Surprisingly for some international students and tourists; wearing a bicycle helmet when riding your bike is the law in Australia. Regardless of the safety considerations, failing to do so can result in significant on-the-spot fines if the Police stop you.
To meet the standard, you must be wearing an approved helmet (more on this below) that is properly fitted or fastened.
As per all other issues related to traffic and roads, the fines vary from state-to-state; and much like a speeding ticket - these are all on the spot issued fines. The other point to note here is that not wearing a helmet is highly visible to Police and may give them cause to then search you and/or your bike for other infringements.
Read on to see the potential price for nipping down to the shops with the wind in your hair:
ACT - ACT riders are looking at a $121 fine. Pretty reasonable when compared to the other states/territories.
New South Wales - Topping the charts (with TAS) with a whopping $344, NSW is definitely a state where you want to follow the rules and put a helmet on when riding your bike. NSW Police are also quite vigilant in stopping offenders and issuing these fines (around 500 per month!). You have been warned.
Northern Territory - The only state/territory in Australia where the fine is less than the price of a helmet at $25.
Queensland - You’re looking at a $137 fine for no helmet in Queensland. Stories from our Brisbane store customers suggest the Police are pretty willing to issue these infringements too - so buy a helmet.
South Australia - $113 plus a victims of crime levy of $92 = $205.
Tasmania - Bike riders choosing not to wear a helmet in Tassie face a surprisingly high fine of $344.
Victoria - Victorians are looking at a $227 fine for not wearing a helmet. Again, we hear from customers that Police are pretty active in enforcing this.
Western Australia - $50 is the fine.
Which helmet is right to buy?
Don’t think you can just wear any old helmet either - Australia also has some of the most stringent safety standards around helmet design and construction in the world (Australian Standard 2063:2008 if you’re interested). Any helmet legally sold in Australia (including our bike helmets ) needs to meet this standard and clearly display on the product that it has passed. Beyond this, it really comes down to the type of riding you’re doing, budget and style preference.
Is my helmet safe?
As you’re wearing a helmet, it’s worth knowing the device is in good working order and will protect your brain in the event of a crash. NEVER buy a second hand helmet and always buy new from a reputable dealer. Follow this checklist to see you are looking after yourself:
Are there any visible cracks or has the helmet been involved in a significant collision?
If yes, just dispose of it and buy a new one.
Is your helmet more than 5 years old?
Sweat, hair products and UV light all degrade the plastics used to make your helmet so the general safety advice is to replace a bicycle helmet every 3-5 years. This depends on usage and the type of riding you’re doing however. For example, Mountain Bikers who are at higher risk of crashing will probably want all the protection they can get so will replace their helmet more often than a once-a-week bike path commuter.
Am I using the right helmet for my chosen riding discipline?
If you’re riding to the shops once a week then any Australian helmet will do the job. If you’re riding big distances on the road, you’ll want a light helmet (reduce load on the neck) with lots of vents (keep your head cool). If you’re riding on Mountain Bike trails, you’ll want a bigger helmet with more material and a deeper coverage at the rear (you can land on objects from different angles). The benefits of these features will become obvious as you become more experienced with riding.
Bicycle helmets are designed to crush in a specific way, controlling the crash energy and extending the deceleration time of your head and brain. This action soaks up the force of an impact and will be compromised if your helmet is already cracked, brittle and old. Pay attention to this safety device and it will look after you (research by UNSW shows cyclists who wear helmets reduce their risk of dying from a head injury by 65 per cent).
The most important bit of safety advice though is to always ride within your limits. You can advance, but take your time and develop the skills required before taking risks.