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Waterview Shared Path

Auckland Transport is holding an open day to discuss their plans for a shared path between Waterview and Mt Albert which was required as part of the Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection project.

Auckland Transport is about to unveil plans for a new walking and cycling link between Waterview and Mt Albert.

Delivered as part of the Waterview Connection project, the shared path will add to Auckland’s growing cycling and walking network, connecting with the north-western (SH16) cycle route and existing shared paths to Onehunga and New Lynn.

Auckland Transport has investigated a range of options, talked with property owners and developed a concept design for the path. We’re now ready to show our designs to the public, so come along and give us your thoughts.

The Waterview shared path will be around 2.4km long and around 3.5 metres wide, running from Alan Wood Reserve off New North Road, following the route of Oakley Creek and connecting with Great North Road (map attached).

Two new bridges will be built along the route – one across Oakley Creek and the other over the western rail line – to connect communities to the path. There will also be easy access to the path at various points along the route, such as Phyllis Reserve and the Unitec campus.

Details on the Waterview shared path will be revealed at two public open days – the first on Wednesday 23 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Metro Football Club, in Phyllis Reserve, Mt Albert; and the second on Thursday 24 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Avondale Baptist Church, 1288 New North Road, Avondale. The project team will be on hand to answer questions.

AT’s Community Transport manager Matthew Rednall says the shared path will be great for the local community.

“Not only will it mean safe traffic-free links and improved access to local schools, colleges and other community facilities, it’ll be a great place to get some exercise,” he says.

“The path will be well lit and have a low gradient to make it safe and easy to use.”

Construction is expected to begin in late 2016 and take around 12 months to complete.

This is the route the path will take

Waterview Cycleway Route

I’m please to see this being progressed however there are already a number of questions in my head about this project.

  • Why is it only starting construction in late 2016. This seems especially odd considering how fast the NZTA seems to be moving on the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Cycleway which has construction starting in a few months.
  • The route seems more about recreation than transport with the indirect route it takes and sharp slow speed turns – AT have said that this is to provide links to the community, not build through the sports grounds and that closer to the creek isn’t suitable for building.
  • Will AT be installing lights on the intersection of Soljak Pl/New North Rd/Bollard Ave? New North Rd is a high volume four lane arterial road that without any kind of crossing is going to be difficult to cross.
  • We’ve started seeing a lot of design being incorporated in pedestrian/cycle bridges in recent years, the concept for the bridge across the Oakley Creek that AT have on their website seems to shun that completely.

Waterview Cycleway - Alford Bridge artist concept

Grafton Gully Cycleway getting closer

The Grafton Gully Cycleway has been under construction for some time now and it’s clearly getting close to completion. It’s due to open in September along with the first section of the Beach Rd cycleway which will be our first protected cycleway. Here are some images from the Southern end.

Coming from Upper Queen St and travelling above the motorway.

Grafton Gully Cycleway July 14 3

Weaving under the motorway ramp

Grafton Gully Cycleway July 14 4

Looking North from Grafton Bridge, still some concrete to be poured here.

Grafton Gully Cycleway July 14 2

Looking North from Grafton Bridge towards Wellesley St where an underpass has been built

Grafton Gully Cycleway July 14 1

I’m looking forward to this being open.

Panmure Bike Park Consultation

Auckland Transport are after feedback on their design for bike parking at Panmure Station with a view to rolling it out to the rest of the network.

Designs for cycle parking at the new Panmure Railway Station could be wheeled out across the region.

Auckland Transport wants feedback on its designs for safe, dry and secure bike parking at Panmure (attached).

“We think we have created a simple functional structure that provides cyclists with secure and sheltered bike parking, now we want to know if it works for cyclists and other users of Panmure station,” says community transport manager Matthew Rednall.

“Bike parking is going to be rolled-out to stations across Auckland and it’s important we give people something they want and they will use.”

Cycle Action Auckland chair Barbara Cuthbert is keen on developing a practical template for developing bike parking facilities across Auckland. “Good bike parking will encourage more people to combine public transport and cycling and reduce pressure on park and ride. It’s good timing to do this survey while the public is responding to AT’s review of city- wide parking policies. Well done, Auckland Transport.“

Visit to view the designs and give feedback. You can have your say until 4 July.

And here’s what it looks like.

Panmure Bike Parking

Panmure Bike Parking 2

And here are two possible layouts

Panmure Bike Layout 1

Panmure Bike Layout 2

Overall this looks like a good addition to the Panmure Station and it would be great to see them at all stations around the network along with on key bus routes. My only concern is that long term they might not be big enough – but I guess that’s not a bad problem to have.

