Submission to draft National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020
Note: the NRSS 2011-2020 was released on May 27, 2011. Despite several public submissions highlighting the failure of bicycle helmet laws, the word "bicycle" is mentioned only twice in the 10 year strategy. You can view and download this submission as a PDF document. This submission is without copyright and can be distributed freely.
Cyclist numbers before and after helmet law in Australia
This three page submission presents evidence of the significant decline in cyclist numbers caused by mandatory helmet laws and the damaging effect on overall road safety. Cyclist numbers across Australia have risen sharply since 2000 and this has falsely been interpreted as evidence that the mandatory helmet regulations do not discourage cycling.
The evidence presented on this page demonstrates that the increase is merely a recovery from the very low cyclist numbers experienced throughout the 1990s when many Australian adults and children were discouraged from bike riding. Current cycling levels still lag behind pre-law numbers with a consequent impact on road safety.
The Australian Transport Council should examine Helmet law impact on total road casualties to understand how many discouraged cyclists instead drive their cars, increasing the accident/injury risk to all other road users including motorists, motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as the detrimental impact on cyclist safety.
Total = 1,645,900 cyclist trips per day in Australia in 1985/86 (one year).
This data includes 881,500 children aged 9-15
There were 1,141,800 children aged 9-17
1,645,900 - 881,500 = 764,400 aged 16+
1,645,900 - 1,141,800 = 504,100 aged 18+
p5 - "In 2008, 7,896 cyclists used the key cycling routes into the Melbourne CBD (an increase of 76% from 2005) while in Sydney 3,330 cyclists used the key cycling routes into the Sydney CBD (an increase of 38% from 2005) (Australian Bicycle Council 2010).
p8 - "According to the SHTS, the bicycle share of all trips in Sydney in 2001 was higher on weekends than on weekdays (0.8% vs 0.6%), a difference that had grown even wider by 2005 (1.1% vs 0.7%) (Transport Data Centre, 2007). In contrast to Sydney, the bicycle share of trips in Melbourne in 1999 was lower on weekends than on weekdays, although not by much (1.1% vs 1.2%) (VicRoads, 2004).
In 2004, total daily cyclists in all Australian capital cities excluding Darwin was 264,884, based on Cycling Down Under: A Comparative Analysis of Bicycling Trends and Policies in Sydney and Melbourne (see above).
This compares with 147,200 daily bike trips in Sydney in 1985/86 - see p131 above of Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985/1986.
The 2008/09 daily count is down 28% on 1985/86.
The 2008/09 Sydney Housing Travel Survey figure is based on unlinked trip legs so does not represent the actual number of bike riders, just their cumulative number of trip legs. p33 suggests there were 105,901 bike trips with the majority less than 5km.
Data from the UK on commuting to and from school in children aged 5-10 showed a decrease from 1975/76 to 1989/94 in walking from 72% to 62% and an increase in car use from 16% to 28% (Black et al., 2001). The decrease in active commuting to school might be less evident in countries that have a bicycle friendly culture. For example, a representative sample of Danish primary school children showed that in 1997/98 24% walked to school, 39% cycled, and 25% took the car (Cooper et al., 2005).
As an example of the long-term decline in child cycling across Australia, the WA percentage above of 5.2% should be compared with the extract below from Bicyclist Helmet Wearing in Western Australia: A 1993 Review - Heathcote, B. (1993), Traffic Board of Western Australia.
Participation in the 12 months prior to interview.
This data suggests an average 86,000 weekday bicycle trips and an average 116,000 weekend daily bicycle trips in Sydney in 2000.
This equates to an average 430,000 bicycle trips during the working week plus an average 232,000 bicycle trips during weekends = 662,000.
This results in an average 94,571 bicycle trips per day in Sydney in 2000.
In 1985/86 (see p131 above), there were an average 147,200 daily bicycle trips in Sydney.
This is a reduction of 35%.
Cycling in Sydney published by the NSW Government asserts that in 2005 "Sydney residents made over 120,000 bike trips on an average weekday and almost 160,000 bike trips on an average weekend."
NSW BikePlan estimates that 159,000 trips were made by bike on an average weekday in Greater Sydney in 2010. Note that the 1985/86 estimate of 147,200 daily bicycle trips in Sydney excludes cyclists aged less than nine.
(p67) Forms of transport used on usual trip to work or study / March 2006 - Bicycles 141,200 across Australia
(p70) Forms of transport used in day-to-day trips other than to work or study / March 2006 - Bicycles 462,100 across Australia
This data represents cyclists aged 18 and over and travel modes normally used, rather than daily bicycle use.
Table 4.10 shows bicycles were the main form of transport on usual trips to work or study for 141,200 people in March 2006.
This should be compared with Day to Day Travel in Australia 1985/1986 (p160) which shows 330,500 daily bicycle trips for work or education (see table below).
This data represents cyclists aged 15 and over across Australia who participated in cycling three times a week or more on average.
It does not represent daily bicycle use.
This data suggests that 691,000 males and 320,700 females aged 15+ participated in cycling.
Total = 1,011,700 adults who participated in cycling in Australia in 2005/06
This data represents cyclists aged 15 and over who participated in cycling over a 12 month period prior to interview.
This data suggests that in 1985/86 there were an average 323,160 bicycle trips per day in Queensland (245,000 male, 78,160 female).
This compares to the data below from Bicycle Usage Queensland by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which suggests there were an average 67,900 daily cycling trips by persons aged 15 and over in Queensland in 2004. The 1985/86 daily number of bicycle trips was a bit more than the 2004 daily and weekly averages combined.
This research is sourced to Making Cycling Irresistible (PDF 876kb) (Pucher and Buehler, Transport Reviews, Vol. 28 2008). The research notes:
In the USA, much of the effort to improve cyclist safety has focused on increasing helmet use, if necessary by law, especially for children. Thus, it is important to emphasize that the much safer cycling in northern Europe is definitely not due to widespread use of safety helmets. On the contrary, in the Netherlands, with the safest cycling of any country, less than one percent of adult cyclists wear helmets, and even among children, only 3-5% wear helmets (Dutch Bicycling Council, 2006; Netherlands Ministry of Transport, 2006). The Dutch cycling experts and planners interviewed for this paper adamantly opposed the use of helmets, claiming that helmets discourage cycling by making it less convenient, less comfortable, and less fashionable. They also mention the possibility that helmets would make cycling more dangerous by giving cyclists a false sense of safety and thus encouraging riskier riding behavior. At the same time, helmets might reduce the consideration motorists give cyclists, since they might seem less vulnerable if wearing helmets (Walker, 2007).
The data is also relevant to Helmet law impact on total road casualties.