Friday, August 26, 2016

Please, New South Wales, think again

Image: Amsterdamized, 'Own the lane'

Our crazy helmet law knows no bound ... read the following letter posted on my facebook timeline:
Hi Sue - I need help :-(
I'm planning this charity bike trip from Brisbane to Adelaide in aid of "Cervical Spine Facet Syndrome" - a disabilty I have that clinically prevents me from wearing a bicycle helmet, or anything else restrictive around my neck.
I've recently completed a tour of New Zealand and easily got a helmet exemption from the NZTA. And it seems that I can get exemptions for all Australian states except NSW. I've written to them twice and explained what I want to do, however they tell me that there are no helmet exemptions!
I feel that I am being discriminated against because of my disability!
The ironic thing is, that NSW would be preventing me from raising money for research into this disability, because I personally have this disability - this is totally unfair and ridiculous!
If anyone can help by giving me the names of people I could contact in NSW then this would be most helpful.... politicians, media, etc,..
My struggle to do this charity ride could also be instrumental in showing how ridiculous your MHL is, too. It could benefit two sides.
Yours sincerely
So let's have a little look at the New South Wales version of our 'crazy helmet law.'

Under the provisions of Regulation 256 (1) the rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider's head, unless the rider is exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under another law of this jurisdiction.

So perhaps Andrew may be exempt from wearing a bicycle helmet under section 49B provisions of the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 where it could be argued that:
(1) the NSW government discriminates against Andrew on the ground of Cervical Spine Facet Syndrome if the NSW government:
(a) on the ground of Andrew's Cervical Spine Facet Syndrome treats Andrew less favourably than in the same circumstances, or in circumstances which are not materially different, the NSW government treats or would treat a person who does not have that Cervical Spine Facet Syndrome, or
(b) requires Andrew to comply with a requirement or condition (biycle helmet regulation) with which a substantially higher proportion of persons who do not have that Cervical Spine Facet Syndrome, comply or are able to comply, being a requirement which is not reasonable having regard to the circumstances of the case and with which Andrew does not or is not able to comply.
 Andrew's quest to coordinate and conduct his proposed charity ride is to be applauded, and I am appalled that my state of New South Wales is ignorantly refusing to remove barriers to facilitate his worthy event - it beggars belief and grossly discriminates against Andrew.

Accordingly I think Andrew should pursue this issue with the following:
So to Andrew, heartfelt best wishes and good luck from me, and to the NSW Powers that be ... for heaven's sake, get with the programme!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Crazy helmet lady

Image: Scone Advocate & their take on me

My hair is a distraction.

The media falls for it every time. It fits their sexist narrative thereby allowing them not to explore the actual issues of Australia's bicycle helmet law - like, just for starters, why has no other country in the world copied us?

They do it every time - and they miss the point.


And so The Project came to my house last week to also do one of those 'crazy helmet lady' stories.

There were three roles up for grabs:
  1. Sensible person wanting to repeal helmet laws
  2. Sensible person wanting to keep helmet laws
  3. Crazy disobedient lady wanting to ride her bicycle past police stations
(... oh, mustn't forget 'cameo' role for long suffering hubbie of 'Crazy disobedient lady wanting to ride her bicycle past police stations'!)

Of course there's only ever one role for me!

And having observed the five hours of filming for the three minute proposed piece, I can only imagine I was type-cast again.

But my fight is not with our police but with our politicians and the toxic culture they have foisted upon me and other vulnerable road users.

It is politicians' fault that:
  • police in general waste tax payers money with bicycle helmet operations,
  • AFP spent scarce public resources gathering Airport CCTV coverage of me and my Christiannia (I mean seriously ... BREAKING: Australian woman rides bicycle)
  • AFP a month later spent scarce public resources interviewing me with hi-tech 'recording-works' at International Airport 
  • police in December 2014 did not have enough public resources to better manage the Lindt Cafe Siege
Public money only goes so far and by criminalising riding a bicycle through mandatory helmet law provisions, our politicians have shamelessly wasted public resources for a petty vendetta towards people who use bicycles and they have put many of us at risk of harm.

