An article in the 10 Feb, 2012, edition of the NZ Medical Journal is devastatingly bad news for cycle helmet zealots. Written by Colin Clarke, who has coached competitive cyclists, worked as a road safety instructor, and cycled more than 8000 km on New Zealand roads alone. A mechanical engineer from York, in England, his thorough study suggests cyclists were safer without helmets. Which should surely expose 'helmet Hitlers' to the possibility of legal action for the deaths their law changes have caused.
So what does Colin say? It's quite shocking, really. First, cycling use has decreased by 51% since lid-wearing was made compulsory.
So half the number that were previously travelling by pushbike are now either walking, using hydrocarbon-guzzling enviro-raping earth-incinerating methods of travel such as trains, buses, motorcycles or cars, or they’re not not travelling at all but sitting at home on the couch.
Second, the injury rate for cyclists per hour travelled has risen by over 20%. Which means those remaining cyclists (the half of them who haven't chucked their bike in the shed and let the spiders spin cobwebs over them) are now statistically at higher risk of injury per unit time than they were before the lid laws were forced through.
Third and most damningly, the reluctance of people to cycle, and the associated morbidity associated with this decrease, has resulted in the premature deaths of 53 New Zealanders per year for the past 18 years (not to mention the morbidity and mortality caused by the emission-spewing motor vehicles that it could be assumed some of the ex-cyclists are now using).
As an aside, the helmets that people are now forced to don use plastics and sometimes polystyrene, which I always thought were like poison to environmentalists. And, heaven forbid, some filthy capitalists will be making a profit producing said helmets in a Chinese perspiration factory and selling them at a vastly inflated price. Why the 'green' lobby isn't up in arms about it all, I can't understand. Perhaps it's the increase in premature deaths of humans that keeps the more extreme among them happy?
I can't do better than mention some quotes contained in Colin's article:
- "The evidence from Australia and New Zealand suggests that the wearing of helmets might even make cycling more dangerous" (European Cycling Federation)
- "The case for helmets is far from sound" (UK National Children's Bureau)
- "Compulsion to wear a bike helmet is detrimental to public health" (W.J. Curnow)
Colin Clarke makes a very good point, which the Molesworth St micro-managers would do well to keep in mind:
Where a reasonable doubt exists about any product providing a net benefit then the consumer should have the right not to use it. It is simply, but importantly, respecting human rights by allowing the individual to decide. Insufficient respect for human rights is shown across the world and unless the individual is allowed to exercise their rights then this opens the way for devaluing human rights in general.
Let’s face it, the law was never brought in on the evidence. But the evidence is now overwhelming for repeal.
I wonder if the governments who brought in the ill-conceived helmet laws—and those who failed to abolish—might now find themselves under scrutiny and being asked to justify the 53 extra New Zealanders who have died every year since 1994, and will continue to die until this absurd law is overturned?
See you next week!
UPDATE: And plenty of good material too at the local “freedom to choose” website: http://www.cyclinghealth.org.nz/. “Cycling Health is not opposed to the use of helmets,” they declare, “but merely to the element of compulsion. Our position is that individuals should have the right to choose whether or not to use a helmet, without interference by Governments.”
Some nice pics too: