Susan Abbott was taking part in a slow-speed protest ride through Centennial Park. Picture: AAP
Susan Abbott was taking part in a slow-speed protest ride through Centennial Park. Picture: AAP

Case against bareheaded bicycle riders thrown out

A Sydney duo have won a legal fight to have their fines dropped for refusing to wear a bicycle helmet, claiming NSW "nanny state" laws are unconstitutional.

Susan Abbott and Colin Beck were among 30 protesters who staged a helmet-free ride through Centennial Park in March 2018, calling for an end to the mandatory road rule.

Susan Abbott has won a legal fight to have their fines dropped for refusing to wear a bicycle helmet, claiming NSW “nanny state” laws are unconstitutional.
Susan Abbott has won a legal fight to have their fines dropped for refusing to wear a bicycle helmet, claiming NSW “nanny state” laws are unconstitutional.

Six police cars swooped on the small, peaceful demonstration and officers slapped the riders with $95 fines in what Ms Abbott labelled a complete "overkill."

"That was an excessive waste of police resources and taxpayer's money," she told The Daily Telegraph.

"It was cradle to grave, dogs in baskets, it was pretty slow. You could jog faster than we were cycling."

The pair contested their penalties and lawyers for the NSW Attorney-General had geared up for a legal stoush in Waverley Local Court on Thursday, with expert witnesses on both sides ready to testify about the safety of bike helmets.

But before that got underway the case against the riders was thrown out after a magistrate ruled there was no written proof from the Centennial Park Trust that they were not allowed to cycle without stackhats.

Ms Abbott said she felt relieved but vowed to do a bareheaded victory lap around the city, insisting there were other solutions to the hotly-debated issue.

"We provide next to no safe cycling infrastructure - we need more separate cycling lanes," she said.

"At the moment we have an erosion of our civil liberties that are done in the name of our safety, which I think is a load of rubbish - but I'm not a complete libertarian."

NSW has Australia's heaviest fines for those caught without helmets, with transgressors slugged up to $330.

Currently the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction that doesn't have similar blanket legislation, while a few other states allow exceptions on medical and religious grounds.

Bike helmet legislation exists in about half the 35 members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) but some nations have all ages enforcement while in others the rules only apply to children.

It's not compulsory for cyclists of all ages to wear helmets in much of the US and the majority of European countries.



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