Waterfront Promenade update

While many people are aware of the Grafton Gully cycle route that is currently under construction, and the connecting Beach Road route that will soon start, another major cycleway project is currently progressing at good pace. This is the Waterfront Promenade, which will link Wynyard Quarter and Westhaven Marina. While in the short term this will be a great recreational asset, it also ends at the southern approach to the Harbour Bridge. So when Skypath arrives in the next few years, it will be the main connection from Skypath to the city. The promenade is a mix of standard concrete paths, and a boardwalk that is being built on piles over the water. The path is generally 4 – 5 metres wide, with it being narrower along the area where there is a interim promenade (in dashed orange). Also note that the promenade reuse idea seems to have disappeared, with piling along this section as well.



Really good progress is being on the promenade, and it should be open within a few months (pictures taken yesterday). Previously the only pedestrian access along here was an embarrassing 1m wide footpath, so this is a huge improvement. The area has great views back towards the city, Rangitoto, over the marina and around the harbour.


Progress on eastern section


First small section of boardwalk at western end nearing completion


Western section of Shared Path near Jacob’s Ladder overbridge.


Downtown to Takapuna: A great, underappreciated cycle commute

This is another post from Peter who you can see we’ve now allowed to post directly [ Matt]

I recently started a new job in Takapuna. Unfortunately, it’s just far enough away from my home on the isthmus to be inconvenient for commuting purposes. Driving means winding through town to get to the motorway and then dealing with the traffic freakshow on Esmonde Road. Taking the bus means transferring in town, and sometimes a 10-15 minute wait if you’re unlucky. (Or worse. Last Friday I mistakenly got on the 922 bus, which only goes to Takapuna after a half-hour tiki tour through Birkenhead and Northcote. If you’re going to Takapuna, take the 839, 858, 875, 879, or 895 instead.)

So when the weather and my out-of-shape thighs permit, I’ve been cycling up to Takapuna. Even without the Skypath, this is proving to be surprisingly easy. I cycle down Symonds St to the ferry building, take the ferry across to Bayswater, and then cycle up to Takapuna on the Bayswater pipe bridge and shared path, which lets me avoid battling traffic on Lake Road. (See map below.)

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna Map

If you commute to Takapuna from the city centre or inner suburbs, I highly recommend that you consider taking the bike. On a good day, I can make it to work in 40-45 minutes, which is competitive with cars and faster than the bus. (Getting back’s a bit harder as I have to go uphill, but I can still do it in 50-55 minutes.) You get to ride on a completely uncrowded ferry, which seems to be a rare experience in Auckland these days. Cycling on the shore side is very safe, as Bayswater Avenue doesn’t get a lot of cars, and the shared path gets none.

And it’s a really beautiful ride to boot. Probably one of the best cycle commutes in Auckland.

And now, for the Tour de Bayswater by cameraphone.

Here’s the view from the Bayswater Ferry back to the city centre on a sunny morning. The ferry runs every half-hour during the peak periods, and hourly during the middle of the day (see the pdf timetable). I was running a bit late on the morning I took these pictures, so I cycled like mad down Symonds St only to have to wait on the wharf as the ferry emptied out.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 1

The ferry is always completely full with commuters when it arrives in town at 8:20 – but I’m usually the only person to get on in the other direction. That is an insanely unbalanced peak flow!

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 2

The bike racks are completely full on the Bayswater side – in fact, they seem to be fuller than the expansive park-and-ride. Auckland Transport seems to recognise that a lot of cyclists use the ferry. A few weeks ago I got a quick bike tune-up and hot chocolate at a winter pit-stop sponsored by AT and Bikewise.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 3

Then it’s up a small hill and onto Bayswater Avenue, which is dead quiet at this hour. Many of the kids at the local Belmont Primary cycle or walk to school, which cuts down the traffic quite a bit. I usually only see three or four cars.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 4

And then it’s off the road and onto the shared path down the side of O’Neill’s Cemetery. At 8:40 in the morning, it’s generally populated by dog-walkers, who sometimes need a bit of notice of approaching cyclists.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 5

The new pipeline bridge is fantastic. You feel like you’re gliding over the mangrove flats, which can be a pretty extraordinary sight on a good morning. It’s also a perfect demonstration of how good cycling infrastructure can make biking easier by linking up areas that are hard to move between by car. It adds a direct connection between two of the little finger peninsulas on the shore.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 6

The shared path wends its way around the bays before terminating at Francis Street. From there, it’s an uphill cycle to Jutland Road, another low-traffic side street.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 7

The intersection of Jutland Road and Lake Road isn’t fantastic. The curb bulbs out just before the intersection, forcing cyclists to squeeze between the cars while making the turn. Frustratingly, this intersection leads to the painted cycle lanes on Lake Road.

