Notwithstanding the actual situation, helmet proponents still submit we need helmet laws to protect us, and still submit they need more money for their repetitive studies to prove their pre-ordered conclusions (good science starts with conclusions, right?!).
In behaviour somewhat analagous to the power industry, it appears to me that bicycle helmet law researchers are also 'gold-plating' by continuing to access research grants for 'same-old, same-old' projects arguably not required after 20 years of 'same-old, same-old' projects.
Cycling is such a normal event in most parts of the world that it hardly features in the national psyche as something they do. Not so here...
No...here we've been known to fine cyclists or put them into paddy wagons, or even tackle persons of 'helmetless' interest (PO'H'I) to the ground or knock out a few teeth – in fact we’ve even been known to incarcerate PO'H'Is even when they're children.
So it was with interest that I read an email just recently from Jennifer Bacia, a Queensland author. Jennifer's correspondence to me concerned her husband’s brush with the strong arm of the law.
A Parkinson’s sufferer and the recipient of ‘Deep Brain Stimulus’ surgery, her husband is in possession of a medical exemption from helmet-wearing in order to protect the sub-dermal wires that lead to the electrodes in his brain, and also to avoid the likelihood of pain.
As her husband can no longer play tennis, surf or walk far, cycling has become his ticket to freedom. But local police are not impressed with his helmet exemption namely because, Jennifer wrote, '...it lacks an end date which is end of life in my husband’s case!'.
Ridiculously the situation escalated a few months ago when he was apprehended by police on his bike sans helmet and (on this particular occasion) sans exemption. At first he did not hear the command to stop, so when the policeman grabbed him from behind he was so startled he almost fell off his bicycle. In the ensuing melee, he lost his neuro-stimulator ($1,800) kept in his shirt pocket which he didn't realise till later. Anyway, severely reprimanded by police for his helmetless exemptionless behaviour, he was ordered to present himself and exemption to the Surfers Paradise Police Station the very next day.
This he did, but neither the reasonable grounds outlined in the exemption nor the formal complaint he and Jennifer then made about police treatment could stop the the relentless 'cog-in-motion' effect of fine-process, and before they knew it another one was reissued with a penalty for non-payment of first one.
Where is the sense in all this?
Are we really ok with it?
...done on our behalf & in our name - shame on us
Friday 26 October 2012
...and just in from Queensland:
Got a call from the police prosecutor this Tuesday – we were due to appear in the Magistrate’s court on Wed - and were told the matter was “not in the public interest”. What a complete waste of time and public resources!! - I could have written a book in the months this saga of communication and phone calls has gone back and forth. Thanks SO much again for your interest and support!
So today as I'm heading towards the CBD on my bicycle, stopping at red traffic lights where King Street crosses Missenden Road, a red hatchback with 2 female occupants drew alongside me.
"Lady, where's your fucking helmet? - you can't be on the fucking road without one - get off the fucking road! Are you fucking dumb or fucking what?!"
After delivering that charming exchange, the impossibly thin middle-aged-female-front-passenger ceased leaning out of the window and turned back to face the road, putting her legs up on the dashboard!!!!!
Needless to mention, I engaged in usual 'troll-management' practices, and ignored her completely.
But part of me couldn't help thinking, 'geez, lady, time you smelt the fucking roses!'
Here's what I said (& the comments are there again!):
"For us mere mortals who have tracked the 20 years worth of 'academic helmet ping-pong,' it seems a little bit rich when one side claims that the other is biased and their not.
As far as I can make out from a literature review that I have conducted, the only thing bicycle helmets protect you from are fines."
...notwithstanding the appalling grammatical error I made ('their not', as opposed to they're not - ouch, mea culpa) I am still smarting from his intimidating invective and his palpable anger towards me - but I refuse to be abused into silence.
There goes the 'rosy glow' I had about academics in their tax-payer funded ivory towers.
Well, it's been hastily removed by the powers-that-be now so I can't remember exactly what I did say earlier this evening on The Conversation but it was something along the lines of...
