Equipment and On Road Behaviour, Laws and Rules. Cycling Promotion and Advocacy
I was stopped again today by a policeman for not wearing a helmet, the second time in several months. Both times a motorcycle cop. Both came on strong, demanding I dismount and walk the bike, until I informed them that I did not believe in the efficacy of helmets nor respect MHL and was willing to fight a fine in court. We argued some more until I just said I was unwilling to wear a helmet and left, walking my bike for a few metres then mounting and riding off. He went round the block, saw me again, beeped his siren and I shrugged and kept riding.
I'm assuming that my cavalier attitude, possibly due to interpretation as disrespect, will eventual get me a fine even if most police seem to be unwilling to fine. Based on what is written by CRAG http://crag.asn.au/?p=616 (I'm in NSW) and from various precedents (Sue Abbot and others) I could have a reasonable defence in court based on efficacy and civil liberties, but I really more interested in the social impact (barrier to entry) that MHLs produce. So my question is this: if I fought a fine and won, would my win help at all to turn the tide against MHL or would it be just another drop in the ocean with no discernable effect other than taking up my time and avoiding payment?
That CRAG page I mentioned and its links slightly suggests there is a net benefit, at least in terms of changing the mindset of judges or magistrates, but surely this is a political issue - how then would judical changes effect political will?
I'm new here so I apologise if this has already been covered, but I really can't read all 200+ pages off this thread! Happy to read whatever you can point me to though and thanks to anyone who can advise.
Individual, and mass group, protest actions as a direct refusal to comply with a law were what contributed a great deal to the pressure to end the Bjelke Peterson ban on street marches.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
OK. For starters, not a lawyer, not proffering legal advice and you're best off assuming I'm a fool and a liar. Now we've got that out of the way:
As I understand the Sue Abbott situation, she didn't get a defence of necessity up. Her appeal to the District Court was actually dismissed. She did, however, succeed in getting absolutely discharged, which is to say that the offence was proved and the appropriate penalty in the circumstances was no penalty at all. I don't believe, happy to be corrected, that her cases form any kind of binding precedent. One was decided at the Magistrates' Court level, which has zero value as a precedent and one went on appeal to the District Court (excuse me if I have the terminology wrong, I'm from Queensland) where she got absolutely discharged. I do not imagine you'd have much luck arguing this decision is somehow binding - seems to me it would turn on its particular facts.
In terms of whether it's worth the trouble, I don't know. Judging from Ms Abbott's issues, doing it to avoid the fine sounds hopelessly misguided. You could end up with a conviction recorded and you could end up on the hook for considerably more money. So it's not without risk. Another thing to bear in mind is that Sue Abbott has a law degree and is, I believe, admitted as a solicitor. As I understand it, she represented herself. So she's quite legally knowledgable and has the luxury of being able to conduct her case with (I would imagine) a fair bit of legal acumen, without having to spend any money.
The other point I'd make is that this isn't a case of an organised anti-MHL movement putting a test case on (like GetUp! or Plessy v Fergusson or something). This is just a private citizen deciding to fight what they believe is an unjust law. It got a bit of publicity, but for Sue Abbott's view that MHLs are a bad thing rather than for the anti-MHL movement as such.
I make no comment on whether you should do it or not. It's your money, your good name and your criminal record that's at stake. It's not right that I should proffer any kind of opinion on what you should do. All the best with your decision.
I think you'll find that there is a difference between a minor traffic offence and a criminal record.
Yup. One's a minor traffic offence and one's a criminal record, which may or may not include convictions for, among other things, minor traffic offences if someone is rash enough to court-elect and then lose. What's your point?
If you are claiming that one cannot be convicted for such an offence, kindly cite statute or case law. I suppose it could be the case in NSW (although that's not the way I'd bet). I am certain this is not the case in Queensland. To the OP: if you are seriously considering this course of action, you should be clear on the legal implications. On no account should you take my word for it. Nor, I suggest, should you take the word of any other Internet random who may weigh in.
thanks for the comments. Totally understand your points about not being a lawyer, obviously neither am I, but lets not let that get in the way of some free-wheeling speculation
My first thought: if only direct action against MHL could be as satirical as direct action against Bjelke's anti-protest law! But its a lot trickier isn't it? Or is it? How could one protest MHL in a way that is fun and media friendly? Sue Abbot and her wild hair and dutch style bike comes close, but also prompts incorrect assumptions about her reasons for not wearing a helmet...
