The old helmet law debate gets a twist

The old helmet law debate gets a twist

So far, I’ve given the helmet debate a wide berth. It’s a debate that will probably never go away completely, even if the remaining couple of countries end up repealing their mandatory helmet law.

It makes a lot of sense to wear one if you isolate the situation to a head being smashed into an object. The argument against it makes sense if you step back and look at the benefits of cycling on a wider social scale. Mandatory helmet laws tend to compromise cycling participation on a grand scale, the benefits of which would outweigh the isolated negative impact that comes with not wearing a helmet. The argument against making cyclists wear a hemlet gets into real trouble when you look at the safety benefits that helmet use would have in other contexts (eg. driving a vehicle) where it would be considered laughable to even suggest making helmet use mandatory. So why just cycling, then? There are legitimate arguments for both sides.

Well, lets set the scene for today’s discussion. Portrush Road is a busy arterial road in Adelaide, used heavily by rather large and scary semi-trucks (or B-double if you live in Australia). It looks like this:

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 8.06.25 pm

I regularly used to use a short section of this road for my commute a few years ago as it connected my preferred route to work and back, and it always unnerved me. Sometimes it outright scared me. I actually had a semi-truck nearly run me down – not a close pass, but actually nearly ran me over from behind – one winter night. Nearly crapped myself. So much for taking the lane.

A while back, Portrush Road was widened, which means that there is actually ample room for a bike lane. Even a protected one. There was actually a plan to draw a line on the road to separate cyclists from traffic, but that was over a year ago and nothing much is happening about it now, reports the Messenger. This article discusses it further, and brings up some good points.

Long story short, it’s a potentially dangerous and most certainly a scary road to be cycling on, most significantly because of the heavy vehicle traffic. In this context, where better conditions for cycling are not provided to make cycling safer, a helmet makes sense (though against a B-double it would seem to be of little value).

So, with this backdrop, we have this:

DOES ANYONE KNOW THIS FOOL?*******************************************Driving up Portrush road today and saw this fool with precious cargo on board. Note the babies helmet ON THE BACK OF THE BIKE!!!!!! I called out the window to him to “Put the helmet on your baby!” To which he replied “It’s not legally required” and gave me the finger!!! He then proceeded to weave in and out of heavy traffic (I have video of that too but don’t want to post video of my language at that time!) If you know this idiot, please tune him up! I would hate for him to learn a lesson, he so obviously needs to learn, the hard way at the cost of this little angel. If you don’t know the loser, please share this video until someone recognises him and sorts him out!

Posted by PhilnMandi Toft on Friday, 10 April 2015


This has blown up on Facebook, with the number of comments being overwhelmingly negative towards this guys decision. It’s a bit of a peculiar one to call.

  1. It’s definitely illegal, as everyone knows, although this guy appears to deny that.
  2. The tiny child’s helmet is dangling off the back of the child seat, as if to say, “yeah, I have one and could put it on, and I still can, but I’m not going to”.
  3. He’s wearing one, which means he is both compliant with the law and/or aware of their safety benefits, but has decided that this doesn’t matter for the child.
  4. As mentioned, this is a dangerous stretch of road for any cyclist, let alone a baby with no helmet.
  5. The child has no choice in the matter, and is put at risk not by its own choices, but that of its carer.
  6. Following from the last point, if the cyclist had fallen off (or even just tipped over) and the child hit its head, there would be risk of a head injury at the hands of its carer when that could have been mitigated with the use of the helmet that was strapped to the child-carrier.
  7. Young soft skulls. Old thick ones.
  8. This isn’t a cyclist with a child on board riding a Dutch bike on the safe(er) and segregated cycle paths of Denmark, at slower speeds. It’s a guy on a roadie, on a rather dangerous stretch of road with heavy vehicles in Australia (where drivers are slightly less aware than those in Denmark, it’s safe to say), at higher speeds.

I don’t care whether an adult with the ability to make rational decisions chooses to wear a helmet or not. I’m not convinced that it should be mandatory (for adults), but I think you should, and that’s me. Many people make the false dichotomy of saying that for people who are put off of cycling because of helmet laws, the choice is either cycling without a helmet, or not cycling because of helmet laws and being consigned to a life of poor health and being a liability to society. Which is a load of crap. Yes, you do have a choice to not cycle if you don’t like wearing a helmet, but if you do have to wear a helmet and you do want to ride a bike, that’s not a very significant barrier at the end of the day.

Anyway, coming back to this situation, and given the context, it does look more than a little on the ill-advised side of things, whatever your views are of helmet laws.

What do you think?


Header image: source