December 08, 2004


For years, Mark Steyn has been using "federal bicycling-helmet regulations" as a mocking nanny-state gag. Little did he know that helmet regulators were so insanely serious:

I should have known better. The other day, a private member's bill was introduced in the Ontario legislature requiring every grown-up, before mounting a bicycle anywhere in the province, from Niagara Falls to Hudson's Bay, to strap him or herself into a helmet. Needless to say, the bill was approved on its second reading unanimously ...

To call this a "nanny state" is an insult to nannies. When Baron von Trapp hired Maria to look after all the little von Trapps, he didn't object to her and the kids riding their bicycles down the lane while singing "Do-Re-Mi" unhelmeted. Forty years on, the gal who was 16 going on 17 and the telegraph boy who was 17 going on 18 are 56 going on 57 and 57 going on 58, but in Ontario they're still not old enough to ride a bicycle without government supervision ...

Chris Gilham, who runs the website, has analyzed the impact of similar laws in Australia. One consequence is that fewer people bicycle and thus what was meant to be a public health benefit is, in fact, a public health disaster--"mass discouragement of society's most popular exercise at a time of soaring obesity."

I used to keep a bike lying around in the yard for quick trips to the shops, or late-night bar jaunts. I gave it to a homeless charity after helmet laws were introduced in the early '90s. To hell with helmets.

UPDATE. You'll also want to read Steyn on British home invasions.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 8, 2004 12:26 AM

and I thought California was ridiculous for requiring 16 and unders to wear helmets....

Posted by: Kevin at December 8, 2004 at 12:40 AM

Please, your libertarian streak goes too far.

As a comparison, the US has super-inflationary larger sized airbags in cars as a response to a lack of seatbelt laws (and Oz has lower speed inflation bag because we actually wear the lifesavers. for more info see - Wales, Princess of), but there ain't no SRS for a 2 wheeler.

i think the laws forcing the donning of a stackhat is not entirely unwelcome, given the propensity for RV-driving maniacs (umm, like myself) to menace road-hogging cyclists (umm, like myself).

And... it gives me a non-daggy reason for wearing the ugly fkr. So cheers, Nanny State.


Posted by: marten at December 8, 2004 at 01:01 AM

In the US we owe the concept of the right to self defense, especially when in our homes, in large part to the British. An "Englishman's Home Is His Castle", etc..

It's horrible that the British no longer have a right to defend themselves. If anyone thinks it's just guns they can't use, think again. It's most anything. They may as well hang signs in front of their houses telling the crooks to please help themselves.

If anyone wants to read some great posts on what's happening in Britain regarding the non-self-defense of ordinary citizens, you may find the following of interest:

Self Defense and Security

Posted by: Chris Josephson at December 8, 2004 at 01:16 AM

One of the essential rationalizations for The State is to ensure the security of the citizen.

The British aren't even trying anymore. They don't even try to stop burglars but by God, foxes can walk the country fields in safety at last.

Posted by: richard mcenroe at December 8, 2004 at 01:29 AM

In the cycling clubs I belong to, people without helmets are called "organ donars." Even Lance crashes. I've seen enough people land on their heads and walk away to use my helmet even on rides around the neighborhood. One can buy a properly fitted, lightweight, aerodynamic, extensively vented helmet in most U.S. bike shops for well under $100. Considering the shortage of neurosergeons willing to treat trauma victims in my area (due to their massive malpractice premiums), one shouldn't need the government to force you to wear one.

Posted by: Jim at December 8, 2004 at 01:31 AM

What marten said.

As an avid, helmet-wearing bicycle commuter, I often go helmetless for "quick trips to the shops, or late-night bar jaunts."

In 18 or so years since the law has been introduced in my home-town, I have been chatted to by the cops once - count 'em - and I politely talked my way out of a $50 fine. Right from the get-go I could tell I was gonna get off, as long as I didn't launch into some silly tirade about a nanny state.

It was simply a case of "sorry sir, quick trip to the shops sir, forgot my helmet sir, I'll walk my bike home sir."

Tim… are you seriously suggesting you don't ride your bike for that reason? Got nothing to do with you being a lazy fu*k?


Posted by: Big Ramifications at December 8, 2004 at 01:31 AM

For all you pro-helment law folks; what happened to pro-choice, individual responsibility, etc.?

Same with seat belts. I ALWAYS wear them except when moving the car within my own driveway, and then it feels funny.

BUT, that's my life and my body and why the hell should the government tell me what I have to do to protect it?

Laws to "regulate" your eating habits are on the way so don't forget to pig out now.

Posted by: AlanC at December 8, 2004 at 01:37 AM

"BUT, that's my life and my body and why the hell should the government tell me what I have to do to protect it?"

AlanC, I don't respect THE LAW per se. But just like your opinion regarding seatbelt laws, I wear a helmet because I think it is a smart thing to do, and it doesn't really bother me that much that it is also THE LAW. It's just like putting on some sunnies to me.

So in a way it's a shame we need to be told the smart thing to do... but I don't begrudge having to suck up to some cops once every 18 years.

Further, what if people like you got hurt in an accident (eg. brain damage) because they didn't want "the government to tell them what they have to do to protect their body"?

Who gets to pay for their medical bills if they haven't got insurance?

Posted by: Big Ramifications at December 8, 2004 at 01:54 AM

As long as we have a system of public health that's based on the premise that nobody can be denied emergency care, I think the state has a valid interest in making people who want to ride bikes wear helmets. The difference between a cracked helmet and a cracked skull isn't just the life and death of the person involved; it's also tens or hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars.

And I, for one, don't want to live in a society where access to emergency health care — bleeding out of a gaping wound health care, gonna die any minute health care — is determined by how good my insurance is.

