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Campaigners set up defence fund for those charged with cycling without a helmet

Australian cyclists are being warned to wear Australian standard helmets or face a fine. It seems that even helmets which would meet Australian safety standards are illegal if they are bought from overseas and lack the Australian standard sticker.

The Standard reports that the US-manufactured helmet worn by mountain biker Aidan Kampers was deemed to be unacceptable before a race in Canberra in 2012 as it lacked the crucial sticker.

"They check for the Australian standards to protect you [in] a crash. I respect that, but I also don't like the price which is why I went for the cheaper option. They're the exact same helmet. It can be frustrating at times."

Aussie cyclist fined for loosely fitting helmet

Kampers borrowed a helmet for the race, but said he hadn’t realised his own was illegal. According to Garry Brennan, of cycling advocacy group Bicycle Network: "If you purchase a helmet online from overseas that is not approved for Australia, as far as the law is concerned you are not wearing helmet at all."

The state of New South Wales is bringing in new legislation which will see the fine for not wearing a helmet rise from $71 to $319 in March – and it will also become compulsory for cyclists to carry photographic identification as well.

Needless to say, many are unhappy with the mandatory helmet law and one cyclist who has been fighting it for a number of years is Sue Abbott.

Abbott has been charged with not wearing a bicycle helmet on a number of occasions. She refuses to pay the fines and takes the matter to court. One fine in particular, from March 2014, resulted in six court appearances. In November 2015 she was found guilty and penalised a total of $560, which included a "victim of crime" levy. She was also handed a criminal conviction.

Struck by her story, two campaign groups, Freestyle Cyclists and Upright Bicycle Riders of Australia set up a fund to help her fight the charges. The campaign exceeded its target within 24 hours and Abbott’s court fine has been paid. All other donations will now go towards others facing helmet related charges.

Paul Oborn, founder of the Upright Bicycle Riders of Australia, said:

“Australian adults should have the right to choose for themselves, as they are free to do in just about every other country in the world. Why can’t a person riding a bicycle through a park in a quiet regional town in 40 degree heat wear a sunhat for skin protection, instead of being forced to wear the very same safety equipment as a road racing cyclist who’s zipping along at 50km/h through peak hour traffic in the city?”

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