60 people in bus vs bicycles vs cars. Cycling Promotion Fund's recreation in Canberra of that famous photo taken in Munster, Germany

There’s a lot of argument in these pages, especially in the comments, supporting the case against the mandatory helmet law for cyclists. There’s not a lot from the other side though, probably because it’s the status quo.

That indifference applies more widely too. Cycling organisations, for example, advise their members of their obligations under the law but don’t tend to elaborate publicly on why they think the law is appropriate.

Nevertheless some of them have a strong view. Thanks to the always interesting Sydney Cyclist, we now have an insight into the thinking of one cycling organisation, Bicycle Network Victoria (BNV – formerly known as Bicycle Victoria).

A member of Sydney Cyclist’s Helmetless Riders group recently wrote to BNV urging the organisation to re-look at its policy on helmets. She posted the reply publicly on Sydney Cyclist and I think it warrants a wider audience.

Hi Kathy

As an organisation that follows evidence-based policy principles you must understand that the actions of a handful of people with a strongly held belief, and the ability to attract media attention, is not a reason for a change in policy direction.

The so called ‘negative effects’ of mandatory helmet legislation have been pronounced over and over again by you and your supporters. The religious certainty of your beliefs are clearly impervious to facts. Repeating the claims will not make them true.

We can see from the evidence here in Victoria that mandatory helmet laws are not suppressing the strong uptake of cycling. Helmet wearing is the highest in the world and opposition to helmets in our riding community is so small that it is not even a statistical blip. It is now completely normalised. You can’t roll back time and culture. You have about as much chance of re-introducing a helmet free bike culture as re-normalising whale-bone corsets.

Some bike organisations around the world are against helmets. They tell me it is politically unacceptable to be in favour of helmets in their cultures. However the wearing of helmets is increasing steadily in all nations, even those with strong political opposition.

Here in Victoria we thank our lucky stars we never got sucked into the anti-helmet mythology. We have instead over many years devoted our energies and resources into getting more people riding and to improving the riding environment. The result is terrific growth in cycling participation.

Opposing helmets is a strategy for failure, and that’s not where we are going.

Bicycle Network

That’s from BNV’s Garry Brennan (who’s been mentioned here before) and he’s evidently not the sort to mince words. Although the recipient, Kathy, doesn’t like it – she says it makes BNV’s “extreme position on this issue…abundantly clear” – she gives Mr Brennan points for clarity. “This clear policy is unlike the fence sitting BNSW one”, she writes.

P.S. The original Munster image, Space required to transport 60 people.