When justifying bicycle helmet law, it is an absolute red herring to talk about the potential cost I may cause the state should I sustain a brain injury. The public health benefits for the state when I ride my bicycle far outweigh the risks, and the most frustrating thing about all of this is that the state knows it. Big Oil runs those muppets, and Big Oil dictates the continued destruction of our cities.

Image: SMH & Sydney families spend $22,000 on transport
It is all connected; WestCONnex, ANZAC Parade, Alison Road, Sydney Light Rail and Sydney Metro, as well as the exorbitant costs Sydney families face for transport; every one of them feeds into our state's addiction for oil and its attendant infrastructure.

Big Oil has groomed our politicians and we can only weep with disbelief on the sidelines.

But meanwhile the media continues to miss my point.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

I do ... want marriage equality

Our beautiful happy couple

Dear Mr Turnbull,

It is unconscionable in this day and age that some people who love each cannot get married because of sexual preferences and identities. Love does not discriminate and neither should we, and from what I have read about you over the years, I am led to believe that you are of a similar view so why are you prevaricating over this human rights issue?
I have four children, and next month (September 2016) our daughter Philippa intends to commit to the man of her dreams at our home in Scone (yes, you and I, we're almost neighbours) in front of loving family and friends. 
As I am sure you can appreciate, many of the loved ones in our family and friendship groups who would like to marry their special person cannot do so in the eyes of the law because of Australia’s limited and abusive Marriage Act. Accordingly our 'happy couple' have decided that until marriage equality is available to anybody who wishes to avail themselves of the opportunity to get married, they will boycott marriage in the pure legal sense.
So we will still be having a fabulous wedding party, and they will still be promising to stick it out as a ‘couple’ on the inevitable calm and stormy waters of life together, and they will be doing this in front of all their loved ones in our garden despite our fossilised law. They will not be blocking their ears like some have done, or turning their backs, or whispering the exclusive legal words in a bid to proffer support - because right now with the law as it stands they feel the most supportive thing they can do to move this human rights issue along is to boycott Australian marriage.
And when the day comes for Australian law to finally catch up with the national zeitgeist, our happy couple will legalise their union then. 
In the meantime, there is lots to prepare and lots to do - we have a #weddingboycott party to plan!
So come on, Prime Minister, let’s get with the times and sign marriage equality into law … now!
Yours sincerely,
Sue Abbott

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Australia still not ready to be weaned from Big Oil

CCTV of Me thinking about parking, boarding and seeing my man in Broken Hill
So I had my day in court today (yesterday now) to explain to the magistrate why I cycle without a helmet and I now have another criminal conviction to add to my collection.

As I have done on previous occasions, I mentioned that my conduct of riding a bicycle without a helmet is a question of survival, mine and the planet’s, and that I believe wearing a helmet puts me at greater risk of catastrophic brain injury, and to stop cycling because of the law, which many cyclists have done, would be bad for the planet.

I explained to the court that to me using a bicycle is an attempt to mitigate my carbon footprint ...

Yes, necessity is the sine qua non of me riding a bicycle without a helmet.
      I went through the three elements of necessity:
(1) ...

... oh I can't be arsed to mention them here again for the umpteenth time ... sigh ... you get my drift

Anyhoo notwithstanding all the stuff I did say, I didn’t get a chance to mention that I can no longer continue to observe the havoc that our capitalistic lifestyle is causing without doing something to mitigate it.

Or that climate change, and the world’s children make me think twice about using a car, or that to avert possible brain injury, I ride my bicycle without a helmet.

Or that riding a bicycle without a helmet is a victimless crime, or that the benefit cost / analysis suggests cycling is 20-30 times more beneficial to society than harmful thus I may have been found guilty of breaking the letter of the law but I wasn’t causing any personal or social harm and therefore perhaps I shouldn’t be punished but thanked!
CCTV of Me at Domestic Airport with AFP behind me
The magistrate seemed very cranky that I had wasted the time of three Australian Federal Police who should have been ‘saving the country and community from drug addicts and terrorists’ rather than in court waiting around for me and my matter.

