16 September, 2014

NaTochak's position on the mandatory use of protective bicycle helmets

NaTochak and eleven other organizations firmly believe that the mandatory use of protective bicycle helmets should not be introduced in Macedonia, and have sent a letter to all responsible institutions.

The text of this letter is quoted in full in this blog/post.

The letter was sent to:

1. The Ministry of Transport and Communications: Department for Normative, Legal and Administrative Affairs, Department for the European Union, Department for Spatial Management,
2. The National Council for Road Traffic Safety,
3. The Ministry of Interior,
4. The Traffic Department of the City of Skopje.

(Also the letter in Macedonian here)

Dear Sir/Madam,

We would like to bring your attention to the proposed changes in the existing legislation and possible introduction of mandatory bicycle helmets, according to some Macedonian media.
From what we could read in this article in the Denesen newspaper, http://denesen.mk/web/?p=261319amendments have been proposed to the Law on Traffic Road Safety, according to which the wearing of a protective bicycle helmet is to be made mandatory in addition to the requirement for a proper reflecting light equipment on bicycles.
The NaTochak (OnBike) initiative welcomes all measures aimed at enhancing the safety of cyclists and at the same time increasing the appeal of the bicycle as a means of transport for new cyclists.
We believe that the introduction of a required protective helmet when using the bicycle as a means of transport runs contrary to the efforts for increasing its share in traffic.
Looking into this subject, we have came across a lot of data and scientific studies as well as views by relevant institutions and organizations for urban cycling not favouring regulations for a mandatory use of bicycle helmets.
In order to maintain and promote the positive trend of a rising number of cyclists in cities throughout Macedonia, an atmosphere of fear should not be created and bicycles should not be perceived as an unsafe means of transport, or cities as not being safe for cyclists.
The proposed required protective helmet will definitely lead to a fall in the number of active cyclists and create a picture among potential cyclists that cycling is dangerous.
·         Cyclists are not more prone to major head injuries than car drivers and pedestrians, while these are not required to wear helmets.
http://www.howiechong.com/journal/2014/2/bike-helmets?fb_action_ids=10152475821825864&fb_action_types=og.likes#.U9Dd5ZSSyLh h
·         The conclusion of the aforementioned study is that one of the more effective ways of improving the safety of pedestrians and cyclists is by increasing their number. The mandatory use of helmets would run contrary to that goal.

·         The mandatory use of helmets only complicates the public bicycle renting system. The management of that system also has to provide those renting bicycles with helmets as well as their proper storage and control.
Our concerns are also supported by the views of two relevant European institutions:

     The European Cycling Federation, the highest authority on urban cycling in Europe and the world, recommends, based on extensive research, that no regulations on the mandatory use of protective helmets should be introduced:

Rather than mitigate the effects of possible accidents with minimum safeguards such as the helmet while causing damage in other fields, we should take appropriate measures to prevent these accidents from happening in the first place:

1. By investing in a separate and proper cycling infrastructure that will permit free-flowing bicycle traffic, safe and not conflicting with motor vehicle traffic, from which the helmet should only be a theoretical protection, and reducing the speed limits for motor vehicles in parts of the city where it is impossible to separate cycling from motor vehicle traffic;

2. By promoting traffic education programmes for all participants in traffic, through both formal education and campaigns.

These measures have proved successful in countries known for the highest safety of their cyclists – in the Netherlands and Denmark. Bicycle helmets are not mandatory there.

In the following study we can clearly see that both the development of bicycle traffic and safety have suffered in the countries introducing the mandatory use of bicycle helmets:

Now that there has been at least a slight increase in the interest among our fellow citizens in the bicycle as a means of transport, let us not take a step back by complicating the legislation on potential victims. Let us move forward by improving cycling conditions on a long-term basis.

We sincerely hope that you will consider the views expressed in this document which is supported by the following organizations:
1. NaTochak (OnBike), Skopje
2. Macedonian Bicycle Federation
3. To4ak (Bike)
4. Coalition for Sustainable Development
5. Go Green
6. Eco Awareness
7. Milieukontakt Macedonia
8. Eco Logic
9. Tetovo on Bike
10. Gostivar on Bike
11. Bitola on Bike
12. Prilep on Bike


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