Monday, March 31, 2014

Bike helmet laws: comfortable veneer for flawed safety strategy

(Love it when global peeps send me global bike pics)


In Australia, helmet promotion was received into law essentially on the advice of helmet capitalists - actually let me correct that ... on the 'propaganda' of helmet capitalists.

Their usual modus operandi kicked in and cycling got a right royal beating in order to highlight all the imagined bad bits so that we the Australian public could be gradually groomed in order to be sold out by our government to Big Corpa (Standards Australia, SAI Global and all helmet promoters).

When will it correct itself here Down Under?

Who knows but I'm not holding my breath because basically Australian politicians have invested so much on this bicycle helmet law stance, I just know they would prefer to continue believing in their flawed strategy rather than admit they were wrong.

SIGH

Benefits of Oz helmet law overstated - clearly

(Obviously not Australia ... actually Oxford, UK)


Exactly how successful bicycle helmet laws have been in Australia has been a matter for dispute socially, scientifically, environmentally and politically for the entire duration of their enactment.

And questions continue to be asked by many as we observe Australian politicians hold on to their failed bicycle safely strategy by way of their legislative pursuit of conscientious objectors through the criminal law system.

If we're going to restore cycling to its former place in the transport equation (ie the place that it had prior to the early 1990s) we're going to have to look to these same politicians to make the necessary revocations.

But do they have the necessary mettle?

Hmmmmmmn

Clearly bicycle helmets are not fit for the purpose that helmet promoters claim they are fit for and we can pretty much conclude that the poltical and legal mechanisms necessary to hold helmet promoters and rent-seeking academics accountable are no longer fit for purpose either.

But instead of recognising this and permitting bicycles to flourish again, politicians try to fix our traffic woes with the most unwieldly of measures the latest being their crazy clearways project.

(Image: screenshot Roads & Maritime Sydney Clearways)


But perhaps this clearways project idea will end up being a good thing because if cars can never be parked and are to be permanently in a state of traffic flux, why would anybody bother taking one out for a drive?

Maybe just maybe through their mad political modus operandi the impossibility of owning and driving a car in a useful capacity might dawn on Australians and might just be the solution for getting us out of our cars ...

And maybe just maybe if we said 'goodbye' to helmet law and its attendant political purpose and pressure we might just free up the hidden bicycle lover in all of us and we might just see Australians reaching for that dusty old machine that's been tucked away somewhere in a garage or shed ever since January 1991 when our ridiculous politicians bowed to corporate lobbying and enacted one of the daftess regulations ever.

TO THE BARRICADES, EVERYONE - and let's revoke mandatory bicycle helmet laws

Friday, March 28, 2014

TO THE BARRICADES

(Casually parked in Oxford, UK)


The true coordinates of cycling in Australia need to be changed.

Currently they're male, they're sporty, they're supposed to be dangerous (oh my!) and they're pathetic.

It is not enough to pretend that they are set accurately for our typically Down Under conditions, or to be told to wait patiently on the sidelines without mentioning the helmettythingamajigthing so that bike lanes and other infrastructure can be finished ... I mean started ... I mean agreed upon ... without the helmettythingamajigthing distraction.

I'm sorry but I will mention helmets and I won't wait on the kerbs whilst 'god-knows-whatever-is-necessary-to-make-it-fairycycleland' is being constructed.

Bicycle helmet law is a law of 'see-no-evil-monkeys' and to date no-one who actually has the where-with-all to make a difference to our cycling reality has been prepared to face up to the fact that enacting the wretched regulation in the first place was a monumental and misinformed stuff-up.

Yet notwithstanding alarmist helmet promoters' spin having been cushioned by an unquestioning public and their parliaments, the tides are turning at last, and helmet promoters are starting to suffer from a siege-like mentality as the wisdom of helmet rationale is finally peeled back to reveal the complete market failure of helmet law.

And not a moment too soon!


Monday, March 24, 2014

Open Blogpost: Matter of Incorrect Traffic Record

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


Mr Greg Smith, MP
Attorney General & Minister for Justice
Level 31 Governor Macquarie Tower
1 Farrer Place
SYDNEY NSW 200

Dear Mr Smith,

I am writing to you because I am most disturbed about the ‘administrative’ way my recent bicycle helmet cases were handled, and because given your position as Attorney General of NSW and the Minister for Justice, you seem to be the most appropriate person for me to turn to.

