Thursday, December 31, 2009

Peats Ridge - sustainable living






A day at the Peats Ridge 2009 Sustainable Arts & Music Festival was absolute bliss and utterly inspiring. An amazing festival unlike any other, it has to "THE MODEL EVENT" utilising 100% renewable energy by running generators on 100% bio-diesel, produced from sustainable crop sources, which create less emissions than petroleum diesel fuel. The 100% composting toilets were brilliant, and the 100% grey water management should be done everywhere. Making a difference to the reality of sustainability was the theme underpinning the event, and so many achievable strategies were on show for us to observe and contemplate.

It was a 'clarion call' to 'make the change to greener energy, make the change to reusing wherever and whenever we could and to change to recycling if we already hadn't'. Everything bought or sold at the festival was either recyclable or compostable, and we were urged to consider our waste options carefully. But best of all was the evident love of cycling everywhere!!!! There were bicycles galore and not a single helmet. People were doubling up, doing errands, ferrying their kids - basically living and transporting themselves on their bikes.

I know exactly where I'll be for 2010's New Year's Eve party!!!!

...but in the meantime, Happy New Year to all of you for this year!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The "Having-Your-Cake-&-Eating-It" Helmet Laws

A bill has been passed in Israel with the intention to repeal part of the mandatory helmet laws that were introduced last year. If the final votes to be cast this week confirm the bill's status in law, adults will no longer be required to wear a helmet whilst riding a bicycle in the city however...(here comes the tricky bit!)...children, those riding off-road or those biking between cities would still be required to wear a helmet.

The position in Israel certainly lends some weight to our arguments here in Australia but I seriously hope our governments do not fall for such a 'creatively complicated' pathway when it's our turn to repeal mandatory helmet laws (surely on the horizon; the repeal of MHLs!?)

Mandatory helmet laws are dangerous for anyone, anywhere, anytime, & we need to just get rid of them in their entirety!! Complex provisos for children, or urban areas, or weather, or types of bicycle, or shared pathways or any other daft reason beloved by bureaucrats would only complicate the issue, lead to uncertainty, and be guaranteed to be unenforceable.

We want these laws repealed; not complicated!

Monday, December 28, 2009

New Facebook Group for the "Concerted Community Campaign"

It is definitely time to 'up the ante' so I have created a facebook group - "Bicycle Helmet Laws are dangerous for your health" - it is open to anyone to join - in fact the more the merrier! I look forward to hearing from all or any of you.

I also have prepared an on-line petition for people to sign and forward on to the Prime Minister of Australia, the Lord Mayor of Sydney and the Premier of New South Wales. You will find the petition text to your right -> and all you need to do is copy and paste it into the email links provided.

Let's get this "show" on the road and reinstate helmets back to their former status of 'optional' indulgence - I resent being compelled to take this risk when cycling just as I would if I was compelled to over-eat or smoke!!! (and btw, I'm cool with others choosing this risky helmet-wearing, over-eating, smoking behaviour but I firmly believe we ought to be able to choose for ourselves)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Helmets v Vaccinations

If we can decide whether or not our children will be vacinated why can't we decide whether or not our children will be unhelmeted?

We have the choice to guard our children against diptheria, polio, tetanus and whooping cough but are deemed completely incapable of making the choice to guard our children against head injuries.

Does that mean "Big Helmet" is more persuasive than "Big Pharma"? - surely not!

Why should we trust our government to make the right decision for our children? - their track record isn't exemplary with regards to the nation's little ones.

Friday, December 25, 2009

"I'm dreaming of a white Christmas" - if only!

* hot, humid, sultry - this is Australia!
* 'heaps' of mangoes & cherries!
* even more 'heaps' of mince pies!
* want the european snow - save me some!
* merry christmas, everybody!

PS europe in 9 days time - yay!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Green Revolution

Cycling per se is not a dangerous pastime, and provides benefits that tick so many boxes - health, road safety, strategies for urban congestion, reduction in carbon footprints. The bicycle is truly a wonderful machine and it offers a level of freedom that some governments find unnerving, to the extent that governments here in Australia have been prepared to listen to ill-informed commercially driven advice in the name of safety but in reality to control cycling numbers.

But no longer - the Green Revolution is here!

Our heavy reliance on cars is starting to erode and current urban behaviour points to the fact that we are seriosuly considering the options of pedal power. As a community we are now refusing to be influenced by the demonising of cycling, and are making our own rational decisions concerning the benefits of cycling to work, to school, to do our errands, to pay our bills, to do our shopping etc etc. We too 'went' to Copenhagen, albeit via our televisions and radios, and whilst our politicians and bureaucrats disgraced themselves with their pathetic political gymnastics, we came away armed with what we can do and ought to do.

Having witnessed Copenhagen in all weathers (cycling in the snow!!!!! - amazing!) we know we can cycle like that here in Australia too. Unquestionably all of their road habits can be implemented in our cities, and if our leaders start to object we need only remind them that they have consulted Jan Gehl endlessly over the years, funded by our taxes, and now we insist that they listen to him and implement some of his urban plans. Copenhagen too was once heavily reliant on cars yet today almost 40% of the city's population cycles daily for 'stuff' we would automatically get the car out for.

Yes the Green Revolution is here - so dust off your cycles, pump up your tyres, and experience 'freedom'!

...and here's some illustrative inspiration. With only her 30 year old cycle in the garage, a girlfriend of mine headed into town with helmet for a scheduled Xmas hair-do. However upon completion of the date-with-stylist, further thought was required before embarking upon the journey home with 'stunning-new-hairstyle':

"Hmmmmmmn", she pondered, "$100+ for fab hair or $54 fine for no helmet - what to do? Jeez - a no-brainer - NO HELMET!!"

...and as we drank champagne to her, she told me that the cycle ride home was the most liberating cycle ride she's had in years - go, girl!!!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Civil liberties & helmet laws don't gel

My body's nobody's body but mine
You run your own body
Let me run mine


...this cute little ditty from the 80s was created to empower children. Sadly today, now that we've acquiesced so docilely to the bully tactics of our nanny state, we adults need to get a grip on ourselves and start 'running our own bodies' again.

How did we ever let government convince us that it was worth our while giving up our civil liberties so that (i) they could renege on their obligations to provide safe cycling infrastructure and (ii) they could pass on the cost of safety to the bicycle riders?

We should be outraged that the helmet lobby has been enabled to make a fortune with this groundless legislation and that we have been robbed of cycling infrastructure that could have made such a difference over the last eighteen years.

Now it's timely to take that freedom of choice back and to remember Jean-Paul Sartre's wise words that "once freedom lights its beacon in a man's heart, the gods are powerless against him".

If I was the Transport Minister...

...I would have known that helmets were obviously the wrong solution to the safety problem - 'Blind Freddie' could have seen through the 'oodles' of helmet' spin at large, but not our pollies!!!

So I would have intitiated some REAL BIKE SAFETY initiatives like:
* educating motorists in an attempt to prevent cyclists from getting hit in first place
* implementing at least a 'one metre passing rule for motor vehicles passing cyclists
* banning cars from parking in bike lanes
* creating more bike lanes
* providing bike safety training into schools
* providing free bike safety classes to the general public
* holding at-fault motorists fully accountable when they injure or kill cyclists

Helmet laws have successfully singled out cyclists out for regulation yet we all know that considerably more motorists die from head injuries than cyclists. So if we really believed that helmets save lives, we'd make motorists wear helmets too.