Posted by: Jeff Harrell at December 8, 2004 at 01:57 AM

"I think the state has a valid interest in making people who want to ride bikes wear helmets. The difference between a cracked helmet and a cracked skull isn't just the life and death of the person involved; it's also tens or hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars."


Posted by: Big Ramifications at December 8, 2004 at 02:34 AM

My right to self-defense comes from God. No government can take it away from me. This right also implimes a means, therefore the framers gave us the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. A pity it doesn't exist in Great Britain.

Posted by: Jesusland Joe at December 8, 2004 at 02:41 AM

As a comparison, the US has super-inflationary larger sized airbags in cars as a response to a lack of seatbelt laws...

When was the last time you were in the US? California has had a mandatory seat belt law since 1986 and usage is at 91% as of 2002. Some states in the Midwest don't have seat belt laws, but seat belt usage is still 70% or better.

So, yes, Americans DO wear seat belts.

Posted by: Spiny Norman at December 8, 2004 at 02:51 AM

That's the way.
Bend the knee to your betters who know what's good for you, serfs.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at December 8, 2004 at 03:07 AM

Re: Ramifications.

Thank you for making my point for me. He who pays the piper calls the tune. If you need nanny to pay the piper (aka govt health care) you can expect nanny to tell you what to do.

Drinking, smoking, helmets, obesity...can you see a trend yet? No more McDonalds, no more pizza, no more of that yummy Aussie beef; bad for the arteries and who's gonna pay for your heart attack hmmmm?

When does the government start sending you all your "approved" menus with the police to check on your pantry? God forbid you should have any forbidden food. Can't allow you selfish yobs to force others to pay for your bad health, right?

Posted by: AlanC at December 8, 2004 at 04:01 AM

Four years ago I fractured my skull when I ran my head into a road sign while riding a bicycle. The left side of my skull was replaced with titanium. I wasn't wearing a helmet. Do I still ride? Yes. Do I wear a helmet? NO! why? Because I'm an American! F Yeah!

Posted by: velocette at December 8, 2004 at 04:08 AM

>It was simply a case of "sorry sir, quick trip >to the shops sir, forgot my helmet sir, I'll >walk my bike home sir."

Amazing how that works, huh? I've been pulled over four times for speeding, and never got a ticket. Just be polite, be apologetic, and don't argue.

People who argue with cops are the dumbest m****rf****rs on Earth.

Posted by: Dave S. at December 8, 2004 at 04:40 AM

"I think the state has a valid interest in making people who want to ride bikes wear helmets. The difference between a cracked helmet and a cracked skull isn't just the life and death of the person involved; it's also tens or hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars."

Apparently you didn't read the article. Steyn points out that severe bike injuries that could have been prevented by a helmet are rare, while bike usage declines when helmet laws are instituted, contributing to obesity and the attendent health problems. So the gummint pays more in the long run.

Following your logic, any activity which is riskier than helmetless bicycling (which, if you read the article, is particularly low-risk) should be proscribed. That would be quite a list of many fun activities, some of which I'm sure you enjoy.

Keep in mind, also, that rescuing lost or injured hikers and such costs tens of thousands of dollars per rescue.

Hell, I could cite examples all day. Eventually I'd hit one of your favorite recreational activities.

Posted by: Dave S. at December 8, 2004 at 04:48 AM

For a moment, I worried Mark, in a clever post election plan, had slipped south to Florida, had himself declared a PEST sufferer and got on the dole. Good to see he's still working for his chow. Until his site is active, the Down Under Global Content Provider has picked up an additional reason for me to come around.

Posted by: gimpy at December 8, 2004 at 04:55 AM

"Eventually I'd hit one of your favorite recreational activities."

Hell, I'll fast forward there right now:

"People who compulsively masturbate while watching downloaded porn clips cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in carpal-tunnel treatment costs."

Posted by: Carl in N.H. at December 8, 2004 at 04:57 AM

First they came for the smokers, but I did not care, because I did not smoke.

Next, they came for the drunk drivers, but I did not drive drunk.

Then, they came for those who drank at all, and then drove, but I did not drink.

Then, they forced a helmet on my noggin' but I was too lazy to ride.

Then, they taxed my beef, my butter and my beer.

I went to petition my government, but I was accused of hate speech, and sent to a reeducation health camp.

* * *

Fuck the nanny state. Fuck it all. Three days ago, California Child Protective Services took away someone's baby because the parents were blind. They had done nothing else wrong, only that they could not see.

For now, the baby is home, but CPS continues to wrap its tentacles into the family.

Posted by: Andrew at December 8, 2004 at 05:22 AM

It's not your safety or welfare these laws are put in place. They are not to protect you. They are to CONTROL you.

That's why I stand against all the anti-tobacco crap, the anti-junk food/fast food crap and the helmet laws.

A year ago some idiot kid riding his ridiculous Razor scooter and pulled out in front of me on the beach BICYCLE path. I was going at a good speed and managed to stop before I ran smack into him. I clipped him and went head first over my bike. No helmet. I rolled and got skin up and sprained my left wrist, but I didn't hit my head. I wonder if the extra weight of a helmet would have made me do so.

I don't wear helmets except when I am in the skate parks. Police patrol those.

I do hate idiots who walk or take their little kids on the bike paths. They are the hazard in that case.

Posted by: Catracks at December 8, 2004 at 05:38 AM

Re Andrew & Catracks,

Exactly. But, I'd also add money to control. Everytime they decide to "nannify" something it always involves more money to the state, either through direct taxes and fees, or increased cost of goods which are then subject to sales taxes, etc.

