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A hat tip for Neil Harrap

  • October 22nd, 2008

Neil Harrap is a friend. He’s also a public campaigner against cycle helmets – because he hates the police having power to stop him choosing to do something that can harm nobody but himself.

So I’m delighted to pass on to Neil today some serious support for his crusade. At the Traffinz Conference in Wellington this morning the Transport Safety Minister Hon Harry Duynhoven, questioned the mandatory helmet law. He plainly considers it to be of debateable net value.

Harry will be a loss to Labour though its leadership will probably celebrate. He often says what he thinks. He does not run a focus-grouped ruler over his peeves and enthusiasms. He is detested by the PC mob who’ve taken over the Labour Party, and reciprocates (though feebly because he is too nice to hate much).

Harry responded this morning to a question about cutting greenhouse gas emissions from transport. He referred to the low level of bicycling in New Zealand, especially by women, who hate wearing helmets. He compared it to cycle use in Germany, France and other huge European countries where there is no helmet compulsion. He did not explore why women in particular do not like helmets, but if the women I know are typical it is not mysterious – hat hair.

I consider my helmet to be a trifling annoyance compared with its protection. It has saved me from several hard knocks.

But Neil, and now Harry have principle on their side. The law might still be justified pragmatically. But not if  the cost/benefit of the helmet law is negative because it cuts participation in a healthy and environmentally friendly activity while cycling head injuries prevented are statistically few.

Presumably the Minister could easily ask his colleague the Minister of Health for the figures. He must have done some research before flying a kite that will surely get him into strife with the Labour strategists.

Maurice Williamson, who was also at the conference told me that he once received a report as Minister recommending mandatory helmet wearing in cars. He did not need to sound out his wife before rejecting it.

We speculated that the Greens could score a double hit if they made helmet wearing compulsory in cars but not on bikes or on public transport. Women might switch en masse to biking and buses.

That is no more bizarre than the law taking effect in February to regulate the depth of your bath water by restricting your hot water cylinder size unless you have a large house.


  • sally
  • October 22nd, 2008
  • 5:00 pm

Wikipedia (not that I always trust it) says that helmets were made compulsary in 1994 – under a National Government.

You can moan about PC all you like, but it was your party which introduced the compulsion…


“that can harm nobody but himself”

As long as he pays his own medical bills…

  • mike mckee
  • October 23rd, 2008
  • 9:28 am

where is your brains?
you state..

“But not if the cost/benefit of the helmet law is negative because it cuts participation in a healthy and environmentally friendly activity while cycling head injuries prevented are statistically few”.

As tax payer I have no problem with someone not wearing a helmet as long as they sign saying they will pay ALL their medical and income bills from an event no matter how long term.

  • james hardy
  • October 23rd, 2008
  • 12:04 pm

There is plenty of research that suggests that the safer we think we are the more risks we take. If we wear a cycle helmet we think we are safe and, ipso-facto, we ride faster, take more risks etc. – I dont think that cycle helmets are that great at protecting my head in most crashes anyway. They are just too small to cover much of the cranium.

2) My son fell of his micro-scooter at speed last week, he broke his are and craed his knees badly. There was no head injury – human beings naturally protect their heads in an accident …

3) I find it outrageous that the state should be able to put me in prison for riding without a piece of overpriced polystyrene on my head in mid summer heat

4) I have ridden without a helmet on a bike for 45 years around the world, fallen off lots of times, even broken some ribs – but never even scratched my head.

5) I CHOOSE to wear a bike helmet when I go mountain biking, I would prefer to choose NOT to wear one when I pop to the shops to buy a pint of milk.

6) My daughter and her friends wont ride at all in NZ because the helmets muck up their hair!

7) To those who say will I sign a paper to pay my medical bills if I fall off without the hat and get a head injury? – Where did I put my pen!

There’s tons of research on the Net about the negative effects of helmets we dont need to legislate for everything that ‘appears’ to be sensible – invariably it results in negatives – lets just teach our children about the dangers of cycling like everything else, and leave our freedoms intact.

  • Neil Harrap
  • October 23rd, 2008
  • 4:37 pm

Neil Harrap comments:

James Hardy says it all in his comments (above). If you want fewer people riding bikes then keep helmets compulsory. However, statistics show that head injuries have dropped 13% while the number of people quitting cycling is over 20%.

One of the big dangers of helmets is that riders think they’re safe because they have a tiny helmet covering the top quarter of their heads. In most accidents the helmet is worthless and research has shown that riders are more likely to take risks when they believe they’re safe.

If you really want to reduce head injuries then helmets in cars is the answer (race car drivers wear them). The head injury rate is the same in cars as on bikes, per kilometre traveled. Bear in mind that there are hundreds of cars on the road for every bike so in a car is where you’re more likely to lose the top of your head.

My defence is constant awareness of the dangers around me when I’m on a bike. I cycle on the waterfront, through parks, on cycle tracks and city footpaths to avoid having some careless fool in a car ruin my day.

Thank you for reading this far,


  • mike mckee
  • October 24th, 2008
  • 9:26 am

Neil et all
A friend’s boy came off his bike riding to school this last week, he clearly has a concussion as well as a broken arm.
Which took 24hrs to get seen to at Capital Coast under a general but that’s another post.
It could have been worse, he might not have been wearing his helmet!

Where is all this research compiled in readable form that even an MP can understand let alone an ordinary man like myself?


because he hates the police having power to stop him choosing to do something that can harm nobody but himself

Stephen, I’d like to know your answer to my question here.

If you were already a National MP, would you have voted for the Misuse of Drugs (Classification of BZP) Amendment Bill?

  • Tauhei Notts
  • October 24th, 2008
  • 10:58 am

We had a German 15 year old AFS student stay with us in our provincial town. I told her she must wear a cycle helmet. She responded that she had ridden bicycles in Berlin, Hamburg and Kiel; and they all had much more traffic than our town. She further said that it was her race’s job to ignore stupid law. In her country they passed a law in 1933 that all citizens must kick the shit out of Jews, and as that was the law and as the Germns were a law abiding people they did just that. Since then they have studiously ignored any bad law.

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