Bike Bendigo welcomes helmet debate as a national advocacy group reconsiders its position

As a national cycling organisation considers dropping its support for compulsory helmet laws local group Bike Bendigo Inc will be closely watching the debate.

The advocacy and community group’s president Jac Torres-Gomez welcomed robust discussion, saying there were arguments both for and against compulsory helmets.

On the one hand, safety was important. Ms Torres-Gomez said not only did helmets protect cyclists, they were a tool for promoting safety to people.

“On the other, there is safety in numbers. So if more people would cycle because we had better infrastructure there would be less of a need for helmets,” she said.

“There would be more chance of allowing us to open up cycling to more people.”

Australia was one of the only countries with compulsory helmet laws.

Ms Torres-Gomez had lived in Japan and Denmark and enjoyed cycling with no helmet.

“I never felt unsafe. Yet, I have also cycled in Australia with a helmet and often felt the need for it because of the lack of infrastructure where I was riding,” she said.

“There are different personal opinions of the need for helmets even within the team at Bike Bendigo, so we do understand it is a complicated issue. Discussion such as this do need to happen,” she said.

Ms Torres-Gomez’s comments came as national organisation Bicycle Network conducted a policy review into mandatory helmets, in part because of concerns current laws might discourage more people from riding.

They were conducting public polling, taking submissions and looking for expert opinion.

Ms Torres-Gomez’s urged people to complete the network’s survey, saying Bike Bendigo would see what it and the evidence established.

Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said his group currently supported mandatory helmets and the review would not preempt any outcomes.

“As with all policies, we should regularly ask ourselves, ‘have we got it right?’” Mr Richards wrote on the network’s website.

The president of a local cycling organisation says one way to get more people riding was to invest in infrastructure.

The president of a local cycling organisation says one way to get more people riding was to invest in infrastructure.

He acknowledged the review would be controversial, saying in his time as the CEO he had “copped it from both angles”, with one helmet-less rider “jabbing me in the chest yelling, ‘you’re ruining my life’.”

“I’ve also been given a stern warning from high places that if I even consider reviewing helmet laws, Bicycle Network will no longer be seen as an organisation with credibility,” he said.

“We understand reviewing mandatory helmets will get messy. We understand the risks and that we can’t please all of the people all of the time.

“But we’re a member-based organisation. We need to listen as well as lead.”