Posted by: AlanC at December 8, 2004 at 06:21 AM

It's great to see the fight being taken back to the regulators and nannies. For years I have argued that seatbelt legislation was a denial of individual freedom. Consider the following:-

1. I live in a small country town (pop 500). I wear a seatbelt when I drive out of town because it is a wise precaution but in town wearing a seatbelt is just annoying. The law is an example of one size fits all .. I have to wear a seatbelt because people in other areas insist on having accidents.

2. No-one's life is endangered by my not wearing a seatbelt except mine. Now when I studied government I was taught that the government should not interfere except to prevent harm to others. I agree the government should legislate to require car makers to include seatbelts. I can even agree that the government should legislate to protect children by requiring restraints. I cannot agree that I should be fined and lose my licence for failing to protect myself. WORSE .. as a driver I am responsible for my adult passengers. Aren't they capable of protecting themselves?????

3. Finally, reading the above posts proves a point I have long made .. the public health system is not about public health at all. Give governments a reason to control us and it will. The Public Health System has become the Enabling Act of the modern bureaucratic state. In the name of cutting health costs the state has exercised MORE microcontrol of our lives than even Totalitarian states. YOU WILL live your life according to our guidelines OR ELSE.

I am an adult. I am mentally competent. I should be free to do whatever I wish to enhance my lifestyle in any way I see fit as long as it doesn't hurt others. I have never used a public hospital in my adult life (I am 51) and a Private hospital only once (to confirm the presence of an ulcer .. and I paid for it myself) yet I have paid thousands to the health system through my taxes. If I get injured then I figure I am entitled to some care .. but I would rather not pay in the first place and pay when I need it. Public health is just a redistribution mechanism. ITS TIME WE CALLED IT FOR WHAT IT IS and forget all the crap about caring for us.

Posted by: Daemon at December 8, 2004 at 06:22 AM

Riding bicycles on public highways without a helmet? The next thing he'll be advocating playing football without a helmet.

Wait, he does...

Posted by: Bruce Rheinstein at December 8, 2004 at 06:38 AM

Daemon is right on. He might also add point #4 - "in the name of" is another way of saying "doesn't really," a point that I see others have made. More money comes out of our pockets to lubricate the machine state. It gets frittered away and we don't actually get anything more back.

Posted by: Nightfly at December 8, 2004 at 07:12 AM

I was one of those people who fumed at Australia's helmet laws. 'How dare they tell me what to do' I said. That was until the front wheel came off my bike and my head went into the concrete at speed. Luckily I was only knocked out a minute with a few nasty cuts. If I hadn't been wearing a helmet...who knows. Maybe I'd be dribbling brain damaged burden on my family and society (no jokes plz). Sometimes a little state paternalism can be a good thing...

Wear a helmet and for god's sake use front and rear lights if you're riding at night. It's only about $60 you only have to pay it once and it can SAVE YOUR LIFE.

PS. Critical Mass last friday of every month 5.30pm in a capital city near you!

Posted by: dobaman at December 8, 2004 at 07:22 AM

It's fine that you discovered that you want to wear a helmet. Isn't it nice that it WAS YOUR CHOICE?

I am just against a government mandate that says I MUST wear one. Next thing: I won't be able to choose my own food. Sound far fetched? If you had told me 20 years ago that I wouldn't be able to smoke outside on California beaches I would have laughed myself silly or more likely thought you a total weirdo.

I don't NEED or WANT the government to be my parent or my child's parent. The thought is nausiating.

Posted by: Catracks at December 8, 2004 at 07:37 AM

If you don't need a head you don't need a helmut.

Posted by: Jonny at December 8, 2004 at 07:45 AM

Two points:

Back in 1955, Connecticut mandated that bicycles had to have license plates! Yes, license plates! I got one, I was ten years old, and even at that age was furious about the stupidity and cost ($1.00) of a goddamn license plate for my bike. The requirement eventually collapsed because it was (a) just another revenue-getter in a state already buried in taxes and fees, (b) too many people simply ignored it, and (c) local police didn't want to spend the time enforcing the law.
One always wonders about the small room full of idiots who dream this stuff up.

Connecticut went through a similar spasm with motorcycle helmet laws in the 70's, passing one and then the legislators were scared shitless by thousands of bikers descending upon the State House in protest. The law was repealed.

I think at about that time, the argument that one has a social responsibility to keep your head intact (the medical expense argument) was disproven, at least to the extent that the cost to the state of an unhelmeted injured rider was hard (if not impossible) to determine, and that helmets themselves can be inhibiting to good riding. It also occurs to me that when individual behaviors are evaluated in terms of their potential dollar cost to others taxpayers, we're in very dangerous territory.

As for bikes, I've riden road bikes seriously for thirty-five years on all kinds of terrain, in storms and blizzards and for great distances, and I've never worn a helmet. Never. My kids used to. I don't. It's a good idea, but I do NOT want to wear a helmet, and so far adults in Connecticut don't have to. I want to see the statistics that support the case for bicycle helmets for road bike riders (not mountain bikes). So far I haven't.

Posted by: Crazy Chester at December 8, 2004 at 07:52 AM

Tim, a few years ago I would have agreed with you. I have been a keen cyclist(off and on) since my teens and had never worn a helmet unless racing.
Getting run over cured that for me!
I don't give a shit what the government says but... I don't leave my driveway without a skid lid on now. As far as I'm concerned, if you didn't have one on, then you shouldn't be given free(taxpayer funded) treatment in a hospital. The freedom to make decisions about oneself comes hand in hand with the responsibility to live with the consequences of those decisions.

Posted by: Gibbo at December 8, 2004 at 08:02 AM

"It's not your safety or welfare these laws are put in place. They are not to protect you. They are to CONTROL you."

Yeah, making you wear safety gear which might stop you dying, is so evil and indidious. I suppose you're against Workcover requiring workplace safety equipment as law as well?

