Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Politicians’ Roads Addiction Is Killing Us

Did you know that vehicle emissions cause 40% more deaths than road toll?

According to a Melbourne University summary of findings published in April this year, there is a direct link between the level of our air pollution and detrimental health consequences, with research suggesting links between air pollution and bladder cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, lung cancers and respiratory infections in our children and our elderly.
Yet most of us are not overly concerned by our air quality here in the Upper Hunter.
We live in this beautiful part of the Hunter Valley, enjoying our seemingly clear skies and fresh country air, in reality oblivious to the toxic invisible air-soup we breathe.
 It is not for no reason that we have air-quality monitoring stations in Aberdeen and Merriwa, and if you subscribe to the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage air quality alerts like I do, it is always chilling to receive the information text messages when our local air quality breaches national standards yet again.
And now we are about to add a bypass in Scone, as well as a 24 hour truck stop in Murrurundi and potentially a 24 hour truck stop in Aberdeen. Health-wise, none of this is good news.
Four days ago the Sydney Morning Herald reported that new analysis shows “Australia’s love affair with diesel cars has helped push the nation’s energy emissions to a record high” warning the Turnbull government  that “road transport rivals electricity as the most pressing energy challenge.”
The ultra-fine particles emitted from all vehicles including new cars and trucks are inhaled by us all travelling through our bloodstreams and central nervous systems before lodging deep inside our brains, hearts and other organs. These ultra-fine particles also penetrate our skin and can spread through our lymphatic systems. And for those of us who live or work near busy roads including our children in schools and childcare centres, the situation is far far worse.
And we wonder why child asthma is so high in the Hunter Valley..
If we keep building roads and facilitating 24 hour truck stops, we will just keep adding to the mix of contaminated air which in turn will just keep 'driving' premature deaths.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Big Helma Big Oil ... this is Australia

Somebody else's photo on planetary catastrophe; meanwhile in Australia, politicians worry about plastic hats for cyclists

 Guilty as charged, of course, what did I expect really? Recent Adelaide outcome not different to any of the others ... sigh.

Grand total is now 7 convictions for the crime of riding a bicycle to the shops without a plastic hat, and that has taken up approximately 40 court appearances.

Essentially here in Australia we must not be active, we must keep polluting, we must keep killing Australian citizens with shocking air unfit to breathe that breaches even our own pathetic attempt at box ticking, we must keep wasting police and court resources, we must keep doffing our hats to Australian academics who never actually make the case for helmet law but still keep getting loaded opinions published by a sychophantic media who rarely follow the money ... sigh.

Grow up, Australia, bicycle helmet law perpetuates outrageous behaviour on the part of fossil fuel industries and their lobbyists (aka Australian politicians).

We have a rubbish public transport system, we have zero encouragement for active transport, we are a nation of tubbies, and we continue to send numerous Australian academics and Australian bureaucrats on paid-for junkets to transport symposiums and bicycle Velo-Cities held in lovely destinations all round the world.

And most galling of all, those very same policy geeks and mandarins, those earnest devotees of mandatory helmet laws in Australia so often at these wanky 'going-nowhere-proving-nothing events' throw 'Australian caution to the wind' and ride helmetless on provided complimentary bicycles.

All Australian politicians and bureaucrats suck period

... ok, most.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Australia is such a toddler

Moobi Road, Scone
Threatened with arrest, ride in the paddy wagon, and prospect of having to apply for bail - jeeeez it's been a bruising end to the week ... sigh.

So to recount, on Thursday my February and April matters were heard in the Scone Local Court.

As per last time (Adelaide) I ran with the Medical Device argument (you know the drill!), and essentially the prosecution just sat back and let the magistrate do all the work proving that I was guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Handed down two convictions, costs and fines, and a reminder that I could appeal his decision within 28 days if I wanted to (very tempted), I was summarily despatched and sent on my merry way.

And then we came to Friday.

