At Sub-clause 7 of “Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 section 11.8 Safety Helmets for Cyclists”, it is possible to seek an exemption from wearing a cycle helmet. Applications may be on the grounds of religious belief, physical disability or other reasonable grounds.The relevant regulation is at: Safety Helmets for Cyclists
Applications, with covering letter citing the grounds for the application and a letter from a medical practitioner if applicable, should be addressed to:
Driver Licensing Administration
Transport Registry Centre
Private Bag 11777
Palmerston North 4442
Under the legislation there are three possibler grounds for seeking an exemption from the requirement to wear an approved helmet when riding a bicycle:
- Religious belief
- Physical disability
- Other reasonable grounds
A considerable number of applications have been submitted over the years, but only those on the grounds of ‘Physical Disability’ have been successful – until now. There would appear to be no ‘Other reasonable grounds’ which are acceptable to the Ministry of Transport, but ‘Religious belief’ may be another matter.
A member of the Cycling Health Group recently reported the following:
“I applied under religious grounds, first defining religion as a set of beliefs that can’t be proven, that may co exist with other religious beliefs such as Christianity, and then applying by asserting I held such beliefs, and that it would be illegal to discriminate against my beliefs, if other religions were given exemptions. I got my exemption, with the weird requirement that I carry a letter from my minister asserting I held these beliefs. This is probably illegal, as it assumes an approach to religion that includes ministers”
This case embodies a logical and probably irrefutable argument for any cyclist prepared to use it.
In accord with their religious beliefs, Male Sikhs are required to wear a Dastar or Pagri (Turban) and consequently are unable to wear a cycle helmet and they can thus claim exemption on religious grounds.
NZTA: EXEMPTIONS GRANTED
New Zealand Transport Agency data recently released under the Official Information Act shows 90 people have been granted exemptions from wearing bike helmets since 2000. This year (2013) three exemptions have been granted, all for claustrophobia and/or headaches.
In the previous 13 years, riders have been exempted from wearing a helmet for medical reasons including epilepsy, spinal damage, deafness, excessive sweating, head or face injuries, respiratory problems and asthma from the strap, and being physically unable to fasten the strap. Riders with abnormally large heads accounted for 11 exemptions, while the most common reason, headaches and/or claustrophobia, was claimed by 36 riders.
Three riders were also granted exemption between 2000 and 2003 for a “personal desire not to wear helmet”. NZTA spokesman Andy Knackstedt said the category was a historic anomaly, and would have been issued by the former Land Transport Safety Authority. There was no record of documentation for these exemptions, and it would not be considered a valid reason today.
Exemptions can also be claimed for religious or non-medical reasons, although only seven have been granted since 2009. Sikh riders are automatically exempt from wearing a helmet as long as they do not exceed 50km/h and can provide proof of their religion to an enforcement officer.
Applications for exemptions need to be made with supporting documents, usually a letter from a registered medical practitioner.