Head Case

After 11 years of riding my bike to work, today I saw something I’d never seen before – a cyclist being fined by a police officer for not wearing a helmet. (And no, the cyclist wasn’t me.)

The issue of compulsory helmet wearing is a complicated one. If you’re going to fall off your bike and bang your head on a hard surface, wearing a helmet is probably better than not wearing a helmet. But does wearing a helmet give a false sense of security and encourage reckless riding? Or is wearing a helmet a reminder of the dangers, and therefore encourage safer riding?? Or does compulsory helmet wearing reduce the number of cyclists, which then reduces the  amount of money that governments will spend building safe cycle paths and therefore make riding more dangerous???

The only thing I’m certain of is that anyone who has a firm opinion one way or the other hasn’t understood or thought about the complexities of the issue enough.

For myself, if helmet wearing was optional, I’d still choose to wear a helmet. As for whether it should be compulsory, I lean towards it being compulsory, but the fine for not wearing a helmet (in NSW) needs to be much lower. The current fine of $319 is egregiously disproportionate to the offence, when you consider that the fine for a motorist using a phone while driving, which is substantially more dangerous in its potential consequences to other people, is about the same at $337.

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