HON LAURIE GRAHAM (Agricultural) [11.38 am] — without notice: I move —

That the Legislative Council notes that mandatory bike helmets save lives and wearing bike helmets should not be discretionary.

[Speeches and comments from various members]

HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [12.23 pm]: I rise to make just a few comments. I point out to people that there is a real benefit to bike helmets. A study was conducted in 2016 by the University of New South Wales that compiled data from 40 different studies and 64 000 cyclists and found that bike helmets had contributed to a 50 per cent reduction in head injuries of any severity and a 70 per cent reduction in serious head injuries. It also found that non-helmeted cyclists are more than three times more likely to sustain intracranial injuries and four times more likely to sustain traumatic brain injury when compared with helmeted cyclists. These are real figures. They show that bike helmets have had a significant impact on dealing with the issue of acquired brain injury.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet with Dr Sudhakar Rao in his capacity as the head of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. He also happens to be the state director of the trauma unit at Royal Perth Hospital. The issue of bike helmets came up. He raised concerns on behalf of the college to say that he thinks that second-hand helmets should be banned because there is no method of visually assessing whether a second-hand helmet is safe. I asked a question of the Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations about this when it was pointed out that this was an issue for Australian consumer law. Dr Rao raised this because he is adamant that in his capacity dealing with brain trauma, the need to have safe bike helmets is critical. We cannot separate the issue of the use of bike helmets from the broader issue of ensuring that we have appropriate cycling infrastructure. This is something that previous speakers have already spoken about.

I will touch quickly on the situation in Denmark, which has huge rates of cycling and where hardly anyone wears a helmet. However, I also want to point out that the country itself is very flat and has been entirely set up for cycling on an ongoing basis. They have separate bike paths. Within Copenhagen are bike paths that have their own traffic lights, so there are lights for pedestrians, regular traffic lights and then separate traffic light arrangements for the bikes. There is huge infrastructure enabling people to park their bikes in the city. It is a city that has been entirely set up for cycling. I note also that people stick to a reasonable speed. I did not see a single piece of lycra, which was fantastic because, I must say, I think that raises broader issues of second-hand trauma for people’s eyeballs!

We must note that the high rates of cycling and an entire bicycling culture that is conducive to being safe go hand in glove with making sure that there has been an investment in cycling infrastructure in the first place. The other matter I want to point out is something that I have noted occurs very differently in countries like Denmark as opposed to Australia; that is, everybody in Denmark obeys the rules. Cyclists do not ride on footpaths; they ride on bike paths. In Perth, sometimes they follow the red light; sometimes they go across it. People were making a point of sticking to the rules that are attached to that cycling infrastructure.

The point I make is this: we have a long way to go in this country in relation to investment in appropriate infrastructure, but also in creating a culture around cycling whereby people are prepared to stick to the various arrangements that enable cycling to be safe. In the meantime, the use of helmets is one that has had a direct and tangible impact on reducing the rate of acquired brain injury, and that is really important.

[Speeches and comments from various members]

Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.


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