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Pacific Sikh-ing A Solution: Motorbike Riders Want Turbans Not Helmuts (& Video)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Sikh-ing a solution: motorbike riders want turbans not helmets

By Felicity Ogilvie


A Sikh man living in Hobart wants the law changed so he can wear his turban rather than a motorcycle helmet.

A Hobart Sikh man wants the law changed so he can ride a motorbike wearing a turban rather than a helmet. (Credit: ABC)

A Hobart man wants the law changed so men from the Sikh religion can ride motorbikes wearing their turbans rather than helmets.

Harpreed Singh, who is originally from New Delhi, has not ridden a motorbike since moving to Tasmania in 2008 because of the legal requirement to wear a helmet.

Members of the Sikh faith wear turbans for religious reasons and do not want to remove them.

"I can't go without a turban to any office or anyone's house or I can't go bare-headed," he said.

"I have been wearing a turban since I was in grade six.
Audio: Hobart man seeks motorcycle helmet exemption for Sikhs (PM)

"I have ridden motorbikes all my life and in India it is allowed and even in the UK, Canada and the US you can ride, Sikhs can ride a bike with a turban on."

While Sikhs in many Australian states are allowed to ride bicycles without a helmet, the exemption does not extend to motorbikes.

In Tasmania, the fine for not wearing a helmet is $140 and three demerit points.

But rather than sit back and accept the law as it stands, Mr Singh has been taking legal advice on how to change it.

"It should be for all the Sikhs who want to ride the bike with a turban on, it's not specially for me. I would like to take it for all the Sikh community."

The Tasmanian Government says the transport commissioner has the power to exempt individuals from wearing a helmet.

Support for exemptions

Anti-discrimination commissioner Robin Banks says it would be better to exempt the entire Sikh religion.

She wants to avoid the situation where every Sikh has to apply for an exemption and then prove they have one if they are stopped by the police.
A Hobart man Harpreed Singh tries to put a helmet on over his turban. Photo: Mr Singh has been seeking legal advice on changing the law. (ABC)

"The better approach would be to say, 'OK, we'll consider this across the board for all people who wear the turbans'."

Like Mr Singh, she points to other parts of the world where similar changes have been made.

"In Canada there's been human rights cases that have decided that instead of having to wear a motorbike helmet, or even a safety helmet on building sites, [they] are permitted to wear their turbans."

But while Australian Motorcycle Council chairman Shaun Lennard empathises with Sikhs, he does not support their call.
"...as soon as somebody was to have an unfortunate crash...suddenly the good idea is not going to seem like a good idea at all."
Shaun Lennard, Australian Motorcycle Council

"It sounds like a reasonable idea, but as soon as somebody was to have an unfortunate crash not wearing a helmet and wearing something else on their head, then suddenly the good idea is not going to seem like a good idea at all," Mr Lennard said.

"All the research worldwide shows that motorcycle helmets... make a significant positive outcome on motorcycle safety in terms of crashes. I mean, that's indisputable."

Mr Singh believes he can ride safely without a helmet.

"It's not a matter of riding that, it's a matter of how do you drive. If you lose your concentration you're not even safe with the helmet on."

Mr Singh has found a motorbike that he likes - a big black Triumph.

"That's what I would love to buy, but when I can ride with the turban on."

For Mr Singh and his fellow Sikhs in Tasmania, that would be a triumph.


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Harry Haller

Panga Master
Jan 31, 2011
I owned a bike when I was turbaned, I remember riding to Southend on a sunny day dressed in shorts, a t shirt, and my red turban. I felt free, it was a great feeling, I also remember being overtaken by a leather clad biker with a black helmet, as he sped in the distance, I still recall his head shaking from side to side in disbelief.

I also remember seeing a friends helmet after a crash, the entire visor was scratched and gouged, if that had been me, that would have been my face.

I gave up biking in the end, for someone with a deathwish, it was just too risky.

Would I let my stepson drive a powerful bike without a helmet, no, I would not, I would be interested see how the Sikh mountaineering community cope.