Are helmet laws reducing Melbourne’s bike share usage?

We recently published an article entitled ‘Why is Melbourne’s bike sharing scheme underperforming’, which explored a range of
possible reasons as to why the sharing scheme is seeing underutilisation and
lower than projected rider numbers. One of the reasons suggested was the
compulsory helmet laws.

An article published on The Conversation on August 9
by Chris Rissel, Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney, explores
bike sharing schemes, both in Australia and around the world. Rissel suggests
that Australia’s relatively low uptake, compared to the rest of the world, is
likely due to both a combination of poor cycling infrastructure and the
requirement for users to wear helmets.

There are 50 bike stations and 600 bikes situated
around the Melbourne CBD. Melbourne Bike Share is designed for short trips,
which is why the first 30 minutes are free to subscribers (who pay $50 a year).
Trips lasting longer than two hours can be expensive.

While figures on usage of the Melbourne and even the
Brisbane bike sharing schemes are hard to come by, Rissel suggests that based
on the available information the uptake is about 10% of comparable programs in
London or Dublin.

Only the Australian schemes still require users to wear helmets. Mexico City (last year), and Israel (just last week) have
repealed their adult helmet legislation, in part to make their bicycle share
schemes viable. Should Australia make helmets non-compulsory? Rissel suggests
that health benefits from the scheme are much higher than risks relating to not
wearing helmets and therefore their mandatory use should be reconsidered.

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