I agree, but let's not forget it was the AFP who decided to go after me in October 2015, and then call me in for an interview at their Airport offices in November 2015, in rooms far away from the public view where they interviewed me and recorded me both visually and aurally for close to 40 minutes before I flew out to England.

That interview was certainly not necessary, and as far as I am aware quite unheard of for a bicycle helmet matter.

When you think about it, that interview at the airport sometime after the alleged offence was really quite weird.

Me photographing AFP whilst AFP photographing me

·         Next I was criticised by the magistrate for my place on the list in light of the fact that an accused on the list whose liberty was in question ought have been heard before me. The liberty angle is a fair premise for the right order of matters, but I was not in charge of today's (yesterday's) scheduling otherwise I would have gladly stepped aside and waited my turn.
I think it is disappointing that I am always held to account for wasting court time ... but why am I wasting court time any more than a mugger or a thief or a murderer?

My hair continues to be a distraction, and the bill I'm told will come in the post.

Oh dear - I'm not sure if I can continue doing this caper; it's demoralising and crushing, and if truth be told I think it would be more fun to bang my head against a brick wall - and should that occasion arise, maybe a helmet might be useful.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Bicycle Racks at Sydney Airport - that's enough right

Most beautiful bike in whole world
Big Oil plays tricks galore to keep bicycles off roads, and in Australia those tricks work because we are suckers for compliance and seemingly 'hard-to-verify' anecdotes.

Now in Australia, bicycle helmet promotion uniquely segues into mandatory helmet law and is Big Oil's best trick..

As a nation we love it, particularly the righteous who relish the unspoken permission notionally granted to them to parent ertswhile cyclists (actually if truth be told, cyclists period because whether you're wearing a helmet or not, if you're on a bicycle in Australia a Big Oil indulger will feel compelled to yell insults and instructions at you whilst you're sharing the road with them.)
Most beautiful bike in whole world on the end (your right)
The plight of Australian cycling today is the culmination of twenty five years of refusal to acknowledge that Australian data on mandatory helmet laws is missing-in-action.

But no politician will turn their mind to the fact that the case for the continuation of helmet compulsion is still not made out.

Yet we persist in this pointless exercise despite the substantial likelihood that mandatory helmet law amounts to no more than the proverbial Emperor's New Clothes.

Three decades worth of sham studies and male posturing have overseen the end of utility cycling ...'s  great pity and from where I am typing, I don't think it's likely that utility cycling will return to a street near you any time soon.

In the meantime though there is always the chance that I will be returning to a street near you sometime soon if your street has a courthouse in it.

And so it comes to pass that the street housing Waverley Local Court is up next.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dear Duncan ... here we go again

Court case looming!
Dear Mr Gay,

Not long now until my next appearance to defend 'rider not wearing a bicycle helmet whilst riding a bicycle.'

I want to tidy up a few ends.

On the last few occasions when I have appeared to defend my cycling behaviour of using a bicycle without simultaneously using a helmet, my traffic record has been incorrect.

As you know, bicycle helmet crime is not actually a traffic matter that appears on a traffic record yet inexplicably my traffic record states that I was booked and then went to court for not wearing a motor-bike helmet. This is incorrect and I have mentioned this issue of personal concern in the public curial domain on numerous occasions. In fact I have even put it out there that perhaps this error was deliberately confected in order some sort of helmet crime could be recorded on my traffic record.

So how to fix my traffic record.

Australian Bicycle Confusion

I have asked the police, I have asked the courts, I have even asked the Roads and Maritime Services at their offices in Marrickville; all to no avail - so now I am turning to you given that you are the main chap at the helm of our state-funded-automobile-aqua-portfolio.

Please can you correct my traffic record and yes I would like an apology for personal angst inflicted upon me every time I have to persuade courts that the listing of me riding a motor-bike without a helmet is plain wrong - why, I don't even have a motor-bike licence, never have, never will, so if I had been riding a motor-bike without a helmet no doubt there would have been accompanying penalties and prosecutions for riding a motor-bike in an unlicenced manner.

More Australian Bicycle Confusion
Anyway, in anticipation of the corrected traffic record and your apology, thank you ...

