Keep Your Head

Thought Robert Mugabe’s forcible land reforms were bad? How about the battle for same-sex marriage? Or what of the repressive clamps held down upon the people of North Korea by its tyrannical dictatorship? Pretty bad.  Well, sit down, because we’re about to enter another realm of civil liberty altogether: bicycle helmets. Yes, the way some people are carrying on, mandatory bicycle helmets laws are an affront to our rights as free-thinking human beings.

Mandatory helmet laws = oppressive?

I have only recently been made aware of this bizarre movement, but it has been brewing for a while now. A surprising and increasing amount of Australian cyclists are lobbying to repeal the law that stipulates bicycle riders must wear a helmet. They say it’s an abuse of their freedom and that mandatory helmet laws discourage people from saddling up, which then means there are less cyclists overall, less awareness overall and less safety, overall.

On one of the many websites tossing about words like ‘Freedom’ and ‘Action” as if it was written by some sort of Malvern Star-riding William Wallace, it is declared boldly: ‘Helmets are Good. Helmet Laws are Not.’ So… cyclists like helmets, but they just don’t like being made to wear them? Right. As much as I’m against the government playing nanny and deciding what’s best for us, I will agree with helmet laws in the same way I agree with seat belt laws. They save lives, they reduce seriousness of injury, they made some contribution towards keeping people out of hospital. So, the problem, when you get past the convolution, is that being told by THE MAN to wear a stack hat is like, totally against the Geneva Convention.

Putting the civil liberty nonsense aside for a minute, there is logic behind the concern that people are choosing not to ride a bike. There is a safety-in-numbers principle at work. More cyclists mean reduced risk as motorists adapt and infrastructure is updated to accommodate those pushing pedals. Studies show that, apparently.

But that’s not the real problem here.

The real problem is that the helmet – a simple, humble device designed to protect your skull from the looming pavement beneath you – is being paraded as an instrument of government oppression. At least that’s the impression given by the lunatic fringe of this movement. But why?

One of the most determined and possibly delusional helmet-haters is Sue Abbott, aka the Freedom Cyclist, a Scone local who took to court to combat the $57 fine for not wearing a helmet. She somehow managed to convince a local judge to drop the fine and, confusingly seems to relate court proceedings with baking. But, back to the point, according to the SMH, a police officer involved in her bold act of helmet defiance remarked: ”it’s a hair thing”.

“It’s a hair thing.” Precisely, Detective-Sergeant Obvious.

Steaming piles of evidence, from studies, to doctor testimonials and beyond, will attest to the helmet’s basic, affordable skull-saving virtues. The government’s health and safety bureaucrats will always side with that over: ‘But, it works for The Netherlands…’

Helmets will mess up your hair, you can’t wear a funky hat instead, and they do look a bit dorky. Get over it. The civil liberty excuse is a pretty pathetic and let’s face it, embarrassing, example of a first-world struggle against oppression.

Just be honest and admit that helmet hair is the ultimate problem. In fact, even acknowledges that. So until someone actually develops the ‘hairmet,’ maybe the activists should take a different tact to encourage more people to take to two wheels. There are other more valid reasons people don’t ride bikes – find them, fix them. Leave the helmet alone.



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