High Tea I think your reading of the Abbot case and the other one in the magistrates court is correct in that I couldn't use them as precedents and would have to argue a case from scratch. I guess I'm interested - how many times does this have to happen before something changes?
It is extremely troubling to me if its true that a minor traffic offence can be recorded as a criminal conviction if it is fought in court?? Surely, if true, this presents a disproportionate punishment and an unethical barrier against a citizens right to challenge minor police charges?
I might actually trouble myself to get some proper legal advice on this. Not that I want to pay for it, at least, until I really am fined and only then if I decide to fight it. But then I guess this relates to your point about advocacy. There does seem to be an organized anti-MHL movement judging by the CRAG site and also http://helmetfreedom.org/ so I am curious about how involved those organisations or others are in getting involved helping someone actually challenge a fine.
This is not legal advice etc. Don't trust my word, I'm just some internet random.
Even a judgement in a magistrates' court could be argued in another court, it just wouldn't be binding. It comes down to how persuasive the argument is. You could still invite the court to consider it.
A district court judgement is binding on a magistrate on the same facts in the same jurisdiction, but Ms Abbott's case appears to be one which is easily distinguished.
The court has discretion to record a conviction or not, taking relevant factors into account, e.g seriousness of the offence, any existing record, etc. In some cases, (e.g. in Qld if making an Intensive Correction Order) a court must record a conviction.
Sorry to quote and oldish post, but that graph indicates wearing a helmet reduces the change of head injury, while increasing the chance of extremity injury.
Also, according the that graph, helmets also reduce the risk of thorax, abdominal and spinal injuries. Clearly (to me at least) there is a large number of unaccounted variables...
Also a note about data collection - it is focused on a particular data set and as such completely ignores the likelihood of noninjury. Do you protect your toenails from lightning strike? Of course not.
Which graph are you referring to? The one at the top of the Crikey article is captioned as follows:
I don't understand it to be any kind of helmeted/unhelmeted comparison.
I assumed the leftmost graph was helmeted riders, while the right was un-helmeted. My point was that the graphs were used in support of helmets, but actually provided no useful information.
EDIT: It was more about the way we can manipulate "facts" for pretty much any desired argument... like so:
I like that, maybe those who want to foist helmet wearing should also be protecting themselves against lightning strikes to their feet.
I didn't look at the link but someone above mentioned it showed a graph of injuries after cyclists are hit by cars. That lump of foam we are forced to wear ain't nothing against a car weighing over a tonne.
I've asked this before, but where are the MHL advocates asking for proper helmets? In fact I think this might be a good campaign. If we legislate to force all cyclists to wear hard case helmets then the law will get treated with the contempt it deserves.
Riding: Cannondale Quick Speed 2
Curiously, the article states that
Also, I find the snide remarks about the data collection completely unwarranted. What ethical alternative is there to looking at actual injury data if you want to ascertain helmet efficacy? (which is a distinct concern from helmet law efficacy, at the risk of stating the obvious
In fact, here's another quote:
So there's no wide-eyed optimism about the protective value of helmets, not that I can see.
Forget about the problems of water, be very worried about Dihydrogen Monoxide
Just goes to show if you want to create public outrage or horror and spurious action, 'facts' can be so handy
Yes it does. It focuses on "6745 cyclist collisions with motor vehicles where helmet use was known". It says it right there in the abstract.
I find it unlikely that not wearing a helmet increases the chance of a non-injury when in a collision with a motor vehicle. Particularly in light of the findings of the above study.
I don't think we'd need to be that silly Simon LOL
The issue that I see is not with the study, per se - the study exists in an information ecosystem, and is clearly being misrepresented in the press and used to justify more than what it actually said. The implication is that helmets improve your injury risk profile, and therefore the helmet law is justified. The result of the study isn't particularly surprising. Why even report it?