Back in town for the usual hoo-ha that we have to go to town for, I was pulled over twice by Upper Hunter police in two separate police vehicles in a matter of 20 minutes - lights, sirens, action!

I have to say that after eight years of this caper, roadside conversations with the police seem to be getting sillier, and being asked yesterday was I not concerned that by 'not' wearing a helmet I might be 'tempting fate' left me momentarily speechless. After a brief pause I said that I did not dabble in such nonsense and that I was surprised by the question given that I thought the police only dealt with facts and evidence ... sigh.

But it was the second lot who were truly shitty with me and raised the spectre of punishing me for 'continuation-of-the-offence' offence - yes, how would I like to be arrested, and to be put in the back of the paddy wagon and taken to the station with bail conditions applied?

I wouldn't.

Ordered off my bicycle, I was told to walk it notwithstanding that I was 6km from home

And so I pushed my bike to within 2km when luck would have it that my knight in a not very shining mazda drove past and collected me, bike, baskets and all.

Bugger hey - it's back to the nanna trolley and walking ...

...  and the odd Christiania ride like today when I 'paid' that knight of mine a compliment ("you look dashing in your shorts, dear")

...and hitched a lift with him
...  to the Farmers' Markets in town!

Australia is so very infantile ... how much longer do we have to put up with this redundant state of affairs?

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Minister Pavey, my helmet exemption request?

Berlin where cyclists are not impeded by ignorant bicycle helmet laws
Dear Melinda,

Please could someone actually address the issues I laid out in my correspondence to you concerning my request for a bicycle helmet exemption. To date I have had fatuous replies essentially stating that bicycle helmets make you safer period which completely ignores the crux of my request.

For your information, I have put this argument to a magistrate in the South Australian Magistrates Court in Adelaide. The magistrate has reserved judgment and is now taking two months to read the entire Therapeutic Goods Act.

I will be putting this same argument to a magistrate in the Scone Local Court at the end of this month.

You have the power to give me an exemption under the provisions of regulation 256 (link corrected just now at 23:52 hrs) of the Australian Road Rules.

Please address this matter rather than palming it off to another department.

You do not need to change or repeal the regulation, all you have to do is grant me the exemption as I have requested.

Thank you in anticipation.

Kind regards,
Sue Abbott

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Waiting Game

Trephina Gorge, nr Alice Springs, Central Australia
(photo credit: Richard Abbott)

Last Monday seems months ago!

Adelaide, wet, cold, windy, off I headed to the Magistrates Court.

In defence of my unhelmeted cycling behaviour, I raised section 41BD (1)(a) of the Therapeutic Goods Act interspersed with the relevant table and columns from Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No.1 of 2011. I also mentioned bicycle helmet law was a law of oppression and privilege, and that there were very few middle-aged to elderly women like me on the roads anymore, cycling purely for transit purposes, and that Australia was the poorer for it.

And the result ...

... judgment has been reserved for two months so that the magistrate can read the entire 300 page Therapeutic Goods Act in addition to the material I raised.

Whatever the eventual outcome I feel quite uplifted because essentially I was heard, and am to be considered most carefully.

And now after a quick detour to the Outback, dry, cold, starry, I am heading home with my daughter's car and my beloved ... funtimes

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Australia: Land of helmet laws & fossil fuels

Berlin not Adelaide
I am in Adelaide
Typing, printing, downloading, printing

 ... not cycling.

Another bicycle helmet trial tomorrow.

Will the Therapeutic Goods Act save me this time?
Or serve me up 'conviction no.5'?

... not cycling

Will keep you posted.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Helmet Exemption PLEEEEEEEZE

Photo credit: Nancy Steward, Next Bikes in Berlin

Dear Melinda,

I would like an exemption from wearing a bicycle helmet and here are the reasons why:

The provisions of regulation 256 state that:

(1) 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.

I believe that the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 supports my case for an exemption in that a bicycle helmet can be classified as a medical device meaning I need to provide informed consent or informed refusal before I adopt such a device or not.

The Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 is Federal legislation and therefore has jurisdiction over all state laws.

Inter alia section 41 BD (1) (a) ofthe Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 provides that:

(1) A medical device is:
(a) any instrument, apparatus, appliance, material or other article (whether used alone or in combination, and including the software necessary for its proper application) intended, by the person under whose name it is or is to be supplied, to be used for human beings for the purpose of one or more of the following;
(iii) investigation, replacement or modification of the anatomy or of a physiological process;

A bicycle helmet is an ‘apparatus’ that is used by ‘human beings’ for the purpose of ‘modification of the anatomy’ ostensibly to provide protection on Australian roads.

However section 41 BD (3) of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 provides that:

3) 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.

… though interestingly it is noted under sub-section (3) of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 that: A declaration under this section does not stop articles from being therapeutic goods.

Notwithstanding the note, 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.

It would appear that bicycle helmets could be captured by this exclusion but only contingent with the dictated circumstances set out in Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No.1 of 2011.

I do not use a bicycle helmet in the home or for occupational use or recreational use because I do not use a bicycle in the home or for occupational use or recreational use. I only use a bicycle for transit purposes. ‘Non-sterile protective or safety apparel or equipment’ for this type of behaviour is not prescribed in the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No.1 of 2011.

Prima facie a bicycle helmet in my circumstances is a medical device and not an excluded good, and therefore requires my informed consent or informed refusal with regard to whether I wear one or not.

Therefore the reason that you will accept that I should be granted an exemption to wearing a bicycle helmet is because section 41 BD (1)(a)(iii) of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 defines a bicycle helmet as a medical device, and also because of the way I use a bicycle cannot exclude a bicycle helmet from regulation by the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 under the Therapeutic Goods (Excluded Goods) Order No.1 of 2011.

Using a bicycle for transit allows a bicycle helmet to come under the provisions of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 and therefore can be defined as a medical device.

To conclude whilst regulation 256 of the NSW Road Rules 2014 provides 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, in my interpretation of the law the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 provides me with reasons for exemption from wearing a bicycle helmet.

Melinda, I have to say this is all so daft - I have a trial in Adelaide next Monday 17 July for bicycle helmet crime followed by two further bicycle helmet crime matters rolled into one in the Scone Local Court. I could end up with three more criminal convictions which will make a total of seven criminal convictions for the Australian crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet.

We are outliers in the world on this issue, and rapidly becoming outliers on many other issues too. The world is not impressed with us what with air pollution that breaches World Health Organisation standards, the prospect of Adani coal mine going ahead, the death of the Great Barrier Reef , motor vehicle traffic toll, obesity, inactivity. Yet for all this I am the one who is consistently punished for my very innocuous transport habits.

This particular request is about an exemption for me and I need an answer to that query.

When I wrote to you earlier this year asking for this, I received a very obtuse reply from your department stating and quoting the usual guff provided by the usual guff-producing academics that Australia so loves to engage with ... but nothing pertaining to the actual issue in hand which was 'can I have an exemption please?'

I rang your department and raised this issue with them, and was informed that the inference would have been that I did not get one. Notwithstanding I pointed out to your staff that there was nowhere in the letter that actually spelt that premise out. Once again I was informed by your staff that the presumption was I did not get one but yet again I pointed out there was no one part of the letter where either of us could see where the presumption might be at play and given that the bicycle helmet punitive system is so precise I actually do want it spelt out. The conversation finished with your staff member saying that they would hopefully get back to me the next day (I so wanted to say 'hopefully doth butter no parsnips' in true Joe Lycett style but resisted the temptation).

Anyway that is several months ago now and in the meantime I have been cycling around the world sans helmet: London, Dublin, Paris, Torbole, Arco, Rive Del Garda, Berlin, and I might add Scone as well since I got home - the world has been mine and any available bicycle's oyster.

Please, Melinda, grant me an exemption so that I can tell Australian courts starting from next Monday what they would really like to hear.

Kind regards,
Sue Abbott (Scone)