Friday, March 7, 2014

Australia: a nation-state 'Cyclopath'

(Photos: Georgie Abbott, Boca del Rio near Veracruz, Mexico)


Hurtling back into Australia after being in an 'overseas family & work' orbit for nearly six months, I landed in the Downing Centre this week where a NSW District Court Judge dismissed a challenge I made to have my bicycle helmet criminal conviction from last year quashed.

Whilst the judge accepted I genuinely believed that I did the cycling without a helmet for my own safety, she concluded that given the nature of my repeat offending the criminal conviction was justified and consequently would remain.

'No, you shall not go to any Ball in the US.'

'No, you shall not pass Go and waltz off into the sunset with bicycle helmet law no longer a matter for you.'

'No, you don’t need a get-out-of-jail-free card ... yet.'
[my italics]

Despite observing the lawyer from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions dance between the notions that 'bicycle helmet crime was a trivial matter' and 'me continually committing bicycle helmet crime was not,' I was still astonished to be left holding the criminal conviction baby.

Really? ... for riding a bicycle without wearing a polystyrene hat? ... when the rest of the world (apart from New Zealand) leaves plastic-fashion-accessory decisions to people riding bicycles or their parents?

As Australia continuously seeks to punish those who attempt to share the roads with oil-driven vehicles and who have the temerity to petition for redress of cycling grievances after two decades of mandatory helmet law, a pattern of bike-bullying has become entrenched and a metamorphosis has taken place - now an ugly 'Cyclopath' has manifested itself to threaten and ridicule citizens who choose to use bicycles for transport.

What does this mean for us on the ground campaigning for cycling equality? Where to now?

When politicians, courts and mainstream media cast you as some crazy curly-haired woman doing some crazy-curly haired things like riding a bicycle or even more crazy and curly-haired, riding a bicycle without a helmet (oh my!) who will listen to you? Who will hear you out?

And while 'they' are 'criminally convicting you' for bicycle helmet crime, who asks 'them' why I was taken by the Police Prosecutor to see the Defence Duty Solicitor in the Local Court last September when I had not sought any legal advice from the court?

Who asks 'them' why somebody else's apprehended violence orders (AVO) were incorrectly attached to the police brief against me?

Who asks 'them' about the incorrect Traffic Record Report submitted at the sentencing part of the Defended Hearing?

Who asks 'them' about the potential prejudice these factors may have contributed to my matter?

I tried to ask the above questions back in September in the Local Court and again this week in the District Court but neither court seemed that interested or even able to help.

In the District Court, the issue of AVO papers was swiftly swept under the curial carpet whilst the traffic record was left hanging in a vaguely kafkaesque fashion - a 'my-word' v 'don't-know-who's-word.'

But where do I start fixing up the traffic record discrepancy? Who is going to listen?

There has been no helpful advice emanating from either court.

So whilst I have your attention and in order to set the 'proverbial' record straight, I would like you to know that I have never been the driver or rider of a 'motor-bike' with or without a helmet, 'alone' or in company. I have never learnt to drive or ride one, nor have I ever possessed a motor-bike licence nor for that matter a motor-bike itself notwithstanding that the offence of riding a motor-bike without a helmet and 'alone' featured on my Traffic Record Report.

Details like these are important as they have a bearing on reputations particularly at the sentencing stage of defended hearings. Riding a motor-bike without a helmet is a matter that will be recorded on your traffic record; riding a bicycle without a helmet is a matter that will not.

Was my traffic record deliberately altered to make the traffic record report appear substantially 'naughtier' than it was?

And which large government-funded body got it so wrong? The police or Roads & Maritime Services (RMS)?

Which one of them will fix it?

It is nearly five years now since I started corresponding with politicians, defending court cases and playing mainstream media’s 'crazy-haired-woman-interview' games relating to Australia’s love affair with mandatory bicycle helmet laws. But the Australian 'cyclopathic' tendency to demonise people who use bicycles has overwhelmed any avenues for review. Furthermore Australian cyclopaths continue to monopolise our transport decisions whilst the wider Australian community turns a blind eye to the nation's intolerant hatred of people who like to use bicycles.

Meanwhile, coming to a courtroom near you next week (that is if you live in Sydney) ... 'Rider ride bicycle without helmet'!

... but maybe just maybe after that Local Court matter, I might try paying the fines ... at the point-of-policeman/policewoman.

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