For safety’s sake, I usually hop up onto the sidewalk around this intersection. This isn’t an option on the trip back, so I usually do a hook turn using the pedestrian crossing button. I have to wonder what AT was thinking when they built such a terrible intersection between two of the major bits of cycle infrastructure on the shore.

Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 1: Where’s the space for cyclists?

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 8

Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 2: Still not seeing any space for cyclists.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 9

Jutland Rd / Lake Rd intersection 3: The painted cycle lane appears, at long last, in the left corner of this photo.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 10

Moreover, the painted cycle lanes on Lake Road end in a dangerous way at the intersection with Esmonde Road. Rather than continuing along Lake Road to Takapuna, they take a left and go part of the way down Esmonde Road (i.e. towards the motorway interchange) before vanishing entirely. There’s no obvious, direct way for cyclists to continue through the intersection, which forces me to merge across a lane of left-turning traffic. Fortunately, traffic speeds slow down a bit north of the intersection, which means that the last bit of the ride is civil.

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 11

I probably haven’t picked the right time of year to start cycling to work – being winter and all – but it can be a pretty rewarding trip back at the end of the day. The ferry provides an impressive view of the harbour at dusk. Here’s a last look at our beloved coathanger and a few of Auckland’s many sails:

Peter Cycle commute to Takapuna 12

Bike Te Atatu – A Futurementary

Bike Te Atatu has put together this fantastic video which they describe as:

A look into a possible future for Te Atatu and eventually Auckland. Made by Bike Te Atatu for the purpose of starting a conversation about our streets and what we want for our community.

I see a few blog regulars in there.

I think we’re going to increasingly see local communities stepping up and demanding more liveable streets. The question is if Auckland Transport will step up their game?

Ponsonby Rd Update

In addition to the information on route optimisation in the CBD, the Waitemata Local Board’s agenda included an item to endorse the final version of the Ponsonby Rd Plan. The plan went out to consultation in July last year with submissions open till mid September. All up there were 256 pieces of written feedback received with the majority from individuals and that feedback has been used to help in amend and refine the plan.

Ponsonby Rd Masterplan Area

There were a number of changes recommended and the key ones include:

  • Organising the document by key outcomes rather than dividing the plan by topic. This more clearly shows the link between outcomes, projects and actions.
  • Including design principles as well as actions to guide the detailed work with specific projects listed in an implementation strategy.
  • Amending the vision to continue the idea of developing Ponsonby as a place and giving recognition to its unique historic character.
  • Merge key outcomes 1 and 6 to focus on the diverse activities along Ponsonby Road through emphasising the role as a town centre and referencing different users rather than simply referring to its entertainment, boutique shopping, housing and employment functions.

In terms of the feedback it was divided into the individual sections being referred to, I won’t go over all of them but on the issue of transport and infrastructure the report states:

Feedback Received

  • Feedback demonstrated that despite the 40kmph speed limit pedestrians and cyclists still do not feel safe on Ponsonby Road due to the volume and speed of traffic and lack of opportunities to safely cross the road.
  • Overall, respondents agreed that any future streetscape upgrade on Ponsonby Road should prioritise pedestrians, provide for safer on road cycling, maintain the village feel of Three Lamps and improve accessibility from the south to Three Lamps.
  • Feedback raised concerns about managing commuter car parking in Ponsonby and businesses were opposed to any loss in on street carparking.
  • Generally, feedback was supportive of proposals to create pedestrian orientated spaces on Rose Road, Pollen Street and St Marys Road.

Key changes made

  • Design principles have been added to guide streetscape upgrades in Three Lamps, Three Lamps to Franklin Road and Franklin Road to Great North Road.
  • These principles are focused on transforming the urban realm of Ponsonby Road to create a village hub and improve accessibility from the south at Three Lamps and have the rest of the corridor more pedestrian orientated with safe cycling options.
  • Improving the urban realm of the top of St Marys Road is now one of the design principles for Three Lamps so that it can be considered as part of the upgrade of the wider Three lamps area rather than as a separate action.
  • Actions to create more pedestrian orientated spaces at Pollen Street and Rose Road have been retained with some design principles to guide the development of a Rose Road plaza.
  • Actions to investigate better management of carparking have been included.