But we know, that they know, that we are starting to know, that the helmet laws debacle is a neatly folded little pile of 'emperor's new clothes'!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The "Southerly Buster"

A beautiful 'southerly' has blown into town in the last 24 hours casting a magical spell on cycling - I love the cool wind on my face and I love the cool wind through my hair - but best of all I love the fact that all the 'cobwebs' incurred by current mandatory 'Christmas' parties have been blown away by this heavenly wind - needless to mention festive 'cobwebs' are incapable of being blowing away in the presence of mandatory helmets!

...don't do it! - woeful for your health - you'll feel terrible! - turn them into ice buckets - do something useful with them!! - enjoy the 'southerly'!

Friday, December 18, 2009

The "In-Car" DVD & my copy

It occurred to me this morning, that I didn't ever receive a copy of the 'in-car' DVD taken the night I was booked for riding a bicycle without a helmet.

I had an opportunity to view the DVD when the brief of evidence was (finally) served, but it was returned after the hearing. This puzzled me at the time, and upon further inquiries from 'anybody & everybody' who knew a thing or two, I discovered that a copy of the in-car video should have been included for me to keep.

So off I trotted to the Police Station at lunchtime to discover what happened to the footage of the 'night in question'.

The sergeant who actually booked me was not at the station but rang me later on this afternoon. He was curious to know why I wanted it, and intimated that it may not have been taken as the in-car video only 'kicks in when the lights have been put on and we wouldn't do that for a bicycle booking'!!! - (really!!! that's interesting! so it was completely unncessary!) Well, I told him that one had definitely 'kicked in' because I had watched it with my lawyer just prior to the court case. He proceeded to inform me that he would have to find out whether I would be allowed a copy as some defendants have been sharing their videos with the public at large ("like on television") - can't we do that? and if not why not if we're happy for that information to be shared?

The rest of our conversation was classic:
"are you wearing a helmet now?"
"no"
"I'll have to come up to Scone and book you again"
"surely you have better things to do with your time - I know you have better things to do with your time"
"hmmmn!"


...however notwithstanding all the chit-chat I'm intrigued to know what the answers are to the following qustions:
- what is the purpose of the in-car video?
- is it done for my protection or the policeman's or all of us?
- why wasn't I given a copy to keep, given that it was (and still is) part of the brief of evidence against me?
- why are there unspoken constraints on the sharing of its content if I want to share it given that I am the criminal here?


...oh! ok! I'm chasing a principle - but if I'm going to be filmed and that 'film' is included in the brief of evidence against me then surely I ought to get a copy - otherwise it just seems like a pointless waste of the limited time and resources of the police...

...so what do you think? what's the likelihood of me getting it? or is the likelihood of me being booked again higher? and will my bike be impounded this time as he warned me in March? and if it is, can I photograph it being taken away in a paddy wagon?

...we'll just have to wait and see! - watch this space!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Helmet Hoodwink

We have been duped! Helmets were never intended to keep us safe but to remove us from the roads.

Politicians needed a strategy to do this and mandating helmets was the perfect solution. Naturally the Bicycle organisations were only too happy to come on board with this plan because they too were pretty keen to clear the roads of utility cyclists and 'Big Helmet' had undertaken to provide sponsorship should this law come into effect - the perfect symbiotic relationship. So happy chappies all round - roads cleared up, and enough of a 'helmet-target audience' to satisfy the avaricious needs of 'Big Helmet'.

But climate change, the price of oil, traffic congestion, urban gridlocks, and even our general well-being have conspired to undermine that cynical plan. No longer will cyclists be deterred from using their own roads. Horror stories delivered hysterically by Police ministers, ED specialists and Bicycle NSW are falling upon deaf ears. We do not believe claims that 150% of all patients seen in the ED are cyclists, we do not believe that the road is a 'jungle out there' and we do not believe that motorists are 'devils incarnate'.

We do believe governments have a role to play in the provision of cycling infrastructure, in the provision of education and in fulfillment of global obligations. We know that such action will improve the urban landscape immensely and provide far more satisfactory experiences for all concerned even beyond our shores.

To continue with the customary scare tactics to keep us 'in check' would only be irresponsible, costly, and an abuse of our civil and political liberties. Government's tacit committment to the oil industry has been revealed, and we now know that helmets were never intended to protect us but to deter us.

We have been hood-winked long enough - but enough is enough; so Mr Rudd and Ms Kenneally, we're finally facing the reality as it is and your current cycling road safety plan won't wash any longer - we're back!, and loving it!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tomorrow's To Do List

* write to Prime Minister (again)
* copy in all premiers (again)
* copy in Santa Claus (perhaps more useful)
* prepare 'free choice' on-line petition
* draft submissions for February 2010 in District Court of NSW
* contact Upper Hunter Local Council re lack of cycling infrastructure
* procure soap box (could be useful)
* make mince pies
* find pudding cloth
* if 'find', make pudding

btw - received polite reply from the Office of the Premier of Queensland

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We will survive!

(Gigi in Newtown)

David Hembrow from the wonderful blog A view from the cycle path recently reminded me of an observation attributed to Mahatma Gandhi:

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Mind you, David also provided me with a salutary caveat that 'it can take a long time between these stages' (!) but, whatever!, I feel emboldened by these words because we're at stage 3, which means we're almost at stage 4 - Yay!!!

There's no escaping the fact our mandatory helmet laws have to go, and will go. We can't be serious about climate change, traffic congestion, and chronic obesity rates unless we make these changes, and given that there is little evidence of any political inclination to embrace the current cycling zeitgeist it is up to us...

...and we're so obviously making 'in-roads' because the mainstream media have become hysterical and are frantically broadcasting the spin, frantically created by helmet proponents and pollies...

"Too late!", we cry, "we're taking our roads back - (though we're happy to share if you ask us nicely!!!)"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Safety in numbers - a natural phenomenon


In effect by forcing us to wear helmets, Australian governments discouraged cycling overnight and, notwithstanding strident arguing to the contrary by helmet proponents, Australians demonstrated clearly that they preferred not to ride rather than wear a helmet. Cycling dropped by some 40% yet the actual head injury numbers did not change, and interestingly, we suddenly started talking actual numbers for head injuries rather than percentages.

By subliminally presenting us with the spin that cycling was inherently dangerous, cycling was completely hi-jacked and re-badged. Enthusiastic support from the easily regulated Bicycle Organisations ensured that cycling was now the domain of macho thrill-seekers looking for an extreme sport, and required a badge of 'armour' before any 'mission impossible'. What a nirvana for 'Big Helmet - a manufacturer's heaven!

But there was a "flip side", and Australia paid dearly. The decrease in the number of cyclists meant that it became more dangerous for the few remaining as motorists became less and less used to seeing or expecting to see cyclists on the road. Also fewer cyclists meant that there was an increase of motorists on our roads which in turn resulted in more danger for all motoring, cycling and walking road users...and the 'slide down the slippery "flip-side" slope' continued with more motorists meaning more energy use, more pollution, and more global warming.