The MHL needs support, and telling people that they are better off with a helmet in a crash than without one reinforces the lies about cycling population risk. I've seen one person hit their head in 12 months of weekend bunch rides, and heard of one other, doing probably THE most risky form of riding in Sydney. The risk of hitting your head in the most risky riding possible is incredibly small - I would challenge anyone to volunteer to wear a helmet in the car based on similar odds. The results of head injury are serious, but we don't apply the same risk assessment to car occupants or pedestrians. It's discrimination, plain and simple.
Very early on in my cycling I had a collision with a motor vehicle that resulted in a head injury. Pretty crazy stuff, I was soon off to hospital and had surgery for the injuries. I was lucky to get out of it fairly lightly but I do still have the lingering scars. The hard-shell MSR helped a little but it didn't prevent my head injury
But there you go - I was recorded in hospital stats as a "head injury - bicycle collision, with helmet use"
I was dumb enough to ride into the back of a parked car at 15-20kmh - broken nose But it is a head injury!
Science. What if the result was surprising?
There are plenty of people who claim a helmet does not make much of a difference.
If we are playing anecdotes, I personally knew two cyclists who died from head injuries in slightly under 10 years. One helmeted no MV involved who rode a similar amount to what I do. One unhelmeted, MV involved who rode less than me. In all three of the stacks I have had that I attended hospital, my helmet was damaged. In the one my wife had, helmet was damaged too.
Oh, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_wrongs ... ke_a_right
We need to get back to the basic premise of the human - people in general, in normal life get about wearing clothing, clothing that they choose.
In only a very narrow sphere of situations are people mandated to wear certain garb - women wearing the hijab in islamic societies may be legally mandated ( I don't think much of this either), certain people in hazardous occupations have legally required clothing (miners, workers at heights, workers using hazardous materials, nurses and doctors in surgery). However these sorts of mandated requirements are generally based on a very clear and present risk, often with detailed research about this. For the normal person just going about their business the requirement to wear certain types of clothing simply is not there.
Motorcyclists have it, but the data on road collisions and head injury risk versus the benefit of wearing one is much more clearly researched for them - the benefits to life are not disputed, the injury and death reductions are very significant. Not so sure about the comparable benefits for cycling, due to the declined use of bikes associated with the MHL.
Those who are passionate about this subject might enjoy this -
I'm now off to make some popcorn.
It would not be at all strange if history came to the conclusion that the perfection of the bicycle was the greatest achievement of the nineteenth century.
Cool. Now someone just needs to take it to the High Court and get the law overturned. Repugnancy or implied rights, I wouldn't presume to dictate. It can't fail! Have a rip at scool uniforms and facial tattooing laws while you're at it!/sarcasm
At least it's not that daft lifejacket meme. Small mercies.
The question should not be DO it should be by how much. Any argument otherwise defies even basic logic let alone reality.
I had a brief conversation with with a middle aged Dutch lady and her mother at the cafe halfway through my morning ride this morning. Guess what they quickly mentioned unprompted?
Helmets and special cycling clothes. Here we have two people from the busiest cycling nation on the planet and the first thing they mention are the two big barriers to cycling everyday cycling. They made comment on how it was a barrier to cycling and pointed out that the cycling here is different because of it. (On this occasion much to some people's surprise I myself was dressed up in Lycra and was not at all worried about wearing a helmet. )
Helmets are a barrier and an impediment to cycling. It amazes me how ANYBODY particularly an advocacy body like BV could possibly support helmets.
I'm not sure what your point is here. We are discussing helmets.
Surely you as a cyclist would like to promote cycling rather than discourage it. Yet by supporting MHL you are supporting one of the biggest barriers to cycling.
Yeah, daft old BV (BNV now, they're a "health charity" ) They lost my membership nearly 10 years ago now, and I was a member form the Bicycle Institute days.
Sofcock supplicants to Vicroads now
How much has scooter/skateboard riding reduced the numbers of child cyclists?
How much has "kids don't roam free" affected the number of child cyclists?
How much has the increased awareness of concussion increased the number of head injury related emergency dept attendance?
If you ask the right question the statistics will support you.
bychosis (bahy-koh-sis): A mental disorder of delusions indicating impaired contact with a reality of no bicycles.
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