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health regulation

May 7, 2010


A previous Croakey post put a strong case that mandatory bicycle helmet laws are having a detrimental effect on public health.

Now a leading public health and cycling advocate, Clinical Associate Professor Chris Rissel from the University of Sydney, has weighed in to the debate – suggesting that the laws are “failed public policy”.

He writes:

“I agree with Sue Abbott that the legislation for mandatory bike helmets is failed public policy.

There is little evidence to support the view that there was a drop in head injuries as a result of the helmet legislation. Any observation of the head injury rate since 1950 shows that this declining in New South Wales BEFORE the introduction of mandatory helmet legislation, and certainly before the self-reported level of helmet use increased. This is consistent with the general decline in motor vehicle related fatalities and morbidity in NSW from 1950 to the present, but in particular between 1980 and 1990.

Continue reading “Bicycle helmet laws are “failed public policy” says public health expert”

physical activity

May 6, 2010


Sue Abbott is a longstanding cycling enthusiast and advocate, a solicitor, a resident of rural NSW, involved in organising medical education, and a blogger.

She is concerned that laws requiring us to wear helmet laws are misplaced. She writes:

“The large increase in bicycle helmet-wearing rates since Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHLs) were enacted (circa early 1990s) has not resulted in reduced head injury rates – in fact head injury rates have increased relative to the amount of cycling.

No randomised controlled trials have been done on the subject of bicycle helmet safety. Current data comes from two main types of observational study; “time trend analyses” and “case control studies”. Most of the literature that mentions bicycle helmets and bicycle helmet promotion refers back to a small number of these studies, rather than actually providing primary evidence.

Yet peer-review of bicycle research to date has led some scientists, traffic engineers and medical practitioners to conclude that helmets are actually dangerous for your health (W Curnow, ‘Bicycle Helmets: a Scientific Evaluation’ in Anton de Smet (ed), Transportation Accident Analysis and Prevention (2008) 139), analogous to findings investigated by Catalyst” ABC TV that football helmets ‘designed to prevent head injury had allowed another kind of head impact to become part of normal play’.

Continue reading “Are laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets bad for our health?”