There’s long been a heated debate surrounding mandatory helmet laws, but up until now sexism hadn’t really been one of the talking points. However, a recent complaint from an Australian woman has changed that, as she claims helmet laws unfairly target women with otherwise fabulous hair by forcing them to put vanity on the back burner in an effort to protect their brain.

After receiving a $153 fine for riding without a helmet, 54-year-old Sue Abbott made headlines when she called the fine “ridiculous” and turned the ticket into a gender issue, saying, “It is a very sexist law because a lot of women have maintained hairstyles and would end up with helmet hair — and women have told me that’s one of the factors (for not riding bikes).”

Although her contention that, “more people would ride bikes if helmets were optional,” is actually a position shared by many cycling advocates, it still seems a bit strange to place personal appearance above safety. Plus, her implicit assertion that men aren’t equally capable of having “maintained hairstyles” seems more sexist than a gender neutral helmet law. After all, fans of the TV show Scrubs will remember JD even going as far as creating a custom “hairmet” to ensure he could ride safely while maintaining a fabulous coif.

A customized solution for preventing helmet hair...albeit fictitious...

A customized (albeit fictitious) solution for preventing helmet hair

Apparently Ms. Abbott has been fined dozens of times and even “had bikes seized and sold by police to pay her fines.” Still, she holds strong in her battle against the tyranny of sexist laws that promote safety for both men and women alike. In a way, you almost have to admire her stubbornness. It’s the cycling equivalent of getting thousands of dollars in tickets for not wearing a seat belt and yet still refusing to buckle up.

Not only is wearing a helmet an exceptionally easy way to protect yourself from possible head injuries, it’s a bizarre choice to put a fear of being seen with imperfect hair higher on your list of concerns than a possible concussion or even cracked skull. Still, from all evidence presented in the article, Ms. Abbott will continue fighting her good (if illogical) fight on behalf of female cyclists everywhere.

What do you think? Am I missing something here? Are helmet laws sexist? Either way, I’ll be out riding with a helmet firmly in place and my vanity temporarily stowed in my bike bag. But then again I’m a male with a crew cut, so what do I know about the plight of people with luscious locks of hair?

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.