A recent Road Safety Action Plan released by the the ACTs Minister for Road Safety Shane Rattenbury states that by re-examaning the current compulsory cycling helmet laws in low-speed zones it can increase participation in cycling.
The 39-point plan rolled out on Monday 15 February and targets road users and cyclists alike, the plan aims to improve road safety by creating awareness of cyclists due to a suspected increase in cyclists after having the option to use a helmet. Also in the plan is a move to reduce the number of demerit points issued to drivers and higher penalties for drivers caught texting and a ban on the use of bluetooth and hands-free mobile devices whilst driving. Also the expansion of 40kph speed zones in town centres.
Mr Rattenbury said the aim is to facilitate increased cycling participation and that an expert would be engaged to assess the situational risk of helmet free riding in “parks, town centres and other low-speed environments such as shared zones and university precincts”.
“There is clear evidence that wearing bicycle helmets does reduce the rate of head injuries. There’s also evidence that it can reduce the number of people who cycle,” Mr Rattenbury said.
“We will engage an expert to look at options for low-speed areas … we’ll sit down and have that research done for us over the next couple of years and weigh up the relative benefits.
“If we have more people out there cycling it actually makes people safer, because cycling is more visible, there’s more people doing it and drivers become more used to having cyclists on the road.”
Gordon Waddington who is a professor of sport and exercise medicine at the University of Canberra supports the move by the ACT Government.
“Looking at larger scale research studies now, we can actually see that in fact when we see helmet use go up, we actually don’t see an increase in protection occurring,” he said.
“We do see an increase in protection from lacerations and cuts and damage directly to the skin of the head, but we don’t see protection from significant head injury the way we’d like to have thought it might happen.
“What the ACT Government is doing now, looking at taking on new evidence and [considering] the overall benefit to society of increasing activity, I think outweighs the relatively small risk [from not wearing a helmet],”
Read more here at the ABC News website.