Overseas – news from abroad

All foreign news stories welcome (streetbiker@mag-uk.org) particularly from FEMA member countries.
Thanks to NCOM USA for the majority of this material


Cycle helmets false panacea ?

Mandatory use of cycle helmets fails to deliver injury reductions in re-run of motorcycle experience

New data on bicycle accidents raises questions about how safe helmets really are. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission in the USA the number of head injuries has increased 10% since 1991, even though bicycle helmet use has risen sharply, and in many cases is required by law. But given that cycle use has declined over the same period, the rate of head injuries per active cyclist has increased 51%.

‘So, what is going on here’, asked writer Julian E. Barnes in a July 29 article in The San Diego Union – Tribune? Almost none of the safety advocates interviewed for the story suggested that riders should stop wearing helmets, which researchers say can reduce the severity of brain injuries by as much as 88%, with fewer people riding bicycles, experts are mystified as to why injuries are on the rise. ‘It’s puzzling to me that we can’t find the benefit of bike helmets here,’ said Ronald L. Medford, the Assistant Executive Director of the Safety Commission’s Hazard Identification Office. Some cycling advocates contend that rising numbers of aggressive drivers are at fault, while others suggest that many riders wear helmets improperly and do not know the rules of the road. Some transportation engineers say there are not enough safe places to ride. But many specialists in risk analysis argue that something else is in play. They believe that the increased use of bike helmets may have had an unintended consequence: riders may feel an inflated sense of security and take more risks. In the last nine years, 19 state legislatures have passed mandatory bicycle helmet laws. Today, such statutes cover 49 percent of American children under 15. Altogether, about half of all riders use bike helmets today, compared with fewer than 18% a decade ago, the first year the safety commission examined helmet use. During the same period, overall bicycle use has declined about 21 percent as participation in in-line skating, skateboarding and other sports has increased. ‘Helmets may create a sort of daredevil effect, making cyclists feel so safe that they ride faster and take more chances’, said Mayer Hillman, a senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute in London.

‘You would be well advised to wear a helmet provided you could persuade yourself it is of little use,’ Dr. Hillman said. Insurance companies have long been familiar with the phenomenon, which they call moral hazard. Once someone is covered by an insurance policy there is a natural tendency for that person to take more risks.


Daytime Headlight saga in Australia – the situation

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There has been some confusion about the situation with regard to daytime headlights in Australia Guy Stanford from New South Wales clarifies…..

Mag UK have been in touch with our Australian oppos to try and establish what the situation is with daytime headlight use down there. The following has come back to us :

Motor vehicle standards and requirements for Australia are defined by the “Australian Design Rules” or ADR’s.

As a result of some wonderful work by safety theory people and pressure from one group of control freaks dressed up as ‘safety conscious’ bureaucrats, an ADR was introduced which required that new motorcycle lights be permanently wired ‘on.’ We saw the sudden disappearance of RH switches, or blanking plates where switches once were.

Australian motorcycle groups illustrated the complete lack of effect on accident statistics, the poor basis of the research, the shoddy science and failure of logic in the conclusions.

The Transport Minister saw that this was a divisive issue and hence politically sensitive. He was assisted in forming this view by activities of motorcycle groups in Australia and the equating of sloppy science with personal opinion.

The changes to the ADR’s have been referred to by some as having been ‘repealed.’ This is NOT correct. We now have two ADR’s which are alternatives. One which includes normal switching and one which includes permanent wiring.

The situation today is that most machines coming into Australia do not have light switches. If you want a light switch, no problem, but it costs extra. Very few machines arrive with light switches. Hence most bikes on the road have their lights on.

It is perfectly legal to ride around with your lights off OR on during the daylight.

Wreckers do a good trade in alternators, regulators and stator rewinds. Batteries must be top condition always. There is no doubt that the constant load on electrical systems takes its toll, particularly on older machines with the odd corroded connection.

A leaf through the wiring diagrams of various recent models of Japanese bikes, such as ZX’s, GSX-R’s and CBR’s of all sizes will illustrate the range of models required to be provided by the manufacturers. For example it may suit them to serve Australia and Canada together, one is compulsory, the other is not, no switch is probably cheaper, change is expensive.

It is the grossest inconvenience to be unable to turn it off when required, as in cases of difficult starting in cold weather. Even if you want to just sit there with the engine running to charge a low battery before heading into the night, you cannot, and this alone, is enough to strand a motorcyclist in a dangerous situation.

Guy Stanford
Vice-chairman MCC of NSW


Judgement day

Judge on Harley pursues hit and run lunatic in San Jose

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Robert ‘Bud’ Ambrose was breaking in his new Harley-Davidson Deuce recently when he saw a damaged car driving by with only three functioning tyres. When the driver, a 52-year-old woman, pulled up behind some cars stopped at a red light, then looped around them into oncoming traffic, Ambrose felt he had to do something. The judge chased the driver for several miles as she raced through the streets of San Jose, California, weaving in and out of traffic at speeds from 30 to 60 mph.