Sure, you can say "Its our choice to wear it or not." But I bet you my bottom dollar that if you are knocked off and get brain damaged due to not wearing a helmet, you'll be screaming for compo.

Prevention beats cure. Whats the big deal?

Posted by: Red at December 8, 2004 at 08:21 AM

Too bad the legislation doesn't include a running commentary, like:

"You idiots! You stupid, stupid idiots! Wear a helmet - geez, you can get a major head injury falling off a stationary bicycle! Okay, you don't want to wear a helmet? Society has to wear the cost of your stupidity as well? Right. Here's what the fine's going to be, please yourself."

Posted by: Flashman at December 8, 2004 at 08:22 AM

"I am just against a government mandate that says I MUST wear one."

Oh god.
I bet you're also againt that evil guv'mint that MAKES you stop at red lights! The bastards, it should be the individual choice. How about how you MUST have a prescription to buy certain drugs in order to only take stuff that won't harm you - thay're controlling us, maaaan!! It should be my choice to take 7 valium at brekky!
For a RWDB blog there are a lot of anarchists here :)

Posted by: Red at December 8, 2004 at 08:24 AM

Like my Barber says, as far as self defence goes." Better to be tried by 12 people on a jury than carried in a coffin by 6".

Posted by: Paulm at December 8, 2004 at 08:33 AM

"For a RWDB blog there are a lot of anarchists here :)"

No, but there are a bunch of us libertarians.

BTW, the red light analogy blows. But I agree about the prescription drugs - just tell me the risk factors and let me decide for myself. Y'know, being an adult and all.

Posted by: Dave S. at December 8, 2004 at 09:16 AM

People who compulsively masturbate while watching downloaded porn clips cost taxpayers thousands of dollars in carpal-tunnel treatment costs."

Must ask my sister if that's why she's had carpal tunnel problems.

Posted by: Wayne Kerr at December 8, 2004 at 09:30 AM

The hospital in which my brother (surgeon) works, has one of those guys whose job it is to run around detecting impossible/improbable accidents. His latest discovery is the chance that doctors wearing neckties is a health risk because they provide a handy grab-point for violent/deranged patients. This expert is seriously calling for the design and issue of 'pull-away' (velcro?) neckties. My brother has countered by suggesting he wear a joke bow tie that squirts capsicum spray.

Posted by: cuckoo at December 8, 2004 at 09:34 AM

Risk factor: dont wear a helmet and you may be hurt/fined.

Choose to not wear a helmet and you accept these risks. So dont whinge if you get fined. At least you got to go hat-less.

Posted by: Red at December 8, 2004 at 09:46 AM


No-one's life is endangered by my not wearing a seatbelt except mine.

In June of 2003, I was side swiped by a young driver, who lost control of his truck merging from a clover leaf. I was doing about 50 MPH and he about 40, while rotating.

The impact threw me hard to the left, but my motion was halted by the belt, and allowed my hands to stay on the wheel, and therefore myself to retain control of a large heavily loaded van.

This was in rush hour, high-density, multi-lane traffic. There were many other drivers around me, who benefited by my choosing to buckle up.

BTW I am against seat belt and esp. helmet laws.

Posted by: Thomas at December 8, 2004 at 09:54 AM

It really bothers me how many people here continually crap on about how they are now so much smarter, because they fell on their head somewhere along the line and "the helmet saved their life".

For god's sake, guys: There is tons and tons of evidence, in this country (Australia) and NZ for example - being the only two countries on Earth that have had all ages bike helmet laws for over 12 years now, showing that increased helmet use DOES NOT translate to any saved lives, or any reduction in head injuries. In fact, there is good evidence showing helmets can CAUSE INJURIES by increasing risky behaviour, by being incorrectly worn and by accentuating rotational brain trauma - the most serious of all. Just read Chris Gillham's site. Read some of the linked sites there. Look at the data collected and analysed by Dorothy Robinson, a senior statistician an the UNE.

Yet so many drongos here - and in general society - carry on with the mantra that THEY HAVE BEEN SAVED. The true Helmiban - the same kind of blind fundamentalism. They have now SEEN THE LIGHT...even though without all the publicity about helmets the authorities pump out, the same people would have not thought twice about wearing a helmet now - and would still be alive. Amazing, eh?

Wear your helmets, seat belts and whatever else you want; but do not try to force it on me (who happens to have spent a weekend in a Queensland jail for the serious crime refusing to wear a bike helmet), and do not lecture condescendingly about "organ donors". It only makes you look even more stupid than you do already with the stinking piece of polystyrene on your head.

And, BTW, for those who use the cycling pros as "proof" that helmets are good: Have you ever considered what these guys get paid to wear them? This is not so relevant now, because under pressure from do-gooder wankers like some in evidence here the top cycling body made helmets compulsory recently, but certainly was in the days Greg Lemond was getting tens of thousands of dollars per photo shot from Giro (a helmet manufacturer).

How do I know this? Because I was there, riding the Tour de France at about the time all this helmet shit started happening. After over 400,000 kilometres of cycling without a helmet and without a head injury, I consider your propaganda to be yet another bullshit attack on my personal freedoms.

Posted by: JPB at December 8, 2004 at 10:33 AM

*eye roll* I suppose it's stupid for life-savers to tell people that they have to swim between the flags, too? Naturally, if you ignored them and got taken by a rip, you would happily say "well it was my choice" and not call for help while you drowned, would you? Knowing that calling for help would require life-savers to risk their own safety by coming to rescue you because you disobeyed the safety rules.

Posted by: Red at December 8, 2004 at 10:39 AM

having attended many road accidents (fire brigade) and seen many dead bodies who refused to wear seatbelts - thrown from vehicles, etc - when their seatbeat-wearing colleagues were merely bruised, I'll call it social darwinism. Refuse to comply with safety laws, and youre more likely to be outta the gene pool. Thats a good thing for australia.