... so now let's move on to other things that really ought to persuade you to erase regulation 256 from the NSW Road Rules.

At the risk of being repetitive, let me once again reiterate that the weight of scientific evidence does not support bicycle helmet regulation.

Unfortunately for me, Australia appears to have a penchant for sham studies and so we observe the incessant academic churn emanating from the University of New South Wales with their fake facts purporting to prove the case for the necessity of bicycle helmet law.

Australian academics are on their own with their conclusive, highly subjective, self-identifying findings often so eagerly endorsed by 'earnest Pollyannas' who all too often conflate public health with safety and subsequently crime and punishment - not overly helpful.

Dutch bicycle know-how
We need a new guard of experts who are not perpetually immobilised by the spectre of the first death on their watch after bicycle helmet regime change.

If I can remind you of a passage from a letter your department sent to me in support of helmet law, you told me that 66% of cyclists killed in Australia were wearing bicycle helmets. Conversely your letter infers that 33% of cyclists killed in Australia are not wearing helmets which using bureaucratic binary thinking could mean your department is unwittingly making the case that cycling without helmets is considerably safer.

I think we can agree that the nocebo effect of bicycle helmet law has created low expectations of the benefits of using bicycles and as a result has exacted a significant adverse health effect upon our population. The nocebo effect has taken the nation hostage, and Australians are now paralysed with fear with regards to everyday notions of using bicycles.

With leadership and revocation of helmet law underpinned by education and information, the negative effects could be reversed and national anxiety about using bicycles could be eliminated ... along with blame which is all too often meted out to injured or dead cyclists.

More Dutch bicycle know -how
Let's face it, bicycle helmet law has been a major component of Big Oil's public relations campaign in a bid to remove vulnerable road users from roads. It has never been about safety, and the majority of the world has spotted this cyclical PR exercise for what it is.

Doctors outside of Australia have not been co-opted as witless mouth pieces for Big Oil and, along with more believable bicycle advocacy organisations, have successfully managed to keep damaging bicycle helmet laws and bicycle helmet promotion at bay.

Please re-consider your position, and repeal regulation 256.

And before I close, may I ask again why there is a distinction between paying passengers and non-paying passengers on pedicabs with regards to the law and the wearing of bicycle helmets.

Why is it safer to be a paying passenger?

Why are paying passengers not compelled to wear bicycle helmets?

Why is it more dangerous to be a non-paying passenger?

Why are non-paying passengers compelled to wear bicycle helmets?

Thank you for giving me your time and consideration. I await your response to my concerns eagerly.

Kind regards,
Sue Abbott
Hunter Valley NSW

(copy of post sent to Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight via his ministerial webpage)

Monday, August 1, 2016

Not only facebook peddles in echo-chambers

(Image: Glen Le Lievre, SMH, Wednesday 27 July 2016)

As consumers of media, we are constantly warned about the perils of getting our information throughs algorithms and the subsequent risks of being coralled into echo-chambers with diminishing moments of dissent and different views. It is certainly something to bear in mind.

But there are other 'algorithms' out there equally insidious ...

... ones which like certain social media platforms also remove dissent and the opportunity to think differently.

... ones which like certain social media platforms also create for their audience a cosy phug of consensus and affirmation.

... ones which like certain social media platforms also are a poor substitute for truth and reality.

The Northern Territory government and courts appear to have their own set of algorithms for levels of force and excessiveness and unreasonableness, ones which have lulled many who have a duty of care and ought to know better how to look after 'children-needing-our-support' into one of those dangerous and damming cosy phugs of consensus and affirmation.

Thankfully we still have the ABC and 4 Corners, and last week they cut through that manufactured judicial and legislative bubble when they broadcast their programme 'Australia's Shame' and showed the rest of us Australians images of cruel torture, images that have been around for quite some time and literally judged not out of the ordinary, for what they actually were and are ... evidence of sadistic and brutal treatment meted out to our children in our name.

Thank you, 4 Corners, you make a difference,

and ...

... Long Live The ABC (hands off, Prime Minister)

(also cross posted to Scone Blogger's Blog)