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UK Avoids Repeating NZ's Health & Safety Disaster

Press Release: Cycling Health, 27 April 2004.

UK Avoids Repeating NZ's Health & Safety Disaster

On Friday 23 April the UK Parliament rejected a Private Member's Bill to introduce a law requiring the wearing of cycle helmets by those under 16. This came as great relief to those opposed to its introduction; a wide-ranging group including the British Medical Association, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Cycling Touring Club (UK advocate group), Royal College of General Practitioners, National Heart Forum, National Cycling Strategy Board, Sustrans, Transport 2000, road victims charity Roadpeace, Move4Health and Association of Cycle Traders; who feared that the failures experienced elsewhere in the world would repeat themselves in the UK.

"We are pleased to hear that the UK Parliament has rejected this misguided law," said Cycling Health spokesperson Oliver Thompson. "Here in New Zealand the law has been a health and safety disaster and it is time we stopped being the poster country for how not to do things."

Dr Nigel Perry, a Senior Fellow at the University of Canterbury who has researched bicycle helmet legislation, stated "The New Zealand 'bicycle helmet law' is a proven failure. Basic research shows that the head injury rate for bicyclists has not reduced due to bicycle helmets despite a massive increase in wearing rates. The same story is repeated in other places such laws have been tried. The motivation for these laws might have been well meaning, but sadly good intentions doesn't mean a measure will work - and this one clearly does not."

Oliver Thompson says "The law was meant to save money. In fact research has showed it has instead cost a huge amount. Not only have resources been wasted promoting and implementing this law without result, the sad fact is the money and resources could have been spent actually improving road safety."

"Unfortunately in New Zealand the debate over the law is not based on science or common sense, both of which show it to be a failure, but on politics and this is certainly frustrating for us scientists. This is why the role of Cycling Health is important. As the only lobby group for bicyclists concentrating on health and safety it can tackle the politics," added Dr Perry.

Cycling Health strongly believes that individuals, having weighed up the pros and cons, should have the right to choose whether to wear a helmet. Across the population the law has failed and is doing more harm than good. It is a health disaster because it has not stopped the decline in bicycling, and a safety disaster because it has not made bicycling safer.

Cycling Health calls upon the New Zealand Government to act now to save lives and improve health and safety, to accept that the law has failed and to abolish it, and put resources into measures which work. It is outrageous that unhelmetted bicyclists in some other countries are safer than their helmetted New Zealand counterparts because the LTSA insists on upholding and promoting failed legislation.

Hopefully New Zealanders will soon be able to rejoice with the British and know their children are no longer subject to an anti-health and safety mandatory regime.


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