Transport safety Minister Harry Duynhoven’s comment about bike helmets,
“I wonder if we never had helmets what our cycle population might be … I’m not advocating getting rid of helmets, I’m just saying I wonder what the social effect of helmets has been,”
is interesting but basically irrelevant to the important debate about promoting cycling in New Zealand. I’ve biked in Europe without a cycle helmet and in New Zealand with one. But that is not the noticeable safety difference between the two places. The difference is the way some parts of Europe see cycling as an integral part of their transport system rather than something to be squeezed in between footpaths and cars. Helmets undoubtedly save people’s lives when they are involved in a crash with a car.
But our energy should actually be focused on changing our roads and pathways so that there are far less opportunities for cars to crash into cyclists. That means investing in modern bike lanes (rather than just painting a white line on an already crowded road), as well as public transport and urban design that integrates with cycling. Those are the sort of changes that are going to get more people on the road, and more importantly more people on the road safely, than changing cycle helmet laws.