Friday, February 24, 2017

Table talk: NSW politicians and me on bicycle helmet law

Me, Melinda Pavey & Michael Johnsen
What a week it's been! ... and yes the Minister for Roads and the Member for Upper Hunter have a new fan!

Having publicly divested myself of cycling opportunities to use my bicycle in the Upper Hunter Shire last week, since I was in Randwick yesterday I used the one parked in my sister's garage to attend a meeting at Parliament House with my local representative the Hon. Michael Johnsen MP (Member for Upper Hunter) and the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP (Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight) to discuss my position on mandatory bicycle helmet law ...

... and they listened.

They gave me the opportunity to express my frustration at this uniquely Australian compulsion ... and I did.

We discussed how mandatory helmet law (MHL) has created such a significant barrier to cycling especially to older women such as me, and how any barrier to cycling is always a shame. And yes we discussed hair and how that is an issue for women even if it isn't for me because we all know nothing could squash my crazy hair!

We discussed my long running legal saga and what a waste of police resources and court time and money that has been.

We touched upon health issues and our nation's obesity problem continuously gobbling up precious resources in the health system, and the need to get more people on bicycles.

We discussed the lack of all-age helmet compulsion in other countries such as Scandinavia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain, Ireland, how the US and Canada have a mish-mash of helmet requirments in certain states and provinces but not the blanket all-age helmet compulsion that we have across our nation across theirs.

We also discussed bike share and how Mexico and Israel got rid of their helmet compulsion when bike share was introduced because they wanted their programmes to succeed unlike our dismal Australian attempts in Melbourne and Brisbane. For the sake of comparison, I pointed out that Melbourne and Dublin both started bike share in their cities at exactly the same time and that Dublin's has been a huge success story whereas Melbourne's has been a monumental fizzer.

We looked at the 'safety-in-numbers' factor and how the more bicycles on the road there are the safer it is, and how much better cycling is in the Northern Territory with their watered down helmet requirements that are far more lenient and therefore don't put up so many barriers to cycling.

And I have to say I was heartened. Yes truly ...

Both politicians ride bicycles and both were open to the view that bicycles provide avenues and opportunities that we are not utilising at the moment. The Minister for Roads said they would re-visit the data, and I urged her not to only look at Australian material which has been so very blinkered to date, but to look at what the international community have to say on this subject as well.

There were no promises made, but this new roads minister was affable and open to suggestions, even on how a new approach could be drafted!

Whether bicycle helmet law is a Department of Roads issue or a Department of Transport is yet to be decided ... but hey, we were talking, we were talking ... and that is certainly something.

Baby steps, I know, but all the same ... baby steps get you somewhere!

Thank you, Melinda Pavey and Michael Johnsen, and I look forward to chatting again very soon!!!!

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(Note to self for today's TO DO list ... send Freestyle Cyclists' contact details to Road Minister's department)

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why I am giving up cycling in the Upper Hunter Shire

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Today in my local paper, "The Scone Advocate," a letter was published entitled "HOW CAN 'LAW BREAKER' BE ROLE MODEL FOR CYCLISTS?" In a somewhat rather non-21st Century way the Scone Advocate does not publish its letters online therefore I cannot give you the url so I've copied the content and popped it underneath my response which is below in between the two lots of dotted lines (my response that is). Oh and also the urls provided in the letter writer's letter were sourced and added by me in case you wanted to read some context to this flurry of letter writing ... sigh

-------------------------------------------- 
In response to the letter in the Scone Advocate Thursday February 2017 (How can ‘Law Breaker’ be role model for cyclists?’), I would like to thank J McLaughlin for their letter. I understand the premise of their complaint, and completely agree that it must be confusing when viewing the Upper Hunter Shire Council’s (UHSC) excellent bicycle initiative if viewed alongside my personal campaign (which I might add is not condoned by the UHSC) to remove the Australian compulsion to wear mandatory bicycle helmets. 

Therefore in a bid not to compromise the sound community programmes that the UHSC has to offer the shire community I will here on in undertake not to ride my bicycle in Scone or anywhere in the Upper Hunter Shire for the next four years whilst I am serving my time as an elected local government representative.

