my refusal to wear a bicycle helmet

my refusal to wear a bicycle helmet
...is informed

Monday, September 17, 2012

Two bicycles seized from my place *sigh*







Going...going...gone - off to an auction somewhere near you or me..or somebody anyway in New South Wales !

And all because I was criminal enough not to wear a helmet whilst I was using a bicycle, and then subsequently criminal enough to refuse to pay the arbitrary tax (Victims' Compensation Levy).

What madness is this?

Here we are in New South Wales, a state in dire need of a workable transport plan because of the systemic political failure to provide one, and all that our leaders can come up with in terms of solutions (with the exception of Clover Moore, I hasten to add) is to chuck a few more motorways around the city and halt all coherent rail and bus link plans.

I cannot see how the sheriff seizing my bicycles is in the public interest.

How has it helped keep the NSW community safe and happy?

Where is the public benefit pursuing a middle-aged mum whose crime was to object to an arbitrary tax (Victims Compensation Levy) which has since been repealed for section 10(1)(a) offenders (me) because of its inequity and unfairness?

Was it worth all the public money issuing me with State Debt Recovery Office notices of fine amounts as they increased and then suspending my driver’s licence?

Was it worth all the sheriff’s time coming out to my place and not finding me, leaving his calling cards and finally after many emails and phone calls, coordinating a date with me when we were both in the Upper Hunter at the same time?

I think the sheriff had hoped I might have just paid the bill but that was never going to happen (as he well knew).

This has been a matter of principle for me and a matter of objection to both the Victims Compensation Levy and of course mandatory helmet laws too. With regards to the latter, we know they were introduced all those years ago for commercial purposes only, and perhaps to create a danger-perception of cycling to discourage us from sharing the roads; roads which have now been filled up with B-Doubles and other mobile Weapons of Mass Destruction.

I remain disappointed with the intransigence of the NSW government. With their resources and our taxes, they are in a position to inform themselves of evidence other than that emanating from University of New South Wales. Yet they choose to cherry pick the data and resolutely refuse to countenance other research that points to obvious flaws in helmet regulations. Nothing in the Hon. John Ajaka's bleat to me last week assauges my feelings of derision for this conservative 'going-nowhere-very-fast' government:

"I am advised," he baas, "a recent research study conducted by the University of NSW provides evidence which supports mandatory helmet laws. The research was published online in November 2011 by Accident Analysis and Prevention, a leading scientific journal.

The study found that bicycle-relatated injuries fell significantly by up to 29 per cent in the months after the mandatory helmet legislation came into effect in NSW. The decrease in head injury rates was significantly greater for cyclists compared to pedestrians, and cyclist head injuries decreased more than limb injuries. The results based on hospital admissions data strongly support the case for mandatory helmet laws."


Talk about same-old same-old - so unhelpful so uninformed...

...and ultimatley underpinning the packing of my 2 bikes into the Sheriff's car...

...which, I have to say, was so surreal!!!! It sort of felt like I was lending them to a friend and that they'd be back soon, but I wasn't and they won't because the stark reality is that my elected representatives have seen fit to put me through the wringer in their unreasonable quest to ensure their daft law is enforced and upheld.

Anyhoo apparently, the sheriff tells me, I can get my driver’s licence back now!

"Why would I do that?" I asked him with surprise...

...and seriously, why would I?

I’m loving the freedom of not having one, or a car for that matter, and knowing that I never have to go to an RTA (now RMS) office again!

I'm also loving the notion that I can’t be a taxi or a furniture removal service anymore and I certainly don’t miss any of that!

PLUS...I can party how I like when I like!!!!

No, Hons. O'Farrell, Smith & Ajaka, you can keep your licence and your rego and your insurance and your motorways - they are nothing to me - I am car oil-free - I am car oil-liberated - and being in a bicycle family such as this one, there are always plenty of bikes in the shed for riding!

- and anyway I'm quite used to having my bicycles taken away from me!!!!

27 comments:

  1. Unbelievable, Sue, unbelievable... :(

    Lucky you can obtain spare bikes to ride....

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  2. If you're not wearing a helmet then your an idiot. A 2 second effort to clip on a light weight piece of plastic is worth it if it reduces the risk of head injury. As someone who was hit last year in Melbourne I can tell you that the damage to my helmet shows I would have suffered serious head injuries with out it.

    I don't get in a car and argue about putting on my seatbelt so I will never get on my bike without a helmet. Iride every day.

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    1. I agree with you. I cycle and would never go without a helmet. Same way I wouldn't drive around without putting on my seatbelt.

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    2. Bullsh*t Indigo. 99% of the world manages to cycle without a helmet without increases in injuries or death. It's a measure designed to stop cycling growing. If head injuries were really the concern all motor vehicle passengers would be forced to wear one too. I ride and I wear a helmet when I'm training, but not when I'm just going to the local shops. More cyclists would make our roads safer. Make helmets optional.

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    3. indigo do you wear a helmet when crossing the road as a pedestrian? same 'benefit'.

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    4. Lovely you could drop by, Indigo wood!