...when you look at the academic ping-pong (I love that phrase!!!) that's been happening over the last 20 years with regards to helmets, it's a bit rich when one side accuses the other side of bias
and then I went on to say something like...
...the only thing helmets protect you from are fines (because I love saying that)
...and oh boy did I make this guy mad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Raphael Grzebieta commented:
"And you are? You may have the right to an opinion but your opinion has no right to be treated as equal to the opinion of any expert who has published peer-reviewed research in the field. Scientifically, your opinion counts for naught. To paraphrase Patrick Stokes (http://theconversation.edu.au/no-youre-not-entitled-to-your-opinion-9978), you may be entitled to your opinion but that does not in any way give you any entitlement or equal right to be heard on the matter of helmet safety or the benefits of the Mandatory Helmet Law because you are not scientifically qualified. You have no peer-reviewed evidence nor have you ever carried out any peer-reviewed research or published in a peer-review journal on the matter. You simply ride a bike without a helmet and protest and read some literature from which you are not qualified to assess what is scientifically valid. You can have an opinion on it but it counts for naught when you express it. I really do get tired of protestors and bloggers like you who think they are doing some great service to the community when in fact all you are doing is provoking people to ride without a helmet which could result in them receiving a serious head injury. Have you ever seen a person, adult or child, suffer a serious brain injury (http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3291518.htm). Probably not – you obviously don’t care. Just make sure you sign a waiver that when you get hit by a car or fall to the ground and receive a serious head injury that we tax payers don’t have to pay for your hospital and rehabilitation bills. "
What a spray!!! - who does he think he is? - and why has he removed both mine and his comments? Can't he handle open discussion with the community? What glorious qualification do you need to post on The Conversation anyway? - and how does he know that his premises are correct? Is he trying to intimidate me? Why is he so plagued by such aggression?
My respect for The Conversation has gone out of the window
(Professor Chris Rissel, Faculty of Public Health, University of Sydney)
(Photos: '...& then the sheriff...', me by Peng)
(Alan Todd with doco-makers)
(Nik Dow & man's best friend)
('mum', 'dad' & 2 littlies on cargo bike)
('have oilskin will travel')
(Merrily we rode along the 'Merri')
We came, we saw, we conquered...
Well, we rode bicycles and made this plan:
We're bicycle users, we're here to stay, our roads are ours for the taking, and the law had better get used to us whether it likes it or not...
(I think that was the take home message!!!!)
Despite the freezing cold rain (Melbourne, it was summer in Sydney when I left!), a bunch of us cycled along the Merri before we joined the rest of our group for the launch on Saturday afternoon.
Somewhat bizarrely despite 30 would-be-criminals informing them beforehand of their intended criminal behaviour, Melbourne police were cool with state laws being broken on this particular occasion, and were as laid back as anything - in fact pretty much along the lines of...no worries, the bicycle path's all yours!
Does this make a mockery of helmet laws or what???
When you consider the usual Victorian Law Enforcement approach is to serve you with a massive fine ($170+) and dollops of patronising hyperbole that helmet laws are there to protect us blah blah blah, it's glaringly obvious that they're really there for revenue raising purposes and to keep us off the roads. This sudden 'do as you like' approach fools no-one and is blatant proof that helmets only protect us from one thing: fines...period!
Anyway once the cycling contingency had made it to CERES, we were joined by fellow activists from far and wide, basically from across Australia.
With Canberra's Bill Curnow, Brisbane's Geoff McLeod, Sydney's Chris Rissel and Melbourne's Jackie Fristacky, we shared our stories at length, delivered & listened to each other's presentations, and ultimately launched the National Campaign for Freestyle Cycling. Tales of dire public health predictions, unnecessary use of police handcuffs, seizure of property, actual biomechanics of helmets & brain injury, as well as visionary council initiatives from the City of Yarra kept us riveted, appalled, and inspired.
But best of all, the National Campaign Launch of freestyle cycling allowed us to entertain the uplifting notion that we're not only making headway but we're rattling the bars on the million dollar helmet lobby's hold on the laws too...(AND...they also gave us an amazing afternoon tea starring a stunning chocolate cake - thank god we cycle!)