by Nadja Fleet, May 23 2013, The Advertiser.
Cyclist Michael Walkden, who is a police officer, says safety tips saved him from injury. Scroll down to read the story. Picture: Sarah Reed. Source: News Corp Australia
CYCLISTS who ride without a helmet during a protest against the law that makes them compulsory could face fines, police have warned.
Dozens of cyclists are expected to gather at the Convention Centre riverbank at 3.30pm next Thursday for the protest, organised by advocacy group Freestyle Cyclists.
The 15km ride, along the River Torrens Linear Park to Henley Beach Square, is unauthorised and organisers said wearing a helmet was optional.
SAPOL said cyclists without helmets faced $153 fines.
“If a person is observed by a police officer riding a bike on a public road in South Australia without a helmet, the police officer ... may fine the person for not wearing a helmet,” a spokeswoman said.
International cycling experts have labelled the law “a huge obstacle” in increasing cycling numbers in cities, but health experts warned that helmets could be the difference between life and death in road crashes.
Rally participant Will Matthews, 35, said the “overbearing” law needed to be eased.
“Give adults some choice depending on the cycling they want to undertake,” the graphic designer said.
Mr Matthews said optional helmet zones for adults could be established in the CBD, along the River Torrens and other cycle-friendly corridors.
But he said rider safety needed to improve by:
REDUCING speed limits.
SEPARATING bike lanes from roads.
CONNECTING more city paths with suburbia.
Australia is one of the few nations that enforces the mandatory law. The law, which was adopted in SA in 1991, will be discussed at next week’s Velo-city Global conference.
New York transport expert Janette Sadik-Khan who helped turn the car-choked city into a bicycle mecca, said better infrastructure, not helmet laws, had improved safety.
“We built almost (650km) of bike lanes in six years and ... we saw the fewest bike riders killed in traffic crashes in 30 years,” she told Bike SA magazine.
The Tel-Aviv Municipality in Israel showed cycling participation figures jumped by 54 per cent from 2010 to 2012, since its mandatory helmet law was repealed.
Eran Shchori, who lobbied against the law’s introduction in 2007, said: “Anything that is an obstacle to people getting on their bike to go commuting isn’t a good idea.”
Speaker Niels Hoe, from Copenhagen, where 1.2 million km are cycled each work day said Adelaide’s culture needed to change “radically” to improve safety.
“When it gets embedded in your culture, car drivers become more aware of cyclists,” he said.
SA Police figures show one cyclist is killed each year, compared with seven pedestrians.
The Health Department recorded 692 cyclists at public metropolitan hospitals last financial year, manly with head injuries. More than half of the riders were not injured in a collision transport accident.
Associate Professor Robert Atkinson of the Australian Medical Association SA said helmets saved lives. “Mandatory bicycle helmet laws should absolutely be maintained,” he said.
“Overseas experience is not necessarily directly applicable here.”
Adelaide mayor Stephen Yarwood said scrapping the law was “a debate ahead of its time”.
“It will only be a relevant debate in the city where it’s safe to ride without helmet,” he said.
Bicycle SA chief executive Christian Haag said the organisation’s mission was to get South Australians cycling.
But research into whether helmets discouraged cycling had been “somewhat unclear” so far.
Cyclist Michael Walkden was almost collected by a van which turned right into his path. Picture: Sarah Reed. Source: News Corp Australia
SAFETY TIPS SAVED CYCLIST WITHIN HOURS OF LESSON
CYCLIST Michael Walkden says he was saved from a serious road accident by pure coincidence.
He avoided being hit by a van because he put into practice skills he learnt earlier that day at a cycling safety program.
“If I hadn’t taken the program advice on board I would almost certainly have been hit and suffered injuries,” the 38-year-old police officer said.
At the Workplace Bicycle Education session, Mr Walkden learned the most common cause of bike crashes is from vehicles turning right across the path of cyclists.
Riding home after work, he was conscious of the crash fact as he neared an intersection on Sir Donald Bradman Dr, Hilton, he said.
“I slowed right down and it’s just as well I did” – because a van turned in front of him.
The program, by the Motor Accident Commission and Bicycle SA, shares safety tips with 5000 CBD workers a year.Source: theaustralian.com.au
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