Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Queensland Specialist Anaesthetist booked - NO bicycle helmet!

(Photos: Dr Paul Martin)

Here we go again!! - it had to happen!

Dr Paul Martin, a specialist anaesthetist in Brisbane, has just been booked by the Queensland police for riding a bicycle without wearing a helmet, whilst on a quiet bike path doing 10km/h:

"The officer was reasonably polite but he did bang on a bit (as did his plain-clothes colleague on a bike) with a few anecdotes on the effectiveness of helmets. I did not lie, and said that I wasn't wearing a helmet because I didn't have it on me and that I don't wear it, and gave my reasons."

Predictably, the plain-clothes bike-officer then proceeded to regale Paul with endless anecdotes of bicycle calamaties suffered by him personally, and how he was mightily glad in retrospect that he'd been wearing a helmet on all those occasions! The 'sporty cop' also divulged to Paul that he had been careering down mountains when these 'incidences' occurred - what a surprise!!

Notwithstanding his own statement, the 'bike copper' then mentioned, somewhat helpfully, that if Paul did possess any evidence to support his 'anti-mandatory helmet law' stance perhaps he should consider contesting the infringement.

Without wasting a moment, Paul has instructed a law firm in Brisbane to represent him in the looming court matter. He clinically accepts that this traffic infringement might be "the most expensive $100 fine I'm ever to get", yet he hopes his case will further expand the legal argument in Australia against mandatory helmet laws.

Whatever the decision of the Local Court, Paul also intends to seek an exemption to wearing a helmet" based on my understanding of the ineffectiveness of bicycle helmets and my disagreement with the mandatory legislation."

Prima facie he concedes that "the odds are against me - but it is worth a go!"

Go, Paul! We know you'll 'step up to the plate', & 'play your own game' & 'give it your best shot!!!'

...meanwhile we also know that Australian governments will continue 'scoring own-goals' indefinitely until Mandatory Helmet Laws are repealed.


  1. Thanks Sue & Edward.

    I'm going to give it my best shot - which means employing someone to do the 'shooting' for me. At the very least I want a personal exemption from wearing a helmet. This might sound selfish but this will be a precedent that will allow others to follow. Fingers crossed.

    I just finished watching a Four Corners episode on the Internet Filter... it felt strangely familiar! Why do we head in such directions?



  2. Most of us do not appreciate which direction we're heading in until it's all too late!

    Good luck with everything, Paul - you're a champion!!

  3. Looking at this from 'the other side of the fence' as it were, I have great respect for what you guys are willing to go through!
    But coming from a country where it is the helmet wearers that stand out (if you ever see one at all!) it is sometimes really hard to understand all this. I have been to Australia and Brisbane in 2008 and I would think you could do sensible utility cycling –without the head gear– very well there. Especially on that good looking bike Paul!
    But fighting the system is hard, any system, that sure is something that is universally understood... So good luck to the both of you!


  4. Thank you, Mark. I appreciate the support.

    I can see why you like my bike - it is made in The Netherlands! ;)

    Thank you also for your excellent videos, most of which I find via David Hembrow's blog. They are inspiring and informative - keep up them coming.


  5. Thanks, Mark, for your support - we certainly need all the luck we can lay our hands on!!!

  6. Already wish Doc Martin good luck on email. Go on the boy! Here's an interesting article from Healthy Transport Hobart:

  7. Thanks again for the wishes, Mikael.

    I've posted a reply on that page you referenced. The orthopaedic surgeon should really know better. Did you listen to the audio? I would have thought offering such medical advice such as this gem, “If you wear a helmet there is an enormously protective advantage”, could be a dangerous statement to make...

    The only thing my helmet protects me from in Australia is the police!



  8. Best of Luck Paul and Sue in your Fight against the Idiots in your Government who refuse to Admit they are wrong in spite of the Evidence to the Contrary.

    What this needs is massive Support from the Cyclists in Australia to tell them where to go with their Stupid Regulations. Dublin Ireland.

  9. Mikael, thanks for the link - interesting! - have never been sure why surgeons are routinely considered experts in matters 'helmet', 'cycling' & 'helmet promotion' - have expressed this very sentiment to a few neuro-surgeons too who get quite huffy about this 'personally-held' opinion of mine!! - have never forgiven the royal australasian college of surgeons for the role they played in giving us this diabolical 'civil-rights-abusing' legislation

    l'homme au velo, the support is growing - it's not 'massive' yet but it's definitely growing!!!!

  10. Thanks l'homme au velo. I appreciate the support we're seeing from around the world and in Australia.

    As Sue says, the support base is small but growing. Once it hits a critical level it will hopefully become a bigger issue. What that level is is anyone's guess! I just hope we can build on this momentum.

    I have not yet had a face-to-face with my legal team. Hopefully next week. I have given them some background reading.



  11. Paul,

    I've come across you before, on the train you were headed into the city and I was admiring your bike.

    I've seen you riding around without the helmet and thought "there goes a brave man" I hope your case goes well!

  12. I have just been fined $100 for not wearing a helmet. I strenuously object to being forced to wear one and never have. This is the second time in 11 years that I have been fined. I contested the first time in the NT and lost but did not have to pay anything other than the original fine of $40. The $100 fine I received on Friday is OUTRAGEOUS!! Revenue raising Qld. Govt. and an obnoxious copper to boot. Most upsetting. I would love to know how you got on with your case Paul. I am considering contesting this one but have no real grounds to do so unless the $100 fine is an incorrect amount.

  13. There is no published statistical evidence from anywhere in the world saying that adult cyclists are safer wearing helmets. Even the evidence for kids is inconclusive. I wear a helmet only to encourage kids, even though I know it is pointless for me. I've been riding for 60 years and in many falls have never hit my head. All you have to do is learn to ride a bike down - keep hands on bars and feet locked to pedals - then the bike protects you.

  14. Hi Dr Paul. You have my full support. In fact I rode back from Kangaroo Point on Sunday with the helmet draped over the handle bars and it reminded me of the good old days riding to uni. The helmet I chose for the trip is too tight and affects my neck - which has a fused joint making it difficult to lean forward and look up and the weight of a helmet is really starting to take it's toll now that I ride longer distances. Helmet free is so much lighter.

    When MHL came out I (a definitive statement by a poorly student) decided to wear the fine to uphold my rights. It was $30 in the early 90s and I averaged about 2 a year. $60 per annum seemed reasonable to me to have the wind in my hair. Not bad since I rode daily from Ashgrove / Paddington to QUT Gardens Point. I found back then that city police were better at turning a blind eye, perhaps no local officer turf protection.

    The problem arose when some time after I started work and knew workers comp would be reduced by contributory negligence if I was taken out on the commute. That and turning up to court to context a traffic infringement and seeing 2 full pages of helmet infringements turning my image as a responsible, law-abiding, honest citizen. Anyway the bastards got me in the end.

    As an aside, I've had 4 crashes in my life and a helmet did nothing to mitigate injuries sustained. And if one of those cars that gamble's with my life actually hits me, statistics show that no helmet is going to help.

    1. I am a transplant patient that has a huge amount of trouble with skin cancers, Paul wouild know that this is par for the course for transplant patients, my problem is that sunscreens also make my skin play up. I ride a bicycle for health reasons but had to stop after having some cancers removed from my face, the helmets give no protection from the sun. I want to be able to ride wearing my wide brimmed hat but thats impossible to do with a helmet on, i managed to get through my youthful "stunt riding days" with many falls but NEVER hit my head. I wish i could ride my bike without a helmet, these stupid laws are now robbing me of something i both need and love.....Good luck Paul...