The boys in blue

November 8, 2011 at 22:02 | Posted in bicycles | 8 Comments
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So it happened. The ink was barely dry on the verdict I received when attempting to defend riding a bicycle without a helmet when I saw the cops again on Pyrmont Bridge.

I rode along behind them for a while, wondering what to do. Get off and walk? Stay behind them and hope they didn’t see me?

In the end, I had to know what would happen. Would they finally leave me alone, having seen that I was prepared to fight this, and having heard the magistrate uphold my arguments (if not the technicality of my legal position)? Or would they simply see that ‘I lost’, and dish me out with more tickets?

So I rode past them, and sure enough they called me over. It was immediately clear that it was the latter course of action they had in mind. ‘So the magistrate didn’t agree with you then,’ one of them said.

‘Well, actually he did agree with me,’ I countered, ‘but he didn’t agree that it was enough to qualify for the defence of necessity.’

‘Well, we have to keep giving you tickets’, he said. So they did.

This is really getting very tedious; I have received eight tickets for riding without a helmet in the last nine months – this is after three years of riding helmetless without so much as a comment. So what to do now? Another court challenge?



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  1. I remember when John Safran road-tested Catholic confessionals by giving different priests exactly the same story, and videotaping the various reactions he got from them.

    You could do something similar with magistrates. It could have a big effect. Nobody expects priests to be consistent, but the law is meant to be the law, and judicial officers just impartial cogs in the judicial machine.

  2. That has to be so frustrating for you…Is there any way to get the mayor’s office on your side? I hear she is very pro-cyclist. Maybe they could talk the police department into doing something more productive with their time!

  3. How many helmet fines do you need to get before you become a hardened criminal and get serious jail time?

    The reason I ask is that I will be returning to Australia soon – I hate the helmet religion and will be a conscientious objector. I will put aside some $$$ to pay the fines but I worry that if I get say 40-50 fines a year and even though I pay them, the legal system will decide that I am deserving of jail time. I’m not interested in being a martyr, just cycling around without a stupid helmet on my head. And I’m prepared to pay money to do it as I have more than enough of it.

  4. Why provoke the cops? Their job is to enforce the law as it is written.

    I find it disturbing when they take to interpreting the law, or even creating imaginary offenses.

    It is also disturbing if they use unnecessary violence in apprehending law-breakers.

    None of those apply here. The job of the police is to apprehend you for transgressing the law, and they have done it – again.

    The law is wrong and it is the law that need to change. Don’t blame the cops.

    • Well said John. Don’t blame the cops or expect them to let you off if you are breaking the law. Especially when if later you are in an accident and suffer a head injury because you are not wearing a helmet and then can sue them for not enforcing the law (even if it is only by a fine). Expecting the cops to take jurisdiction into their own hands is tantamount to condoning corruption, and we could end up with a police force as corrupt as found in some of the smaller nations and a society heading in the same direction at its lowest levels.

    • Cops fail to enforce laws they see being broken every minute of the day, and often in quite a systematic way. So to say that it is their job “to enforce the law as written” doesn’t match with the reality of policing, which is about priorities (theirs, not necessarily mine).

      I’d like to see cops give helmet laws the same priority as they give drivers breaking the speed limit by 1 km/h, or pedestrians crossing on the red man, or drivers stopping an inch over the white lane at intersections.

  5. I’ve never worn a helmet in 16 yrs of riding in Sydney, I’m not paying my two fines, and I’m not going to court.

    Police need to focus on the dangerous and abusive cycling that has become commonplace in Sydney instead of helmets.

  6. Simon, you are quite right and it is a level I did neglect.

    However when things are working as they are meant to such decisions are made at the highest level, not the police on the street.

    It is a vexed issue. Priorities do need to be decided but what democratic access is there to the process? Such decisions should involve the Minister for Police and the Chief Commissioner, so there should be scope for lobbying the Minister.

    Too many “shoulds”.

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