University of Sydney
Monday 05 December 2011, 02:38PM
Media release from University of Sydney
Cycling levels in Sydney could more than double if laws forcing
cyclists to wear helmets were repealed, according to a new research
published today in the Health Promotion Journal of
One in five adults surveyed in Sydney said they would ride a
bicycle more if they did not have to wear a helmet, according
co-author Professor Chris Rissel from the School of Public Health,
at the University of Sydney.
Researchers involved in 'The possible effect on frequency of
cycling if mandatory bicycle helmet legislation was repealed in
Sydney, Australia: a cross sectional survey' interviewed 600 Sydney
adults to identify preferences for wearing bicycle helmets.
"People who ride occasionally and younger people were most likely
to say they would ride more if they didn't have to wear a helmet,
but significantly, one in five people who hadn't ridden a bicycle
in the last year also said they would ride more," says Professor
Professor Rissel says that the NSW state government's targets to
increase cycling could be easily achieved by repealing bicycle
helmet legislation without spending millions of dollars on new
"Occasional riders and those people who don't see themselves as a
'cyclist' represents a large number of people. Even if only half or
a quarter of these people did actually start riding, it would more
than double the number of people cycling now," Professor Rissel
The research also found that almost half of the respondents said
they would never ride without a helmet. While more than 14 percent
said "all the time", and over 30 percent said "some of the time",
the rest were unsure.
Support for mandatory helmet wearing was low among people already
cycling according to Professor Rissel.
"Overall, one third of respondents did not support mandatory helmet
legislation. There was an inverse association between riding
frequency and support of the helmet legislation, with those not
riding in the past year most likely to support helmet legislation,
and more frequent riders less likely to support it," he says.
Professor Rissel said that lots of people would still wear a
helmet, but removing the legal requirement to wear a helmet would
encourage more people to just hop on a bike.
"Public bicycle share schemes around the world where helmets are
not required to been worn have shown how safe cycling really is,"
says Professor Rissel.
"There have now been over six million users of the 'Boris bikes' in
London and distances cycled total over 10 million kilometres with
few serious injuries. In the first three months the accident rate
was estimated to be 0.002 percent."
There are similar observations from other schemes. The bike share
schemes in Brisbane and Melbourne are operating at 10 percent of
comparable international schemes because of helmet
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