Saturday, April 16, 2016

Court cases coming out of my ears

(Image: Logo from District court penalty notice)

(Image: list of monies owing ... sigh)

I've been a busy little curial bee already this April what with the pre-pre-trial via telephone, linking me to proceedings in the Adelaide Magistrates Court followed by the Waverley call-over for my AFP bicycle matter.

As a result of all that I have two new dates for two new court appearances:

$$$ 21st June 2016 - Adelaide Magistrates Court
$$$ 15th August 2016 - Sydney (somewhere)

... but what I'm still really smarting over is last month's experience in the Newcastle District Court.

Apart from being dismissed out of hand by the judge (only to be expected I suppose - this is Australia after all) it was the 'pre' bit before the judge made her entrance into the court that has left me particularly cold.

Once the court-room doors had been opened that morning of my matter, I had gone in and sat down in the public-seating area of the court. Shuffling my papers in an attempt to get psychologically and physically prepared, I was aware of another would-be criminal alongside me (we tend to flock together us 'crims') going through the same sort of pre-match process.

It appeared that we might be the only two to be heard that morning, and we were completely outnumbered by lawyers sitting at their exclusive table just in front of us. These officers of the court were utterly oblivious to our presence, and once I was neatly folded and sorted along with my papers, I couldn't help but tune into their conversation, and it crossed my mind that doctors have been sued for less.

It was astounding - with nary a care that two of us in the tiny court were not part of their circle and really ought not to be privvy to their gossip, colleagues and clients were discussed at great length and in great detail.

After a while the bewigged one got up and left the court leaving the suited ones to continue. One of the legal-suits asked one of the DPP solicitors if she had much on that morning to which she replied not really except for a bicycle helmet matter.

Well that got them all excited and there was a lot of 'loose-lips-sink-ships' chat like 'not that woman who ...' and then suddenly another of the DPP solicitors had a 'there's-a-boom-up-there' moment, and employing glorious elocution techniques pronounced slowly and carefully that:

'Mrs - Abbott - is - in - the - court' ... ahhh lovely

... and then watching them all scurry to try and find some semblance of professionalism was nauseatingly pathetic ... sigh.

There is no access to justice via law courts, and there is no access to good manners via lawyers. I would get a better hearing if I was a 'wife-basher.'

Everyone paid by the legal system that day was annoyed with me - as far as they were all concerned, my quest in petitioning for a redress of a grievance was just an exercise in wasting court time.

Careless chatter, arrogance, entitlement, insensitivity, obliviousness to surroundings and other people, I'm sorry but I expect more from my justice system.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

No-one hates cyclists like Australian politicians

(Photo: Me & Dr Pete McInerney, Torbole, Italy taken by Enid McInerney)

It is no exaggeration to say that Australia is an outlier when it comes to sharing the roads with vulnerable road users. Now make that vulnerable road user a cyclist, and the nation fairly quivers with apoplexy especially our politicians.

In the state of New South Wales (NSW) where I live, the NSW Roads minister is a former truckie and it shows.

His approach to road safety for vulnerable roads users has completely missed the necessary point of providing actual road safety, and his new expanded Road Rules which entail whopping great fines for cyclists and future ID requirements have placed these cyclists on an equal footing with motorists in terms of culpability. Cyclists have been ‘frogmarched’ as equal partners into a road law of oppression and privilege notwithstanding that they are the vulnerable the road users. Cyclists have never been so at risk on Australian roads.

Now to spice up this very toxic mix of bicycle-demonisation let’s add a little mandatory bicycle helmet law, a veritable corporate cul-de-sac if ever there was one.

Through industry acrobatics and academic false promises, the framing of our very Australian mandatory helmet laws has become the dominant ideology in Australian bicycle culture over the past 25 years since they were ushered in.

Our comforting helmet-safety myth, in which all Australians are fully subscribed, is received wisdom and embedded in the Australian psyche across our entire sun-burnt country ... BUT ... by prescribing cycling safety through mandatory plastic-hat wearing, bicycle helmet laws have failed to articulate the actual and inherent danger of cycling which is the direct contact with motorised vehicles.

As a result the progressive erasure of everyday ordinary bicycles from Australian roads has been evident - oh yes, Big Oil, beloved by Australian politicians and their super accounts, rules here.

Now it gets personal because I am one of the unusual ones; female and middle-aged and still out there on my everyday ordinary bicycle … but not in their prescribed plastic headwear designed for sporty types and velodromes. No the hats I wear are big-brimmed ones for our rather steamy summers and woolly berets for our rather chilly winters.

As you can imagine this behaviour has not gone unnoticed by the authorities.

After 20 plus court appearances (with two more pending) I now have three criminal convictions for the Australian crime of riding a bicycle without a helmet - why heck with my criminal record I can’t even visit the United States!

Disillusioned yet determined to use my implied Australian right to participate in democracy and avail myself of the responsibility to petition for a redress of a grievance, I make it my business to contact the NSW Roads Department on a regular basis. The last communication I received from them informed me that 30% of cyclists who die on NSW roads are not wearing helmets. Employing their binary programme mentality and flipping their statistic, I assume they are also informing me that 70% of cyclists who die on NSW roads are wearing helmets which prima facie looks like cycling without a helmet is considerably safer.

But I digress … let’s check out emergency departments (EDs) in Sydney hospitals, where some eager-beaver doctors have widened the definition of brain injury to encompass unreported brain injuries … yes I am ‘fair dinkum’ … we now have this ‘silent majority’ noted in ED data and used to support mandatory helmet laws, one so silent as to be undetected by actual statistics or evidence!

To add to our miserable transport dilemma, our politicians are also aided and abetted by unelected yet ambitious middle-aged-men-in-lycra (mamils) running bicycle kingdoms, and let me tell you they adore that ‘silent majority’ paradigm.

The whole ‘bicycle safety via helmet compulsion’ issue in Australia is poisonous. Bullying prevails and kills off dissent in a most anti-intellectual manner. You only have to look back a couple of years when the eminent British neurosurgeon, Dr Henry Marsh, gave his expert opinion at the Hay Literary Festival that bicycle helmets were a waste of time. Holy moley, Australia fainted, and our media went into a frenzied melt-down, permitting evangelical-helmet opinions from non-expert bicycle bureaucrats to trump Dr Marsh’s expert one every time.

As a nation, we have truly embraced collective stupidity. We have allowed a boys’ locker room mentality to pedal the incoherence of helmet law safety concepts, and none of the elected or unelected folk involved in running NSW roads speak for cyclists like me, nor do they want to.

This is Australia, and we get what we’re prepared to put up with … sigh.