More cops, more tickets..

May 4, 2013 at 19:06 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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police carWell, it happened again. And again, actually – I’ve really had a spectacularly successful run of collecting tickets over the last three weeks, totalling six tickets. That’s about $400 in fines (assuming the ones I contested for various reasons are upheld). But the one that I was going to write about didn’t happen on Pyrmont Bridge, and is notable as it’s the first ticket I have ever received from non-cycling cops. Indeed, it’s the first time in my life I have been pulled over by a police car, complete with flashing lights (no wailing sirens, unfortunately, although I like to think they just forgot to turn it on).

As is usually the case on these occasions, they were very nice, and listened politely as I explained my reasons. The female officer told me she would have to look up my record and decide whether to give me a ticket or a caution. I did ask for a caution, but did have to wryly admit that she was going to find a lot of helmet offences on my file. Whilst she was taking down my details, I had a nice chat with the other (male) officer about fixed gear bikes; he asked me how it rode and why I liked it. He was a cyclist, as it turned out, and we have a very nice chat.

Unfortunately, it was yet another nice chat that cost me $66. And whilst my dealings with the NSW police have (with one exception) been very cordial, friendly affairs, I am starting to wonder whether $66 for each chat is really good value. And so I have been forced into something I really didn’t want to do. No, I haven’t started wearing a helmet.  I have obtained a medical certificate from a doctor that says I cannot wear one for medical reasons. There are plenty of valid medical reasons why wearing a helmet is a bad idea, and plenty of doctors familiar with them who are happy to write out a certificate. The only flaw in this plan is that, unlike in Queensland and Victoria, there is no specific provision in NSW law for such an exemption. That said, last time I was in court the police prosecutor said that if I had such a certificate then the police would not issue a ticket, and the magistrate did say it would be a reason to dismiss the case. So we shall see. So far, though, it seems to be working as since I have had it tucked into my saddle bad, I haven’t seen a single policeman…

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Bike cops, bridges, taxis and bike lanes…

March 22, 2013 at 08:34 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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bikecopsI’ve had a bit of a bad run of it lately. The bike cops are doing another helmet  blitz on Pyrmont Bridge, and I’ve been stopped three times in the past couple of weeks. Had a lovely chat with them, but each chat costs me $66 – this the penalty in New South Wales for the heinous crime of riding a bike slowly in an area with no motorised traffic whilst wearing an ordinary hat.

Whilst I have no argument with the individual cops (they are doing what their command have told them to do, and it’s obvious they think it’s a waste of time), one of the things that does bug me is that there are so many better things they could be doing. Like looking out for the kind of driver behaviour that actually puts cyclists at risk. Bike cops would be perfect for this – very easy to keep up with cars in peak time traffic, and then pull them over when appropriate. But no, their commanders seem to think that bike cops are only useful for policing people on bikes.

taxi in bike laneI was reflecting on this on the way to work when I came across a taxi driver merrily driving up the King St bike lane. He’d dropped someone off, but why he felt he need to drive in the bike lane to do so I have no idea. It’s illegal, inconvenienced a whole bunch of cyclists and is potentially dangerous. I took several pictures, and was thinking ‘where are those bike cops when you actually need them!’.

Later that day I was riding home and a pedestrian on Pyrmont Bridge kindly warned me that the bike cops were on the bridge again. Thanking him, I hopped off and walked, and sure enough there they were. They hadn’t seen me riding, so no ticket, but I did go up and have a chat. During the conversation I said,

‘I was hoping I was going to see you guys today, as I have a crime to report!’

Their eyes rolled a little (this must be an occupational hazard for policemen), and asked me to explain.

I pulled out my phone, and showed them the pictures of the taxi I had taken that morning. To their credit they were very interested, asked me to email them the pictures, if I had a description of the driver and so on, and if I would be happy to be a witness if it went to court. I agreed, and thanked them for their time. They then rode away. Possibly because they had other matters to attend to or perhaps – I like to think – so that I could get back on my bike to continue my ride without the embarrassment for all concerned of either watching me hobble up the street in my bike shoes or having to come after me to give me another ticket.

