The first thing you should know is that New Zealand and Australia are very unusual in having mandatory all ages helmet laws. Most other countries afford their citizens the civil liberty to decide for themselves. Does NZ have lower cycling accident rates than these other countries? No, in fact the opposite is true.
This is a huge topic that is covered very well on other dedicated websites:
We have summarized a few points below
- Helmets are a signficant disencentive to ride: They are inconvenient, uncomfortable, and unattractive, but most of all, helmets signal that cycling is dangerous â€“ when it’s probably the most life extending habit you can take up.
- When fewer of us cycle, a higher proportion have accidents. This is because other road users don’t ride themselves and aren’t expecting people on bikes. Conversely, the best thing for cycling safety is more cyclists â€“ it’s called the â€˜safety in numbers effect’.
- If a helmet law was effective, other countries would have introduced it â€“ they haven’t. If helmets reduced injuries, other countries would have much higher injury rates â€“ they don’t. If helmets had made such a difference to the safety of cycling, injury rates would have gone down once the law was introduced â€“ (once you account for the drop in cycling that the helmet law created), injury rates have actually gone up!
- The law penalises cycling over other more risky activities. Owning a pet, gardening and doing DIY in your home are more hazardous than cycling but do not require special protective head gear.
- Bikeshare systems are sweeping the globe as they provide so many benefits. They rely on spontaneity and ease of use, and so far no share bike system in a country with a mandatory helmet law has been successful. In fact Mexico City and Israel have repealed their helmet laws to take advantage of share bikes.
- Our helmet law is irrational as it only applies to cycles with two wheels â€“ it does not apply to unicycles or tricycles or cycles with any other number of wheels.
- The law was brought in without proper research, due diligence or consideration of the consequences. It has spectacularly backfired, and we are far from a leading example for the rest of the world.
- Different types of cycling have different levels of risk. For instance, off-road mountain biking and BMX tricks have a higher risk than slowly cycling in the park with your family or cycling on a separated cycleway.
- Helmets cover just 40% of your head with a 20c piece of plastic and polystyrene. Helmet manufacturers admit that their product will not protect in a collision with a motor vehicle. Bike helmets are designed for a single low speed impact and must be fitted correctly. They are tested by dropping them directly from 5ft. This kind of impact is extremely rare in real life as most accidents result in multiple impacts due to bounce, and most helmets are not fitted correctly.
- Helmets are not a magic force field and the other 95% of your body and major organs are not protected.
- Wearing a helmet leads to increased risk taking by both the rider but particularly other road users. Traffic will travel significantly closer to you because you look like an expert in the â€˜gear’ and you look less human. And you will take extra risks because you â€˜feel’ safer.
- Helmets can actually increase injury as increased head size means increased proximity for contact, and via rotational injuries.
- A helmet can reduce your rotational visibility and increase accident risk.
- Brain injuries are mostly caused by the brain hitting the inside of your skull. A helmet is useless in any impact hard enough to cause your skull to break.