Posted by: e.d. at December 8, 2004 at 10:42 AM

I got flipped up over the handlebars of my Honda when a moron stopped short in front of me. A helmet saved my life (I'm assuming that since the DOT-approved brainbucket actually split and I had a huge bruise on both shoulders where it jammed down, my skull wouldn't have done much better). I always wear a helmet now.

On the other hand, I don't support mandatory helmet laws because I firmly believe stupid people should die if they insist on trying hard enough.

Posted by: richard mcenroe at December 8, 2004 at 10:49 AM

Consider the pros of wearing a helmet:
- provides a nice place to put the alfoil that keeps out the government's mind control rays;
- is an effective contraceptive;
- covers up that appalling haircut.

Posted by: Greg at December 8, 2004 at 10:53 AM

Helmets - I quit riding my bike when the Air Force Base I lived on started making them mandatory. I'm not wearing that stupid looking hair smasher, not now, not ever. I don't race around showing off on trails or going for speed. I putter about slow and safe with no need for the alien headgear.

So when do they stop us from other dangerous sports I enjoy? I've busted myself up more horseback riding and hiking/climbing than I ever though of on a bike. I believe I can do my own risk assessment thank you very much.

Posted by: Lilly at December 8, 2004 at 11:08 AM

You know, if we ban all extreme sports, New Zealand might have to grow back its military out of sheer boredom...

Posted by: richard mcenroe at December 8, 2004 at 11:10 AM

I am a huge fan of Steyn's. I would not be typing this if I was not wearing a helmet in my last two crashes on my bike (v. cars).

Posted by: Razor at December 8, 2004 at 11:34 AM

Razer says:

I would not be typing this if I was not wearing a helmet in my last two crashes on my bike (v. cars)

You keep saying this, but the truth is that short of being able to repeat the two accidents in precisely the same way they happened originally, but this time with no helmet on, your statement is meaningless. You cannot KNOW the helmet saved you the way you keep stating; it cracked on impact, so you assume it did.

This type of anecdotal evidence is easily disproved by the fact that head injury and total cycling fatality rates have not decreased at all with increased helmet usage.

Please, try to refrain from repeating unsubstantiated claims in the future.

Posted by: JPB at December 8, 2004 at 12:02 PM

The cost savings from compulsory helmets would have to be investigated more thoroughly before you could conclude that it saves the government money. The obvious effect of compulsory helmets are less people requiring medical assistance. But there are also positives like people dying before they start claiming the pension or swamping the medical system in their old age. Also, there are a set of people who would of died instantly had they not worn a helmet but now will place a burden on the health system.

Posted by: drscroogemcduck at December 8, 2004 at 12:15 PM

I agree with both sides. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn't ride a bike on a public road without a helmet. At the same time, that means I don't ride a bike any more. And I used to ride everywhere. Didn't get a license til 23 or a car til 24.

Maybe the solution is... better helmets. Some of those "HR Giger Alien" models aren't so dorky looking. Better ventilation, maybe?

Posted by: Uncle Milk at December 8, 2004 at 12:37 PM

Ontario - major head trauma stats. FY 2000/2001:

n = ~2500
49% from MV involvement (incl. pedestrians but excl. cyclists)
35% Falls
6% Homicide
2% Suicide
2% Cycling
6% Other
(source Canadian Institute For Health Information)

Who did you say should wear helmets?

Posted by: JFJones at December 8, 2004 at 12:43 PM

"Wear your helmets, seat belts and whatever else you want; but do not try to force it on me (who happens to have spent a weekend in a Queensland jail for the serious crime refusing to wear a bike helmet), and do not lecture condescendingly about "organ donors".

jbp, if you really wanted to have anal sex that much all what you needed to do was to go to Fortitude Valley, you know where Tim went when he came to Brisbane. You didn't need to go to the trouble of getting locked up.

On a more serious note however, my day job for the last 13 years has been working in the personal injury claims department of a large insurance company. The "it'm my choice and I'll pay for it if it's wrong" crowd are just wrong. If you get smashed in an accident somebody else picks up the tab, whether it's your insurer, the insurer of the person who hit you or the state.

There's an old saying about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. Providing that the wearing of helmets can be proven to reduce injury, I'm all for the government mandating it.

Posted by: Pauly at December 8, 2004 at 01:27 PM

JPB - I understand the point you are making. It could be turned around the other way to say that there is no evidence to support the theory that if a helmet law wasn't in place, there would have been a significantly higher number of injuries and deaths, due to increased traffic etc.

The problem we have in Australia is that it is my taxes paying for people to go to public hospital emergency departments and subsequent rehabilitation, sometimes paid for through a publicly funded insurance commission. If they said that you pay for all your costs if you have an accident without a bike helmet, then I would be happy to support it, but I doubt the argument would get up in a democracy, just as smokers get full public health care until death do us part.

You also discount my accidents because the helmet may have caused them. That's your opinion. I was in the accidents and can assure you of two things - the helmet did not contribute to the accidents and the amount of damage done to the helmets after the whack on the road told me I was a very lucky guy.

For your info - one accident was where a parked car door was opened as my cycling group was about to pass, bringing down about 8 riders. the second accident occurred when I was decending a hill at about 60 km/h in a marked cycle lane when a car just in front of me decided to turn left. I had no where to go except into the side of the car, over the top and onto my head. In both cases the car drivers failed to look

Posted by: Razor at December 8, 2004 at 01:57 PM


This whole thread makes me laugh because you would shit kittens if you saw my Harley group riding. I choose to wear a helmet, but most don't.

Bicycling is dangerous? If you're going through the Alps at a high rate of speed i'll buy it. Otherwise you're just too clumsy to be trusted with athletic devices and must be regulated.

