Bicycle helmets in Australia

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

Between 1990 and 1992, Australian states and territories enforced various laws mandating that cyclists wear bicycle helmets while riding due to raised awareness of the importance of a bicycle helmet by The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons[1]

Australia was the first country to make wearing bicycle helmets mandatory and as a result the majority of early statistical data regarding the effective of bicycle helmets originated from Australia.[2] Their efficacy is still a matter of debate.

History: lead-up to the laws[edit]

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]

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.[8]

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.[9] Opposition was fragmented and ineffective; no major cycling groups opposed the law in public.[10]

Introduction of the laws: legal requirements[edit]

The law[clarification needed] is laid out 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 law also requires helmet use by certain bicycle passengers.[11] As of June 2013, the legally-required standard for a bicycle helmet is AS/NZS 2063.[12]

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.[13] 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 Tasmania, the law only applies on public streets. In the NT since March 1994 there is an exemption for adults cycling along footpaths or on cycle paths, though in practice the law is not enforced for road cycling either.[14]

The Queensland government announced in April 2013 that exemptions on religious grounds from mandatory bicycle helmet laws would be granted from 2014.[15]

Ongoing debate: after the laws[edit]

Academics within and outside Australia continue to express professional opinions both supportive and unsupportive of the laws.[16] One opposition to the legislation is centred on shared bicycles in Brisbane and Melbourne. Shared Bicycles are used about ten times less than is typical within areas without compulsory helmet laws.[17] Various factors may be responsible.[18][19] One response has been to improve the availability of helmets to users of bicycle-sharing schemes,[20] while Brisbane City Council has suggested trialling helmet-free zones.[21]


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.[22][23][24][25][26][27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Curnow, W. J. "Bicycle Helmets: A Scientific Evaluation" in Anton De Smet (2008). Transportation Accident Analysis and Prevention. Commack, N.Y: Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 1-60456-288-9. 
  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. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  7. ^ "Brief History of Helmet Law in Australia". Cyclists' Rights Action Group (CRAG). Retrieved 26 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Clark, B.; Haworth, N; Lenne, M. (2005). The Victorian Parliamentary Road Safety Committee - a History of Inquiries and Outcomes (MUARC Report No. 237). Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC). pp. 31–38. ISBN 0-7326-2307-3. 
  9. ^ AGB McNair Survey Community Attitude. November 1989. 
  10. ^ Williams, Meredyth-Ann (May 1995). Evaluation of the NSW introduction of compulsory bicycle helmet legislation. Research Note 17/94. NSW Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). ISBN 0-7305-3844-3. 
  11. ^ "Australian Road Rules". National Road Transport Commission. February 2012. ISBN 0-7240-8874-1. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  12. ^ Trade Practices (Consumer Product Safety Standard) (Bicycle Helmets) Regulations 2001. Australian Government. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  13. ^ 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. 
  14. ^ Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation (BHRF). "Helmet laws: what has been their effect?". Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Calligeros, Marissa (23 April 2013). "Bike helmet laws will change to allow religious exemptions". The Brisbane Times. Retrieved 23 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Stewart, David (23 March 2011). "Letter to Brisbane Central Business District Bicycle User Group". Office of the Director General, Department of Transport and Main Roads, Queensland Government. Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. 
  17. ^ Helmet law hurting shared bike scheme. Clay Lucas. The Age, Victoria. 29 November 2010.
  18. ^ Fixing Australian bike share goes beyond helmet laws. Elliott Fishman. The Conversation 25 November 2012, 7.05pm GMT.
  19. ^ Why does bikeshare work in New York but not in Australia? Alan Davies. The Urbanist 3 June 2013 8:08AM
  20. ^ Is the law on helmets why bikeshare is failing? Alan Davies. The Urbanist 12 February 2012 5:39PM
  21. ^ Trial helmet-free cycling zones, says Brisbane City Council. Katherine Feeney. Brisbane Times 10 August 2013.
  22. ^ Robinson, D. L. (July 1996). "Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws.". Accident Analysis & Prevention 28 (4): 463–475. doi:10.1016/0001-4575(96)00016-4. PMID 8870773. Retrieved 28 February 2013. 
  23. ^ McDermott, F. T. "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. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 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 
  24. ^ Haworth, Narelle; Schramm, Amy; King, Mark; Steinhardt, Dale (2010). Monograph 5 - Bike Helmet Research. Brisbane: Center for Accident Research and Bike Safety. ISBN 978-0-9751596-8-2. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  25. ^ Attewell, R.; Glase, K.; McFadden, M. (June 2000). "Bicycle helmets and injury prevention: A formal review". Australian Transport Safety Bureau. ISBN 0-642-25514-8. Retrieved 19 June 2013. 
  26. ^ 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. Retrieved 1 March 2013. 
  27. ^ 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): 834–844. PMID 8315679. 
  28. ^ Whately, S (1985). "Bicycle Crashes in the Australian Capital Territories". Canberra: Federal Office of Road Safety. ISBN 0-642-51019-9. 

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