Notwithstanding that I was representing myself in the Local Court last September 2013, I was somewhat bizarrely taken by the Police Prosecutor to see the Duty Solicitor, who asked me about matters pertaining to somebody else’s apprehended violence orders which had been incorrectly attached to the police brief against me.

I am sure you can imagine my absolute horror at being asked about such a serious matter that had nothing to do with me, and then having to deny that it was actually anything to do with me all the while wondering if I was being believed or not.

Not a good start, I can assure you.

The next potentially prejudicial issue that raised its ugly head whilst I was in the Local Court was the matter of my Traffic Record Report which was incorrect.

Inexplicably it noted that I had been booked (in September 2009) for riding a ‘motorbike’ ... yes, a 'motorbike' ... alone and without a helmet and that the matter had then gone to the District Court in March 2010 where it was noted on my Traffic Record Report that I had been given a section 10 for the aforementioned crime of riding a motor bike alone without a helmet.

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. The recording of such an offence on my Traffic Record Report was an egregious error and completely untrue.

As I am sure you can appreciate, details like these are important as they have a bearing on people’s reputations particularly at the sentencing stage of defended hearings. Furthermore as I know I do not need to tell you, riding a motor-bike without a helmet is a matter that will be recorded on one’s traffic record whereas riding a bicycle without a helmet is a matter that will not.

My question to you is the same one I asked the District Court earlier this month; was my Traffic Record Report deliberately altered to make it appear substantially 'naughtier' than it was so that my earlier court matters that ought not to have appeared on my Traffic Record Report would get an airing one way or another on it after all?

I am gravely concerned about the prejudice these errors potentially contributed to my matters both in the Local Court (September 2013) and the District Court (March 2014) where my Traffic Record Report was looked at by both the magistrate and judge in their respective courts.

Which government-funded body got it so wrong? Was this administrative ‘stuff-up’ a police error or a Roads & Maritime Services (RMS) one?

From a personal interest perspective I am very keen to learn which government department will (a) remove the traffic record listing of the traffic matter that never happened and (b) remove the court cases that ought not to appear given that the traffic matter they are listed for did not happen and that the bicycle helmet matter they are actually representative of would never have been listed on a Traffic Record Report?

I certainly am looking forward to hearing from you soon and having my Traffic Record Report restored to its former state before it was polluted with incorrect data, so thank you in anticipation.

Yours sincerely,

Sue Abbott
(Freedom Cyclist)

(also published on Scone Blog, and sent via email to office@smith.minister.nsw.gov.au)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Insanity of Oz bike helmet law

(Photos: paying passengers on a Rickshaw Revolution cab waiting for me to hop in too)


Bicycle helmet law in Australia is fragmented, uncertain and inconsistent.

Take New South Wales for instance; among other things, regulation 256 provides that:

A passenger on a bicycle that is moving, or is stationary but not parked, must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the passenger’s head unless the passenger is:

(a) a paying passenger on a three or four-wheeled bicycle, or
(b) exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under another law of this jurisdiction


What I would like to respectfully submit for the umpteenth time to all The Honourables and Their Honours out there is that this particular section raises many questions ...

('once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more')

... here they are again:

(1) Why is it SAFER to be a paying passenger rather than a non-paying passenger?

(2) Why is it SAFER to be a paying passenger rather than a rider of the same bicycle?

(3) Why is it MORE DANGEROUS to be a non-paying passenger rather than a paying passenger?

(4) Why is it MORE DANGEROUS to be a rider of the same bicycle than a paying passenger?

These questions scream inconsistency, and cause a lot of us to waste a lot of time thinking about them including bike-cabbies and the bike-cab industry (oh! & if you're in Newcastle anytime soon, do yourself a favour a take one of these wonderful Rickshaw Revolution cabs - great fun, very reasonable and an amazing way to see Newcastle - magic!!!).

In fact bike-cab industry cabbies are convinced there is no logic to be found in a regulation that allows for paying passengers to use bicycles in an unhelmeted capacity when riders or non-paying passenger on the same bicycle are deemed illegal.

It is patently obvious that it is not reasonable any of us should be constrained by helmet law and forced to wear helmets when there are already enshrined legal exemptions for people riding bicycles without helmets in Australia, protected only because of the corporate arrangements they have entered into. In and of itself, this provision for paying passengers reveals that safety was never the cornerstone of regulation 256 after all.

