Saturday, 9 August 2014

Can I quickly mention helmets just this once?

I was minding my business just the other day when I saw a young child being pushed along at walking pace on a small tricycle via a handle that the child's mother was holding. The child had a big pink helmet strapped to her head. Because you never know.

It reminded me of one of the events at Velo-City 2014 and the fact that Australia can sometimes be a very odd place.

Nik Dow and Freestyle Cyclists organised a small protest ride along Linear Park just to make the point that helmet laws had perhaps not been the panacea that had been hoped and, if anything, have had a negative effect on public health.

Disappointly I could not go along which meant I also missed the jamming session at Bike Kitchen.

There was a good crowd to start with and more joined as they went along including a few of the overseas delegates. That ride was the only time I saw Herbert Tiemens (bicycle program manager at Bestuur Regio Utrecht) and Klaus Bondam (Director of the Danish Cyclists' Federation) on a bike for the entire week. In fact, it was the only time I saw Danish man-crush, Mr Copenhagenize, riding a bike in Adelaide under his own steam. All the other times he was either getting transported on one of the rickshaws or he was making use of the free wi-fi on the tram.

A couple of things struck me. The first is that riding a bike along a river (away from traffic on a Linear Park) is something children do in other countries every single day. When our friends did it, it made the news - front page no less:

Even worse, it required a police escort with officers in hi-viz at the front and rear of the convoy!

And it was the riders who were painted as the strange ones. Funny old world.


  1. I was there 0:54, 1:16, 2.44 and happy about it so I can now document the absolute stupidity of this country as my non-Australian friends and families would otherwise never believe me. Got some long good conversations with Klaus, Herbert and Mikael and took Klaus around by bike (and car) on the Sunday. He liked the Holland St market, museums, hills etc. but was absolutely appalled by the lack of infrastructure and general provisioning for cyclists around the city and metropolitan area..

  2. I was fairly gutted I couldn't make it. Sue Abbott was prepared to lend me her Brompton so I was especially disappointed. Let's just hope the message got through and we get some momentum. I met a few cool people from ACC and from interstate who were fairly energised by the conference.

  3. sometimes I think the less attention we draw to the issue the better. My approach, for all it is worth, is to organise my daily trips around footpaths and off-road trails, and wear a helmet, or not. I figure conditions on Australian footpaths are better than on a lot of bike infrastructure in the Netherlands (I mean, nobody cycles or walks so I have the whole space to myself!) and I've been lucky enough that in the places I've lived neither the police or passersby are inclined to look twice at somebody riding off-road without a helmet.

  4. Recently I visited Adelaide and rode my old bicycle that had been sitting in my parent's shed for 15 years. I harmlessly rode to the shops, like I do everyday of the week in the sane country where I live. BUT. I was accosted by an overly zealous cop who gave me a $153 fine and a sermon about my lack of a helmet - I am over 50 years old and having a trumped up storm trooper try and lecture me and harp on about helmets was very unappealing. She asked about my criminal record - WTF? I earn over $300,000, I manage a large division in a global company. I know exactly how ineffective Australia's helmet laws have been in helping cyclist safety. I am a highly intelligent well informed adult. I ride bicycles over 10,000 km each year. My position is very clear - helmet laws are anti-cyclist and bicycle helmets offer less protection than the wearer assumes. Needless to say her attempt to enforce her opinion on me did not meet with any meekness and she did not get to spout her self serving diatribe to a subservient citizen.

    I had seen the video of the helmet free ride and had read about VeloCity and assumed that the proclivity of the South Australian police force to enforce this misguided law had eased. If anything the opposite seems to have happened.

    I will no longer bother riding a bicycle in Adelaide - well done the powers that be, you really have marginalised cycling.