Posted by: phat at December 8, 2004 at 03:21 PM

Pauly says:

If you get smashed in an accident somebody else picks up the tab, whether it's your insurer, the insurer of the person who hit you or the state.

Providing that the wearing of helmets can be proven to reduce injury, I'm all for the government mandating it.

Applying the same logic, you are condoning the government's adoption of any measures, no matter on how shakey a ground, as long as they can claim they are doing it for the public good. What's the point of insurance then, if one is not to use it?

Excuse me, but this is a totally repellent thought. I would think that if you really consider what it is you are saying, you would have to revoke such a blatant licence for the politicians to run all and any aspects of your life.

And hence lies the problem: How do you prove that any such measures reduce injury rates? Is cutting down the numbers of people cycling a good thing? -- Sure; it reduces injury rates. No cyclists, no injuries; from that point of view the law has been a success.

But what about all the loss of exercise that ensues as a result? What about the fact many of these people turn to driving to commute instead, thus adding to air pollution and road congestion? Still a good thing?

And how do you prioritise? What do you mandate, ban and allow? Cycling is no more dangerous than walking - why not mandate helmets for pedestrians?

Your arguments are rather full of holes, my friend.



Posted by: JPB at December 8, 2004 at 03:54 PM

Razor, you don't seem to understand:

You go on, like some other posters here, about your taxes paying for brain injured cyclists. You are, by extension, taking it as a given that wearing a helmet reduces the rate of injuries, and therefore the cost to the public purse. I'll say it again for your benefit: This is patently not the case. Please, leave comparisons with smokers out of it - there is no similarity between the two. Smoking shortens lives; cycling extends them. With or without helmets - with no detectable difference between the two. Get it now? Riding without a helmet is no more dangerous than riding with one.

This law has cost society dearly in loss of exercise alone. This is plainly documented on Chris Gillham's site, to name one. Yet you and others keep harping on how people not wearing helmets cost you money in your taxes spent on their subsequent hospital treatment. For god's sake...give it a break! There must be a mental block some of you guys have on this subject...

And not at all, I am not saying that your helmet caused your accident[s]. What I am saying is that despite your falling on your head and cracking your helmet in the process, you cannot make a claim that the helmet saved your life; this is your belief, not a fact. If helmets truly saved lives in such situations, we would see a decrease in the number of head injured cyclists as helmet use across the board increased, would we not? Does it finally make sense to you?

I don't care if you want to wear a helmet. I just get pissed off when I hear people carrying on about how everyone must wear one and how they have all been saved from certain death by one. If these claims were true, then before helmets became widely used in the late 80s/early 90s, there would have been legions of massacred cyclists' remains all over the gutters.

As I have said elsewhere on this forum, having moved to Darwin (where there's no helmet law) from Queensland some time ago, it was great to not have dickheads in cars yell "where's your helmet", to find out heaps more people cycle here and that the NT has the lowest head injury rate in the country.

So, again: wear a helmet, but please stop saying it saved your life and how everyone must wear one to save your tax dollars. Both of these are bullshit.



Posted by: JPB at December 8, 2004 at 04:16 PM

JPB - I think we should agree to disagree and call a truce. Must say I did enjoy Darwin in the dry season, but you can keep it in the wet. Spent two years up there with the Army. When I win lotto I'm having a house in Darwin and a house in Perth to alternate six monthly. Keep on cycling.

Posted by: Razor at December 8, 2004 at 04:56 PM

I was hitch hiking in Italy about 25 years ago, way up in the north. A guy in a red mini with a white racing stripe stopped to pick me up. He was wearing a motorbike helmet. I was a little puzzled. Until he drove off. It was like being on a Dukes of Hazzard set. Without the leggy bird. We drove for three hours along mountain roads at speeds that were no doubt amplified by sheer drop offs and the sweat trickling into my eyes. He was crazy. And he wore a helmet. I would have given anything for one five minutes into the ride.

Never get into a car with a guy wearing a helmet. Unless he's on a race track. Then it's okay.

As for helmets and cyclists. I've ridden about 200,000 km around Asia and the Pacific (from New Zealand to Pakistan). I've been hit by buses, taxis, elephants (no I lie, that should be singular, and it's probably truer to say I hit it), and other cyclists. I've been over the top of a VW Beetle (very hard front bump bars on those little bastards), slid down more metres of bituman than I care to remember, had a lady deliver a single shoe (and helmet) to my wife as I lay in the back of an ambulance going to hospital, been held up at gunpoint (nothing to with helmet safety, but then again, maybe...), and God knows what else I've forgotten. I've had accidents with and without helmets.

Shit, I've forgotten my point...

Posted by: Hell Mutt at December 8, 2004 at 05:29 PM

With thanks to Jerry Seinfeld, "There are many things you can point to as proof that the human is not smart. But my personal favorite would have to be that we needed to invent the helmet. What was happening, apparently, was that we were involved in a lot of activities that were cracking our heads. We chose not to avoid doing those activities but, instead, to come up with some sort of device to help us enjoy our head-cracking lifestyles. And even that didn't work because not enough people were wearing them so we had to come up with the helmet law. Which is even stupider, the idea behind the helmet law being to preserve a brain whose judgment is so poor, it does not even try to avoid the cracking of the head it's in."

I do think though that in a land of socialised medicine the government (which is really just the community at large) has a right to expect its members to take steps to protect themselves from unnecessary injury.

Posted by: skid at December 8, 2004 at 06:12 PM

To Skid, Razorback and others

I think you have made my point. I do not necessarily disagree with people wearing helmets or seatbelts. My gripe is with socialised medecine. The moment we accepted government control of health we gave government a blank cheque to interfere and micromanage our lives.