So what to do? - it's simple - urge our governments to refrain from restricting our choices.

Mandatory helmet laws ought to be repealed, and voters ought to be able to decide whether to helmet or not. Restricting cyclists' choice is inconsistent and discriminatory, and there are minimal public benefits. A true evaluation of our 'helmet' experience would demonstrate that mandatory helmet laws have been an unmitigated municipal disaster. With our helmet laws banished, we would watch the 'safety in numbers' factor kick in and cycling revert to its natural status in utility transport.

Let's do it!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Newtown - a helmetless 'principality'

(Heading to the picnic, Newtown)

As far as the mandatory angle of bicycle helmets goes in Newtown, it would be a 50:50 split. This evident display of public disobedience appears to go unnoticed by the police, perhaps explained by the 'bleeding obvious' ie they, the police have better things to do than waste their limited time and our limited resources on nonsensical crimes. I think this is one of the many reasons why I love this patch of Sydney so much!

I have just spent a magical three days in Newtown and it has been a heavenly weekend of celebrations involving 'Family-Abbott-en-masse', art exhibitions, runny brie, margueritas in King Street, the best of Vietnamese food in Glebe Point Road, champagne everywhere, picnics in Camperdown Memorial Park, and naturally significant amounts of cycling to connect all these activities in the inner west, city and eastern suburbs (actually also involved some 'walking-the-bicycle' because of some of the aforementioned activities!)

(Glebe Point Road, Glebe, on Georgie's bike)

...and my new Electra has played no small part in this 'festival' of family celebrations. Progressivley over the weekend most of the family took the opportunity for a "Dutch" joy ride, and instantly all of the family were completely smitten with my way of 'getting' around. My stunning "Dutch" beauty was a hit and I feel so proud, and smug even; in fact I feel like the bike's mother!!!


(Camperdown Memorial Park, Newtown, on my bike)

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'M A LAWYER!!!!

...and ready to take on the world!!!!!

(...starting from the Courthouse Hotel, Newtown!)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Australia & the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations


(helmet laws have denied us this 'everyday occurrence' that was starting to happen at the end of the 80s)

We are parties to the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights which means that Australia is answerable to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations. Therefore my right under article 7 to be free from coercion to be subject to medical experiments ought to be upheld. It is a right I intend to pursue whatever happens in the District Court of New South Wales in February 2010.

The claim that helmets provide protection is largely unproven yet helmet manufacturers, retailers, importers, some parts of the medical fraternity, and many politicians continue to perpetuate the myth that helmets are the first and last word in safety for cyclists.

This is blatantly untrue.

Notwithstanding it provided a lucrative 'red herring' for all helmet proponents. It conveniently allowed government to pass the onus (and cost) of protection onto each cyclist, absolving them (government) from spending the millions required for the more vital cycling infrastructure and education for motorists.

As a nation, it was a cheap saving that has cost us dearly. Our rights have clearly been abrogated - and all for the sake of our leaders' fatuous committment to the oil industry.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Desert Culture - this is Australia

At 45 degrees celsius, today was not a cycling day. However I didn't realise that at 10am when I hopped on my bike and went into to town to continue with xmas posting, and catching up with friends.

By the time I left town at 2pm it was scorching, with a hot westerly wind - oh dear! I live 9kms to the west of town, so it didn't bode well. I have never been so hot; even the tarmac was belching out heat so the cycle ride home was akin to me being a BBQ chook on a rotisserie.

I had to have a couple of little stops under shady trees along the road, and this is when it dawned upon me how much I love living here!! It is a true desert culture!

At my last little stopping point under an enormous gum tree just before the dirt road starts, I sat down and leant against my bike, and started on the tomatoes in the shopping basket (my water was gone!) Every single car that went past me stopped, and offered me water, a ride home, to take my shopping - I was so touched - no-one abandoned me to the elements without checking I was OK! Ridiculously I said I would be fine and waved them on!!!

But this is a country town, and after I dumped all my shopping by the roadside, and limped on home, into our garden and then bliss! oh bliss! our house, my partner arrived with the all shopping!!! - was I OK?? I love Australia!

But I am in big trouble, and am feeling contrite for causing so much concern - apparently only 'mad dogs and englishmen go out in the midday sun'. So note to self: no cycling on the 'melting' days!

Imagine if I'd been wearing a helmet!

Monday, December 7, 2009

"Big Helmet" - oh! the parallels with "Big Pharma"!

It seems to me that many of the helmet studies relied upon by our politicians have a) not been based on evidence, and b) been somewhat influenced by the helmet industry. In a parallel to the modus operandi of 'Big Pharma', 'Big Helmet' has been representative on many of the advisory boards and committees, and inevitably have pushed helmets as the first and last words on cycling safety. Whilst Ben Goldacre's journal article applies to the pharmaceutical industry, his cogent argument that the conflict of interest is unacceptable when any product company conducts its own trials on their own products and then advises the regulators accordingly, could equally apply to helmets. Unquestionably the basis of any industry's findings will always be biaised.

There is a plethora of the highest quality data in the public domain which our politicians continue to disregard. As far as they are concerned 'the matter' is solved, set in concrete, and the file is closed. Yet over and over again, systematic reviews and meta-analyses have demonstrated that pro-helmet studies have distorted political decision making, and, as a result, harmed Australia.

It is perhaps salutory to remember that every expert is a 'salesman' selling their products, and that independent 'Research & Development' can never be achieved, EVER EVER EVER, when an industry is sponsoring the trials.

Somewhat surprisingly, I have still not heard from the Prime Minister! No doubt he has been busy packing for Copenhagen - 'will I, won't I pack a helmet? Jeeeeze! what if there's a bicycle in the conference satchell?!!!' - but in the event that he has inadvertently mislaid my letter, I shall write another one...

...and while I'm at it, I probably also need to write a couple of extra ones to the new NSW premier and the new federal opposition leader, the latter of whom cycled through Scone once on his way to 'somewhere' - he's bound to be interested in my quest!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Your country needs you (without all the gear!)

On Sunday I walk out with a "Chamois",
On Monday I'm taken by the "Booties",
On Tuesday I'm out with the "Cycle Bibsuit",
On Wednesday our "Climatic Head Wear"!
On Thursday a gang oot wi' the "Speed Socks",
On Friday the "Padded Lycra Pants"
But on Saturday I'm willing if you'll only take the shilling,
To cycle round with anyone of you!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Were helmet laws always intended to kill off cycling?

Did government need a strategy to reduce the increased number of 'everyday cyclists' that had occurred with road improvements and other safety initiatives in the 1980s? Could it be that government recognised that enforced helmet laws would in effect kill off cycling only leaving the 'already-helmeted-lycra-clad-players' (a group easily regulated, tribal, and equally opposed to 'everyday cyclists')? In the last 20 years these bicycle organisations have assumed the mantle of bicycle experts, and are always referred to on 'matters bicycle'...but seriously what have they done for the 'everyday cyclist'?...and also seriously, were they really necessary to the extent that they developed? - it would never occur to me to belong to a 'grocery shopping group', and I 'grocery shop' all the time just like I 'cycle' all the time, so why does Bicycle NSW have the last word on the way we should all cycle?

