Bicycle helmet laws were the start of the rot.

I was a mad keen cyclist as a teenager. This was back in the late eighties when there was no such thing as horrible middle aged white dudes riding around on bikes costing ten grand while wearing lycra. They were all off playing golf. Cycling was not a thing and that is why I did it. My dad gave me $1500 for my 18th birthday, a good whack of cash back in those days.

I spent it all on a bike. A Repco Vertex Time Trial. Here’s a photo of one that a guy recently restored:

I added the very first Shimano clipless pedals, as well as triathlon handlebars that were similar to these, and a rear disk wheel. I did around 500km a week on that bike. Training, training, but training for nothing. I only ever raced a few times, and I did really well, but my problem was that I was directionless. I lacked an older mentor who could have guided me to a proper competition. I am sure that I could have made professional and have had the golden years of injecting myself with heaps of drugs to compete with the other guys, but it wasn’t to be.

Two things killed cycling for me. Motorbikes and mandatory bicycle helmet laws. Motorbikes are self-explanatory – you get girls with motorbikes – but the helmet law is more interesting. Even as a young man I did not appreciate being told what to do by government morons. And the bureaucrats who succeeded in bringing in mandatory helmet laws in the early nineties in Western Australia were morons of the highest degree. I knew one socially through my family. After boasting to me of his part in the helmet news he declared that banning the triathlon handlebars was next on their agenda. I called him a moron to his face.

 This piece in Quadrant on the Western Australian state election has this interesting snippet:

It always helps to have the right policies of course, but symbols count more when you want to build momentum early. My recommendation is to repeal the bicycle helmet law straight up. Bicycling should be able to be spontaneous and joyous.  But now in NSW, riders are fined if they don’t carry photo identification. Of course the bicycle helmet law kills more people (through skin cancer) than it saves. It should be followed in repeal by the laws on recreational fishing, bag limits on herring, boating licences etc.

The bicycle helmet law may be a little thing but it means that you are serious about reform, and that all the other needed reforms will follow.

I consider the bicycle helmet laws to be the real historical dividing line as to when the rot gained serious momentum in Australia. The Australian public was uncaring as the new law at the time only affected school kids and punks like me. Almost no adults cycled back then. Thus we were an easy target.

Since that time governments at all levels, whether they be federal, state, or local, have gone on a legislative craze to regulate each and every aspect of the life of the ordinary Australian citizen. None of these laws have ever been repealed, no matter how stupid or subversive.

Scroll down these photos at the Salt Water New England blog and you’ll catch a couple of ordinary folk out for a leisurely toodle on their bikes. Sans helmets of course. In Australia this would result in flashing police lights and a large fine, no doubt accompanied by a lecture from some pissant twenty year old cop that the unfortunate recipient would have to endure without a word in return. My time in Holland earlier this year was a revelation in the sheer numbers of Dutch zipping around on their bicycles in below zero weather, their scarves flying over their tightly buttoned coats, and not a helmet to be seen. Pure joy. Pure freedom.

Unlike the metropolis that is Australia. A glaring difference between Italians and Australians is the successful implementation of absurd laws. The Italians have far more absurd laws than Australia, but Italians collectively either ignore the laws or find ways around them. Australians will moan, gripe, complain, and whinge, and then follow each and every law to the letter. We are the perfect society for tyranny in the form of a bureaucratic shirt and tie.

The laws mount up year on year because these people have no end game. There is always another cause, another law to pass, another noble-minded intention to interfere in other people’s lives and delight in the power of telling others what to do. The blind obedience is something that I have never understood in Australians. The effect that bicycle helmet laws had on me was to cause me to give up cycling altogether. Every time I donned a helmet against my will and with no choice in the matter, was a little dagger in my soul.

The worst thing you can do to a free man is to protect him from himself.

12 thoughts on “Bicycle helmet laws were the start of the rot.

  1. David Moore

    The wondrous thing about British common law was that it held people as inherently free. The pressure over the last few decades to codify rights and regulate behavior has twisted this beyond recognition. Every click of the ratchet means something has been taken that will not be willingly given back.