A few more points:-

1. Most people arguing for helmets miss the point that it is not helmets which are the problem but the coercive state apparatus to force people into self protection. Coercion always APPEARS a good idea in the beginning, but when we realise our loss of freedom it is often too late to change it. It is interesting that all the comments testifying to how a helmet saved a life go on to say because "I was saved" "everyone MUST be saved". Wasn't that the attitude of the inquisition. They also believed in "for the common good".

2. If anyone has read the blogs (See Disecting Leftism) on the obesity debate there are already those arguing the state should control what we eat (prevention is better than cure). They may be the fringe at the moment but watch how quickly they become the mainstream.

3. The only reason anyone injured not wearing a helmet would be a burden on the taxpayer funded health system is because we have no choice about funding the system. Some of us actually pay for private medecine ON TOP OF funding the socialised system .. which I guess makes us fools too.

4. Doctors and bureaucrats will never cease interfering in the name of prevention till we tell them to F*** OFF. To quote an old feminist slogan "Hands off our bodies".

5. If the government was really serious about PREVENTION it would impose 10kph speed limits on cars, build dedicated transport corridors and divided carriageways, ban air transport, and issue free bubble suits to all and hey presto .. no risks (well almost no risk). Why don't they? Because they would a) be kicked out on their asses b) lose all that lovely money from registrations and licence renewals and departure taxes etc etc. c) Because of lost income end up with an even worse off health system than they have already.

The issue is not the rightness or wrongness of safety precautions, its about freedom, including the freedom to be stupid, versus the unfettered power of state control.

Posted by: Daemon at December 8, 2004 at 09:58 PM

Well. I'm astounded!

I have read most the huge crock of shit called "personal protection" ladled out to the lumpenproles in huge doses by some commenters on this thread that I would have been pleased to call fellow travellers, and probably could be even persuaded to buy them a drink, should they happen to sip at the same waterhole on the odd occasion.

Not going to happen now, serfs.

Jeez! Bend the knee, bow down, "they" are your betters and know what is good for you.

"THEY" will protect you from your follies, and it saves the rest of us paying money for your injuries!

And as for the snivelling slaves who are so proud of "getting off" being fined by the wallopers because they had an excuse:
"Please Sir, I was only going to the shops etc....."

Go and look in the mirror and see what you have become.

Posted by: Pedro the Ignorant at December 8, 2004 at 10:27 PM

Don't call it "public" healthcare, you're a member of the public, can you ask for your money back? No.

It's coercion funded, beurocrat rationed treatment.

If you live in a country that controls your body via a communist hospital system, you are not Free. These countries are more like jails.

Real Healthcare is nothing like the slop the state ladles out.

Nannies are for children and socialists.

Posted by: Rob Read at December 8, 2004 at 10:57 PM

Hey Red, you're going to have to find a better analogy/comparison than stopping at red lights. What on earth does traffic contol laws have to do with helmet laws? What does personal protection gear have to do with regulating traffic.

I am responsible for my own well being. Wearing a helmet or not does not affect anyone else during the course of my ride. Running a red light would ruin everyone's day.

Don't paint me unibomber idiotarian. The scornful little attack was uncalled for.

Posted by: Catracks at December 8, 2004 at 11:27 PM

Just a brief additional thought. The former Indian Prime Minister Desai believed in the healthgiving properties of urine. Should the state make a daily glass of urine mandatory then? And what of PETA .. they believe we should all be forced to become vegetarians. The danger with lines in the sand is that once you move it once it becomes that much harder to resist moving it the second time (like murder). The nannies would like you to believe there ain't no such thing as the slippery slope .. tell that to the live children now being lethally injected in Netherlands. Didn't they tell us that legalising abortion would NEVER EVER lead to infanticide? (FYI .. It's called the Groningen Protocol .. and it is legal sadly in that benighted country). Those who want to bring evil into the world begin with small steps .. a seatbelt here, a helmet there. If we don't fight the small steps we won't be in a position to fight the giant strides later on.

Posted by: Daemon at December 8, 2004 at 11:32 PM

Red said: '"Yeah, making you wear safety gear which might stop you dying, is so evil and indidious. I suppose you're against Workcover requiring workplace safety equipment as law as well?'"

My husband wears a harness and a yo-yo so he won't fall down 80 foot holes. Makes sense to him so he does. He would also be kicked off the job if he didn't because his employer is liable. Of course workplace safety laws make sense when the employer is the responsible party. I think it's Cal-OSHA for us.

"Sure, you can say 'Its our choice to wear it or not.' But I bet you my bottom dollar that if you are knocked off and get brain damaged due to not wearing a helmet, you'll be screaming for compo."

Nope. I'm more likely to get scraped off the desert floor riding my motorcycle (I wear a helmet of my own volition). I have insurance. when my family gets injured we take responsibility for it. My daughter broke her arm on the monkeybars. Did we sue the school because there was asphalt under her? No. It was HER fault for doing a gynastics dismount like a numbskull.

Maybe she should have been wearing a helmet :-P

Catracks the Republican with slight libertarian leanings.

Posted by: Catracks at December 8, 2004 at 11:43 PM

It is amusing how many people have never learned of Sam Pelzman's ground breaking research on "safety" regulations. As the perception of "safety" increases, risky behavior does as well.

Posted by: Robin Roberts at December 9, 2004 at 02:07 AM

JPB says,
"Riding without a helmet is no more dangerous than riding with one."
Until you are hit by a car then the statistics break down along with your skull.

Good grief.
On this one Tim and Mark Steyn are way off base.

Anyone riding on or around traffic, or on a hardened pathway without a helmet has to be a fool. The simple truth is that when I am riding on the road I know that I am at risk, I can feel it coming down the road behind me.
And watching children ride on roads without protection is downright scary.
Tim, I can only guess you, and a number of these posters don't have kids.

