I was reading that excellent and representational journal, The Canberra Times last Monday (2 June) and saw the implosion of the Young Liberals in the items for discussion at their conference. The article showed some insights into the minds of the next generation of Liberals. Mind you, Gary Humphries was a significant leader in the Young Liberals and he’s not right winger enough for some (although my spies tell me that the Young Liberals are split in their support for Gazza or Zedley).
The article (and the stuff must be true cos it’s in The Crimes) showed how dangerously far right some of these folks are and just where did they get this stuff from anyway?
There was some really loony stuff in this article and I recommend it reading to people who want to be outraged or need a good laugh. Like the re-introduction of caning in schools (by people who have never had six of the best), CTP and licences for bicycles, privatising public housing and public access to a national sex offenders register.
But credit where it is due… as a wise American once said “even a blind warthog finds an acorn every now and then”. In this bucket of garden nutrient is something worthwhile.
They are recommending the abolition of compulsory wearing of bicycle helmets. This is a sensible position to take. Bicycle helmets can be dangerous and can because of the increase in head mass, cause diffuse axonal injury (DAI) which is the increased acceleration of the rotation of the spine causing the spine to snap and cause quadriplegia or death. Bet you didn’t know that!
The introduction of this compulsion in Australia was done with insufficient scientific investigation and all attempts to get the federal Department of Transport in the last thirty years to provide scientific justification for its position (lamely followed by the states under fear of reduced road funding) has proved futile. That’s because it doesn’t exist.
But scientific investigation into the possibility of DAI through helmet use has been conducted and is critical of the compulsion to wear bicycle helmets. The Cyclists Rights Action Group (CRAG) in Canberra has bookcases of scientific papers on the subject.
There is a mood across Australia to reverse this compulsion. In Queensland a parliamentary committee has recommended the compulsion be removed as has the Brisbane City Council. And indeed in Adelaide only recently, a protest ride occurred calling for the abolition of that compulsion. This was reported on Radio National (an actually reliable news source).
In the ACT CRAG appeared before an Assembly Inquiry into Vulnerable Road Users in December last year. It put the case to that committee that the justification for compulsion was not there and that the public should be warned of the dangers of wearing bike helmets. If that committee had any courage it would recommend to the Assembly that the law be changed to make it optional with appropriate warnings.
But before you get off your high horse and say that helmets save lives, let me agree that they help prevent soft tissue injuries, cranial hairline cracks but don’t stop DAI and in fact, increase the likelihood of DAI. A man died in Wanniassa after a collision with a car and died of the effects of DAI, as reported by the Coroner.
So let’s forget about the emotive but scientifically unjustified bunkum and have safe laws around cycling which encourage cycling and reverse the downturn in cycling in our most cycle friendly city.