Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Prime Minister, isn't it time helmet laws were axed so the AFP don'thave to waste their time and taxpayers' dollars interviewing me?


So I arrived at International Airport (Sydney) on Monday with plenty of time before my flight to England because I had a rendezvous-vous with the Australian Federal Police!
Following instructions in the email sent to me last week, I headed to 10 Arrivals Court, Level 3, and was collected in the foyer by a young policewoman and shown to a rather austere waiting area where I was told to take a seat. 
Because I had arrived early and the interviewing AFP constable was running a touch late, I had plenty of opportunity to take in my surroundings, and I must admit that I approved of the minimalist decor, I liked the rather bare glass wall cabinet, and I approved of the what-I-would-call  'airforce blue' fitted carpet throughout ... 
'Hmmmn,' I said to myself, 'glad to see my tax-dollars so tastefully spent!'
And then my AFP interviewer was there, and it was through the locked doors and into an interviewing room for the interview.
Housekeeping first ... explanation of the activities to come, I could have a drink any time I wanted one, I could have a lawyer or a friend, I didn't have to be there (even though they'd come up with the idea!)
No thank you, no, no, yes, were my responses.
Then they asked if I had any questions to which I asked if I could take their photo ... no was their answer!
And we were off !
$$$ Rights read out to me
$$$ Re-visited whether I understood that I could have a Lawyer or a friend
$$$ Cautioned that anything I said could be used as evidence against me ... and 'for me,' I inserted, which I think surprised them (oh and btw,  you all sponsored two AFPs to interview me for the approximately 40 mins that I was there!!!)
$$$ Checked up on my address, my age, my nationality, my living, where I was born, where I'd cycled in the world (maybe I volunteered that bit?!), what route I had taken on that 'Domestic Airport' day when they had come across me at dawn, description of my Christiania, how many bikes I had, what types, had I cycled to the airport for my London flight
Somewhere along the way I mentioned some of my previous 'non-helmet-bookings' both in NSW and South Australia, and that I thought the law was flawed, contradictory and confusing, that existing evidence was divided into two camps, that Australian academics wedded to mandatory helmet laws were sponsored by Big Oil as evidenced by the 'money' splashed out to further their position (say for instance that 'NRMA' chair at UNSW and 'Honda' sponsorship of medical case studies at St George's Hospital) ... I even mentioned Velo City conferences in despatches which I then had to explain to them ... which then led to mention of Adelaide and the Adelaide protest rides with unhelmeted cyclists and police escorts!
Somewhere along the way I mentioned in a very young life I'd been a student nurse at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and they jumped on that and asked what was my opinion on all the cycling accidents that I would have seen in that life to which I replied that was irrelevant because I was so very junior then and such a very far cry from an expert that no-one would have been interested in my opinion, and that anyway when I'd done my 'accident & emergency secondment' back then I'd seen more knifings than any bicycle mishaps.
Much more was said and chatted about and it's all on tape for maybe a future court case, and I remember telling them that I have a responsibility to participate in this democracy of ours, and as a participant it is my responsibility to object to flawed laws ... and mandatory helmet laws fitted within that category.
I know at some point I mentioned my blog, and that the purpose of it was mainly to rail against the Australian compulsion to have to wear a helmet when cycling ... I also added that the lead AFP interviewer's legs had already featured on it - later he mentioned he would have to check out my blog for 'malice'! ... hope it's free of that!!!
And then it was time to leave Sydney and its AFP so that I could catch my plane to London and its Bobbies, 
... and you know after I've posted this recount of my arvo with the AFP I'm going to take a Boris Bike from Liverpool Street Station (where I'm about to leave my suitcase in 'Left Luggage') to the Science Museum in South Kensington because I have been hanging out to see the Ada Lovelace exhibition and as luck would have it, it's on right now!!!


  1. You are indomitable, Sue!

    There's something in this about social norms; you attracted the attention of the police because you were breaking a load of social norms - riding an unusual bicycle without a helmet in a location where bikes are rarely seen .

    Ride a city bike in Newtown without a helmet and you are much less likely to be stopped, as it's more 'normal'.

    It's the same reason the police never pay any attention to road rule 72 - that turning motorists must give way to pedestrians crossing the road at an intersection. Indeed, I've seen police cars flout this rule. However, the social norm is that drivers have priority over pedestrians, so this rule goes unenforced.

    Anyway, I wonder what the AFP are going to do?

  2. Sue - thank you for demonstrating what a farce these 'laws' are .... I hope you enjoy your holiday away from the nanny state and those that think a polystyrene hat makes cycling safer ....

  3. Bravo, Sue. Well handled. I hope the AFP officer reads your blog and takes it upon him/herself to take a closer look and more critical approach to this issue. Police are expected and empowered to use their discretion when policing our laws. Hauling you in for an interview because you were riding a Christiania bike without a helmet is outrageous and smacks of poor judgement. Hopefully they redeem themselves by putting any further 'enquiries' against you to bed.

  4. Chris Glover Kapiti Coast NZNovember 4, 2015 at 7:59 PM

    I'm totally against helmet laws and bicycle helmets.