|Me, Melinda Pavey & Michael Johnsen|
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!!!!
(Note to self for today's TO DO list ... send Freestyle Cyclists' contact details to Road Minister's department)