Instead of demonising cycling we ought to recapture it for all of us, just like we used to have it, just like our parents and grandparents had it. This short trailer of the "Beauty and the Bike" project is inspirational, and it would be so lovely to do something like this here, but we're stymied before we even start - because of our helmet laws. I plan to purchase the DVD and then to organise a viewing for our community and any of our local council who might like to come.

Interestingly, a couple of my friends have just purchased bicycles and have asked me to cycle with them in Sydney, basically for a "mini-refresher" and quick orientation of the CBD, Inner West & Eastern Suburbs. They feel a little anxious but are really keen to get back into it - we plan to shop and cafe-hop, and maybe we'll even finish up at the theatre, like my daughter and I did last weekend.

Unquestionably, helmets deter all of this but the zeitgeist has shifted, and the change is coming, and it's a grass-roots one - and you know what? - it's already started!!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Helmets and taxes

The police ought not be distracted from the real public safety issues, yet they are expected to enforce the helmet laws. This ridiculous situation is such a drain on our limited resources, and intensely problematic. Further, it is also extremely difficult to do given the increase in the number of cyclists in Sydney, many of whom are blatantly exhibiting their preference for a non-helmeted ride.

From my observations, the police appear to have suspended enforcement in response to the inherent difficulties of implementation and enforcement...and you'd have to agree that a law that isn't enforced provides zero benefit and is utterly pointless!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Are helmet guarantees 'traps' or 'instructions'?

The Question: does the State Government of New South Wales have a duty of care to individual citizens?

The Answer: No, unless there is a statutory directive, which the Road Rules 2008 certainly are. Therefore it would appear that the government owes us a duty of care to keep us informed of any instructional or warning defects relevant to helmets, and further that the standard of care rises with any risks attached to helmets.

So given the research to date I want to know (and ought to know):
* whether helmet guarantees & warnings are appropriate?
* whether they are adequate?
* whether they adequately advise of possible dangers attached?
* whether they are more 'traps' than instructions?
* whether adequate and independent research has been carried out?
* whether voters understand the nature of the risks of helmets?

...because according to many guarantees, helmets:
* must not be kept in extreme heat (rules out Australia!)
* must always be replaced after any impact
* must be replaced routinely anyway every 2-3 years
* must be fitted properly
* must fit properly
* must be done up properly
* must never be worn in playgrounds (potential strangulation risk)
* have sticking properties that can contribute to 'diffuse axonal injury'

So...temporary take-home message until we get this law changed; pop them in the fridge rather than the garage!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Helmet Laws - the 'slickest-ever' product pitch

The problem with helmet laws is that they are 'marketing spin' that have cultivated the notion that helmets are the first and last words in bicycle safety and protection. As a result of this 'hype', the real issues that should have been addressed, such as better cycling infrastructure for cyclists and education for motorists, were conveniently masked.

It is interesting to note that in the mid 80s the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) established a helmet promotion task force (p.391,para2) whose membership included representatives not only from the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria which was unusual in itself, but bicycle retailers, helmet manufacturers and helmet importers as well - absolutely no prizes for guessing what their slant was on the importance of the uptake of helmets! In fact I would go as far to say that this was somewhat akin to having someone from 'Big Pharma' on the board of the Therapeutic Goods Administration - a significant conflict of interests and one with a 'bottom line' firmly in sight.

Helmets do not and cannot enhance safety, yet we willingly subscribe to the philosophy that once one is plonked on top of a head that helmeted cyclist is 'safe'. Do you know how many people ask me "...but what if you get hit by a truck?" - oh! god! think about it - what if! - after all, how much protection can some 'glorified coffe-cup' really be expected to provide me in the event of a connection with a great big B-double?

There is no escaping the ever-present elephant-in-the-room: helmet laws have significantly discouraged cycling and as a result there are fewer cyclists on the roads which in turn has made cycling more dangerous. The whole world knows about our predicament but our leaders obstinately refuse to acknowledge the facts. Helmet efficacy is greatly exaggerated, and largely unproven, yet because of our helmet laws we are denied the obvious health benefits, plus any additional ones with regards to de-congestion and the environment.

When are we going to recognise that our helmet laws are the culmination of an extremely successful marketing campaign - 'spin' not evidence. The government bought it because it was the cheapest option and one that they could conveniently pass on to the unwitting cyclist!

Monday, November 30, 2009

An 'interview', an 'article' - and a huge dollop of 'maternal pride'


(Georgie "our beautiful baby", Callie "our beautiful friend", & Pip "our beautiful smartie-pants"!!)

I met Jo Jones from Radio 2SER in Newtown on Saturday afternoon, and happily partook in an interview concerning bicycle helmets and why I choose not to wear these mandatory devices. I was really fascinated to hear from Jo about some of the stuff that Bike Sydney and the City of Sydney are making available to everyone in a bid to promote cycling to everyone. It is certainly starting to show as clearly more and more people are taking to the road on bicycles - very exciting!!!! - also I can't help noticing that as more and more people take to the roads, less and less people are taking to helmets - aaahhhh! so heartening! I am not on my own cycling without a helmet.

Despite all that, a predictable 'bossy boots' article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald today, coralling bicycle users into making life easier for motorists. Apparently, new government guidelines have been formulated with the help of Bicycle NSW although they're not enforceable. But what I found mystifying was why the chief exec of Bicycle NSW uttered that 'it's counter-intuitive but as more people take to their bikes ... [motorists] are more and more aware of people on bikes and take more care around them' - com'on ...it's hardly rocket science!!!

...and following on from that blatantly deliberate and unnecessary reference to academic travails, our eldest daughter, Philippa (Pip) has just received first class honours in Arabic and Islamic Studies!!!!! - is it superfluous to mention that she has always cycled with the wind in her hair? - (left: us in Canberra, 22 years ago!!!)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

The skirt guard on my beautiful Dutch bicycle allows me to wear anything, so tonight I wore 'long' to the Belvoir Street Theatre in Surry Hills when we went to see Samuel Beckett's "Happy Days"! It felt heavenly to be completely unrestricted in my wardrobe options and to be able to cycle in my favourite long dress (en ce moment, de rigueur à Sydney!) It was equally heavenly to tie up our bicycles outside the theatre, and then just hop on them at the end of the play and free-wheel down Belvoir Street before joining all the traffic in Elizabeth Street for our effortless journey back to Newtown - bliss!

(...and btw, the 'we' is me and Georgie, my youngest daughter, who is also revelling in her new European bicycle, naturally with the wind in her hair!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Dominant Paradigm - let's shift it

Letters received so far: 1 from the Premier's Department of Tasmania (already noted), 1 from the Premier & Cabinet of the NSW Government, and 1 from the Member for Upper Hunter - all very polite and all full of promises of further representations and referrals...

