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Cyclists wearing helmets on a street in Melbourne, during a climate protest event

Australia was the first country to make wearing bicycle helmets mandatory. The majority of early statistical data regarding the effectiveness of bicycle helmets originated from Australia.[1] Their efficacy is still a matter of debate.

Between 1990 and 1992, Australian states and territories introduced various laws mandating that cyclists wear bicycle helmets while riding after a campaign by various groups including the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS).[2]

History: lead-up to the lawsEdit

Modern varieties of bicycle helmet first became commercially available from 1975.[3] Industry helmet standards were developed from the 1970s[4] and are still under development.[5][6]

In 1985, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Transport Safety recommended that cooperation of states and territories should be sought to "review the benefits of bicycle helmet wearing ... and unless there are persuasive arguments to the contrary introduce compulsory wearing of helmets by cyclists on roads and other public places". A federal parliament committee was set up in 1985.[7]

A 1986 report on child cyclist injuries from Redcliffe Hospital, Brisbane, detailed 93% of cases were not life-threatening and from 18 admissions, they included nine with minor head injury for overnight observation.[8] In 1987 a report based on Brisbane hospitals detailed a majority of children aged five to seven years were in favour of wearing helmets, whereas older children were opposed.[9]

In 1987 the Victorian Parliamentary Road Safety Committee tabled a report in the Parliament of Victoria which included a recommendation for mandatory wearing of helmets. The terms of reference for the inquiry related to child pedestrians and child cyclists and to report on 'the use of safety helmets by child cyclists'.[10]

By 1989, just before the government decided to introduce compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets, an officially-commissioned survey showed that public support for it was 92% for children and 83% for all riders.[11] Opposition was fragmented and ineffective; no major cycling groups opposed the law in public.[12]

Introduction of the laws: legal requirementsEdit

In Part 15 of the Australian Road Rules. It specifies that "the rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider’s head, unless the rider is exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under another law of this jurisdiction." The rules also require helmet use by certain bicycle passengers.[13] As of June 2013, the legally-required standard for a bicycle helmet is AS/NZS 2063.[14]

Mandatory helmet laws were first introduced in Victoria in July 1990, followed in January 1991 by laws for adult cyclists in New South Wales and all age-groups in Tasmania. In July 1991, New South Wales extended the law's reach to child cyclists. In the same month, laws covering all cyclists were adopted in South Australia and in Queensland, where the law was not enforced until 1 January 1993.[15] In January 1992 helmet laws were introduced in the Northern Territory (NT) and Western Australia and in July 1992 in the Australian Capital Territory.[citation needed]

In the NT since March 1994 there is an exemption for adults cycling along footpaths or on cycle paths.[16] The Queensland government announced in April 2013 that exemptions on religious grounds from mandatory bicycle helmet laws would be granted from 2014.[17]

Ongoing debate: after the lawsEdit

Academics within and outside Australia continue to express professional opinions both supportive and in opposition of the laws.[18] One opposition to the legislation is centred on shared bicycles in Brisbane and Melbourne. Shared bicycles are used about one tenth as much as is typical within areas without compulsory helmet laws.[19] Various factors may be responsible.[20][21] One response has been to improve the availability of helmets to users of bicycle-sharing schemes,[22] while Brisbane City Council has suggested trialling helmet-free zones.[23] The Australian Senate has included the helmet issue as part of an Inquiry (Personal choice and community impacts) and received many submissions (mainly opposed to the laws) and heard from various witnesses giving evidence both for and against the helmet laws.[24]