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  2. Carl-Edward

    Some years back, I bought a Schwinn Sidewinder, the last Schwinn model to be made in the United States. I had it fitted out with a comfortable saddle, ‘motorcycle’ hand grips, instead of the spongey sham rubber ones they had put on the handlebars, a basket and a handsome bell. In the basket, I would carry a terrycloth shirt with short sleeves, and a tube of sunblock. I had owned the bike only three weeks, when an old idiot, who obviously had no depth perception, brushed against me in his motorised sardine tin (his ugly wife complained about the mark my leg had left on the side of their car). I sailed through the air, landing on my head (I wore no helmet). The result of this was a lengthy operation on my left knee, and five stitches in my scalp. Nevertheless, I would never wear a helmet, or any ‘safety gear’, as they euphemistically describe it.

    The bike survived the accident intact. Still I should like to have a flawlessly restored Schwinn Black Phantom. (I am glad I was not riding one when all this happened. One’s scalp can be stitched, but a Black Phantom is sacred.)

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  3. John Ricketts

    Hey Adam, you’ll remember I had a motorcycle helmet exemption back then (1993-2004). It worked for the pushy too. Pissed the cops off every time they bailed me up.

    What I think is dangerous are the tight packs of cyclists who, if ever there’s one accident, create multiple casualties — helmets or not.

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  4. LadyMoonlight

    I am not a cyclist so I realise that I am totally ignorant on the topic. However, I was always under the impression that wearing a helmet would prevent serious head injuries. Am I misinformed? Surely protecting a child/teenagers/adult head is of paramount importance.

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    1. The sun causes skin cancer. Because you must be protected from all the ills of the world the government has now decided to legislate that it is against the law to be outside without a hat and you must wear clothing that covers the entire body at all times. For your own protection.

      You cool with that?

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      1. pukeko60

        No, I am not cool with that. The correct response to any Aussie politician is to not vote for him, use his laws for loo paper, and piss on him when he inevitably gets tired and emotional.

        But then, I am a Kiwi. We have a tendency to tell people to leave over here.

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      2. LadyMoonlight

        No, I am not cool with that, and I get what you are saying. However, as a parent, would it not be smart for me to want my child/teenager to wear a helmet? What I am asking is, does wearing a helmet not prevent head injuries and, therefore, a sensible thing to do? I am also against governments regulating every aspect of citizens’ lives; don’t eat this, don’t drink that, etc. People should be smart enough to demonstrate common sense and not have the government force them to do this and that, I agree. However, if someone suffers a head injury because they refused to wear a helmet, should they be entitled to free hospital treatment and on-going medical treatment paid for by the tax-payers?
        For most of my adult life, I have been fanatically opposed to legalising illicit drugs. Now, however, I am not so sure. I see drug taking as a form of social Darwinism; the weak indulge and overdosing is just nature culling the herd (the same way I see almost all suicides), the strong survive, the weak fall by the wayside and that’s life. If the government does decriminalise drugs and allow people to indulge, stop interfering in peoples’ lives, should the tax-payer have to fork out for hospital treatment and on-going medical bills for peoples’ stupid choices in life?
        If the government does cease to regulate peoples’ lives in the various ways it currently does, the people should not expect to be taken care of because of any stupid thing that they do. Agree?
        Should stop now I guess or I will be waffling on forever.

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  5. Amanda

    Bike helmets are kind of like seat belts. Wearing seat belts is sensible too but does it need to be the law? Are we so stupid that we can’t work things out for ourselves and decide what risks we want to take? Politicians seem to create laws for the lowest denominator, the thickest person who has to have things spelt out for them. I never wore a helmet as a kid and no one I ever knew had a problem. But, a relative died as a teenager in the 1940’s when he fell off his bike and hit his head. So if it were up to me, I would encourage my kids to wear a helmet but if they didn’t, I would shrug and hope for the best. My son was recently threatened with a $180 fine for forgetting his bike helmet so for financial reasons I do make them wear them. But seriously, where will it end? Should we wear body armour in case we cross the road and get hit by a car? I think we all need to take responsibility for ourselves and accept the consequences of our actions and get the government looking after schools, hospitals, roads, infrastructure, etc and get the fuck out of our lives.

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  6. Adam doesn’t say it outright but he is rightfully pointing out “Creeping Tyranny” in idiotic laws such as this one. That’s how you guys got all those windmills and sky-high electricity prices (and blackouts) and all those peaceful muzloids. 

    Always remember the age-old story about how to boil a live frog without it jumping out of the pot.

    If you don’t remember it the gubbment surely does.  

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  7. Pingback: Mental welfare slavery. – Adam Piggott

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