Brisbane deputy mayor Adrian Schrinner backs voluntary helmet trial for cyclists

Deputy mayor Adrian Schrinner says Brisbane's inner-city, home of the CityCycle scheme, could benefit from voluntary helmet laws. Photo: Michelle Smith
Deputy mayor Adrian Schrinner says Brisbane's inner-city, home of the CityCycle scheme, could benefit from voluntary helmet laws. Photo: Michelle Smith
Cr Schrinner says Brisbane is the perfect location for a voluntary helmet trial. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Cr Schrinner says Brisbane is the perfect location for a voluntary helmet trial. Photo: Glenn Hunt

Brisbane could offer itself up as a trial location for voluntary helmet laws for cyclists should a Senate inquiry open the door to legislative change, the city's deputy mayor said on Tuesday.

Adrian Schrinner, also Brisbane City Council's public and active transport committee chairman, said helmets should not be compulsory for adult cyclists riding in "low-risk" environments.

His comments came after the council's transport strategy manager Andrew Lintern gave a presentation to the committee about the so-called "nanny state" Senate inquiry, spearheaded by Liberal Democrat Senator David Leyonhjelm.

Mandatory helmet laws quickly emerged, much to the libertarian Senator Leyonhjelm's surprise, as a key focus of the inquiry.

Cr Schrinner said he would await the inquiry's findings, due on June 13, with interest and offered Brisbane up as a possible trial city for more relaxed helmet laws.

"It's worth remembering that a number of cycling groups are calling for this themselves, so it's a bit of a passion for cyclists," he said.

Last month, Brisbane cycling groups identified mandatory helmet laws as one of the biggest impediments to the council's CityCycle bike hire scheme.

"If you're looking at people making short trips in the CBD, where there's a 40km/h speed limit, it's a low-speed environment and that might be an opportunity to trial voluntary helmet use," Cr Schrinner said.

Mr Lintern told the committee the council did not make any submissions to the Senate inquiry, but had contributed to a Queensland state government inquiry in 2013.

That state inquiry recommended a 24-month trial that would exempt cyclists aged 16 years and over from the mandatory helmet road rule when riding in parks, on footpaths and shared cycle paths, and on roads with a speed limit of 60km/hr or less.

That recommendation was not adopted by the Newman government.

"The decision to keep helmet laws the same is based on scientific evidence that clearly supports the effectiveness of helmets in reducing head injuries," then-transport minister Scott Emerson said in 2014.

"While I agree with freedom of choice, it is not in the public interest to introduce a trial that may increase any risk of head injuries to cyclists."

Mr Lintern said the council's submission "supported the mandatory use of helmets in areas of potential conflict between cycles and vehicles".

But Mr Lintern said the council, in 2013, supported the government's review of options to relax regulations in "low-risk" areas.

"So, that's off-road pathways where cyclists can cycle where there's no vehicles, basically, (such as) parklands and the like," he said.

Cr Schrinner said a few years had passed since the council had that position and he was inclined to take a more laissez-faire approach.

"I have a different view to that submission and my personal view is there should be voluntary laws in place, with the exception of maybe the under-18s, given the high risk of that population," he said.

"Certainly, I think it would be fantastic to see a trial of voluntary helmets in Brisbane.

"We're the largest local government authority in Australia and it would be the perfect opportunity for us to trial it, if this is what the Senate inquiry comes back with."

When Liberal National Party councillor Ian McKenzie (Coorparoo) questioned the effectiveness of helmets as protection for cyclists, Mr Lintern said: "My personal opinion, prima facie, is that you'll be much safer with a helmet."

Helmets have been mandatory for Queensland cyclists since 1991, when the Goss government introduced legislation requiring all cyclists to wear helmets.

Comment has been sought from Queensland Road Safety Minister Mark Bailey.

This story Brisbane deputy mayor Adrian Schrinner backs voluntary helmet trial for cyclists first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.