The debate about whether it should be mandatory for cyclists to wear a helmet has gained momentum and it’s time to discuss.

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk

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Should wearing a bicycle helmet be mandatory? It’s a question I often get asked and one that I have given a lot of thought to, particularly since my team will have put $220million into building better bikeways by 2016. Personally, I believe that helmets should be mandatory for anyone riding their bike on the road and I think you would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a reasonable argument as to why this long-standing rule should be overturned. However, where I do think people have a valid point is the potential to relax helmet laws in safer off-road situations such as bike paths that run along the river at South Bank or through the city’s peaceful parks and reserves.

I understand why compulsory helmet laws were introduced and there’s no doubt they were well-intentioned and even suitable for the time. But that was over 20 years ago and there are now many more low-risk, low-speed opportunities for people to enjoy a leisurely bike ride.

As a result of my team’s significant investment in bikeways, we’ve also seen the number of people using council’s bike paths increase 77 per cent since 2004. I therefore think it’s now the right time that these laws were reviewed and voluntary helmet use trialled for safer off-road situations.  That’s why I support the state government’s decision to review how bicycles fit into our communities and council has made a formal submission outlining my position. At the end of the day, I appreciate there are two sides to this argument and in the end council will comply with whatever final decision is made by the state government.

However boosting cycling numbers is also important for the health of our city and its residents, as well as helping to alleviate congestion on our roads, and we need to look at anything that will further assist that growth. If that means providing cyclists with a choice as to whether they wish to wear a helmet off road, then it is worthy of consideration.

Advertising laws
Speaking of improving the amenity of our city, recently my team passed new laws that will beef up regulations around digital billboards and signs, particularly roadside advertisements.

In recent years the advertising industry, like every other sector, has started undergoing a digital revolution. As such, we decided to get on the front foot and put in a clear set of guidelines that will help protect motorists and pedestrians against distraction by prohibiting the use of digital advertising billboards that act as de facto television sets with flashing and moving images.

We don’t have an issue with advertisers exploring digital technology and examples such as billboards that rotate still images every 10 seconds or so are fine. Nor are we saying advertisers are currently doing the wrong thing. On the contrary. Advertisers and their representative body, the Outdoor Media Association, have been very supportive of council taking the initiative and have worked closely with us to formulate these guidelines. But we want to make sure there’s no ambiguity around the rules, given the technology allowing billboards to act as televisions is now becoming more readily available.

As seen in bmag issue 264