Two people were injured and a host of other drivers and pedestrians were sent scrambling for safety. Earlier in the day the same woman in a black Mitsubishi car struck another vehicle, injuring a 10 year old child. Six minutes later, another collision occurred involving the same driver. No one was hurt in that crash, but the driver, now with a flat tire, kept driving. That’s when Ambrose spotted the damaged car and the chase was on. The car was no match for Ambrose’s Harley. The judge even stood on the bike’s foot pegs, waving his arms and shouting at oncoming drivers to watch out.

The car struck two more cars during the judge’s pursuit and then finally stopped because the front fenders were so bent they locked up the rims.

The woman, who later claimed she was on medication, collided with five drivers before and during the chase, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Ambrose detained the driver until police arrived. Looking back, the former police officer agreed he took some risks and wouldn’t recommend it to those who do not have law-enforcement experience.


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No Gatsos for Canadians

Canadians don’t like Gatsos it seems – who does? In Canada however transport officials have ruled that these devices ‘undermine public confidence in the rule of law and law enforcement.’ The deployment of speed cameras has been rejected in the state of British Columbia where the state government is honouring an election pledge to ditch all forms of photograph speed detection equipment. Six years ago Ontario removed all such devices from its roads and Premier Michael Harris described the contraptions as ‘a government cash grab.’

In the UK however, despite the Home Secretary expressing his discomfort with the prevalence of speed cameras, the police have been given the go-ahead to install more by confirming that they can keep the money raised from fines for this purpose.

An ideological battle is underway.


US Swastika court case continues

The plot thickens in the case of the bikers who attended an American court wearing swastikas.

It seems the court rules extend beyond the wearing of potentially offensive Nazis regalia to what might simply be called ‘biker clothing.’

At the present time, in Carson City, Nevada, it is illegal to wear clothing into the county courthouse that shows you are affiliated with a ‘biker or similar organisation,’ and this rule is being applied to all motorcycle groups including ‘HOG.’ The entire phrase in the dress code is ‘street gangs, bikers, or similar organisations.’

Trial dates have been postponed for the 12 bikers challenging the dress code while lawyers argue about the constitutionality of the policy in a higher court. The bikers were to go to trial in Carson City Justice Court on misdemeanor trespass charges after they refused to leave the public building because of their leather jackets and biker vests, some of which sported patches featuring the swastika symbol.

As reported here earlier, two members of the ‘Branded Few’ Motorcycle Club were arrested for trespassing on March 9, 2001 after they refused to take off their swastika-decorated club colours before entering the courthouse. The bikers contend the courthouse dress code violates their First Amendment right of freedom of expression by limiting what they can wear in a public place, and they have vowed to take their fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.

Ed: With the broader definition of ‘unsuitable clothing’ the reason for pursuing this case becomes clearer. It’s just a pity that an example of racist regalia should be the focus. What impression of bikers does this convey we have to ask?


Strife in City of Light

Paris car campaign claims first casualty PARIS (Reuters)

Mayor Bertrand Delanoe’s anti-car campaign has claimed its first casualty – his deputy was knocked off his bike by a motorcyclist illegally racing down a new lane reserved for buses, bicycles and taxis.

Yves Contassot, head of the Green Party in the city’s coalition government, was slightly bruised when he was hit from behind on Tuesday as he was cycling down the Rue de Rivoli in central Paris. Said Contassot, ‘The funniest thing is that I had just left a meeting at police headquarters where I said we absolutely had to take measures against motorcycles that use these lanes.’ The bus lanes, which the city has been marking off with new concrete dividers during the summer, are the latest anti-car step that Socialist Delanoe has taken since being elected last spring on a platform of creating more ‘civilised space’ in the capital.

Paris already has kilometres of special bus and bike lanes, but they are only marked off with white painted lines that the city’s famously chaotic drivers often ignore.

Delanoe’s decision to hand over the scenic expressway along the Seine River to cyclists and skaters for four weeks in July and August outraged motorists and local shopkeepers because it forced cars into the crowded nearby streets. The bus lane dividers, set to be built along 41 km (25 miles) of main arteries in Paris, reduce the wide streets by one lane and have already worsened congestion where they have been built. City Hall hopes drivers will switch to taking the bus.

Over the next few months, new bus and cycle lanes are planned for such well-known roads as the popular shopping street Boulevard Haussmann, the Left Bank’s Boulevard Saint-Germain and the high-fashion bastion Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honore.


Norwegian trailer ban finally comes to an end

After nearly four years of tough negotiations, NMCU has finally succeeded in persuading the Norwegian Road Authorities to lift the ban on motorcycles towing trailers.

The NMCU initiative was much helped by the Danish Government lifting their ban on trailers earlier this year. Response has been overwhelming and since the official message came in August, hundreds of Norwegian bikers have proudly taken their trailers to meetings and rallies. NMCU chairman, Arild Haugan, says: ‘The lift of the ban was long overdue. It is much safer carrying luggage for long trips in a trailer than overloading your solo motorcycle.’

Spain is now thought to be the only European country which still retains a ban on motorcycles towing trailers.