Sikhs in New South Wales seek helmet law exemption

Change in law would bring state into line with Queensland, South Australia and Victoria

Sikhs living in New South Wales are fighting to have the law changed to exempt members of their community who wear turbans from the state’s compulsory cycle helmet law.

Queensland, South Australia and Victoria do not require Sikhs to wear a helmet while riding a bike, and the campaign for a similar exemption in New South Wales now has the backing of Blacktown Council, reports Dailytelegraph.com.au.

The newspaper says that representatives of the Sikh community presented a petition containing 400 signatures to the council, requesting a change in the law on religious as well as practical grounds.

According to Jagtar Singh, secretary of the Glenwood branch of the Australian Sikh Society, the exemption would enable fellow Sikhs to get to their temple more easily by riding a bike.

“We have a lot of old retired or semi-retired people who live around our temple,” he said.

“They can’t drive the car and there are no buses so it’s easier for them to ride a bike to temple.

“We are not asking to ride on the roads like the M4 or anything like that without a helmet. Most of the bicycles are riding on the footpath.”

He continued: “We have for years been asking every politician who visits the temple for this change.

“During World War I and World War II Sikh people fought without helmets.

“Our community is very law abiding we don’t want to break the law ... what we want is to make it legal.”

In the UK, the Motor-Cycle Crash Helmets (Religious Exemption) Act 1976 "exempts any follower of the Sikh religion while he is wearing a turban" from the obligation to wear a crash helmet.

The law was passed as a result of a private member’s bill from Ealing Southall MP Sidney Bidwell, who had been approached by constituents who felt the requirement to wear a helmet introduced by the Road Traffic Act 1972 infringed their religious freedom.

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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