Fancy being so bloody minded and lazy that you won't ride because you're required to protect your noggin.

Posted by: MOik at December 9, 2004 at 02:17 AM

Uh oh: you guys aren't thinking like MOik. Get with the program!

Say, Moik, why don't we just have everyone wear full body armor at all times. Then they'd be safe from everything except death from heatstroke.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 9, 2004 at 02:46 AM

Suddenly my favourite website shows its inane stupidity.

Here's a test for you Andrea.

Take your kids (you do have some, don't you?) for a ride on the local streets without their helmets. Do it regularly. Take them through some evening traffic, you know, the kind where everyone is in a hurry to get home.
Perhaps, for something different, you can go inside while they are out riding and have a nap (lots of people do that while their kids are out there playing), and sleep peacefully knowing that they are safe because you kept the regulators away from them.

According to your logic the soldiers in Iraq should throw away their body armour. They are only operating in a dangerous environment where they can be injured, similar to sharing roads with trucks and fast moving vehicles.

Anyway, enough of that. Some things are just a darn good idea, like safety helmets in traffic.

Letting your ideology get in the way of common sense just makes you look stupid. And stains an otherwise interesting site.

Posted by: MOik at December 9, 2004 at 03:11 AM

MOik, I'll take constant principles over inconstant logic anyday.

Not wearing a helmet is not remotely like a soldier discarding his body armor: the motorists aren't aiming at the cyclists. The logical fallacy is yours, not Andrea's. Neither does she suggest that children should do as they please, unsupervised.

You have already made our point for us. You feel at risk - you wear the helmet. It should be your choice. I should be allowed the same choice.

And NO, that doesn't mean "repeal all traffic laws" or "let Junior play inside the lion cage." If making false comparisons is the only way you can support mandatory helmet laws, you've lost the debate.

Posted by: Nightfly at December 9, 2004 at 03:41 AM

Liberals want to live in a worst of both cross between "Demolition Man" and "Algernon Bergeron".

I'd prefer to take my chances, and take the gains.

Socialism kills. National Socialist Germany was the first Nanny State.

Posted by: Rob Read at December 9, 2004 at 03:50 AM

I do have kids and they wear protective clothing when appropriate as determined by ME.

Why is THAT so hard to understand.

I shoot off non safe and sane fireworks too. I just have to get far enough away from the idiots who are so concerned with MY welfare first.

Bummer that a difference of opinion on helmets would spoil the whole site for you. Sheesh!

Posted by: Catracks at December 9, 2004 at 03:55 AM

You know that the Canadian govt also recently banned trans-fats? Cuz if you're not biking in an approved fashion, you might not be eating in an approved fashion either.

The black market in bacon can only grow.

Posted by: ras at December 9, 2004 at 04:17 AM

Ras - let's hear it for the cash economy!

Posted by: Nightfly at December 9, 2004 at 05:13 AM

Sounds like a bunch of lazy sods are using the helmet law as another excuse not to use their rusty old bike. Why should anyone be surprised or shocked, look at the reams of safety regs concerning cars and boats and tell me how onerus a simple helmet law is.

Posted by: Jakemeister at December 9, 2004 at 06:09 AM

It is interesting to see the same "progressive" debating tricks even in this thread. In fact it's an object lesson.
1. Assume a lofty "everyone will agree on this cause it's a no-brainer"
2. when called on it use (personal) anecdotal evidence and assume it applies to everyone
3. when that doesn't work shift the debate to children (forgetting the original thread was about adults being forced to wear helmets)
4. introduce irrelevant arguments about traffic regulations and OH&S (designed to protect others - a principal no-one here has ever disagreed with)
5. descend to personalities.

I came across the following quote which perfectly sums up the anti-libertarian mindset -

"He had never understood the democratic process of reasoned discussion leading to a solution which will fit the facts. For him the political forum had been the place for declamation not debate. He had dealt with his opponents by shouting them down, by breaking up their meetings, by passionate assertion of his own viewpoint and an equally passionate denunciation of any other"

The quote is from Chester Wilmot's Struggle for Europe and describes Adolf Hitler. By their fruits shall ye know them.

Posted by: Daemon at December 9, 2004 at 06:11 AM

The Holy Bible gives us the example of having a choice in helmet use, 1 Samuel 17, Goliath wore a helmet but David choose not to. Some people may find helmets, inconvenient, too hot at times, annoying, distracting and allowing for choice shows respects for the individual to decide if or when they wear a helmet.

The European Cycling Federation report of 1998, 'Improving bicycle safety without making helmet use compulsory' stated "the evidence from Australia and New Zealand suggests that the wearing of helmets might make cycling more dangerous"

In Victoria they issued 19,229 'Bicycle Offence Penalty Notices' in the first 12 months of their law but only 45% of teenager wore helmets. For each extra teenager wearing a helmet 10 others stopped cycling

The health benefits of cycling and life years gained have been calculated to exceed life years lost in cycle fatalities by a factor of 20 to 1.

For more data see and email for a copy of Bicycle helmets and accident involvement.


Posted by: colin clarke at December 9, 2004 at 06:37 AM

MOik, for your information I do not have any children, so arguments in favor of turning the entire world into a giant, padded nursery so the Children™ won't get any owies move me not at all. As for parents who sleep while Junior juggles knives, that's not my problem either. If Junior drops his mother's Ginsu carving knife into his own skull "by mistake" it's her fault for leaving the kid unsupervised and the knives out, not mine.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at December 9, 2004 at 11:51 AM

Helmets shoud be compulsory to drink at the Beaconsfield hotel.

Posted by: S3 at December 9, 2004 at 02:49 PM