And I’ll wait to see if I hear back from them about the taxi driver. I hope they throw the book at him!!

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?

 

Ice ice baby…

March 3, 2011 at 11:11 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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A couple of weekends ago it was Baby Chillikebab’s first birthday, so we had a party. We baked a stupidly big cake, which Baby Chillikebab wasn’t allowed to have.

We also supplied cold drinks to the guests (well, the adult ones at least), so in the morning I set out to get ice.

It was a very hot weekend, with temperatures well over 3oC. Finding somewhere that still had ice was surprisingly hard, especially as the bottlo was not open at that time on a Sunday morning. Eventually I found a garage that had some, and then had that dilemma about how much to buy. I ummed and ahhed, and eventually got four bags. I knew this was going to be too much, but part of me just wanted to load up the Radish with loads of ice.

Each bag weighs 5kg, so there was a bit of weight – and my loading was not very even, as I didn’t want to crush, freeze or moisten the bread rolls I bought from the baker. They also clonked and moved around rather as I rode along; it was all rather reminiscent of having a passenger. Still, I got home fine, and am now able to add ’20 litres of water’ to the list of things I have carried on the Radish.

I did buy too much ice, by the way. One bag went completely unused. I also bought too many bread rolls. Such is life.

Double crime!

February 21, 2011 at 19:07 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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On Thursday last week it was Baby Chillikebab’s first birthday. A momentous event that the North Sydney police evidently felt the need to mark by patrolling the foot of the Sydney Harbour Bridge cycleway staircase looking for commuting fathers trying to get home early. As I rolled up on the Radish, the two cycle cops called me over.

‘Good afternoon sir. Could you tell me why you aren’t wearing a helmet?’

Sigh. Here we go again.  It seems the nonsensical police crackdown on dangerous cycling scofflaws is still in force.

I trot out my rehearsed line. ‘I choose not to wear a helmet for personal safety reasons, Officer.’

Cue normal slightly puzzled expression, and then ensuing dialogue. They weren’t as busy as the last time, so I was able to have a bit more of a chat with them. At one stage the officer actually taking my details seemed quite interested in the issues and the supporting evidence, but his colleague warned him to ‘not get into a discussion about the research and all that stuff’. There was one quite comical moment when I asked him if he was actually going to give me a ticket, or, given that I had received a ticket just a few weeks before that was still pending review, he could perhaps exercise his discretion and simply give me a warning.

“I’m going to have to give you a ticket because you already had a warning, and, well, you didn’t learn the lesson, did you?’.  As he said this, his voice tailed off as he realised how nonsensical this sounded when faced with someone who has absolutely no intention of wearing a helmet, and can spout dozens of research articles to support his position.

I then had a nice chat with them about how I might be able to combine the two tickets into the same court appearance, to save time – they were most helpful.  And we then had a chat about the Radish; they were quite enthused and interested if it could carry a passenger. Perhaps I should have offered to take one of them for a ride!

Anyway, it now seems I will get another ticket. What a complete waste of everyone’s time and money. Whilst the policeman was taking my details, a car drove through a red light at a nearby pedestrian crossing. I pointed this out to the officer, and asked him whether he considered this a more serious crime than me riding a bike without wearing a polystyrene hat. He dodged the question, saying that they were there to enforce all aspects of the law and were looking out for rogue drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. I was tempted to say that they weren’t going to nab many rogue motorists as they were positioned thirty metres away from the road, but I refrained.

The whole interaction was very polite and professional, but riding away I must admit I was fuming. Not about the police (who are just doing the job assigned to them by some unimaginative superior officer), but the nonsensical helmet laws we have to put up with in Australia. To my mind, I was doing something rather good that afternoon. I was reducing road congestion by not driving. I was reducing my impact on the environment by not burning fossil fuels. I was making the roads safer for others by operating a low-speed, lightweight vehicle rather than a fast, heavy one. I was keeping myself fit and healthy. All things that have a positive impact on society. And my reward for all that common good? To be branded a criminal. It’s enough to put you off cycling…

 

(Note: the image is a library pic of a NSW police bike squad; I forgot to take a picture of the actual officers involved).

 

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