Clearly a state regulation that allows people with money to buy their way out of legally-imposed infringements by legal-exchange-of-tender exemptions when the rest of us find ourselves up against fierce state legal systems should we dare to use bicycles either as riders or non-paying passengers in an unhelmeted capacity is untenable.

Helmet law stinks (#helmetlawstinks)

How many times have they seen Frozen?



Doing the rounds of the internet at the moment, and you can't help but smile & giggle!

These guys certainly take polished numbers in the 'we've-mastered-our-childrens-movie-songs-lip-sync' portfolio to a new level - hehehe!!!

Awesome!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

MY MATTER DISMISSED: Yes D-I-S-M-I-S-S-E-D

(Selfie outside the Downing Centre)


(Downing Centre reflected in mirrored building)


(My chariot of fire)


In somewhat of a surprise turn of events yesterday, my matter was dismissed!

When I got to the bar table after my name had been called, the magistrate asked the police prosecutor if they had a witness to which the police prosecutor replied yes, setting in motion the calling of the aforementioned witness on the court PA system ...

... only I already knew that that witness wouldn't be in court because he'd called me the week before last to mention that he'd been transferred to a seaside town north of Sydney, and he wanted to check that I would be ok with him reading his statement via videolink.

As I knew there was a strong possibility that I would agree with his facts (me riding my bicycle without wearing a helmet), I said that would be fine.

Helpfully, I mentioned all this to the court.

The police prosecutor knew none of this and was then directed by the magistrate to make inquiries.

Ho hum the minutes ticked by as did the hours and by 11 o'clock the Magistrate asked the police prosecutor again for news on the witness. Still no joy but he delegated the 'finding-out' task to one of his colleagues (another police prosecutor) who disappeared to make the relevant phone calls.

Upon his return he called me out of the courtroom to say to me that their witness (policeman who booked me) had said that I had pleaded guilty on the phone by way of explanation.

Well that was news to me!

No, I said, that was not the case - I would never ever plead guilty to a matter like this.

Nevertherless the police prosecutor was determined that I had and was very keen to just go back into court to say that this was what had happened.

No way was that going to happen, absolutely not!

I pointed out to the police prosecutor that this was a defended hearing and that I had not come to court to plead guilty. I reiterated that what I had said to the policeman was that it would be fine to read his statement via videolink, and I would agree that whilst riding a bicycle I was not wearing a helmet.

But I had never pleaded guilty.

Noneplussed he was determined that I had by way of explanation, and that it was a strict liability matter, and that I obviously didn't understand the court process which they would explain once we were back in court.

But since when did agreeing with the facts mean that you were automatically pleading guilty? - and a strict liability matter ... yes ... but it's not an absolute liability matter so there was some room for me to make my case.

But the pièce de résistance was when he said to me did I realise that it would be my word against a policeman's - honestly how intimidating, but I mentioned that I was reasonably confident my word wouldn't be trashed by the court to which he muttered that if I didn't agree with him they would be forced to ask for an adjournment - oh please after all the time I had wasted waiting for them to get their act together!

Anyway so back into court we trotted and waited again until the matter was rementioned - and boy did he leap quickly to the bar table to explain that the newly-relocated seaside officer had said that he'd rung me last Friday and that I'd pleaded quilty to the facts which is why nothing had been arranged for the Defended Hearing. I too scrambled out of my seat near the back of the court and galloped to the table to say that was not the case and that I had not pleaded guilty, and that I fully intended to defend myself, and that the policeman had actually rung me on Friday 28th February, not last Friday.

Well the magistrate looked at the police prosecutor and remarked that it was not for the witness to make the decision as to whether I was pleading guilty or not, and then he said:

'This is a bicycle helmet matter, sergeant! You're not going to ask me for an adjournment are you? Case dismissed!'

Next I was saying 'thank you' and floating out of the court - how amazing.

'Take-home' message from all this? ... how unimportant bicycle helmet matters are in the Law & Order Scheme of Things, and that the police know they this and so do the courts.

Of course bicycle helmet law still stands, but without their witness' facts in court yesterday, the prosecution's case against me fell over!

