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Wuth not above stupidity as religious and cycling freedom threatened

February 24, 2013

What’s the difference between driving at 50kph over the speed limit and cycling without a helmet? Apparently nothing according to Gold Coast opinion writer, Robyn Wuth. In the days after a Sikh cyclist is challenging a fine because his faith requires him to wear a turban at all times, Wuth equates his lack of freedom of cycling without a helmet to her lack of freedom of driving at 50kph over the speed limit. Huge difference. If a cyclist crashes, he’s unlikely to be killing innocent members of society in the process, whereas driving at such speeds is cause for catastrophe. Also, while cycling without a helmet in no way increases any risk of an accident or crash, such negligent speeding in a car does. Laws are meant to protect others, not encroach on basic civil liberties and freedoms of individuals.

As usual, these ignorant people use trite arguments like “helmets save lives” to support their view. As we all know, “helmets save lives” and “life-jackets save lives” could apply to many circumstances, yet Wuth would be the first person to react that her freedom is being impinged if mandatory helmet laws were enacted for motorists or mandatory life-jacket laws enacted for swimming at the beach. It’s also easy to brandish statistics of helmet efficacy when you don’t look at the study and find some only monitored children in non-vehicular crashes, or regard all minor scrapes and bumps as “head injuries”.

Rather than the petty non-obedience of a dubious law only found in Australia and New Zealand, or even the impact on freedom and the discriminatory and overbearing intrusion of the nanny state, there’s a broader dialogue that is rarely discussed: Do you want to encourage cycling or BAN it? Reader CC in the comments section nails the crux of the law with: “He simply shouldn’t ride a bike if he insists he can’t or won’t remove his turban.” Is that the society we want – one that BANS cycling for certain people? In this case, the Sikh will stop cycling, as do many other people already for various reasons like overheating, helmet hair or just dissatisfaction. If you want cycling to grow, be fashionable and encourage governments to get better cycling infrastructure out there, then remove the helmet law. Most people would still wear their helmets anyway. There seems to be a hysterical conflation that repeal mandatory helmet law means ban helmet wearing. If you want to marginalise cycling, promote it as dangerous and oppressive, and allow politicians to stay blinkered that their cycling safety initiatives are complete by an ill-conceived and discriminatory piece of legislation, then keep the law.

There’s one other small point at play with our Sikh friend: what happened to the separation of church and state? The state should hot have laws that infringe on religious freedom. This one does. Since many cyclists regard cycling as a religion, maybe there’s a case there too.

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From → Cycling Free

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