Sikh bid for helmet exemption

Members of the The Azad Sikh Social Motorcycle Club after completing the Vaisakhi ride from Tarneit to Keysborough on Sunday. (Supplied) 401796_01

Cade Lucas

There was a roar of Harley Davidson’s on Sunday morning as a bike gang took off on a ride across the city.

The Azad Sikh Social Motorcycle Club (SMC) made up of Sikh motorbike riders were taking part in their annual Vaisakhi motorcycle ride on Sunday, April 14, cruising all the way from Tarneit to Keysborough in Melbourne’s south-east.

The ride is part of the Vaisakhi festival, one of the most important events on the Sikh calendar, that commemorates the foundation of the “Khalsa Panth” of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.

Starting from the Gurdwara Sahib (Sikh place of worship) in Tarneit and concluding at the Sikh Gurdwara in Keysborough, a spokesperson for the Azad Sikh SMC said riders made quite the impression as they journeyed through Melbourne.

“Under a brilliant autumn sky, riders adorned in traditional and colourful turbans, together with their gleaming motorcycles, made for an arresting sight as they coursed through the city’s

streets,” the spokesperson said.

With motorcyclists having to wear helmets, those colourful turbans were adorned on the bikes themselves rather than on the rider’s heads, something the club is campaigning to change through events like the Vaisakhi ride.

The Azad Sikh SMC is one of a number of Sikh motorcycle clubs across the country who are pushing for an exemption from helmet laws so they can wear turbans instead.

“Caps aren’t allowed in Sikh religion and helmets fall under that category,” said the club spokesperson.

“Many Sikhs aren’t buying motorcycles because of this.”

While helmet exemptions exist for Sikh motorcyclists in the UK, New Zealand and some US and Canadian states, there are none in Australia, though some exist for cyclists,

The Azad Sikh SMC spokesperson said the need for an exemption wasn’t just about helmets.

“It is about upholding the values of unity, respect, and safety, while ensuring that everyone can express their religious beliefs freely,” the spokesperson said.