24 January 2020

Religious exemptions for mandatory bicycle helmet laws in ACT

| Dominic Giannini
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Jagdeep Singh with Shane Rattenbur

Jagdeep Singh wrote to Shane Rattenbury to ask for an exemption to mandatory helmet laws, to make it more inclusive for the Sikh community. Photo: Ssupplied.

The ACT Government has amended their mandatory helmet laws, providing an exemption on religious grounds to people whose religious convictions require them to have headwear.

Under the regulation, a person is not required to wear a bicycle helmet if they are a member of a religious group that requires the wearing of headdress where wearing the headdress makes it impractical to also wear a bike helmet.

The law came into effect in December after Jagdeep Singh, a member of Canberra’s Sikh community, wrote to the Minister for Road Safety, Shane Rattenbury, asking for the exemption.

“I always loved to ride bicycles and I used to live in Melbourne and I got the exemption. But when I moved to Canberra, there were no exemptions up here,” Mr Singh said.

“I wrote the email because I wear a turban and love to ride bikes but I could not fit the helmet on my head.

“I believe that many more people in my community will be able to ride bikes without the fear of getting a fine.”

Mr Rattenbury said that the law would only apply to a small part of the community and make Canberra a more inclusive city.

“It is part of ensuring that Canberra is an inclusive city and that we can make life a bit easier for one part of our community here in Canberra,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“The Territory supports individuals practising their religion or belief and this regulation ensures that sections of the community are not excluded from active forms of transport.

“This will not be a wide-applying rule. The mandatory helmet rule will still be in place for the rest of the community except for those that have a very specific religious conviction and headwear is an important part of that.”

However, the laws will not include motorbikes because of the high risk of serious injury or death, and Mr Rattenbury stressed that individuals should still be wary of their own safety.

“We have been very clear that this does not apply to motorbikes from a risk assessment point of view because of the speed a motorbike can travel. We have drawn the line at bicycles and e-bikes,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“This is an individual decision. Clearly there is research that shows that wearing a helmet does reduce trauma injuries when someone has an accident.

“I think people who do choose to ride without a helmet because of their religious convictions need to exercise their own care. I would say to them to stick to footpaths and bike paths and keep your speed down.”

The laws bring the ACT in line with other Australian jurisdictions; however, there are no plans at the moment to expand the regulation to other members of the public.

“The changes bring the ACT into line with Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia which already have similar exemptions in place,” Mr Rattenbury said.

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If the police pull me over for not wearing a helmet while riding my bicycle, I will lodge a complaint (on the basis of religious discrimination) with the Human Rights Commission and the UN. It is a form of discrimination to charge me for not wearing a helmet, while letting another person off for the exact same act (because of their religion). Either you make it illegal for everyone or it’s illegal for no one. You cannot discriminate on religious grounds, or prepared to be sued.

How dies legalising Cannabis work with compulsary Drug testing fo Newstart recipients for example in Centrelink ..As is known of still happening ??

Over a thousand people die in Australian car accidents every year. That number could be reduced if everyone wore a racing harness and full face helmet, perhaps these should be made compulsory.

Capital Retro7:26 pm 28 Jan 20

“I wonder what nudists will have to say about this?”

That’s a hard one.

There is arguments for and against bicycle helmets. Wearing a helmet should be a personal choice.

Capital Retro2:29 pm 28 Jan 20

I have made an appointment with my counsellor.

Interesting response from an Indian doctor, Neelesh Kumar, to the question posed on Quora, “Why don’t Sikhs wear helmets in India? Can the turbans save them from accidents?” – https://www.quora.com/Why-dont-Sikhs-wear-helmets-in-India-Can-the-turbans-save-them-from-accidents. He is echoing the safety concerns of many on here.

rationalobserver1:11 pm 27 Jan 20

The long term effects of catering to every minority on every issue must surely be chaos.
When we are no longer bound to a common set of rules which apply equally to everyone, then no one will have any respect for the rules.
Couple this with the blatantly obvious failure to enforce the current helmet laws by ACT policing, and it’s no wonder we are a laughing stock elsewhere in Australia.

Sikh males are required by their religion to carry a dagger called a kirpan. This creates problems when Sikh boys take their kirpans to school. Do we make religious exceptions for them and what happens if a kirpan is used in a school fight?

So how does that work with airline security or do Sikh males not fly?

Only where they are “baptised”. U till then they can also drink alcohol.

Capital Retro7:16 am 27 Jan 20

“…who cares if he wears a helmet or not. It’s his choice. It’s not the beginning of lawlessness…..” says Nicole Honchera.

I don’t care either as long as he pays for his own medical and associated services when he lands on his head without a helmet.

Finally!!!!! Something with which we both agree

Capital Retro2:27 pm 28 Jan 20

I have made an appointment with my counsellor.

Neil.Bolton.RSPL12:09 am 27 Jan 20

I’m happy with that. That said, I’d be dead without a helmet.

Capital Retro5:35 pm 26 Jan 20

How about the law also requires that people who can be exempted on religious grounds get their chosen religious leaders to imdemnify Medicare and our ambulance and hospital services in case they suffer a head injury result of an accident which would have been prevented if they were wearing the prescribed helmet?

Why should the taxpayers be underwriting the whims of certain religious groups that may result in state funding of medical services?

I guess the “no seatbelt ’cause of my religion” is legit too

What a joke.

My religion says I have to wear a baseball hat whilst riding a bike, instead of a helmet.

I’ll expect the police to respect my religious beliefs and not issue me with a fine for breaking the law.

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