have to wear a helmet, according co-author Professor Chris Rissel from the School of Public Health, at the University of Sydney.

Researchers involved in 'The possible effect on frequency of if mandatory bicycle helmet legislation was repealed in Sydney, Australia: a cross sectional survey' interviewed 600 Sydney adults to identify preferences for wearing bicycle helmets.

"People who ride occasionally and younger people were most likely to say they would ride more if they didn't have to wear a helmet, but significantly, one in five people who hadn't ridden a bicycle in the last year also said they would ride more," says Professor Rissel.

Professor Rissel says that the NSW state government's targets to increase cycling could be easily achieved by repealing bicycle helmet legislation without spending millions of dollars on new bicycle paths.

"Occasional riders and those people who don't see themselves as a 'cyclist' represents a large number of people. Even if only half or a quarter of these people did actually start riding, it would more than double the number of people cycling now," Professor Rissel says.

The research also found that almost half of the respondents said they would never ride without a helmet. While more than 14 percent said "all the time", and over 30 percent said "some of the time", the rest were unsure.

Support for mandatory helmet wearing was low among people already cycling according to Professor Rissel.

"Overall, one third of respondents did not support mandatory helmet legislation. There was an inverse association between riding frequency and support of the helmet legislation, with those not riding in the past year most likely to support helmet legislation, and more frequent riders less likely to support it," he says.

Professor Rissel said that lots of people would still wear a helmet, but removing the legal requirement to wear a helmet would encourage more people to just hop on a bike.

"Public share schemes around the world where helmets are not required to be worn have shown how safe cycling really is," says Professor Rissel.

"There have now been over six million users of the 'Boris bikes' in London and distances cycled total over 10 million kilometres with few serious injuries. In the first three months the accident rate was estimated to be 0.002 percent."

There are similar observations from other schemes. The bike share schemes in Brisbane and Melbourne are operating at 10 percent of comparable international schemes because of helmet legislation.

Explore further: The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries

Related Stories

The impact of compulsory cycle helmet legislation on cyclist head injuries

June 22, 2011
Bicycle-related head injuries fell significantly in the months after mandatory helmet legislation came into effect in NSW, and recent calls for a repeal of the laws should be rejected, new research based on hospital admissions ...

Researchers say helmet laws effective

April 22, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- University of Alberta researchers have confirmed that helmet bylaws increase wearing rates among adults.

Recommended for you

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

2 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nerdyguy
3 / 5 (2) Dec 05, 2011
"Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing cyclists to wear helmets were repealed, according to new research published today in the Health Promotion Journal of Australia."

What? Give people the freedom to make their own decisions? Now that's just crazy!
FrankHerbert
Dec 05, 2011
This comment has been removed by a moderator.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.