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…

The crackdown

February 22, 2012 at 20:14 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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It seems there is a crackdown going on. Right across Australia, police are focusing on vulnerable road users. ‘Hurrah!’, I hear you shout. About time some focus was put on behaviors that put vulnerable road users at risk. Surely this means an increased focus on cars that go through red lights, pass cyclists aggressively, mobile phone use whilst driving and so on.

Unfortunately no. What the ‘focus on vulnerable road users’ entails is dishing out tickets to vulnerable road users for minor infringements that put no-one at risk, whilst ignoring the ‘bull’ – car drivers swishing past, ears glued to their phones whilst they exceed the speed limit.

I saw the bicycle cops were on Pyrmont Bridge this morning, so I turned off to go another way. I could do without any more helmet fines right now, given that I just received a $198 bill for the last one (I appealed for leniency, but to no avail). However, on a very quiet back street I encountered another officer. I’m not sure if he was just sitting there to nab people going around, or if he saw me turn off prior to the bridge and rode after me.

It’s one of the guys I know well, and he was very apologetic; he asked to to understand that it wasn’t personal, but they had been told not to issue any more warnings. He’s a really nice guy, and seemed to tacitly agree that the law was stupid – I also made the point that I appreciated his polite and professional manner, and that my argument wasn’t with him or his colleagues, but with the stupid law.

So I continued to work (he was quite happy for me to continue my ride). Turning into the Kent St cycleway, a motorcycle cop shouted to me.

‘Where’s your helmet, dumbo?’

Given that this wasn’t an instruction, I ignored him and carried on. Next thing he’s powering up alongside me on his motorcycle, shouting at me to get on the pavement and get off my bike.

He was very rude, at least to start with, asking me why I didn’t get off and push, that he wasn’t wasting his breath shouting for no reason and so on. He was really quite aggressive. I thought the police were supposed to keep situations calm, not insult people and shout at them. Anyway, I was able to calm him down a bit by telling him I hadn’t understood he was giving me an instruction. Whilst he wrote me a ticket, I explained my reasons for not wearing a helmet. We had the ususal too and for about ‘the guys in the tour de France wear them’, to which I replied that drivers at Bathurst wear four point harnesses and flame retardant suits, but that didn’t mean they were needed for driving in the city.

‘But they are doing 200kmh!’ he said.

So I pointed out the TdF riders were doing 80kmh down a mountain, whilst I was doing 15km/h in a bike lane – thus rather proving the point.

His attitude did soften a a bit after that exchange, and at the end he simply advised me to wear a helmet, ‘to make your life easier’.

He also commented that he had already pinged three cyclists and two pedestrians that morning. After he left, I watched him for a few minutes, and in that time he gave a pedestrian a ticket for jaywalking, and another ticket to a helmetless cyclist. Such a great use of our tax dollars.

All very tiresome. Still, two tickets in one day must be a kind of record. I guess tomorrow I’m going to have to go the very long way round, to avoid the central Sydney police local area command. Still, it’s a nice ride, and the weather is lovely at the moment…

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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