Significant changes have been made to the process for obtaining a medical exemption from the requirement to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle in Victoria. These changes are welcomed by Freestyle Cyclists, as they make the process of obtaining such an exemption simpler, and the outcome more certain.
Previously, medical exemptions required application to VicRoads, supported by a medical report. VicRoads frequently required specialist medical opinion in support of applications, and exemptions, if granted, were for a limited time (3 years) only.
The amended legislation (Road Safety Road Rules, rule 256 removes the issuing discretion from VicRoads, and instead only requires the rider to carry a certificate, issued by a registered medical practitioner, stating that they cannot wear a helmet due to a medical condition. An extract of the relevant section of the regulation is copied below. It includes the form of wording to be used on the certificate.
256 Bicycle helmets
(1) The rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on the rider’s head unless—
(a) a registered medical practitioner has issued a certificate to the rider under subrule (4) and the rider complies with subrule (6) …………….
(4) A registered medical practitioner may issue a certificate stating that, because of a disability or medical condition, it is impracticable, undesirable or inexpedient that the person named in the certificate wear a bicycle helmet while riding on, or being taken as a passenger on, a bicycle.
(5) A registered medical practitioner may make a certificate issued under subrule (4) subject to conditions.
(6) A certificate issued under subrule (4) must be—
(a) carried by the person to whom it applies while the person is riding on, or being taken as a passenger on, a bicycle; and
(b) produced by the person to a police officer or authorised person when requested to do so.
This means that if you have any medical condition (including a mental health condition), that makes it impracticable, undesirable or inexpedient for you to wear a helmet, you can get your doctor to issue you with a certificate exempting you from the requirement to wear a helmet.
The nature of your condition remains subject to doctor/patient confidentiality. All you are required to do is to carry the certificate with you, and show it on demand to an authorised person (generally a police officer), and that is the end of the matter. No argument.
If you are unsure as to whether or not your inability to wear a helmet is medical, we would suggest as a starting point that you tell your chosen practitioner that you avoid riding a bicycle because of the requirement to wear a helmet. It would be in the interests of your health in general if you were allowed to ride, which should be grounds enough to issue you with a medical certificate.
Similar legislation has been in place from the word go in Queensland, and has worked well there, so hopefully there will be no hiccups here in Victoria.
what is a registered medical practitioner?
A registered medical practitioner, generally referred to as a doctor, includes doctors and specialists who are registered with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. Psychiatrists are medical practitioners but Psychologists are not.