It’s great that the importance of prioritising walking and cycling came through in the feedback as often that doesn’t seem to happen.

Ponsonby Rd Plan concept image

Note: The image above is just a concept and not any form of official plan so no needed to comment on the design of the cycle lanes, road layout.

The final version of the plan to be endorsed by the board is attached to the item for more detailed information.

Along with the plan for the entire road, the board were also looking at what should be done with 254 Ponsonby Rd which is owned by the council. Patrick commented on it fairly extensively in this post. Since the consultation the board has decided to decouple the plans for the site from the overall Ponsonby Rd Plan however they note:

Feedback Received

  • Feedback was divided on the options presented. Most respondents however, were supportive of the final design of the site at 254 Ponsonby Road to include an open space component that is activated by surrounding uses and that does not attract antisocial behaviour.
  • Many submitters have expressed concerns around losing a locally important and well loved retail outlet on Ponsonby Road. Some submitters called for this section of Ponsonby Road to have more retail activation to increase vibrancy while others expressed the view that an open space in this location will provide a welcome relief from retail.
  • Feedback was supportive of the rear portion of the site being developed so that it is in keeping with the residential character and scale of O’Neil Street.
  • Many submitters supported incorporating public art on the site and requested that a children’s playground be incorporated on the site.

Key changes made

  • The “open space”, “active edge”, “public art” and “safety” design principles will be retained in the final plan to guide the final design of the site.
  • “Providing opportunities for children to play” will also be included as final design principles.
  • The “retail continuity” and “cost to council” design principles will be excluded from the final plan.

A separate report on the site says that two options from the original four are being progressed and will go for further community consultation at a later date.

Lastly not on the agenda but a post implementation evaluation has been completed on the Ponsonby Rd Bike Corral which was installed in September last year. The key points found in the review were:

  • There are overall more people cycling to the area now than there were prior to the infrastructure being installed. In successive surveys in December 2013 and February 2014, bike occupancies in the bike corral and around were shown to be higher than prior to the infrastructure being installed (refer to Section 5.1).
  • The bike parking corral has strong occupancies during the pre-work period- peaking at 100% on the Friday morning surveyed, and strong use at the weekend ‘brunch time’ period also (refer to Section 5.1).
  • Over time, there is a case for the bike parking corral to generate even more cycling trips from the immediate area, with 20% of people sampled from postcode 1011 reporting a willingness to switch to cycling for some trips (refer to Section 6.3).
  • Expenditure generation estimates show that the bike parking corral frequently generates greater expenditure that it’s previous use as a car park. There is far greater scope for the bike parking corral to generate larger sums of expenditure at peak times (estimated up to $684 per hour) compared with a car parking space (where the ability to generate expenditure is generally about $70 per hour) – refer to Section 5.3.
  • It is expected that as greater take-up of cycling occurs and the bike parking corral becomes more fully occupied the expenditure it is able to generate will more consistently exceed that which was generated by the use of the space for car parking.
  • The community are generally behind the bike corral project (refer to Section 5.4), supporting the notion that Auckland Transport should be pursuing this type of infrastructure to inspire greater bike use.

Those are some pretty impressive numbers considering nothing was done in the area to make it easier to access the bike corral. Just imagine how much busier and more economically beneficial it would be if cycle lanes along Ponsonby Rd – like suggested in the plan above. The reason the bike corral was able to generate so much per hour at peak times compared to a car using the same was that the study found that people on bike spend about the same on a per minute basis as drivers do however the corral is able to get many more bikes parked in the same space. If I was a retailer I’d be calling out for one to be installed outside my shop as fast as possible. A breakdown of expenditure generated per hour is below.

Ponsonby Rd Bike Corral expenditure per hour

I guess the corral will be staying then?


Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Cycleway moving ahead

Cycle Action Auckland have revealed that a cycleway between Glen Innes and Tamaki Dr is being brought forward by a collaboration between Auckland Transport and the NZTA and the first stages could be under construction in just a few months.

The details we have at this stage were revealed in a presentation delivered to the CAA just over a week ago. You can read the presentation here although most of the details are below.

Auckland Transport have split their proposed Auckland Cycling Network into three categories. this project forms part of the metro network.

