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Sikhs seek turban instead of helmets

Sikh Baljinder Badesha rides without a helmet turban

While NSW Sikhs have pleaded to ride motorcycles on streets posted up to 60km/h while wearing a turban instead of a helmet, another Canadian province has allowed the exemption.

On April 12, Canada’s Alberta Province joins Manitoba and British Columbia in allowing an exemption for Sikhs to ride with a turban rather than a helmet.

Sikhs are also exempt from helmet laws in India and the UK on religious and civil rights grounds, while only 19 states in the USA have mandatory helmet laws, anyway.

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason says the exemption only applies to Sikhs over 18 and he believes the number of riders who will choose a turban over a helmet would be very small.

“So we decided on the balance that this was the right thing to do,” he says.

The Sikh Motorcycle Club of Edmonton has been lobbying for the exemption for over 30 years.

Spokesman Gurpeet Pandher described the exemption as a “milestone”.

“This change will bring some new opportunities / businesses to bike repair shops / after market accessories shops and Motorcycle Dealerships etc,” he wrote on Facebook.

Aussie Sikhs

Sikh Motorcycle Club rides skihs for charity turban
Sikh Motorcycle Club

Meanwhile, the Central Coast of NSW Sikhs last year campaigned to Coffs Coast Council for the right to not wear helmets on city streets signposted up to 60km/h.

However, council communications officer Jan Rooney says she can find no record of Council having been contacted by Central Coast of NSW Sikhs in relation to the matter.

“They may have contacted a councillor directly,” she says. “Council has no authority to alter road rules.”

The matter would have to be decided by the NSW Centre for Road Safety.

However, a Transport NSW spokesperson says the CRS has “still not received any submissions seeking an exemption from the requirement to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle”.

CRS executive director Bernard Carlos says protection is important for riders.

“A helmet could be the difference between life and death in a crash,” he says.Turban sikhs motorcycle helmets

“People who ride a bicycle or motorcycle are vulnerable in a crash as the unprotected body can only tolerate so much force.

“There is overwhelming evidence that wearing an approved motorcycle helmet reduces the risk of death and serious injury.”

The Central Coast of NSW Sikhs did not reply to a request for comment.

However, the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Australia told us last year that it is a discriminatory law and agree that Sikhs should be exempted from wearing helmet at low speeds.

Sikh Motorcycle Club rides for charity turban
Sikh Motorcycle Club members

Founding member Daljeet Singh told us that while initiated male and female Sikhs must cover their hair with a turban, Sikh Motorcycle Club members wear a bandana-style scarf underneath their helmets.

“We were actually fined riding out of a temple celebration with turbans on instead of our helmets,” he told us.

“But that’s not the reason why we started wearing helmets. It’s how we feel. We respect wearing the turban, but because the law doesn’t allow it we wear a little scarf underneath the helmet.”

American helmet laws

There is no exemption for Sikhs in the USA, but there are only 19 states that require all riders to wear helmets, anyway.

US helmet laws were introduced in 1966 when the feds withheld 10% of states highway construction funds unless they introduced certain safety regulations, including helmet laws.

Within a decade, 47 states had complied.crash accident helmet Sturgis insurance claim

But in 1975, Congress amended the Highway Safety Act to prevent the use of federal highway funding as leverage against states.

Despite evidence of helmets protecting riders form death and severe head injury, 28 states have repealed their helmet laws with more set to follow. Nebraska recently started debating repeal legislation.

However, most states without mandatory helmet laws do require riders without helmets to have a certain amount of health insurance and have appropriate eyewear, while riders under 21 are not exempt from wearing helmets.


    1. James, you should be ashamed of yourself for making a comment like that. There are many Sikhs in the region where I live. They are highly respected and valued members of the community who contribute far more to the wellbeing of our society than a lot of the useless self-centred ‘pricks’ (probably you, James) who like to consider themselves to be ‘real Ausssies.’

      People like you, James, are the cause of the difficulties now faced by motorcycling. Just as you don’t care about what is important to others, the people who formulate and enforce the rules governing motorcycling don’t care about what is important to motorcyclists. So if motorcycling becomes encumbered with so many silly restrictions that we all just give up because it is too much hassle and too little fun, just remember that it is people like you who made it happen.

