Frocks and helmets

We got on the TV recently – silly season coverage, but an important issue: reviewing the “compulsory helmets” law.

In case it’s not clear what Frocks On Bikes thinks about helmets – here’s our stance!

We support the sensible and well-researched position on helmets that the Cycle Advocates’ Network holds.

In essence – the current compulsion to wear helmets is turning many people off cycling, while not appreciably improving cycling safety overall and having other negative side-effects.  It’s time New Zealand reviewed the law  – taking account of how more people, cycling in everyday life, can make us and our cities better off.

See the press release below –  check out the links to some really eye-opening research!

Let’s keep a clear head on helmet laws – press release 3.1.13

It’s worth making clear Frocks On Bikes’ stance on bike helmets.

Riding off-road – be it mountain-biking, racing or on a national cycleway – we’d hope people use their good judgment and protect themselves.   Riding on the road, the law is very clear: helmets are mandatory at all times – so while that’s the law, that’s what we do.  

But research shows there’s a negative side-effect of mandatory helmets – it’s one of the things that deter everyday people from hopping on a bike to get from A to B. (See below for research evidence).  Other deterrents include fears about dangerous driving, the belief that cycling means sweating and going fast, and the prospect of wearing lycra or rugged sporty clothes.  

These and other barriers – such as short-sighted urban design – are stopping bikes from becoming an everyday transport choice for regular Kiwis. While this is so, we’re missing out on huge benefits:

  • for individuals: more personal mobility, more disposable income, better health and self-esteem
  • for everyone: more people-friendly, liveable, lively cities. A healthier environment.  Less traffic congestion. More vibrant local economies and small businesses.  Improved public health.

The government introduced current helmet laws with good intentions, but the overall effect on cyclists’ safety is doubtful at best.  Combine this with helmets’ significant contribution to deterring adults from everyday cycling, and you need a re-think. Our current law is unusual: dozens of other countries have rescinded mandatory helmet laws, or never introduced them – while actively promoting and supporting everyday cycling.  

Frocks On Bikes  is working to remove barriers to people using bikes as everyday transport. There’s good progress on perceptions about lycra, sweating and going fast – but mandatory helmets’ deterrent effect is persistent.  It’s a good time for New Zealand to review compulsory helmet laws, thinking more holistically about how we want to use our roads and enjoy our cities.     

We look forward to a level-headed review that takes in the big picture – how everyday cycling can and should contribute to a happier, healthier, more prosperous New Zealand.

Links to research and analysis:

Contact: Isabella Cawthorn, Frocks On Bikes – 021 1497941