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Pacific Sikh Cyclist Exempted From Fine For Not Wearing Helmet


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sikh cyclist exempted from fine for not wearing helmet in Oz

MELBOURNE: Jasdeep Atwal has become the first Sikh man in Australia exempted by court from paying fine as he was not wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle.

Following the court verdict, Australian traffic authorities will have to review their policy.

Magistrate Stuart Shearer of a Queensland court was quoted as saying in media reports, “How on earth is going to get a bike (rider) a helmet over his turban?”

Atwal was imposed a fine of one hundred dollars last year and was facing conviction on charges of violating traffic norms.The court on Wednesday announced its decision to exempt Atwal from paying any fine.

As per reports, Atwal stated in the court that he had taken off his turban only while sleeping or to wash his hair.He said, “The law indirectly discriminates against Sikhs from riding bicycles because essentially we cannot wear a helmet.”

"It's (the court) absolved me of all the charges, I've got no fines to pay and no demerit points on my licence. This is a bit of a landmark which we will be able to use in our lobbying in the future," Atwal said.

The latest verdict is said to potentially prompt Queensland police to revise their transport policy.Under the present rules, the only exception to the rule under the Transport Operations (Road Use Management, Road Rules) Regulation 2009 is if in case the cyclist has a medical certificate.

An expert in the fields of criminal and traffic defence law, Kurt Fowler said,"What's happened is the court has found him (Atwal) guilty, but have not upheld any penalty, which is a sign that it wasn't a proper prosecution. This usually happens when a magistrate is forced to hear a case for hours that they think is a waste of time.”


May 9, 2006
I've been watching this story on Facebook. *sigh*

In one corner we have the "Australians" saying 'it's our law, you should follow it, if you don't like it, go home. Also he should sign a form saying if he falls off his bike the government won't pay his medical bills for head injuries'.
In the other corner you have the "Sikhs" saying 'Australia has no culture, if it wasn't for everyone elses culture you would have nothing, you racist pigs'.
In the middle are people like me saying 'Good, we've seen an area where the law doesn't apply and it's been recognised and dealt with accordingly'.

I 'liked' a link to this story and one of my work colleages made a comment to the effect of 'well I won't wear my helmet because I don't want to mess up my hair I've spent all morning doing'. Things are now awkward between me and said colleague, although I don't think she knows that yet.

Another friend was saying there was a debate about it on talkback radio she was listening to and the caller was saying 'he should just take his turban off, wear his helmet and put it back on again after, just like he should take it off if he goes into a restaurant'. I'm glad the host (an Australian) started yelling at the caller repeatedly saying 'HE CAN'T JUST TAKE IT OFF'.

It's shown me a massive lack of education amongst Australians who think the turban is a hat that can be put on and removed at a whim. They also seem to think a piece of pastic covered foam that never fits right anyway is going to protect a skull from impact better than 6+ meters of fabric wound round and round and round a person's head and hair.

I encountered a lot of this mentality on the atheist forum I belonged to who were having a discussion about Sikhs and kirpans and how a 'regular Australian' has to have a valid reason for carrying a knife (I'm going fishing, or I'm getting it sharpened), but Sikhs 'just because of their religion' can carry one no problems, and that religion wasn't a good enough reason for laws not to apply.

It all makes me feel very sick and overwhelmed.

PS The funny thing which everyone agrees on is that Mr Atwal should really buy a better bike! haha
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1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
ishna ji

I hear your frustration. My guess is that Australians on average are way ahead of the US on this issue and other issues related to turbans, Sikhs, and the "c" word culture. Where I work it was taboo to discuss health care options before the presidential election because people "thought" lol that if you did that you were trying to get votes for Obama. So between the 2 of us what passes for the kind of conversation that is supposed to go on in order to keep democracy strong isn't doing too well. And it is not the gov but the peeps who are are fault here. Being informed, being reasonable and weighing points of view is less important than we guess.

p/s I cannot discuss gun control with one of my best friends, because it isn't a discussion. We never talk about the pro's and con's. She just repeats like a mantra, teachers should be able to bring pistols to school. Her husband gave her a .22 for her 50th b-day.

Tejwant Singh

Jun 30, 2004
Henderson, NV.
In the UK there is an exception to wear helmets for the turban wearing Sikhs and if I am not mistaken, the same goes for Canada. But the whole problem is the safety issue. We do not see Sikhs riding 70 to 80 miles an hour on the freeways/motorways/autobahns. If they rode that fast, the turbans would fly provided they were not wearing the thatas, not to keep their moussed beards intact but to avoid the turbans from flying away.

I used to ride motorcycles/motocross in Brasil and used to wear bandannas under the helmets while riding on the freeways and in the mountains. My hair was tied in a bun at the back. During my street rides, I wore a turban.

One can say the same for the Sikhs who work in the construction business. They have to wear helmets if they want to be in that profession which is OK. Sikhs piloting jet fighters in the IAF have to wear helmets because of all the electronics installed in them and also for the safety sake.

Safety should trump everything else.

Tejwant Singh
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