Cycling helmet laws must remain. OPINION

If it ain’t broke why fix it.

There is an argument being promoted at present that bicycle helmets should no longer be compulsory.

When our children began riding bikes to school a new law was passed (1990-2) which made helmets compulsory. Parents were relieved because it had been a struggle to encourage children to ride their bikes and wear a helmet for protection.

I remember saying very firmly to my son, who at the time was balking at this compulsory ‘uncool’ thing on his head, that it was the Law of the Land and he would be in trouble with the police if he didn’t wear it while on the roads. There was no further argument from him.

The medical profession was one hundred per cent behind the helmet law. Neurosurgeons saw far too many terrible brain injuries and deaths resulting from cyclists either knocked off or falling off bikes. They frequently reinforced the view that one did not have to ride very fast to find oneself left for life with an acquired brain injury.

Is it all too long ago for this generation to know or be educated with the facts?

One argument which cyclists with short memories are now maintaining is that there are fewer cyclists using the roads, while this law is upheld, as cyclists don’t like wearing helmets. I maintain they should be so lucky that the law protects them from their own stupidity.

A major study of bike helmet use around the world from more than 64,000 cyclists has found helmets reduce the risks of a serious head injury by nearly 70 per cent. The study also found neck injuries are not associated with helmet use and cyclists who wear helmets reduce their chance of a fatal head injury by 65 per cent.  

Randy Swart, of the American Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute, maintains “Helmets are very effective in preventing head injuries and there are many studies to prove it. These are medical studies, some of them based on emergency room data, some based on crash data from accident scenes.

Just as important is the information that comes from bicycle clubs and organisations. From their experience, they confirm what the medical studies show:  helmets are effective”.

Being knocked or falling off a bicycle is one sure way to be either killed or injured very badly. A helmet will help protect that precious brain.

To speak rapturously about the joy of feeling the breeze ruffle one’s hair is simply to ignore the more critical argument that it’s better to have a little less breeze and a little more useful brain matter.

Lots of families are cycle enthusiasts. Our grandchildren ride to school, sons-in-law ride to work, and all the families ride during weekend outings.

It’s a wonderful way to keep fit and share time together both during the week and weekends. Everyone is helmeted up.

Cyclists speak now of busy roads, particularly around the cities, whether regional cities or Melbourne. They’re very aware of how vulnerable they are next to cars and trucks whizzing past. At least they have an extra level of safety if they’re wearing a helmet.

Cyclists are very conscious that many drivers simply ignore them, particularly those who ride where there’s no bike path.

I watch cyclists weave their way around cars in traffic and my heart’s in my mouth. A driver has only to open the car door and the cyclist is gone.

All I can do is reiterate ‘If it ain’t broke why fix it’.

ANNIE YOUNG