The issue of helmet law reform is gaining momentum.
Following our efforts to pay this cyclist’s fine(still unsuccessful, but we live in eternal hope) to raise awareness about bike helmets and cycle safety, we were contacted by the Freestyle Cyclists.
The Freestyle Cyclists group launched an online petition in June seeking to repeal the laws that they say discourage people from realising the public health benefits of cycling.
We spoke to Kathy Francis about her motivations for getting started with the group, and what she thinks it can achieve.
What made you decide to pursue helmet reform as an issue?
I grew up without helmets in a country town where it was very safe to ride. I thought the helmet law was a crock and was fined repeatedly. I refused to pay, and was eventually was put in jail, pregnant, for 24 hours. After that I thought the fight wasn’t worth it so I gave it up.
Now that my kids are older now, they are facing the same issue, and so I have decided to fight it again.
What has changed between 1990 when the laws were introduced and now?
Back in the 1990s we felt we weren’t going to get anywhere, and that the rest of the world would follow us (by introducing helmet laws). This hasn’t been the case.
There is so much more research out there now that is showing that Australia has made a mistake. Bike share schemes worldwide have also been influential things, as has also Sue Abbott, who has challenged the laws in court. But getting politicians to listen is frustrating for us.
What level of reform are you hoping to achieve?
We’re hoping that politicians start to take this seriously. We don’t think the (safe cycling) infrastructure will ever be completed. We’re quite desperate in Victoria because fines are upwards of $146 dollars and police have zero tolerance.
Any reform would be good, even if it’s just for adults only.
The Freestyle Cyclists will officially launch their campaign on October 6 in Victoria, with a helmet-optional ride along the Yarra. In the meantime, you can visit their site and sign their petition here.