Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pre-dawn Christiania stopping - only in Australia

I hadn't done this trip from my sister's before so I allowed myself plenty of time to get to the airport on my Christiania. I was heading to Broken Hill for the weekend as the 'man-of-my-life' had started working out there for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) - definitely time for a visit.

So I left Randwick before dawn, and made my way through the deliciously cool dark morning gliding past Prince of Wales Hospital and the University of New South Wales, eventually taking a left hand turn onto Anzac Parade for a brief little sojourn on that usually hectic road before turning right into a bicycle land of back streets that almost took me right through to Domestic.

Once on O'Riodan Street in Mascot, I trundled under the massive advertising bridge, and waited patiently at traffic lights to cross over that equally massive bit of the road where Joyce Drive and Qantas Drive meet and unite (how very apt!).

Enjoying the exhilarating thrill that I always experience when I cross that section knowing that all eyes of waiting vehicles are on my beautiful bicycle, I joined the Domestic Airport traffic flow, and once round the bend near DHL terminal (formerly Yanda ... 'alas poor Yanda, I knew thee well'), I signalled and took the right lane which I knew would lead me to the half-a-dozen bike racks in the carpark near the Public Pick-up section.

Daylight, by now creeping into Sydney and turning charcoals into greys, was suddenly interrupted by the sharp blurt of a cranky car.

Initially thinking 'how rude' and ignoring it, after another sharp blurt I realised that the entitled sound probably belonged to a police car!

Was I in their way, I wondered to myself?

I tried to move over a bit only to then realise they actually wanted to talk to me. So manoeuvring to the least dangerous spot in this right hand lane flowing into the car-park (is there a 'least dangerous' spot in the right hand lane of an airport?), I commenced a 'chat' with the Australian Federal Police.

First up, they wanted to know what did I think I was doing ... and me saying 'riding a bicycle' did not allay their curiosity!

Apparently there were two things they knew that I was doing that were wrong:

1. riding without a helmet
2. riding on a road

I mentioned that I was entitled to ride on the road, to which the AFP driver of the AFP patrol car countered not without a helmet ...

So then I commenced my ususal 'police conversation' that I always seem to trot out for moments like these ... you know, how I was a campaigner actively trying to change the law, that I believed there was no evidence for such a law, that such a law had been a detrimental to Australia and an ugly deterrent to cycling here in this country, that we were on our own in the world (ooops almost forgot New Zealand - gave them a plug just in time), blah-de-blah-de-blah.

I also mentioned that I was due in Scone Local Court next Friday for a bicycle helmet matter, and that I was due to hear the magistrate's verdict via tele-link from the Adelaide Magistrate Court the following Monday (I may have got those dates muddled ... anyway I know that I mentioned Scone and Adelaide).

But it was the Christiania that had him (the main AFP protagonist) baffled.

'What,' he wanted to know, 'is your bike?'

Whilst explaining that it was a Christiania from the eponymous suburb in Copenhagen, he shared with me that he'd been to Copenhagen too, and had seen everyone cycling around. I put it to him that I bet he had not worn a helmet if and when he'd cycled around that beautiful city, to which he responded that it was not the law there ...


Is that all that stops people in Australia from not riding bicycles without helmets here?

This fatuous and unquestioning compliance?

Couldn't we just for once give some thought as to why we have such an unnecessary and restrictive law, and nobody else does?

Why don't we challenge our politicians and those numpty UNSW academics who so glibly dance to Big Oil's tune?

Anyway all that aside, next up and somewhat bizarrely, the policeman told me that he was going to photograph my bike so I told him that I was going to photograph him (hope his shot of my bike was better than my shot of him!)

He then asked me where I had come from and I told him from my sister's in Randwick but normally Scone (occasionally Newtown).

He wanted to know what roads I had been on that morning, so I mentioned that I'd 'bicycle-google-mapped' my journey to Domestic and that my sister had given me the heads up to override the first bit of google's suggestions by taking High Street in Randwick past the hospital and the University saving me unnecessary and crippling Randwick descents and ascents!

He wanted to know where I was off to now and I mentioned that I was on my way to visit my hubbie for his day off from his Flying Doctors' shifts in Broken Hill.

He then wanted to know what I was going to do with my bike whilst I was away. I told him I was going to leave it in the carpark and he told me I couldn't, and I told him that I could ... over at the bike racks ... I don't think he knew about those!!!!

He then somewhat parentally said that he hoped I had a good padlock to which I replied I did!

We finished with him mentioning that he would have to chat to his boss on what to do with me, said our goodbyes, and then I parked my bike and flew off to the RFDS base in Broken Hill.

Then on Sunday when I was somewhere in between Pro Hart's gallery and Broken Hill's Living Desert, he rang me to flag a meeting for an interview at some stage either at the airport or Newtown Police Station!!!! He would send me an email outlining all of this ... which he did.

Notwithstanding his pleasant and welcoming invitation to bring a lawyer and / or a friend, I know that I don't actually have to attend if I don't want to. But either way (whether I attend or not) I know that I am going to be booked, so I think I will meet him for the interview because I'm truly intrigued that the incredibly flat-out busy Australian Federal Police can be arsed to juggle 'unhelmeted-bicycling-middle-aged mum' duties along with their usual terrorism and drug smuggling duties.

Watch this space - I'll keep you posted!!!!!!!!

Oh, and #HelmetLawSucks


  1. I got pulled over riding ours in Darwin, The police were really only concerned that I didn't ride on the road if the kids didn't have helmets. They're still pretty reasonable here most of the time... drivers can be a bit agro.

  2. I thought it was legal to cycle without a foam hat in Darwin, Northern Territory?

    1. Yes it is legal for adults to ride without a helmet on cycle paths and footpaths. However we must wear a helmet when cycling on the road. Children must always wear a helmet when cycling.
      In reality we can generally ride without helmets most of the time. I think police and cyclists use their discretion. I've never been stopped from riding on minor roads without a helmet people are rarely foolish enough to ride on our major roads without one.
      Personally I don't think it's really necessary for the kids to wear a helmet if they're sitting in the front of our cart and we're only using the cycle paths. The chances of them bumping their heads would be less than a pedestrian slipping on a banana peel.

    2. Agreed, having kids in a cargobike is like having kids in a stroller/pushchair. They are a passive passenger under the control of an adult.

  3. It would be interesting to look at statistics for head injuries incured while riding Christiania 3-wheeled bikes. I think the danger level would be somewhere about that of a wheelbarrow pusher.

    1. Hahaha! ... that's hilarious ... you're probably right, Peter!

    2. A Christiana is basically a wheelbarrow with pedals put together by hippies high on joints!

  4. Hm, this is interesting. I wonder what he/they will say. I've often wondered if the AFP would bother pulling me over. I would've guessed it is outside their jurisdiction, and yeah, an utterly stupid waste of time.

  5. Yep I always thought they had better things to do, they're not NSW, or VIC, or etc etc, but they are Federal police, so why are they concerned about, and enforcing, minor state traffic laws?

  6. I agree with all of you and your comments ... it's utter madness.

    Anyhoo, I've emailed him my 'free moments' when I would be able to fit him into my bush schedule and so far I haven't heard back from him yet about the propsed interview!

  7. How insane! I really would think that the AFP have better things to do too and I'm also curious about jurisdiction - helmet laws are state laws.

    I'm also incredibly surprised as to why he would want to organise a meeting for such a trivial offence. Are you sure that this is not some kind of investigation into your advocacy activities more broadly? Perhaps he has done some research and considers repeated law breaking for activist purposes an offence under some other law... sorry if I sound alarmist or paranoid.