Hang on to cycle helmets, say police
A Christchurch City councillor who wants the cycle helmet law scrapped because it doesn't look cool should "stick to running council", a police boss says.
Canterbury road policing manager Al Stewart made the comment yesterday in reaction to calls from Aaron Keown that more people would choose to bike if they did not have to wear a helmet.
He wants New Zealand's compulsory cycle helmet law reviewed because, he says, it is jeopardising Christchurch's hopes of becoming the Amsterdam of the South Pacific.
"Putting a lid on your head messes up your hair, and for a lot of people that is an issue . . . I think it's time the Government had a look at the law and double-checked its benefits," he said.
An Australian statistician writing in the British Medical Journal in 2006 said compulsory helmet laws caused bike use to decrease 20 to 40 per cent in several Australian cities.
The New Zealand Medical Journal research also found a 51 per cent drop in the average hours cycled per person from the 1989-90 period when compared with 2006-09.
Colin Clarke, who produced the research, also estimated that the 1994 law had translated to about 53 premature deaths a year through adverse health effects from not cycling.
Inspector Stewart said cyclists were "vulnerable" and they needed to do what they could to protect themselves when on the road. That meant high visibility jackets, lights - and helmets.
He was "disappointed" by Keown's comments. "He [Keown] probably needs to stick to running council and leave the policing of cycle helmet use to the police."
Stewart did not have any statistics to hand, but said he was "sure" that the New Zealand helmet law had saved lives.
If cyclists were not taught to wear a helmet when they were young, they might not wear a seatbelt when they learnt to drive a car - "because they will never have been taught to look after themselves. It's up to community leaders to reinforce that," he said.
Keown could not be reached yesterday.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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