      I totally respect your passion for the wearing of a 'light weight piece of plastic' and don't think you're an idiot for doing that at all but I cannot accept that your passion for plastic should require me to be similarly ensconced especially when you consider that the interested academics on this matter are so divided.

      Customarily in Australia, our consumer law dictates that claims for products cannot be made if they are currently in scientific dispute. Given the academic disquiet it stands to reason that the safety propounded by helmet proponents is clearly in scientific dispute, and really, the safety claim ought not to be allowed to be a feature at best, let alone a law.

      Obviously it is of some note that the aggressive marketing of helmets has led to this particular consumer protection being waived, and as I'm sure you can imagine, it is of great concern to many of us.

      With regards to your accident in Melbourne last year that must have been terrible for you...but I am sorry to say your claim that the damage your helmet sustained is proof it saved your life is...laughable at best. So many confounders and variables lead me to think that we should probably agree your anecdote is scary but hardly one that ought to fly in the face of rigourous academic study.

      I am at a loss to know how to answer your seatbelt and helmet analogy primarily because there is no relevance or similarity. However you are not on your own with this comparison so don't feel too bad - quite a few police, lawyers and even magistrates have attempted to wither me with that one.

      Well done you for riding every day - I do too & love it.

      Chat soon maybe,
      Sue

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    5. "I can tell you that the damage to my helmet shows I would have suffered serious head injuries with out it."

      Well, no. That's not what it means. Bike helmets are *designed* to absorb shocks by deforming and breaking. It's what they do. It doesn't at all mean that your head would have also broken in the same situation, unless your skull is made of polystyrene with a thin plastic laminate?

      It's possible the equivalent impact would have raised a nasty bruise or broken the skin and caused a bit of bleeding, maybe a concussion, but your head wouldn't have cracked like an egg. At the impact levels where that would happen, the helmet would not help much anyway.

      There's a quite narrow band of impact forces where a polystyrene laminate helmet would actually prevent a serious head injury

      But you know, cool war story, bro.

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  3. Indigo wood, then why don't you wear a helmet in your car or while walking? Bike helmets are tested by dropping them from two meters, ie a situation like walking or jogging.

    The important thing is to ride your bike. It's very healthy. So healthy in fact that cyclists live longer!
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bicycle_helmet#Health_benefits_of_cycling

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  4. Why oh why would anyone anywhere ever come to a blog like this and post inflammatory dribble like "If you're not wearing a helmet then your an idiot"? Oh BTW hope you were wearing your helment or is that you're helment - the English language seems to escape you. Ah sanctimonious brainwashed people, there really is nothing more annoying. Unless of course you are a troll - which is more annoying.

    BTW, sorry to hear about the bicycle confiscation. It is ludicrous.

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  5. She's not an idiot, and even if she were, what's it to you Indigo? If you believe a helmet helps prevent injury, then you are free to wear a helmet and you are free to tell the world your story. But no-one has the right to oblige others to wear a helmet. We are not children and we don't live in a Nanny state (at least, not so much here in "Old World" Europe, where there is more of a cycling culture than in the car-congested New World). I ride everyday too - without a helmet - my choice and I take full responsibility for my choices, thank you very much.

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  6. Even better than mandatory helmet, the seizing of bicycles is the new policy ought to reduce to zero cycling accident victims.
    Genius!!!

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  7. It's an absolutely crazy law which does more harm than good for cycling.

    For a start there is too much discussion as to whether the helmets actually save lives or cause more accidents through both motorists and cyclists driving/riding less safely. Have you also read the damage that wearing one can do to a very small child's head with the brain not being able to move in a way that naturally protects itself when there is a knock to the head, and thereby causing far more damage with a helmet than without?

    I feel it very, very wrong that any government can take away a freedom of choice on such an important issue.

    It's no better than forcing every citizen to have a flu jab every year because that may save your life, or making it mandatory for women to only wear flat shoes because they might break an ankle, etc., etc. A list of stupid mandatory laws could go on.

    Thank God our government (UK) has stated categorically they will not bring in a helmet law.

    BTW. Disagreeing with "mandatory" helmet wearing doesn't mean disagreeing with the wearing of helmets.

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  8. Good on you! I think it's disgusting that they've taken your bikes. I'm car free, I've never owned a car in the 25 years I've had my licence, and my main transport is by bike. It annoys me that every day when I want to go out I have to put on a helmet. There's so much good evidence that mandatory helmet laws make cycling less safe. The only thing my bike helmet is protecting me from is a fine.

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    1. Yes, Melissa! you're right!!! - your helmet does protect you from fines!

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    2. It's also protection from sanctimonious busy-bodies who feel it their business to tell you off and try and convince you that a bicycle helmet will protect you from brain injury, chest injury, knee injury, lightning strike and nuclear attack.

      They refuse to wear one when they're up a ladder though.

