An open letter to the Queensland Premier gets a response
A little while ago I wrote to the Queensland Premier about the Transport Minister's complete disregard for peer reviewed research, community sentiment, and the Queensland Parliamentary Committee's recommendations, when it came to mandatory bicycle helmet laws. The letter can be read below. I recently received a response, the pertinent bits of which are:
The Premier understands your view that helmets are a barrier to cycling participation and acknowledges your strong opposition to mandatory helmet laws.
As you would know, the Queensland Parliament' Transport, Housing and Local Government Committee made 68 recommendations as part of the inquiry into improving the interaction of cyclists and other road users. While the Government supported the majority of the committee's recommendations, 17 of them, including the introduction of a trial exempting cyclists over 16 years old from mandatory helmet road rules, were not supported.
You would be aware there are conflicting opinions regarding the benefits of mandatory helmet laws. While you've provided information to support your position, the Queensland Government has decided not to progress changes to helmet requirements at this time.
The Government is committed to creating safer road conditions for Queensland cyclists and will continue to work to implement the committee's recommendations.
The claim that 17 recommendations were supported is a bit of a fudge of the figures .... a bit like how the Government tried to rely on the HUGE numbers of cycling injuries in the Netherlands as evidence that helmets should be mandatory (see page 11 here).
The vast majority of Inquiry recommendations supported by the Government were administrative actions without real outcomes. Things like investigating potential administrative changes, developing better ways to obtain statistics, developing relationships with stakeholders etc. A few of the recommendations related to significant policy changes, most of which were not supported, or 'supported in principle' which is Govspeak for 'there's already a decision process in place that we can pretend meets this outcome'.
However there were about 20 recommendations to specifically change the road rules in ways to make cycling safe, including recommendations about introducing safe passing distances. All but 2 were rejected, including the recommendations for a mandatory 1 metre safe passing distance (1.5m in speed zones greater than 60kph).
Instead, the Government has introduced a 2 year trial for safe passing laws, and will review the success of the laws after that date. Already it is clear that the Queensland Police are refusing to enforce the laws (see here and here).
One of the committee's recommendations was to increase certain fines for cyclists only where death or injury of another road user is a potential outcome of the offence. Instead, the Government has increased all fines for cyclists, so that they are the same as drivers.
The two changes to the road laws completely supported by the Government were allowing cyclists to ride across zebra crossings, and removing the mandatory requirement for bicycles to use on road bike lanes. Neither of these changes have yet been made, 6 months after the Inquiry, despite the laws being changed almost overnight to introduce the higher fines and the mandatory passing laws.