  •  METRO – provide segregation from traffic along shared paths, off road routes and protected cycle lanes
  • CONNECTOR – are not fully segregated routes and are the more traditional cycle lanes marked by painted lines
  • FEEDER – can be a mixture of segregation, shared paths and on-road routes but are located on quiet neighbourhood streets and where there are low traffic speeds. These routes link residential streets, parks and community facilities including schools. The Feeder network also aligns with Local Board Greenway proposals

This project forms part of the highest level metro network (which seems to have a big whole through the middle of the isthmus)

Glen Inness to Tamaki Dr - Metro network

The cycleway will connect to the three train stations along the route, Glen Innes, Meadowbank and Orakei. It will also have connections into the surrounding suburbs which could make it really useful for expanding the reach of those train stations. It will also link into the work being built as part of AMETI.

The agencies suggest that initial demand is only about 300 people per day however that it would grow to 900 per day in the future. To me that seems fairly light and I suspect it will end up being much more than this as like Skypath I see it as having much more transformational impacts than what the models often suggest.

The project has been broken up into 5 sections and is expected to be built over 3-4 years though an integrated project instead of the 6-7 years it would have taken if they used a more traditional approach. The sections are

  • Section 1 (Mechanics Bay to Orakei Point) – 3 to 4 years
  • Section 2 (Orakei Point to Meadowbank Station) – 2 years
  • Section 3 (Orakei Point to Purewa Cemetery) – 3 years
  • Section 4 (Purewa Cemetery to St Johns Road) – 3 years
  • Section 5 (ST Johns Road to Glen Innes) – 2 years

Glen Inness to Tamaki Dr - Sections

Interestingly it appears that sections 4 and 5 will use some of the land that was held aside for the canned Eastern Motorway.

The current timeline they are working to is:

  • July – stakeholder engagement
  • July – consenting and procurement strategy
  • November – lodge planning applications
  • End 2014 – targeted to have contractor on board
  • Early 2015 – commence construction (section 5)

This should be a fantastic project so it’s great to see it moving forward and doing so quickly. Well done to all involved.

Photo of the day – Cycle signs

Encouraging cyclists without the infrastructure to support them.

Photo is credited to

Should bike helmets be mandatory?

Bike helmets in New Zealand have been legally required since January,1994. Bike helmets are also compulsory in Australia where they were progressively introduced by the different states in the early 1990s. Wearing a helmet has long seemed natural simply because it was drummed into me from a young age and so the thought of not wearing one never really crossed my mind and as such opposing the requirement to wear one was a bit like suggesting that wearing seat belts shouldn’t be compulsory. However as I’ve looked further into the issue it seems like the story is not so clear cut after all.

I recently came across a very interesting article that strongly opposes mandatory bike helmets – and makes a pretty compelling case. Here are a few snippets from that article:

Stop forcing people to wear bike helmets.

For most bikers, this advice is anathema. The importance of wearing a helmet has been drilled into everyone since childhood. And, it’s true that, as study after study has shown, you’re better off with a helmet if you’re in an accident.

But in the world’s most popular biking cities, particularly in Europe, very few bikers wear helmets. And there are good reasons for that: biking, it turns out, isn’t an especially dangerous form of transportation in terms of head trauma. And the benefits of helmets may be overstated. While they do protect your head during accidents, there’s some evidence that helmets make it more likely you’ll get in an accident in the first place.

Most importantly, requiring helmets deters many normal people from biking in the first place — in Australia, bike commuting rates plummeted when mandatory helmet laws went into effect. And, when there are fewer bikes on the road overall, biking becomes more dangerous.

Of course, if people want to wear helmets they are more than welcome to.

But we should think of helmets as an optional accessory, rather than an absolute requirement — and proposed laws that would mandate all cyclists wear helmets are a bad idea.

It seems that the essential argument against helmets is along the lines the helmet laws generally seem to result in way fewer people cycling – which itself is more dangerous for the remaining cyclists than not wearing a helmet. We do have to be careful in just saying that helmet laws are solely responsible for the decline in cycling rates as in NZ at least the laws coincided with the introduction of cheaper cars.

There’s also the quite good question of why helmets for cycling and not for driving, or walking for that matter? Essentially – is there something particularly dangerous about cycling?

It doesn’t appear so. Back in the early 1990s, Australia collected good data on head injuries for walking, biking, and driving. (This was before the country imposed mandatory helmet laws for bikers.) And what they found was that biking was only slightly more dangerous than walking or driving:


Obviously, Australia is not the United States, but the two countries have very similar rates of walking, driving, and cycling.