Naturally outside Australia where there is a large world full of many countries without mandatory bicycle helmet law, I will ride with the rest of my global citizens as I see fit.

Consequently that now means there is a bicycle (the one pictured in the Scone Advocate alongside J McLaughlin’s letter) now idling at my place so if anyone would like to buy a white giant suede, 9 yrs old, one elderly lady rider, it is now for sale for the princely sum of $5,000.00. If sold I will donate all proceeds to the Scone Neighbourhood Resource Centre which is desperately in need of a new home.

If truth be told it has actually become a trifle dangerous cycling in this shire without a helmet what with insults, stones and egg sandwiches occasionally thrown at me whilst on my bicycle.

Once again I would like to take this opportunity to thank J McLaughlin for their salutary reminder that law breakers and role models cannot mix.
Sue Abbott, Scone
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Letters to the Editor
HOW CAN "LAW BREAKER" BE ROLE MODEL FOR CYCLISTS?"
I read with interest the article in The Scone Advocate ... Shire Notes: an enlightened new adventure ... Sunday February 12, 2017.
"New bike facility at the Scone Visitor Information and Horse Centre". Very commendable.
But what concerns me greatly is that the article seems also to (self) promote Cr Sue Abbott.
This person has shown a blatant disregard for the Bicycle Laws and bike safety.
This person has been fined many many times for refusing to wear a helmet.
From the Daily Telegraph ... August 15th 2016:
"In a seven year battle against bike helmets Sue Abbott has had her driver's licence suspended, bikes confiscated and four criminal convictions recorded".
How can this person be promoted as a role model for cyclists?
Is the Upper Hunter Shire Council endorsing her actions?
Magistrate Barko dismissed Abbott's linking of helmet laws to climate change as an argument with "no rational reasoning".
Not my words ... the words of a Magistrate ... the woman is irrational.
I reiterate, I think the idea of bike hire (and helmets) is very commendable.
But I also feel the Shire Council is treading on thin ice, both morally and legally, if it continues to use this "law breaker" to promote it.
J McLaughlin, Merriwa

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Dear Minister, bicycle helmets are medical devices

Melinda Pavey, Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight

Dear Minister,

First congratulations on your cabinet appointment. I look forward to your fresh approach to the Roads and Maritime Services Department as you embark upon your ministerial post.

Now to launch straight in to my communication.

Given that the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No 1 of 2011 specifically excludes non-sterile protective or safety apparel or equipment used in the home or for occupational or recreational use from regulation by the Therapeutic Goods Act (1989) and that bicycle helmets are captured by this order, my reading of the exclusion order leads me to believe that a bicycle helmet is a medical device under the provisions of  section 41BD(1)(a)(iii) of the Therapeutic Goods Act (1989).

I do not use a bicycle helmet in the home or for occupational use or recreational use, and should I choose to wear a bicycle helmet on a bicycle, it would be for the purposes of transport and traffic and not for the purposes for use in the home or for occupation or recreational use.

Prima facie I remain of the opinion that a bicycle helmet in my particular situation is a medical device and therefore requires my informed consent rather than mandatory compulsion.

When it is convenient, I would like to make an appointment with you to discuss Australia's unfortunate issue of bicycle helmet law which has cost and still costs the New South Wales community dearly.

Kind regards,
Sue Abbott

Bicycle helmets medical devices - I think so!


Dear Medical Devices Information Unit,
Thank you for your response to my email.
Given that the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No 1 of 2011 specifically excludes non-sterile protective or safety apparel or equipment used in the home or for occupational or recreational use from regulation by the TGA and that bicycle helmets when presented in the way I presented them to you in my email are captured by this order, I can only conclude that a bicycle helmet is a medical device.
I do not use a bicycle helmet in the home or for occupational use or recreational use, and should I choose to wear a bicycle helmet on a bicycle, it would be for the purposes of transport and traffic and not for the purposes for use in the home or for occupation or recreational use.
Prima facie I remain of the opinion that a bicycle helmet in my particular situation is a medical device and therefore requires my informed consent rather than compulsory regulation by law.
Kind regards,
Sue Abbott