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  9. I would have just given them two pieces of old bikes from the tip let them send those to auction

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  10. I am appalled at the way the NSW Government has stubbornly pursued and bullied you for your beliefs, Sue. The State theft of your bicycles to prove a point was senseless and unjust. To seize your assets for a 'victims of crime' levy when everyone can see that there was no victim makes them look foolish, blundering and incompetent. Shame on all the NSW politicians - Liberal, Labor and Independent who stood by and looked the other way while the sherif did their dirty work.
    I hope you get some media attention for this injustice. Australia, the rest of the world is watching your stupidity.

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  11. It's not about a "2 second effort" to strap on a piece of foam, it's the inconvenience of carrying one, the discomfort of wearing one, and the impingement on freedom. That same study that said "injuries fell significantly by up to 29 per cent" would no doubt produce an even higher statistic if research was done on helmet-wearing car occupants. If it's about saving lives, why discriminate and pick on a minority? Giving the thousands of deaths from skin cancer, why aren't we banning sun-tanning? Let's stop beach drownings by mandating lifejackets for all swimmers?

    I'm from Melbourne and ride on roads each weekday to work or school. In 30+ years, not even a close call. Of course, I choose real safety measures like safer roads, using bike paths, and better time of day. My employer allows me to start work at 10.30.

    Ever tried shopping with a bike? A helmet is just another inconvenient and bulky item to carry around. Or I could be a real dork and leave it on my head while in the shops. No. Since the previous state govt under Brumby tripled the helmet fine to $150+, I now join the traffic and smog by driving to a shopping centre. That rise in the fine was solely about revenue raising. Because, at $50, the police weren't booking enough cyclists. One fine in 15 years went to 3 in 2 years. If it was to cut my cycling down, it worked.

    The discomfort is immeasurable. I perspire heavily through the head, so not only is the cooling effect highly diminished, sweat can't be wind-blown away to the side or over the top, meaning it runs into my eyes and causes a huge safety risk as I'm blinded. My solution? I don't do any longer weekend rides outside the winter months. My 20-30 minute work commute is all I can manage thanks to the shorter trip and it done in cooler parts of the day. Even then I still need periods to remove the helmet to clear sweat and cool down on warmer days, all the while I watch for cops, holding the helmet in one hand and other hand on flat of the handlebars on my road bike. Yep, so now I'm less vigilante and have no hand resting on the brake lever. Wonderful law!

    Remember, repealing the helmet law does not mean repealing helmet wearing. My current helmet-wearing cycling would be unaffected by the law. In fact, my first helmet was bought in 1985 - 5 years before a law. It means without the law I could cycle more and would not be treated like a criminal equivalent to a speeding motorist for any time I choose not to wear a helmet. That a cyclist is fined to the level of a speeding motorist (now $176) is even more reprehensible than the law itself.

    On our politicans, there's no hope. It's always been Labor's pet law, the Greens are the ultimate nanny-staters, and the Libs prefer us off the road altogether.

    Finally, sympathies to Sue for this nasty action. Keep up the fight!

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  12. Well done Sue for speaking up against a silly if well-meaning law that does more harm than good! Hope you get another bike quickly.

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  13. You Rock Sue! You are clearly not an "idiot" and he makes himself sound more like one by attempting to label you as one. You also sound like an incredibly lovely person with the patience of a saint. I'm sorry you lost two bikes to the big bully government you have to put up with in NSW. Keep up the good fight, you're an inspiration.
    Mike (casual helmet wearer on busy streets, mountain bike trails and when I've been drinkin')

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  14. I think you are in the right here. I often wear a helmet only because i don't want the cops to stop and search me, but you are obviously able to make an informed stand - and I commend you for it.
    Sydney cyclists need to stick together!

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  15. If you commute slowly around the city, you probably won't need a helmet. But what if you're riding fast, training, and hitting speeds of 60km/h? Surely then you would want to have a helmet. And if that is the case, then at which point do you go from not needing one to needing one?

    I don't think it is as black and white as some people here say, and I don't think it is simply wrong to say they provide no protection. They do. It is just difficult to find the point at which they become better worn than not.

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  16. Good job sticking to your digs. Ultimately this law will change and hopefully more people will start to ride and your interaction with the laws will be part of the change. Thanks. Hope I don't fall off my bike and crack my head tomorrow ;-)

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  17. Dear Sue, I read that you are being offered bikes, possibly beyond what you need. I am involved with Bikes For Humanity which collects bikes and sends them to Namibia for people to use for basic transport. If you or your folk have spares (have to be mountain-type or wide-wheeled - no childrens') then see the following link to our Oct 13 collection at Barangaroo. Thanks, dave thompson. http://www.bikesforhumanity.com.au/donate-a-bike/sydney-collection-points/ Also, folks, keep an eye on your local council chuck-out for suitable candidates.

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  18. Sue, they first took away your driving licence, then they came and took away your bikes leaving you with very limited transport options. This is a calculated, concerted and deliberated action by the State of NSW to deprive you of your human rights and I dare say you should take this to the appropriate human rights forum for redress.

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  19. Whether you agree or disagree with the law, you broke it. Do the crime and all that.

    BTW, the captcha rubbish to post. Why?

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