The Cyclists Rights Action Group (CRAG) was formed at a public meeting in Canberra, ACT, Australia, on 30th January 1992, in direct response to the introduction of Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL) for bicyclists, with the aim of protecting cyclists against undue interference by Governments and erosion of civil liberties. The current aim of CRAG is to oppose legislation compelling cyclists to wear helmets. Membership is open to all who subscribe to these aims.
CRAG meetings are held ~6weekly, Wednesday nights, at the Baldessin Precinct, Australian National University, ACT.
We stress that CRAG is not opposed to the wearing of helmets, merely to their compulsion. Our position is that individuals should have the right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, without undue interference by Governments. We believe the role of Government should be limited to advising its constituents, without bias, of the pro’s and con’s of helmets; rather than to compel their use by law whilst feeding false or faulty information to the public and brushing any negative effects under the carpet (as has been the case to date).
Summary of CRAG arguments
For the benefit of the casual browser. Most if not all of the following are covered in detail in other documents on this site.
- Governments introduced helmet laws without real proof of helmet effectiveness; without proper community consultation; bypassing democratic principles and standards; and without due consideration of other factors such as that there would be a decline in cycling.
- Numbers of cyclists have declined enormously since the law, and although cycling may have since increased, evidence indicates that the level is still below what would have been expected had there been no law.
- More people have given up cycling or continued to ride helmetless than have worn a helmet because of the law.
- The estimated number of head injuries per cyclist has not decreased since the law despite increased helmet wearing rates.
- Many of the scientific studies in support of the law have been proven flawed – usually due to limitations in their data or methodology.
- ‘My helmet saved my life’ anecdotes prove little towards the effect of enforcing helmets on an entire population, and notwithstanding the tendency for people to exaggerate their claims. Anecdotes can be a compelling argument for individuals to choose to wear helmets, but do not constitute the scientific evidence which should be a pre-requisite to legislation.
- Some studies have indicated helmet wearers to be more likely to strike their heads and/or have an accident. There is a rational explanation for this phenomena. Wearing a helmet increases the size and mass of the head, and helmet wearers may also be subject to risk compensation.
- Studies of the mechanics of head injury show that the most serious contributor to brain injury are rotational forces, which helmets can do little or nothing to prevent and may actually increase.
- Helmets can have little benefit in a severe collision with a motor vehicle. Bicycle helmets are certified only for simple falls.
- Don’t even think about civil liberties, you don’t have any. Wear a helmet or else! Just as compulsory motorbike helmets were used to justify compulsory seatbelts, and compulsory seatbelts in turn were used to justify compulsory bicycle helmets, there can be little doubt that at some point in the future the bicycle helmets law will be used to justify other breaches of civil liberties.
- The helmet law has fundamentally failed in its stated aim of reducing head injury, to say nothing of the adverse effects, but the Government has so far refused to review it.
CRAG activities include:
- Lobbying governments (mainly the ACT goverment, but also the Federal Government and other Australian State governments);
- Pursuing information through the Freedom of Information Act, when Governments refuse to divulge information relating to their support of compulsory helmet laws;
- Challenging through the courts convictions for non-helmet wearing;
- Reviewing and exposing helmet literature in scientific and medical journals and elsewhere;
- Collecting relevant statistical and other data;
- Other research;
- Submitting articles to journals;
- Informing the general population of the real truth behind helmet legislation, through the media and elsewhere;
- Providing information and support to CRAG members and others who are fighting against current or impending bicycle helmet laws.