My brush with the mandatory helmet laws

Yesterday, whilst cycling on a bike lane in the backstreets of Newtown, I heard a police siren behind me. So I sped up a little to give them room to move thinking that there was some kind of emergency to which they were hurrying, though after a few moments I realised they were actually chasing me. I pulled over and they asked me whether I knew that it is illegal to cycle without wearing a helmet (I wasn’t wearing a helmet). I said “Yes”. After a few awkward moments they got out of the car and asked me why I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I told them that after looking at the evidence (published research etc.) I don’t believe that cycling is dangerous enough to warrant wearing a helmet at all times, especially down a bike lane on a quiet street, and that I feel I should be able to decide whether or not I wear a helmet depending on the cycling conditions I am in. One of the officers repeatedly demanded to know whether I thought “helmets were not safe” but I kept explaining that that has nothing to do with it. I’m against mandatory helmet laws, not against helmets per se. There are many cycling situations where a helmet is needed but I didn’t feel that the cycling I was doing at the time warranted wearing a helmet. Obviously, they were not impressed. “It’s for your own safety,” they said. They gave me a fine and demanded I either walk to university, or walk home and get my helmet. I feigned agreement and walked in the direction of home. After a while I turned onto one of the backstreets and past a cul-de-sac and walked on for a little while longer. Then I got on my bike and resumed cycling. But the bastards followed me in their police car! They must have driven very fast to follow me as I walked down some one-way streets and then on to the other side of a cul-de-sac. They pulled me over, visibly very angry at my “serious offence”. One of the officers blurted out some section of the criminal code too fast for me to remember and then read me my rights and momentarily put me under arrest! He threatened to arrest me, put me in jail for the night, confiscate my bike and sell it at a police auction. “I’ve been a police officer for 4 and a half years and I’ve seen some cycling accidents,” he said. He gave yet another fine and then demanded that I walk home to get my helmet before ever cycling again. I walked home to get my helmet. Then, whilst cycling back to university, I noticed the three police officers talking to a homeless man and as I rode past they noticed me and one of them said (in what sounded like a high school child’s mocking voice) “Looks good on you!” (meaning the helmet).

Now, regardless of what one may think of wearing helmets and the dangers of cycling, police treating cyclists who choose not to wear a helmet in certain situations like criminals is a gratuitous and just a plain waste of police time and money.

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2 comments

  1. that’s crazy! how much were the fines?

    • budpetal

      They were $57 each. It’s about a third of the fine you get in Victoria for cycling without a helmet, and also enough money to buy a good helmet.

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