And under those cicrcumstnaces, what's a court to do?!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Wake up, Australians, your country needs you on bikes

(George Street, Sydney reduced to its customary daily standstill)


Greatly assisted by bike helmet laws, public opinion has been fooled by the demonisation of cyclists ...

... and boy are we paying for it now!

George Street is a corridor of concentrated exhaust fumes, hot tempers, car horns and universal pedestrian depression.

Why are our politicians so deluded about this city's reality in terms of transportation and congestion? It's the pits ...

What is so hard to compute?

And when will it ever dawn upon us that our money would have been far better spent on GOOD transport infrastructure rather than fatuously funding America's never-ending war machine.

It's a concrete & bitumen jungle out there! ... and it can't be good for us.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Australia wilfully hates bicycle users without helmets

(Window shopping in Tokyo where the bicycle is never far away)


And so another week arrives and with it bringing another court case.

Come this Wednesday, I will be back at the Downing Centre, Sydney for my Defended Hearing, but this time on the Local Court level of the building because this matter is a brand new one again - the Pyrmont Bridge one rather than the Harbour Bridge one which you may recall was finalised last week on appeal - in fact the bill for that one is right below... sigh:



With regards to that account above, I really resent paying the Victims Support Levy when (a) there is no victim and (b) riding a bicycle without a bicycle helmet ought to be a health matter rather than a criminal one - what a country, hey?

But what to do?

The courts won't listen, the politicians won't listen, the media won't listen - and will any of them ever?

Having run a very successful fear campaign throughout the 1980s, the helmet standards industry were able to reel in Australian governments one by one as these governments greedily gobbled up the helmet bait holus bolus ... "Come in spinner"!

Ever since then, the standards industry have been chortling all the way to the bank confident in the knowledge that the various Australian state legislatives will never revoke the regulation because they are being paid off by them (the standards industry); that the various Australian state executives won't agitate for revocation either because they are terrified of any adverse political fallout they imagine could eventuate should someone die on their watch in an Australia without helmet law; and that the various Australian state judiciaries quite often forget about the separation of powers, and anyway quite like political directions and even more anyway think it's a no brainer and that helmets make you safe ... so there.

Meanwhile in Meeja-land, their finely honed ignorance on 'matters bicycle' has left Australia floundering in bicycle and transport wilderness.

You don't have to read too many bicycle & helmet law articles by Aussie journos to work out pretty quickly that they have no idea what they are talking about, and that they are pretty timid about the whole exercise of taking a bike out onto the road, and would much rather drive their bikes somewhere secluded for a little ride round in circles - in specially designed clobber aka (well almost) Hans Christian Andersen's emperor's new clothes.

And of course, in addition, all of the above has been underpinned by quasi science.

For the twenty years plus that we've had helmet law, we have been plagued by academic rent-seeking and funding inbalances as profs and a/profs (and doctors too - weird) have striven to obtain interminable academic rent (paid for by Australian tax payers) by manipulating the social and political environment of using a bicycle with mandatory helmet law in Australia rather than by building on the bicycle-use that we did have without helmet law in this country more than two decades ago.

Shame on them all and a pox on all their houses and all their universities and some of their hospitals (which lately have been conducting research paid for by car companies)

... you all know who you are.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Dutch babies teach Australians not to be frightened of bicycles

(Image: YouTube, Anthony Putsch, "King of the World")


After all the miserable Australian bicycle stuff I've been blogging about just recently, here is a welcome change ... the lovely YouTube Dutch babies clip that made a welcome reappearance to the blogosphere last month on Treehugger and Anthony Putsch's own blog.

If you haven't seen it already, do yourself a favour, and watch and listen - also prepare to just goo with pure delight and smiles.

Eat your hearts out, Aussie Cycling Heroes! ... these Dutch babies have it all over you

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.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Guilty as charged - Australian bicycle helmet criminal

(Parked outside the Downing Centre, Sydney)


Bicycle helmet appeal dismissed yesterday in the New South Wales District Court (Downing Centre, Sydney); conviction not quashed meaning I remain a bicycle helmet criminal.

I feel 'junked' by the entire Australian system and wonder who do I now turn to when politicians, courts and even mainstream media refuse to countenance any petition for a redress of 'bicycle helmet law' grievance?

I feel completely exhausted and am dreading next week's imminent return to the Local Court (Downing Centre) for yet another bicycle helmet matter.

This is one hell of a bad 'Groundhog Day.'

More detail to follow.