  1. They are not endangering anybody else, so let them have the freedom to choose what is right for them.

  2. The problem with this, is that it goes against whatever safety standards the authorities are standing by. Governments claim the only way to ride a bike or motorcycle is with an approved helmet for you safety. Having a different religion does not afford you any protection in a crash. So are helmets the only safe way to go, it’s a yes or no answer, and if not, how do they justify an exemption if they claim to be acting in our best interest.

  3. Good luck to them. I am all for the freedom to choose, and oppose any government-mandated measure aimed at my personal safety and well-being. So what about the rest of us then?

  4. In countries that have constitutions that protect freedom of religion the laws forcing people to do things that are against their religion are actually against the law!
    Personally I would like a constitution that enshrined freedom from religion and the right to hose door kockers with boiling acid and ram their religious pamphlets down their throats but one can only dream.
    Helmets do save lives but how many riders who are now wishing they were not wearing a helmet are there compared to how many that were glad?

  5. This “However, the Sikh Motorcycle Club of Australia told us last year that it is a discriminatory law and agree that Sikhs should be exempted from wearing helmet at low speeds.” from your article might seem a valid statement but allowing this to happen could also mean that everyone else is then discriminated because they will have to wear a helmet.

  6. funny i always thought we were hard done by in the 60’s and 70’s. But the restrictions
    to our freedoms have been unrelenting.I am certainly glad i am not going through the process of getting a licence now. I rode for quite a few years with an exemption and guess
    what? I’m alive Totally sick of the nanny state mentality. And before we get the “all the gear all the time ‘ mob piping up..I have no objection to what you wear or do..and as for “you cost
    the community in medical bills”..Well not really if im dead its just a funeral and the rellies can pay that

  7. I’m afraid the person you have in the first picture is not of the Sikh faith which is unprofessional researching. The other people that are wearing turbans in your pictures are Sikhs and should really replace this picture because it is not accurate to show this. There is a significant meaning to the Turban and how it is tied on the head to keep the hair tidy so you can tell if a person is of the Sikh faith.

    Sikhs are not the only people from the Asian continent that wear Turbans, Hindus and Muslim also wear them but the way in which they wear it is noticeably different. The person you have included in the first picture is likely to be of the Hindu faith and although they have every right to wear a Turban of course, it does not make sense for it to be included in this article if it is about ‘Sikhs’ wearing turbans. Could you please change it?

    Thank you

  8. I like the freedom to be able to choose, as long as you don’t impact anyone else. This can be problematic if you get a long term injury that then the rest of us have to pickup the bill for. Like seatbelts and condoms, helmets definitely save injuries but are also pleasure robbers. Back in the helmet free days I put in many bare headed miles, but one thing you really didn’t do was play hard ball boy racer with a bare head….so maybe helmet free can be sold as a ‘safety’ thing!!

  9. Let them wear their turban, after all their God will protect them. I would however put one caveat – All medical costs etc. arising from head injury will not be covered by medicare and $$$$ will come from their own pocket not my taxes.

    1. Fluffy, if everybody adopts your approach then other people will say all motorcycle injuries should “not be covered by medicare and $$$$ will come from their own pocket.” Your attitude does more harm than good. What makes you think it is up to you to decide whose injuries are covered and whose aren’t! You are promoting the ‘nanny state’ where any thing that is fun will be banned just because there may be a small amount of risk.

      1. Wow! A few big jumps of indignation there. I don’t think it is up to me to decide who’s injuries are covered, never even suggested that it should be me – I think I implied that by not wearing a helmet the rider was making the decision.
        I think on safe ground to suggest that a helmet is a pretty much proven safety device that most riders agree saves lives and or serious brain injury. Further more a helmet is currently the only mandated safety gear that must be worn (at least in my state). I always wear kevlar, leather, boots and gloves when I ride. Yes I shake my head at those riders I see in singlets, shorts and thongs but let them maim themselves if they wish. I don’t even begrudge them their skin grafts and painful hospital stays.
        So why am I happy to see people who don’t wear helmets picking up their own hospital bills? A conscious decision to risk brain injury (which may have lifetime and ongoing expense) just seems selfish. I abhor the nanny state but am mature enough to know that unless you draw the line somewhere it will only get worse and give the legislators ammunition to restrict us more and more.

