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)


  1. First off, let me state I'm not a supporter of MHL. Although the logic here will be that a paying customer is a short term passenger on the vehicle, therefore statistically the risk of an accident is lower. The driver of such a vehicle is operating it for a long stretch of time, and is statistically at a greater risk of an injury. Of course, that is relative. How would it compare to a "full time" pedestrian for instance, I don't know :)

    This is less clear with "non-paying" passengers. I would suppose the law is intended to permit pedicabs without the risk of head lice :) It may also be that pedi-cabs have stricter requirements in terms of illumination and visibility that may arguably deem them less-likely to be involved in a collision.

    In Victoria, I am allowed to take a taxi with my young child without a child seat. In a private vehicle I must use a child seat. It is inconsistent - I'm not sure statistically what the risk implications are - although it is enabling for me as a citizen.

    1. Thanks, Crank, for your erudite thoughts! I suppose what we can take from it all is that it's ... very tiresome! ... maybe ... perhaps