Minister isn't sold on helmet plan for cyclists

ROAD safety researchers fear letting adults off the hook from wearing helmets could result in a 60% spike of potentially fatal head injuries from crashes.

But a proposed two-year trial removing mandatory helmet laws for cyclists aged over 16 years in less risky areas to increase cycling participation rates in Queensland does not even have ministerial backing.

A Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee report tabled in Queensland Parliament on Friday suggested the move, through getting more people on bikes, might improve the overall health of Queenslanders.

>> Dear motorists, we will catch you out, love - cyclists

But Transport Minister Scott Emerson said he was not sold on the idea's merits, whether on cycle paths, footpaths, on roads with a speed limit of 60kmh or less or in parks.

Should bicycle helmets be optional when the rider is on the footpath or in a park?

This poll ended on 30 November 2014.

Current Results

No way. Accidents can happen anywhere.

43%

Maybe, once the rider is over 18.

14%

Definitely. It’s completely safe.

23%

No helmets ever – not even on the road.

19%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

"I'm yet to be convinced that it's sensible to change our mandatory laws for helmets but what I will be doing is having a look at ... the rationale and the reasoning for that recommendation," he said.

The report - A new direction in cycling for Queensland - suggests exempting cyclists from wearing helmets in some areas also could benefit Queensland for economic reasons, especially in tourist areas.

Narelle Haworth - from QUT's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety - Queensland - said the data suggested if the committee's helmet recommendation was implemented, the total number of head injuries from bike crashed in Queensland could increase by up to 60%.

"Like seatbelts, helmets weren't popular at first but Australians are now used to the idea of wearing them and there's plenty of evidence to say the laws are working at reducing serious head injuries," she said.

Opposition Leader Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was important cyclists continued to wear helmets to prevent brain injury and save people's lives

"I don't want to change the culture we have adopted here in this state and across Australia. I believe the helmets should remain," she said.

The committee has also recommended a minimum overtaking distance when a motorist overtakes a cyclist - not less than 1m if the speed does not exceed 60kmh and 1.5m above 60kmh.

Mr Emerson has agreed to the 1m rule as part of a two-year trial, which will be introduced early 2014, and increase the penalties and fines for cyclists to the same level as motorists.

He said they would also introduce a law that already existed in the United Kingdom where motorists could go across a double white line to pass a cyclist when it was safe to do so.

Committee chairman, Warrego MP Howard Hobbs, said Queensland would lead the way with new road rules if the Queensland Government accepted the recommendations of the parliamentary inquiry.

The committee has made 68 recommendations in a 200 page report.

The Amy Gillett Foundation, which was formed after an out-of-control driver killed a cyclist while she was training with her Australian cycling team mates in 2005, has called on the government to implement 65 of the 68 recommendations.

Foundation chief Tracey Gaudry applauded the minister's support for the minimum overtaking distance and the committee's support for a nationally accredited bicycle education program to ensure future generations of Queenslanders embraced cycling as a way of life and safe way to get around.

"The committee recognises that cyclists are inherently more vulnerable than most road users," she said.

"By implementing reform encompassing infrastructure and behaviour change designed to improve the safety of cyclists, more people will take up bike riding leading to greater health, economic and environmental outcomes."

A full copy of the report is at http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/thlgc.


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