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April 9, 2018 | by  | in Opinion |
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Ride For Choice

25 Wellington cyclists have come together in a courageous plea for liberty, demanding the freedom to not wear a helmet while cycling. The Ride for Choice began in Civic Square on Saturday 17 March. Protesters rode fearlessly through Lambton Quay, to the waterfront, and back to Civic Square.

Organiser of Ride for Choice Jeremy Teague said that “as a country we should be ashamed” — one can only assume because of the practically non-existent turn out for the protest. There are definitely things in New Zealand that would call for national shame — so very many things — but not going to a bike helmet protest is not one of them.

In 2006, reports stated that over half of the fatalities of cyclists were due to head injuries, although 94% of adults wore helmets while riding. A 2016 study conducted by the University of New South Wales found that claims of bike helmets causing severe neck and brain injuries were incorrect; using data from Finland, it was argued that eight out of Finland’s 29 cycling fatalities during 2014 would have been prevented by wearing a helmet.

New Zealand, Australia, and Togo are the only countries in the world with strict cycling helmet laws andfines for all ages. When the law was introduced in New Zealand in January 1994, it was for the prevention of head injuries incurred while cycling; “for your own safety, and the safety of other road users”.

Speaking from around ten years of daily road cycling experience, I can name three separate occasions on which if I had I not been wearing a helmet, my life would be drastically different.Website-Cover-Photo9

Teague and his league of extraordinary cycle-men (cycle-people), are correct in stating that there are less cyclists in New Zealand now than there were before the legislation was passed in 1994 that required cyclists to wear a helmet. According to New Zealand Statistics, there was a drop from 200 people cycling a day, pre-legislation, to 20 cyclists a day after the introduction of the law.

Ride for Choice protesters think more people would be cycling if they didn’t have to wear aesthetically displeasing headwear — to hell with safety, apparently. In a statement to Stuff, Ride for Choice protester Daryl Cockburn said “[t]o school children, looking good is the three most important things in their life”, making it clear that while his childhood numeracy lessons have long left him, his childhood insecurities have not.

As a nation we wear silly ear hats while playing rugby; we proudly sport socks and jandals to the supermarket. I’ve personally witnessed a grown man rollerblading through Wellington adorned with a Dora the Explorer helmet and the hundiest moustache I’ve ever seen – I’d hardly say we are a people dictated by aesthetics. (Or are we a people dictated by weird aesthetics? You tell me.)

I find the Ride For Choice movement pointless and embarrassing, but the overall argument doesn’t particularly offend me. If by some miracle these protesters get what they want, I personally will not riot. HOWEVER. Am I gonna wear my helmet whenever I go on a wee cycle through the streets? Yes. Gee I don’t know I guess I value my brain? I feel insecure about it, don’t judge me guys.

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