...and guess what! Bicycle NSW also sent me a little email, composed by an advocacy team member who was at great pains to point out that he was not talking on behalf of the organisation, but that anyway he felt the helmet rules were OK and helped save lives - all well and good and I respect his sentiments but I'm going to take the 'moral high ground' here and ask why are my sentiments not respected and why must I be required to wear one? - why is it that groups such as Bicycle NSW cannot see that it should be a matter of choice and why aren't they advocating accordingly? - in fact exactly what are they advocating?

I stumbled across this proposed motorcycle helmet performance study and felt depressed - why is it that cyclists and motorcycle riders are always declared to be 'overrepresented in road casualty statistics due to the relatively lower levels of protection afforded to them than other vehicle occupants during a crash'? - oh dear! not that old chestnut again! - haven't these students read that there are recommendations 'out there' for motorists to wear helmets too? Australia cannot get out of this 'helmet rut' and we continue to subscribe to the dominant paradigm that cycling is not a safe means of transport, that it's dangerous and extreme, and therefore requires significant modification to the anatomy in terms of a medical device to surround the head - who is funding this project apart from the listed partners?

We would do well to read Malcolm Wardlaw's excellent journal article "Three lessons for a better cycling future" and consider the salient facts that cyclists do better when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles, that deaths of cyclists have increased since the introduction of helmets and that attendant safety campaigns destroyed cycling participation, compromised public health, increased risks on the roads, and decreased road skills for all concerned.

No! it is easier for governments to fund more of the 'same old same old' than to invest the millions required for a 'system overhaul' that would deliver in terms of safety and public health, as well as a reduced carbon footprint. Governments applaud such 'helmet' strategies because the costs are completely borne by the consumers - government is off the hook in terms of committment and dollars, but looks caring and devoted with the paternalistic legislation - it is so hard to shift a paradigm but shift it we must!!!! - because it is only cheaper in the short term.

... and just thinking further about the 'helmet rules' that the guy from Bicycle NSW loves, doesn't he think it's daft that regulation 256 subsection 2(a) mandates that a passenger on a bicycle that is moving, or is stationary but not parked, must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the passenger’s head, unless the passenger is a paying passenger on a three or four-wheeled bicycle - so could that mean if we cycled the Danish Christianias and we creatively attributed our children's pocket money to fund the necessary jaunts around town that they wouldn't have to wear helmets?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Dutch bicycle in Sydney - perfection

Well! I made it to Parliament House with all the Sydney buses, taxis and regular rush hour traffic - and when we were all stopped at traffic lights, so many people talked to me - I can't tell you how many taxi drivers pointed out to me that I wasn't wearing a helmet(!) and did I know that there was a fine in this country(?) - loved the way they didn't think I knew that!!! Interestingly, the fine varied enormously from $50 at traffic lights near the 'Liverpool Street end of Elizabeth Street' through to $500 at traffic lights near the 'St James' station part of Elizabeth Street'.

But all in all it was an exhilarating experience and one that I plan to repeat as soon as I get back to Sydney, which will be this coming weekend because I'm doing a radio interview about bicycles & helmets & lack thereof & bike-share & everything wonderful about bicycles in anybody's life!

...and I was running late so I ended up tying up my bicycle to one of the bike hoops in Macquarie Street. I really fretted that it wouldn't be there when I came out of Parliament House - but big relief! it was. However next time I will ask them all inside where their bike shed is - they'd have to have one, wouldn't they?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bought & Beautiful


My Electra "Amsterdam" is beautiful & bought yesterday in perfect weather conditions - mid 20s drizzly, cool. Saturday and Sunday were melt down days and not for bicycle shopping! But yesterday I collected my 'truly scrumptious' bicycle - 3 gears, a skirt guard, chain guard (mud guards of course) and back pedal coaster brakes which have caused me no end of fun!!! There's actually only one brake on the handle bars, but the bicycle is built forever. Now with coaster brakes I've got to be ready to take off from any position - in fact wherever the pedals are when we stop because there is no 'shuffling-to-favourite-take-off' position like I normally do - I love it. I've cycled everywhere - Paddington, Glebe, Newtown, Central, Surrey Hills - and in two seconds time I'm putting on a pretty dress to head to Parliament House to watch a movie on the perils of Big Pharma and our somewhat over medicated younger generation - I wonder if Parliament House has somewhere nice to leave my stunningly beautiful bicycle? - I'll keep you posted!

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Particular size headforms and disbenefits"

In my very lowly opinion, the interpretation of regulation 256 of the Road Rules 2008 made pursuant to section 72A of the Road Transport (Safety and Traffic Management) Act 1999 clearly does not accord with Australia's obligation under the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Part III, Article 7. The current interpretation adopted by state governments fails to consider the premise which prevails that 'every statute is to be so interpreted and applied as far as its language admits as to be not inconsistent with the comity of nations or with the established rules of international law' (Jumbunna Coal Mines v Victoria Coal Mines (1908) 6 CLR 309 per O'Connor J at 363.

Yet despite the fact that at common law there is a rule of statutory interpretation that the courts will presume that Parliament does not intend to abrogate or curtail fundamental rights and freedoms (Coco v The Queen (1994) 179 CLR 427, 436ff (Mason CJ, Brennan, Gaudron and McHugh JJ), I am still required by law to wear a helmet whilst riding a bicycle when the evidence is so contradictory as to their actual benefits or potential dangers. I am an unwilling participant in a medical experiment, and even the Roads and Traffic Authority, in a memorandum dated 20/6/2008, has acknowledged that 'there is the possibility that some helmets, in combination with particular size headforms, may have a small disbenefit with regards to rotational acceleration.'

- come on, guys, give me a break! - let me choose for myself.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Once I had a secret love"

The thought occurred to me yesterday as I was tying up my bicycle on a wooden fence prior to hopping on the train to Newcastle (or given that this is Australia - the 'rail' bus, a ridiculous form of transport, costing taxpayers millions, and involving lots of 'clipboards & bellies' with no room for accompanying bicycles grrrrr!), that we have no sheds, or racks, or any type of secure place in Scone for bicycles. In fact I haven't really seen anything like that at any of the stations I pass through or get off at either - basically bicycle parking spots are rare, and the public bike shed appears to be extinct.

Then this morning reading Sarah Phillips's comment that it was an overprotective mother that stopped me from spending too much time around the bike sheds I was led to a new train of thought, and my early encounters with bike sheds, and in particular the one at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London which propelled me to my current life here in Australia!!!! - aaahhh! amazing who you might meet in a bike shed, those potential romantic opportunities. Bring back the bike shed! - and '3 cheers' to the one at Bart's!! (is it still there?)

...and completely unrelated to bike sheds, but in keeping with the essence of Sarah Phillip's article on young women and the global push to get them cycling, I note with interest the snappy little unhelmeted logo that Bicycle NSW uses in their "Gear-up Girl" project - unquestionably more inviting but highly illegal!! (PS still no 'talkies' with Bicycle NSW & me)

...however the Office of the Premier of Tasmania has written to me, expressing an interest in my quest and a request for me to keep them posted of my progress - yay! a start, albeit slight, but we (that is a state government and me) are chatting about bicycle helmets!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Electra - a classic! and other cheery stuff

Once upon a time, in a land of wimples and pig-tails, where the muted sounds of lawn mowers and daisies babbled through the open sashed-windows on sunbeams, I opened my greek literature 'O' level exam paper (carbon-dating eat your heart out!!!!) and was presented with my first client for defence, the noble Clytemnestra. The problem question was very much couched in terms of 'prosecution' but here was a mother who had been coaxed to send her daugher to join the child's father out in the mediterranean, only to receive the news somewhat later that the bastard, Agamemnon, had ruthlessly murdered Iphigenia all for the sake of a puff of wind and the "Troy Cup" - mitigating circumstances for sure!