Here’s more recent data, which covers all of Great Britain from 2008 through 2012. It doesn’t distinguish between different causes of death, but again shows that your odds of being killed on a bike or on foot are very similar.


Similar data has come out of France, the Netherlands, Denmark, and elsewhere.

Again, analyzing US data is tough — no one keeps track of how many miles are biked or walked in the country annually, so it’s hard to convert raw numbers of injuries and deaths into meaningful rates. But on a per trip basis, biking causes more deaths than driving and just slightly more than walking.

In 2012, 1.8 percent of all traffic-related deaths were bicyclists, and 14 percent were pedestrians. Because biking makes up about one percent of all trips taken in the US, and walking about 10.9 percent, both led to a disproportionate number of deaths, compared to cars — but were relatively similar, compared to each other.

So it’s not clear that cycling is a particularly dangerous activity – particularly compared to walking. There’s also other information in the article which questions the extent to which helmet laws appear to reduce head injuries, but what I find particularly interesting is how helmets may actually increase the risk of injury. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly:

In a 2007 study, British researcher Ian Walker rode 200 miles in the cities of Salisbury and Bristol with a sensor strapped to his bike that measured the distance of a total of 2,259 cars that passed him. He wore a helmet about half the time — and found that when he wore it, the cars came about 3.35 inches closer, on average, when passing.

Regardless of Walker’s distance from the curb (x axis), cars passed by him more closely when he had his helmet on. Accident Analysis & Prevention, Walker 2007.
The frequency of dangerously-close passes was also much higher when he was wearing the helmet — and the two times he was actually hit during the experiment both came when his helmet was on.
Many people also sugges that wearing a helmet makes cyclists themselves less cautious in their riding, increasing the chance of an accident.

This is unproven, and it’s a difficult topic to research. Comparing real-world accident rates for helmeted and non-helmeted riders risks conflating all sorts of other factors (a rider’s skill, for starters), and trying to do a controlled study in which you force some cyclists to not wear a piece of protective equipment raises ethical issues.
But even if each of these effects just increased the odds of an accident slightly, it wouldn’t take much for that to wipe out the modest benefit of having a helmet on during that accident.

The second reason why helmets may actually make cycling more dangerous comes back to my earlier point about it stigmatising cycling and lowering the level of cycling to such an extent that the roads are much more dangerous for those hardy souls who continue to ride.

Case in point: Between 1986 and 1996, most states in Australia rolled out helmet laws and began fining cyclist who weren’t wearing them. As a result, the percentage of people who biked to work went from 1.68 to 1.24 percent — a decline of over a quarter.

Moreover, these states implemented the laws at slightly different times, and by looking at data from the 1991 and 1996 censuses, you can see the effect of the laws even more clearly.
Screen_shot_2014-05-16_at_9.01.43_amBicycle Helmet Research Foundation

In red states (where laws were in place by 1991), cycling dropped significantly between 1986 and 1991. In blue states (where laws went into place between 1991 and 1996), biking dropped during that same period. (The higher two lines show biking in Australia’s larger capital cities, and the two lower lines in smaller cities and rural areas, but the trends are essentially the same.)

So what’s the problem with taking bikers off the road? It makes biking dramatically more dangerous, easily eclipsing the safety benefit of helmets.

It’s been proven over and over again that the most important predictor of a city or region’s level of safety for bikers is the number of bikers on the road.

Here’s data from 68 cities in California showing the strong correlation between safety and the number of cyclists:


Injury Prevention, Jacobsen
Here’s a comparison of the US and different European counties:


European Cyclists’ Federation

True, it’s hard to disentangle cause and effect here. These cities and countries could be safe because there are more bikers, or there could be more bikers because infrastructure and other factors make biking in them safe. But either way, it’s clear that helmets do not play a major role in ensuring overall biker safety.

This is the key question in my opinion – have cycle helmet laws actually inadvertently made cycling more dangerous – because they appear to have contributed to a significant reduction in the level of cycling over time in places where such laws have been introduced? This appears to be the conclusion from some overseas studies:

In Australia, several different researchers have studied mandatory helmet laws — looking at the lives saved by helmets, the fact that biking is now more dangerous because there are fewer bikes on the road, and the massive health costs of having fewer people biking in a country that’s battling obesity — and concluded they do more harm than good.

Of course it’s not like we’re going to ever ban cycle helmets – but the real question of whether they should be mandatory perhaps requires another look.