Cyclists have a death wish

In what I consider to be an act of complete stupidity, there is now a push to make the wearing of cycle helmets voluntary.

Despite having been the law for almost a quarter of a century, thousands of cyclists are thumbing their nose at wearing a helmet.

Figures provided under the Official Information Act show 29,399 fines have been issued to cyclists for failing to wear their helmet over the past four years.

But the annual number of fines had plummeted steadily over those years, from 11,310 to 4413.

So the police have better things to do. So what?

On Saturday, a group of riders will be riding through Wellington in a day of protest against blanket helmet laws. Cycling proponent Tim Gummer and his new group Choice Biking has organised the event to coincide with similar rides held across Australia.

Helmets will be optional for those on the ride, which Gummer said had the goal of illustrating that things had changed since the helmet law was introduced in 1994.

“It was a well-meaning law. But we’re starting to see the rollout of the sort of infrastructure that’s comparable to that in Europe, where millions of people cycle safely without helmets,” he said.

“One in ten Kiwis already ignore the law, which is arbitrarily enforced. Some conscientious objectors have never been fined – others have paid thousands.

The trouble with this type of thinking is that it assumes all cyclists ride on lovely vacant cycle lanes all day, where there is no danger of being knocked off by a nasty car, and they never have to come into contact with actual traffic. All they see is unicorns.

Reality check. That almost never happens.

I drive down Tinakori Road in Wellington each morning. It is a fairly steep downward stretch, and a large number of cyclists use the road to get to work in the Wellington CBD. There is, of course, not a cycle lane in sight. The road is busy, congested with cars, buses, trucks and a few parked cars – and the cyclists dodge and weave in and out of the traffic all the time. As it is a downward stretch, they are usually going at about the same speed as the traffic as well, which is normally about 50 kph.

The cyclists terrify me. Imagine knocking someone off their bike when they are doing 50 kph. They may have their nice little flashing lights, but they never behave like cars, even if they insist that we should treat them like cars. The worst thing that happens, particularly in the dark winter mornings, is that the flashing light suddenly disappears. You know they are still there somewhere, but you don’t know where. They could suddenly appear anywhere. And, they terrify me because I do not want to knock one of them off, and be responsible for their injury or death.

But the one thing that might just might have saved them from severe injury or death is the helmet. So, cyclists don’t want to wear helmets any more. They would rather put themselves at even greater risk of serious injury or death.

New Zealand isn’t The Netherlands. Many of the towns and cities in New Zealand are built on hills. Cycle lanes may be a very annoying reality for most of us, but very few cyclists can actually get to work using cycle lanes all the way. At some point, the cyclist usually has to come in contact with traffic, and it is then that all hell breaks loose.

And what about children? Are we going to make it compulsory for children to wear helmets but not adults? I think we know how that will work out. In the end, kids won’t wear them either. Absolute madness.

I don’t want to have to live with myself for causing an injury to a cyclist who weaves in and out of traffic, appears from nowhere, gets knocked off his bike and has a brain injury for life. I don’t want to go to jail for it either. It is all very well saying it is their fault and let them live with it, but the drivers involved in the accidents will have to live with it too.

-Stuff


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Accountant. Boring. Loves tax. Needs to get out more. Loves the environment, but hates the Greens. Has been called a dinosaur. Wears it with pride.

To read my previous articles click on my name in blue.

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