But what has this got to do with bicycles??? Well! on the weekend, I am going to buy an "Electra" (big 'sis' to Iphigenia!!). This "Electra" is a beautiful Dutch bicycle and I have spotted it in Wooly's Wheels, Oxford Street, Paddington. This beautiful Dutch bicycle comes with 3 gears, mudguards, skirt guard and chain guard, and the latter 2 features have flowers painted on them!!! bliss! - I am going to look so pretty!! Ahh! the classics - who says we don't need them?

...and talking of classics, I have just found a beautiful chocolate brown, 'mushroom-shaped' felt hat, relegated to the back of my wardrobe - it is my new favourite piece of bicycle gear. A milliner friend made it for me years ago, and I wore it to a couple of Scone Cups (if you haven't done a "Scone Cup" you haven't lived!!!!), but as with "Puff the Magic" dragon, my old hat had no longer been 'frolicking in the autumm mist'. BUT that is all about to change - it is the perfect cycling hat for a hot Australian summer because it is similar to wearing an umbrella - I am completely protected from the sun, and the magpies are cool with it, the tasteful creatures that they are!!

...and talking of hats, after pondering about my 'comment' being removed from the Foreign Correspondent guestbook, I have since received a lovely email from the producer - in fact it was so nice I probably ought to eat a hat (not the new the 'fav' one though!). The producer acknowledged the helmet issue here and the helmet position in Denmark, and helpfully provided me with Jan Gehl's contact details should I wish to contact him further on the matter. I really appreciated the contact, and the fact that someone had taken the time to read what I had to say and respond - thank you again, Foreign Correspondent!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Unexpected but significant consequences

In 2008 Civil Liberties Australia published an assessment of the mandatory helmet laws in our nation and concluded they were not justified. Colin Clarke's excellent "Assessment of Australia's Bicycle Helmet Laws" clearly outlines the negative impact the legislation had, not only on cycling activity, but on our health and the environment, in addtion to the extra burden of resources for law enforcement.

Given that there are only about 2 'cyclist' deaths per year per million population compared with about 2,000+ 'circulatory' deaths, the question remains to be answered whether the current helmet legislation is the best option for the health and safety of our nation.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cyclists Rights Action Group (CRAG)

I am fortunate enough to be a member of the Cyclists Rights Action Group (CRAG), and have been for almost 2 years. Ably led by Bill Curnow, CRAG is based in Canberra and is opposed to the compulsion of helmets and the attendant loss of civil liberties. Unquestionably, the group believes that individuals should have the right to choose whether or not to wear a helmet, without undue interference by governments.

CRAG firmly holds that "the role of government should be limited to advising its constituents, without bias, of the pros and cons of helmets rather than to compel their use by law whilst feeding false or faulty infomation to the public and brushing any negative effects under the carpet (as has been the case to date)."

CRAG was formed at a public meeting on the 30th January 1992 in a direct response to the introduction of manadatory helmet laws, and they have worked tirelessly for almost 18 years in a bid to oppose legislation compelling cyclists to wear helmets . Since 1992 they have kept us informed on how governments introduced helmet laws without significant proof of helmet effectiveness and without proper community consultation.

Unfailingly CRAG have alerted us to how democratic principles and standards were bypassed, and how many of the 'scientific' studies in support of the law have been proven to be flawed often due to limitations in data or methodology. Notwithstanding the evidence that the helmet law is fundamentally flawed and has failed in its stated aim of reducing head injury, the government continues to refuse to review it.

Encore pour moi? how lucky I was to find them! The encouragement from this amazing group of people has provided me with unceasing supportive correspondence, research, corrections, a 'cheer-squad', and some funding too - I am not doing this by myself; thank you, CRAG!

(and btw, membership is open to all who subscribe to these aims)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Green Cheese Belief

Back in September and to great hilarity all round, the Court raised that 'my reasonably held beliefs' concerning helmets could extend to one that the moon was made of green cheese (oh chortle! chortle!); yet prior to that they were prepared for me to hold the 'bearded-bloke-in-the-sky belief' to bind me to speak the truth!

Oh dear...I am so much more a fan of evidence-based beliefs - boring I know!

Friday, November 13, 2009

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

The reticence to refer to evidence in the bicycle helmet debate is analogous to the cot death debate at the end of the 20th century.

It was recommended that babies should sleep on their fronts from the mid 1950s and this advice continued without reference to evidence, up until 1988, despite the knowledge that had been around for many decades that this very advice was ‘likely to be harmful’. A more rigorous review of preventable risk factors for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) would have led to earlier recognition of the harms of sleeping on the front (see Dr Ruth Gilbert – “How wrong was baby sleeping advice"

If we can get that so wrong why don't we have the humility to recognise that we can get the helmet debate wrong too? Helmet research has left many questions unanswered, and the lack of scientific rigour that is the current modus operandi for our governments is deplorable.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It's almost official that Australia hates cyclists!

We can only be grateful that Mr Scully was invited to leave NSW state politics in 2006 - it was not a minute too soon ("Cyclists do not have the same rights as motorists on roads," November 11, 2009)

http://www.theage.com.au/drive/motor-news/cyclists-do-not-have-the-same-rights-as-motorists-on-roads-20091111-i8st.html

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Let's eat, pollute & be merry!

As far as I'm aware, the ABC was the first media outlet in Australia to raise this issue of cycling without helmets, if somewhat inadvertently; but this issue needs to be pursued - that is the debate on mandatory helmet laws.

If we hope to raise cycling numbers in a bid to spare the environment from our fossil-fuel dependent vehicles and their destructive legacy, we need to face why Australia, as a nation does not cycle. We have the perfect climate, we're outdoorsy (apparently) and yet we get fatter and fatter and we pollute more and more. Cycling is an important step to tackle this problem, and it should not remain in the domain of sports fanatics - anybody can do it and all you need is a bicycle - no lycra, no helmet, no weird looking gloves, maybe a couple of baskets front and back for shopping or picnic purposes or whatever, or then again no added extras at all - just a bicycle.

I loved 'Foreign Correpsondent' last week - it inspired me to keep on going with my quest to persuade governments (state and federal) to repeal these limiting, health and environment deficient laws - and I told them so in their 'guestbook' - however this helmet matter is a 'hot potato' and my remark has been 'moderated' into oblivion by the ABC moderator! - whoa scary stuff! - shame!!!

I just can't fathom why we're so blinkered as a community that we have accepted these helmet penalties for so long - the research is dodgy, and scant at best, but easily adoptable - why don't people see it for what it is? - adept marketing spin - in fact the Australian public at large have become "helmet soldiers" whether they cycle or not, and lecture me that I must, in the event of some personal cycling mishap entailing a cost on the community, pay for my own medical bills - yet should I raise the concept of comparable user-pay medical bills for obesity mishaps and attendant community costs, I am dismissed as ridiculous!!

