Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bicycle Helmet Laws Revisited

We'd love to read your comments
about bike helmet laws.
On the January 14 blog, I discussed bike helmet laws in a post titled: trailsnet: Why is it called a "Bike Scheme?"

Later that day, I was happy to see an email from Barry with his view on helmets specifically and safe-biking in general. I especially enjoy hearing from Barry because of his diverse background and love of the outdoors/trails. Barry has lived in multiple countries, so he brings a unique and experienced perspective to any discussion.

Here is what Barry had to say about helmets, helmet laws, and bicycling in general:

Kevin.Your post has struck a sour-note with me.And,if you don't mind,I will vent my anger.

   About 10-years ago,back home in Aotearoa/New-Zealand, it became compulsory to wear helmets when cycling. If stopped by the police, one could be fined up to $100 for not wearing a helmet. So, to get round this, cyclists found ways to avoid wearing helmets - cycling on the footpath (which didn't work), using safety/construction helmets(which also didn't work) or cycling with the helmet attached to the handlebars(which also didn't work).

   Here in Japan, a country known for it's courtesy, 99.9% of cyclists show absolutely no courtesy. They ride in a reckless manner showing absolutely no regard for the safety of themselves and others, or any regard for the law. Pedestrians have to jump to safety when confronted by a cyclist on footpaths or suffer the consequences. I could write reams of  stories of my experiences of cyclists and how they don't get themselves injured or killed. So,while these guys are out defying injury or death on their bikes,they are not wearing a helmet or any other protective gear (I remember my first encounter of such a person - a mother,riding on the wrong side of a poorly-illuminated road,with no lights/reflective gear,with a young child  on the back seat and a baby on the front carrier. Needless to say I was horrified). When I was taught how to drive,I was told that you had to keep as far as to the left as practicable. Here you keep as far as to the right as practicable.And god-help you if you run a cyclist over,regardless if they are in the wrong.You are the one that gets done.

   But, in saying that, I do not agree that wearing helmets when cycling should be compulsory. Like the wearing of safety-belts when driving a vehicle, the wearing of helmets comes-down to the person who is riding. If that person, whether it is them, a member of their family or others, wants to get on a bike and ride in a reckless manner without wearing a helmet,SO-BE-IT.
   But, in saying that, if the authorities want to play with the law, they should look closely at the law regarding neglect. If a parent wants to put a child on a bike, whether alone or with them, they accept that responsibility and the consequences that come with it. If a parent physically abuses a child, doesn't care for their health, feed/cloth them adequately, they can be charged with neglect. But they will allow them to put that child on a bike without a helmet and nothing is done.

   Here, the wearing of cycle helmets is way down on the list. If one goes into a cycle-shop, the helmet section is in a far corner with a few on display. In a recent promotional campaign by the Japanese Cycle Federation that was centered on cycle safety/repair, there was no mention on the commercial of a child wearing a helmet (the commercial showed a child,who wasn't wearing a helmet,riding out of control down a hill with failed brakes).

   Back home, if a child arrives at school without wearing a helmet, the principal is informed, a letter is then given to the parent informing them that action will be taken if this continues. If it does continue, the parent is then informed that the matter will be put in the hands of the authorities - and you don't want that to happen, believe me.

   Phew. I am so glad I got that off my chest. Thank you Kevin for letting me use your space to vent my anger/frustration.




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