        1. Fluffy, you seem to have missed the most important point; – If everybody adopts your attitude other people will say that all motorcycle injuries should not be covered (no reason for indignation). The ‘line’ can be moved at any time and it is not you or me who will decide where it will be drawn. That decision will be very much influenced by popular opinion, and that isn’t good for a minority group which is what motorcyclists are. The values, attitudes and expectations of our society are rapidly changing and it is unrealistic to think that what is will remain.

          1. MotoRain You just cant get it in your head can you . Its the law , and for good reason . The same as seat belts and airbags in new cars . Its not a lifestyle choice , its a life and death one . At 60 kph , a head blow at that speed will kill so easily , people die tripping over on the footpath . We don’t like all laws , but some are for our own good . Nothing to do with religion , popular opinion or some sqeeling minority group . I see the pics of your guys on big dollars V Rods and Harleys in jeans , leather vests , and boots . You want to live the dream , be a part of it and wear a helmet , so Police officers and Ambulance officers don’t have to pick up your brains on a shovel .

  10. Let them smash their heads lime watermellons . Natural selection . Next they will want 3 other adults 2 children a coue of chickens and a goat on the bike as well . All with no helmets .on .

    1. Martin, it is hard to have any respect for the opinions of people (like you) who cannot maintain a train of thought. My comments to Fluffy are not about whether helmet exemptions should be granted. They are about Fluffy’s idea that we should be selective about what injuries should have health coverage. So where do you draw the line? Some people will say that no motorcycle injuries should be covered because it is a dangerous activity. What about other dangerous activities? Or if someone attempts suicide and fails. Or has an accident at home when drunk. Fluffy’s suggestion could have many bad consequences, although he seems to think that it will be the way he wants it.

  11. well the way it is helmets are mandatory unless you have a head greater than 65cm and a doctors certificate then you don’t have wear one but if you don’t like your head or your life then don’t wear one because to me that’s just something gone nothing missed only a fool rides without a helmet back in the day helmets were wear it if you want and don’t if you don’t were i was born the major highway had open speed limit just go for it and many of my old friends are dead no helmet. until car drivers are more educated about motorcycle rides and they stop using their phones, eating breakfast, doing make up, working on laptops, reading papers, we will as rides, be the ones that hear OH SORRY MATE I DIDN’T SEE YOU and then they get off with that line. ore just DEAD all i want to do is just ride mt bike and not have to drive other peoples cars at the same time it gets very tiring have to go through life doing this so if they want to kill themselves let them but as a rider of over 45 years on bikes and still upright wear a helmet not a bucket or a turban

  12. The fatality figures for Indian riders not wearing helmets is at least 98 helmet-less riders dying daily in 2017.

  13. Here in Malaysia, Sikh with uncut hair that wear turban are exempted for wearing helmet and the rest who cut their hair need to wear helmet. Sikh with turban cannot wear helmet, its uncomfortable and not practical. There are many riders with helmet that still have died even do wearing helmet, helmet is not dead proof, rider still can die with internal injury. Anyone can slip and fall while showering and die on the spot, thing about that.

  14. MotoRain . Its simple , its the law . If you and your mates want to ride motorcycles in Australia , obey the law . Its obvious you , have never seen someones head smashed open . If you had you wouldn’t trivialize it , by making comments like ” if motorcycling becomes encumbered with so many silly restrictions that we all just give up because it is too much hassle and too little fun, ” Motorcycles are fun , but can be deadly , and common sense and the law dictate that we have to wear an approved helmet . A lot of Australians are sick and tired of hearing about this or that minority groups wanting special treatment . Well suck it up sunshine , and go to a Hospital ER and have a good look . Your choice is simple , obey the law , wear an approved helmet , OR DONT RIDE A BIKE . Simple isn’t it .

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