...but on a more optimistic note, heaps of patrons at my 'local' last week who had seen 'foreign correspondent' told me they now realised what I was 'banging' on about; apparently it seemed to my fellow drinkers that the 'compulsory-helmet-equation' does explain why no-one cycles here, and everyone at the pub was keen to see more cycling happen!!!!!! especially if it meant more of the fairer sex on bicycles!...hmmmn

Monday, November 9, 2009

The lull before the storm

Exams are looming - in fact they start tomorrow with 'professional conduct' followed by commercial law next week - dreading the latter - just not my 'thing' - why is there so much emphasis on the 'money subjects' in law? - did you know that human rights and social justice are optional extras? - maybe i'm just naturally doomed to fail such a 'money-emphasised' course!!!

But in the meantime I await a response to my flurry of letters sent last week - and if nothing is forthcoming, I shall send round #2

...and STOP PRESS STOP PRESS: there are signs of hope in this 'rabid' car-culture - there really are. Spent the weekend in Sydney and hardly saw a helmeted head !!! - and what's more when we trotted off to the Newtown Festival, the City of Sydney had provided a secure free bicycle park in the one of the buildings nearby with the nicest of security guards - no comments were made about the lack of helmets - just lots of friendly guidance and a friendly safe bike park!!!! - and of course needless to say the Newtown Festival was awesome, if a little damp (but we can't complain about the rain, can we?)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen!

Wonderful show! - made me want to move to Copenhagen immediately - and maybe I will if we persist with our helmet laws.

http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2009/s2732204.htm

My youngest daughter and I are heading to "Wonderful Copenhagen" in January for a few days, and we are really looking forward to hiring bikes and cycling everywhere.

This programme raised an important issue with mandatory helmet laws and the effect that they have on cycling numbers, in particular on young women. The minimal numbers of young women cycling in Australia are directly related to our legislation - young women are the same the world over - don't want to be daggy or mess up their hair! Having grown up in Europe I do not understand for the life of me why our Parliament has so prescriptively decided that as a nation we must - so if we're minus helmets we're fined and criminalised yet if we're minus waists it's "no worries, just step right in, eat another burger and watch the telly while you're at it"

It was just wonderful to watch this show, and to feel so reaffirmed about my helmetless stance - Australia has a lot to learn, and we can certainly benefit by listening to the Danes.

Well Done to Mark Corcoran, ABC journalist of Foreign Correspondent!!

Wombat walking

On my morning ride to the station, I came across a travelling wombat just before the streetlights start on the edge of town. He paused for a moment to check me out, but I was of no consequence to his journey and so our lives crossed in a quiet and unremarkable way - the pleasures of peaceful transport!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter...!

I have written to the PM, and copied in all the premiers, the 2 chief ministers, numerous journalists, my federal and state pollies, my local mayor and 'Uncle Tom Cobbley & all' - surely someone will write back?

I didn't ask for much - really it was quite simple - and very respectful, finishing up with:

..."that in the interest of social justice and the environment, you consider persuading the state governments to repeal their mandatory helmet laws, given that the Hawke government was instrumental in persuading the states to enact the laws in the first place."

- then i wished him all the best and lots of luck in Copenhagen - pretty cosy really!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh! the irony - car club wins bike share contract

Isn't this similar to the fox looking after the chickens?

http://news.ninemsn.com.au/national/925374/racv-wins-melbourne-bike-hire-contract

...and how breezily the helmet issue is airbrushed into a little mention: "while regular users will be encouraged to use their own helmets, operators are yet to decide whether it will make helmets available" - really? This smacks of bureaucratic 'community consultation', flag-waving, and 'look-we-gave-it-our best-shot-but-it-was-always-going-to-fail' - how disappointing

How can a club of motorists possibly have the interests of cyclists (and the environment) 'at heart'?


PS: btw, following on from Monday's appearance in court, my appeal is set down for the District Court sittings starting next February 2010

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Message to the UK - never say 'yes' to helmet laws!

You have no idea how lucky you are in the uk to have both forward thinking cycling organisations and a certain level of political will.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/series/bike-blog

Here in australia we cyclists are demonised and blatantly discouraged from using the roads. We have been told in newsprint that the 'roads are for motorists', and we watch our political leaders slavishly affirm committments to the oil industry.

In a week where the papers have been full of tales about one ill-mannered cyclist accompanied by attendant 'Pollyanna scoldings' that if cyclists wish to use 'our roads' they will have to learn to behave, we have been complicit in not recognising the true horror of the oil spill that has spread over 4,220 square kilometres off the West Australian coast well into its 10th week. The large number of whales, dolphins, turtles and sea birds that have been and are being destroyed as a result of this environmental disaster have been conveniently re-positioned to the back of 'the Choir' as we are encouraged to concentrate on odd angry cyclists who apparently 'instil fear like jackbooted Soviets' (no kidding that was the copy ).

The rest of the world seems to have acknowledged a link between cycling and the environment - for us in Australia it's one of 2 'elephants-in-the-room'. The other elephant is the bicycle helmet - if we repealed mandatory helmet laws, cycling would boom and new initiatives would start to flow into our country that just cannot happen whilst we're so constrained by our 'nanny-state' rules.

I am so jealous of your brilliant plan to bring back 'bobbies on bicycles'- sigh!

...for us down-under the 'bobbies' are in highway patrol cars and combat gear, and you're required to move away from the vehicle when they're booking you for the crime of 'rider not wear helmet' - beware that law! don't ever let it in come in - it is basically living proof of a supremely successful marketing pitch - wouldn't we all love to get governments to mandate for our products!!!

Anyway i'm off to the District Court tomorrow to appeal my criminal conviction of 'rider not wear helmet whilst riding a bicycle' - wish me luck, i certainly need it!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Are the butterflies in my stomach wearing helmets?

...they must be because I'm feeling so sick with fear - I am certainly no Joan of Arc! - no I am a 'gutless wonder' - oh! dear! but I'm also like one of those baby turtles who is hard-wired for heading down to the water's edge despite the eagles and gulls or whatever it is that prey upon them - I have started this journey to 'cycling freedom' and I can sense it just across the sand, it's just that it's a bit tricky getting there BUT there is no stopping me now!

Monday is almost here and I'm madly preparing a 'notice of motion' with an accompanying affidavit to set out my grounds for appeal. What am I hoping for? Well I'm hoping I will be granted to leave to introduce 'fresh evidence' in order to hear more from my expert witness, Bill Curnow, who was so brusquely dismissed in the Local Court. Bill has written many internationally peer reviewed articles on the issue of 'diffuse axonal injury' and the increased likelihood of such an injury when we don helmets - in fact Bill is the last word on some of these papers.

So I have 2 more sleepless nights to get through, a mind that is racing and refuses to go to bed, plus an amazing long suffering partner - jeez! is he fed-up with helmets and soap-boxes (talking of which does anyone know where I can find one? - soap-box that is) - thank god for this blog!!!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where have all our cycling organisations gone? - why are you hiding?

