Minister for Transport Safety's Comments on Revising the Bicycle Helmet Law
By Kerry Williamson from the Dominion Post
Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven might want a
safety helmet himself after wondering whether ditching the helmet law
would get more people on to bicycles.
Speaking at a New Zealand Traffic Institute forum yesterday,
Mr Duynhoven raised the question of whether making helmets compulsory
was discouraging people from cycling, saying there was a high number of
cyclists in countries in which helmets were optional.
He suggested that more people might ride bikes if they did not have
to wear helmets, then back- tracked, saying that did not mean he
supported a law change.
"I wonder if we never had helmets what our cycle population might be
... I'm not advocating getting rid of helmets, I'm just saying I wonder
what the social effect of helmets has been."
Bicycle helmets were made compulsory in New Zealand in 1994 and have
been credited with saving numerous lives. However, some studies have
suggested the health benefits may be negligible because of the number
of people turned off cycling.
Rebecca Oaten, of Palmerston North, who advocated for helmets to be
compulsory when her son Aaron suffered serious brain damage after being
knocked from his bike in 1986, said she was appalled by Mr Duynhoven's
comments. Her son was now 35 and needed constant care.
Ms Oaten agreed more people would ride bikes if they did not have to
wear a helmet "but how many of those would end up brain-damaged or dead?
"People who aren't for safety helmets really should come and spend a
week with us, just to see the effects of riding without a helmet."
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