Studies of helmet use by injured cyclists were published from the late 1980s, some in Australia, both before and after helmet legislation. These have concluded both for and against the encouragement of bicycle helmet wearing and/or bicycle helmet legislation – the debate continues, without consensus.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Curnow, W. J. "Bicycle Helmets: A Scientific Evaluation" in Anton De Smet (2008). Transportation Accident Analysis and Prevention (PDF). Commack, N.Y: Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60456-288-0.
  2. ^ McDermott, F. T. (1992). "Helmet efficacy in the prevention of bicyclist head injuries: Royal australasian college of surgeons initiatives in the introduction of compulsory safety helmet wearing in Victoria, Australia". World Journal of Surgery. 16 (3): 379–383. doi:10.1007/BF02104435.
  3. ^ "Bell bike helmets timeline". Bell Bike Helmets. Archived from the original on 4 April 2010.
  4. ^ "Bicycle Helmet Standards". Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. 26 February 2009. Retrieved 12 February 2011.
  5. ^ Moore, Matthew (19 November 2010). "New bike helmet standards send retailers into a spin". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 February 2011.
  6. ^ "Mandatory standard — Bicycle helmets". Product Safety Australia. Archived from the original on 20 February 2011. Retrieved 26 February 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  7. ^ "Brief History of Helmet Law in Australia". Cyclists' Rights Action Group (CRAG). Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  8. ^ Armson CJ, Pollard CW, Child cyclist injuries; a prospective study. 3 Feb Vol 144, Med.J.Aust. 1986.
  9. ^ O'Rourke NA, Costello F, Yelland JDN, Stuart GG, Head injuries to children riding bicycles, Vol146 June15, Med J Aust. 1987
  10. ^ Clark, B.; Haworth, N; Lenne, M. (2005). The Victorian Parliamentary Road Safety Committee – a History of Inquiries and Outcomes (MUARC Report No. 237) (PDF). Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC). pp. 31–38. ISBN 978-0-7326-2307-4.
  11. ^ AGB McNair Survey Community Attitude. November 1989.
  12. ^ Williams, Meredyth-Ann (May 1995). Evaluation of the NSW introduction of compulsory bicycle helmet legislation. Research Note 17/94 (PDF). NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). ISBN 978-0-7305-3844-8. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 22 March 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  13. ^ Australian Road Rules (PDF). National Road Transport Commission. February 2012. ISBN 978-0-7240-8874-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 May 2013. Retrieved 19 June 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  14. ^ Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Bicycle Helmets) Regulations 2001. Australian Government. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  15. ^ King, M.; Fraine, G. (1993). Bicycle helmet legislation and enforcement in Queensland 1991–1993: Effects on helmet wearing and crashes. Road User Behaviour Section, Road Transport and Safety Division, Queensland Transport.
  16. ^ Northern Territory Government – Bicycle safety
  17. ^ Calligeros, Marissa (23 April 2013). "Bike helmet laws will change to allow religious exemptions". The Brisbane Times. Archived from the original on 24 April 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  18. ^ Stewart, David (23 March 2011). "Letter to Brisbane Central Business District Bicycle User Group" (PDF). Office of the Director General, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Government. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2013.
  19. ^ Helmet law hurting shared bike scheme. Clay Lucas. The Age, Victoria. 29 November 2010.
  20. ^ Fixing Australian bike share goes beyond helmet laws. Elliott Fishman. The Conversation 25 November 2012, 7.05pm GMT.
  21. ^ Why does bikeshare work in New York but not in Australia? Alan Davies. The Urbanist 3 June 2013 8:08AM
  22. ^ Is the law on helmets why bikeshare is failing? Alan Davies. The Urbanist 12 February 2012 5:39PM
  23. ^ Trial helmet-free cycling zones, says Brisbane City Council. Katherine Feeney. Brisbane Times 10 August 2013.
  24. ^ Personal choice and community impacts
  25. ^ Robinson, D. L. (July 1996). "Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws" (PDF). Accident Analysis & Prevention. 28 (4): 463–475. doi:10.1016/0001-4575(96)00016-4. PMID 8870773. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  26. ^ McDermott, F. T. (1992). "World Progress In Surgery. Helmet efficacy in the prevention of bicyclist head injuries: Royal Australasian college of surgeons initiatives in the introduction of compulsory safety helmet wearing in Victoria, Australia". World Journal of Surgery. 16 (3): 379–383. doi:10.1007/BF02104435. The results of a comparative study of the injury profiles of Victorian motorcyclist and bicyclist casualties were used by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in initiating a state-wide campaign to promote the wearing of approved safety helmets by Victorian bicyclists and to obtain the necessary legislation whereby such wearing would become compulsory
  27. ^ Haworth, Narelle; Schramm, Amy; King, Mark; Steinhardt, Dale (2010). Monograph 5 – Bike Helmet Research (PDF). Brisbane: Center for Accident Research and Bike Safety. ISBN 978-0-9751596-8-2. Retrieved 19 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  28. ^ Attewell, R.; Glase, K.; McFadden, M. (June 2000). Bicycle helmets and injury prevention: A formal review (PDF). Australian Transport Safety Bureau. ISBN 978-0-642-25514-3. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  29. ^ Robinson, D. L. (January 2007). "Bicycle helmet legislation: Can we reach a consensus?". Accident Analysis & Prevention. 39 (1): 86–93. doi:10.1016/j.aap.2006.06.007. PMID 16919590.
  30. ^ McDermott, F. T.; Lane, J. C.; Brazenor, G. A.; Debney, A. E. (1993). "The effectiveness of bicyclist helmets: a study of 1710 casualties". Journal of Trauma. 34 (6): 834–844. doi:10.1097/00005373-199306000-00015. PMID 8315679.
  31. ^ Whately, S (1985). Bicycle Crashes in the Australian Capital Territories (PDF). Canberra: Federal Office of Road Safety. ISBN 978-0-642-51019-8.

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