The continued attempt by the media to villify cycling is only surpassed by the deafening silence from Australia's cycling organisations. Columnists have imperiously claimed that roads are for cars, and consequently support the notion of a motorists's 'no-fault' default should a collision with a cyclist arise.

We are on our own with this ignorant stance - and meanwhile the rest of the world is busily planning their little hearts out for their cyclists and their citizens and their future.

(I'm embarrassed, but if you can stomach the rant below, it is typical of the australian press and their blatant preference for motorists over cyclists):

http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/society-and-culture/roads-are-for-cars-not-lycra-louts-20091028-hkwr.html

...hey Miranda! the roads are for me too!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"If you want to use our roads, you must obey the law"

Salutory article in the Sydney Morning Herald today confirms that the New South Wales government remains committed to helmet manufacturers and the oil industry.

With the media's help, it shouldn't be long before utility cycling is 'demonised' back into oblivion, and the 'sport of cycling' can reclaim their definition of this dangerous activity - you know that 'extreme pastime' that requires lycra, helmets, minimalist gloves and $1,000 bikes weighing in at an ounce

...but wait up! - let's hang on to the ground that we've made with our new utility bikes, and our new life-style ways, and insist that Sydney and Australia extend equitable entitlements to us - for 'congestion's' sake if nothing else!

Just an article of spin and so blatantly 'rubbish' - oh god! and to think Lars Rasmussen has invited Kevin Rudd to be a 'friend of the chair' in Copenhagen - what can our PM possibly say to the Danish PM that doesn't involve 'hot air'?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Question of survival

There is abundant evidence that questions the benefits of helmet-wearing; evidence which Australia declines to acknowledge. Ever since mandatory helmet laws were enacted in the early 90s, cycling in this nation has dropped dramatically. Yet Australia refuses to have this debate and resolutely stands by the very notion of common sense so silkily propounded by the helmet & lycra manufacturers. Cycling has been hi-jacked, and as a result we, in Australia, steadily get fatter and fatter. Public policy religiously maintains that there are economical benefits to helmet wearing but there are minimal stats to demonstrate that doggedly-held claim.

Parallel to issue of benefits, is the issue of the environment. Inexplicably, Australia continues to leave the environment languishing on the sidelines as we cement ourselves more and more to the car, bitumen and the oil industry. We have the perfect climate for cycling and some beautiful cities for cycling in as well, but we lack political will. How embarrassed will Australia be when we get to Copenhagen? We have nothing to show at the global ‘Show & Tell’, and even the rental bike schemes such as Velib so popular around the world cannot get off the ground because of the ridiculous Australian helmet hurdle (Brisbane and Melbourne have tried but cannot get their heads out of their helmets).

So yes! the environment is a question of survival every time I get on my bicycle because we cannot escape the dire consequences that we have already meted out to the planet. We have to face the imminent and immediate peril that we, the West, have caused for so many nations with our wanton misuse of resources. It really isn't a question of tackling climate change in the future, if and when it happens - climate change is here, right now and therefore it's a question of a tackling climate change now. So every time I get on my bicycle as far as I'm concerned it is a 'crisis situation' and a 'question of survival' for both the environment and me.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"For the term of your natural life"

We have some deeply mystifying laws in Australia and one of the more dense ones relates to bicycle helmets. As a result I am now a convicted criminal, my first conviction ever, after being pulled over by an unmarked highway patrol car earlier this year and issued with an infringement notice for not wearing a helmet whilst riding a bicycle.

In a bid for the right to be able to manage my life for myself, and therefore be able to choose to ride a bicycle without a helmet, I went through the court process knowing that the odds were always against me. We are not fortunate enough to have any human rights provisions in Australia either constitutionally or statutorily so my extremely narrow recourse to the courts had to be articulated with the defence of necessity.

... and so my matter was heard in the Local Court on Monday 28th September 2009, and as to be expected I was found guilty as charged, although there was a chance I may not have been convicted if I had promised to "behave" for 3 months, and wear a helmet whenever I cycled - I would not have been able to do that so I refused the opportunity.

I have lodged an appeal in the District Court...and oh! I think I am planning to defend myself - I can't afford another $3,000!!...and because of my beliefs and my committement to the environment, my four children, and the planet, I shall continue with utility cycling in an unhelmeted fashion.

Verdict to date: I am a convicted criminal for life for riding a bicycle without a helmet - what a country!

To Vélib or not to Vélib - that is the question

I was in Paris when Vélib was introduced, and marvelled at this extraordinary public bicycle rental programme that overnight seemed to take off like 'wild-fire.'

Reciprocity at its best - JCDecaux advertising corporation scratches Paris' back for exclusive control of many of the city-owned hoardings and in return Paris scratches JCDecaux's back for all the revenue from the programme as well as a fee of close to US$5 million a year!!

So as is their wont, the 'start-up' / 'blue-sky'people brought the concept to our shores in boardroom-whiteboard form, and both Brisbane and Melbourne comtemplated it seriously, several times, BUT unsurprisingly, given that no bicycle organisation can ever get their heads out of their helmets, the last little logistical leap could not be taken into bicycle freedom - sigh! - so infantile!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Moon in my hair

I cycled home just before 'pumpkin hour' last night, and between me and the moon was the most beautiful gossamer fog(!) which sort of spread into my hair!!! - it was beautiful and as I travelled towards home along the corrugated road, I could feel dairy cows gaze at me whilst I cycled with the moon in my hair! - surreal and silent!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pourquoi pas, madame?!

The Question is - Why don't i like helmets?
...and in a 'nutshell'...
The Answer is - it's a question of survival - mine and yours and the planet's!

...let's explore the 2 major multi-layered issues:

1. human rights
- self-determination
- responsible public policy, not one underpinned by commercial 'blackmail'
- opportunity to enjoy the immediate health benefits of cycling
- cycling culture, therefore more cyclists and 'safety-in-numbers' factor
WHICH MEANS WE MUST SAY NO TO:
- attendant human rights abuses upon millions of people as a result of climate change
- misleading & deceptive advertising coupled with duress & abuse of fair trading practices
SO THAT WE CAN HAVE:
- our children and their future

2. the environment
- climate change - it's happening 'NOW' - not 'if' and 'when'
- current over-committment to 'oil power'
WHICH MEANS IT IS ESSENTIAL THAT WE HAVE:
- necessary committment to 'pedal power'
- responsible commuting - 'way-more' trains, 'way-more buses', assistance with our bikes on trains and buses, introduction of Vélib, the bike-share programme, or similar
- responsible tourism - again...introduction of Vélib or similar
- cycling infrastructure - ie cycle lanes, cycle-parks, bike racks, bike sheds
- our children and their future

...notice how everything always comes back to survival? - mine, yours and the planet's - it truly is a question of necessity, your honour!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The 'Blog' Plunge

I have become very 'single issue' so maybe this blog is the answer - my friends and family no longer want to hear about helmets and sadly that's all i can think about - never blogged before so this little exercise is a first!

So let's start: my appeal is lodged and i appear for a 'call-over' in the District Court on monday 2 november in order to set a date for a hearing early next year, with luck after 19 february 2010, my admission date! I plan to represent myself - student to 'overnight-barrister' - omg!!