Cyclists escape helmet fines

Nerendra Jeet Singh, a Sikh cyclist, went to court in New South Wales (NSW), Australia over a fine for a bicycle helmet. He escaped the fine, after arguing that his identity and his religion are of prime importance. He mentioned that Sikhs have exemptions from wearing bicycle helmets in Canada. In South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria, Sikhs can have an exemption from wearing helmets.

A government official tried to justify the legislation by regurgitating the usual nonsense:

“Wearing a secure helmet reduces the risk of brain or head injury by up to 60 per cent”

This is based on an old discredited “study” commissioned by the government. The number of people who believe such nonsense is dwindling. The government fails to mention that helmets increase the risk of accident and injury.

Increasingly, people who challenge a helmet fine in court escape it. In NSW, the defence of necessity allows people to break a law to avoid even more dire consequences. Bicycle helmets increase the risk of accident and can cause brain injury. To avoid these dire consequences, cyclists can ignore the helmet law.

This might explain why the police now rarely book cyclists for not wearing a helmet in NSW (except occasionally on the Pyrmont bridge in Sydney). It is pointless harassment: most people give up cycling, those who prefer to keep riding can challenge the fine in court.

In Victoria, Alan Todd successfully challenged a helmet fine in court, avoiding the fine.

In Queensland, Jasdeep Atwal successfully challenged a helmet fine in court, asserting the rights of the Sikhs to ride bicycles. The efforts of the Sikh community have led the government to reform the law to add religious exemptions from the helmet law in Queensland.

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