Bicycle helmets are medical devices - yes/no

(The TGA got back to me today!)
Good Afternoon Sue 
Thankyou for your email to the Therapeutic Goods Administration 
The Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No 1 of 2011 specifically excludes non-sterile protective or safety apparel or equipment used in the home or for occupational or recreational use from regulation by the TGA. Bicycle helmets when presented in such a way are captured by this order therefore these products are declared not to be therapeutic products under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.
Hence there are no entries for these products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.
I trust this is of some assistance
Kind regards
Medical Devices Information Unit
Medical Devices Branch
Therapeutic Goods Administration

Friday, February 10, 2017

Clearly bicycle helmets are medical devices

In Kyoto, Japan ... last Tuesday
Dear Therapeutic Goods Administration Staff,

From my reading of the Therapeutic Goods Act (1989) I am of the view that a bicycle helmet could be classified as a medical device under the provisions of section 41BD(1)(a)(iii) of the Therapeutic Goods Act (1989) - clearly a bicycle helmet is deemed for use by human beings and for the purpose of modification of the anatomy.

Upon further reading it becomes evident that a mini-caveat has been inserted into the act at section 41BD(3) where the provisions state that:
'the Secretary may, by order published in the Gazette or on the Department's website, declare that a particular instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article, or that a particular class of instruments, apparatus, appliances, materials or other articles, are not, for the purposes of this Act, medical devices'
From subsequent reading of the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) order No.1 of 2011 where particular instruments, apparatus', appliances, materials or other articles, or particular classes of instruments, apparatus', appliances, materials or other articles have been listed as per section 41BD(3), it becomes apparent that non-sterile protective or safety apparel or equipment, for use in the home or for occupational or recreational use, has been declared not to be therapeutic goods.

It has been suggested to me that bicycle helmets fall within this description and therefore may not be regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration under the Act.

However I think it would be pertinent to mention here that I do not think this could be the case as I do not use my bicycle in my home and nor do I use my bicycle for occupational purposes and nor do I use my bicycle for recreational purposes.

My house is not big enough to use a non-stationary bicycle inside, and my occupation has nothing to do with bicycles whatsoever, and I certainly would never use my bicycle as a means of recreation, in fact I cannot imagine anything worse than 'playing' or 'relaxing' on a bicycle if that is what recreation is. My bicycle is my mode of transport period - I use it for nothing else. I do not have a car, and where I live there is next to no public transport.

Therefore after reading the Therapeutic Goods Act and the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) order No.1 of 2011 I am of the opinion that a bicycle helmet in my particular case does indeed meet the definition of a medical device which therefore requires my informed consent before I wear one and requires regulation by you of this bicycle helmet medical device.

Currently the Australian Road Rules (reg 256) subsection (1) states that:
'The rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider's head, unless the rider is exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under another law of this jurisdiction.'
 Given that the Therapeutic Goods Act is a Commonwealth act I believe that as the rider of my bicycle when I am using it as a mode of transport I am exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet because a bicycle helmet could be defined as being a medical device for use by human beings and for the purpose of modification of the anatomy which obviously requires my informed consent before I wear one which I certainly do not give.

I am very interested in your thoughts on this subject and look forward to hearing from you very soon as I will be raising this issue in an Adelaide Court in the not too distant future.

Yours faithfully,
Sue Abbott

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My Adelaide day in court postponed four months


My Adelaide court date last week was vacated because the 'informant' (policeman) was otherwise engaged.
Hmmm, you know I've noticed a bit of a recurring theme with 'informants' over the last couple of years; they're pretty keen to book me but when it comes to turning up at court they'd rather just hand over their statements and leave me to it.
But I figure if they're eager-beaver enough to book me for riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet then they ought to give me the common courtesy of turning up to court to see this dastardly matter through ... or is it not criminally cool enough?
Anyhoo new Adelaide date is now Monday 27 February 2017, unless of course the policeman can't make it!!!! Then in which case don't you think it might be an idea for the prosecution to consider dropping the case!!!!!
I mean it's so incredibly inconvenient for all of us!