Shiny helmet and smooth legs

October 11, 2017 at 15:44 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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As regular readers would know, I don’t wear a bicycle helmet. I’m not going to go into the reasons again here – if you want to know more, there’s a score of articles on this blog that explain why.

However, I did recently don one for the first time in years. But not to ride a bike – but to go to a fancy dress party. A good friend was celebrating a significant birthday, and the theme was ‘French’. Mrs Chillikebab obtained me a beret, but at the least minute I had a better idea. What could be more French than dressing up as a competitor in the worlds most famous bicycle race?

Accordingly I dusted off my finest lycra (which is not especially sportive, but it would have to do), made myself a race number with appropriate logo and found Baby Chillikebab’s old balance bike from the back of the shed to use as a prop.

As I was getting ready, two things struck me. One, I needed to wear my helmet, to complete the ensemble. And secondly my legs were too hairy to be authentic.

So I went hunting for my helmet. I finally found it, dusty and forgotten. The pads had disintegrated, but I found some replacements knocking about, and fitted them after giving the thing a wash and a polish. I put it on. These things are really not that comfortable, are they? I suppose you get used to it – I used to wear it every day, after all.

Then I took a shower, and attacked my legs with a razor. This took a lot longer than expected. And I clogged the bath drain. You probably don’t need to know more than that.

One thing though – whilst the helmet felt uncomfortable, shaving your legs feels great. So smooth and sensuous! There is a lot of theories about why cyclists shave their legs – it makes them more aerodynamic, it makes injuries easier to treat, it’s better for post-race massage etc etc. But now I know the real reason. It feels lovely.

If you feel like trying it yourself, be aware. The next day my legs were blotchy, itchy and rough, and stayed that way for over a week. Perhaps it’s a bit like wearing a helmet. You get used to it after a while…

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Kids, helmets and changing play

August 8, 2016 at 12:07 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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kids on bike helmetsHere’s the Chillikebab kids, ready for an outing to the park for a picnic. See the excited faces! And check out how different they look form a few years ago

There’s also another difference you may have spotted, too. Yes, they are wearing bike helmets. Not because I made them or even asked them to, of course. But because they wanted to. And whilst I’m no fan of helmets, I am all for personal choice – and if they want to wear them, and feel more comfortable with them on, then that’s what we will do.

However, it does bear some examination. I stopped wearing a helmet before they were born, and up until now they have never had one. So what changed?

Well, going to school. Their teachers promote helmet wearing as part of ‘safety awareness’. They have had in-school visits from Kidsafe (an organisation I have very little time for, btw). And there is peer pressure from their friends.

I have gently asked them about all of this, and told them it’s up to them if they want to wear one or not – that some people do, and some people don’t. But they now prefer to have them on.

This makes me somewhat sad. Not because they are wearing helmets per se, but because of what it is doing to the way they play. They often have their bikes and scooters out in the garden, and used to charge around on them from time to time, in the middle of whatever game. Now they have to come and find one of us to put their helmets on. And then take them off again. Which kind of kills the spontaneity – which means they ride their bikes and scooters less.

It’s quite noticeable. The negative pressure on bicycle usage from helmet compulsion is something I am very familiar with from the academic literature, of course. But it’s very sad to see it first hand, with your own kids. To see that they are discouraged from doing something safe, fun and healthy because of the insidious pressure from the plastic hat brigade.

 

From ‘d!ckhead’ to ‘Sir’ in the blink of a camera…

June 4, 2016 at 15:57 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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patrolThe other evening I was riding home from work when I happened to ride past a Highway Patrol car. Usually they just ignore me, but on this occasion, the officer evidently felt the need to share his opinion of me. Leaning out of the window, bogan-style, he yelled across to me.

‘Where’s your helmet, dickhead?’

The default approach for the NSW police is, in my experience, to be rude and aggressive. With the notable (and honourable) exception of the velocops, my interactions with highway patrol officers has rarely been pleasant. However, this was the first time I had ever had a police officer shout outright abuse at me.

I stopped, and a conversation ensued, where I pointed out I was unable to wear a helmet for medical reasons. He continued in the same aggressive tone, ‘Yeah? Yeah? You gonna tell me what it is? What’s wrong with you?’.

barcamThen, suddenly, he clocked something. I have a camera mounted on my handlebars. And it was pointing in his direction. Suddenly his tone changed. No, he didn’t need to actually see my medical certificate. He was just concerned for my safety. ‘Ride carefully, sir’, he implored me, before pulling away.

I run cameras partly for fun, partly in case a driver does something dangerous around me, so I have evidence.

But it seems they are also necessary protection against aggressive policing.

Addressing the Senate Inquiry

March 4, 2016 at 17:17 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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parliamentWell, goodness, hasn’t it taken a long time to get around to writing this. For whatever reason, life seems to have been getting in the way of blogging recently, and whilst I carry around with me umpteen ideas for interesting items (using ‘interesting’ in the loosest terms there), I’ve struggled to actually put fingers to keyboard to make them real.

If you cast your mind back, you will recall I was asked to give evidence to the Senate inquiry into ‘nanny state laws’, following my submission to the same. The date unfortunately fell during the Chillikebab annual holiday, and initially I said I wasn’t available. However, Mrs Chillikebab, being a rather good sort, told me that I should go even if it meant interrupting our holiday. I guess she was worried that if I didn’t go I’d feel forever bitter and twisted that I missed my opportunity to actually do something vaguely useful in the field of cycling advocacy.

So I booked a ticket, and duly left the rest of the Chillikebabs lounging around the pool at our holiday home on the Sunshine Coast and flew to Melbourne for the day.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, and when I got to the parliament building and explained I was there to give evidence to the committee they seemed rather nonplussed and didn’t know what to do with me.  Luckily I made contact with a fellow free-cyclist, and he kindly showed me to the committee room.

I was just in time to hear the evidence from the medico-safely lobby. A whole bunch of worthy doctors, professors and road safety experts all intent on ensuring Australia remains one of the very few places on earth where it is illegal to pedal along a cyclepath with the breeze in your hair.

They started predictably enough, with little speeches emphasizing how well helmet laws were working to reduce injury, and how Australia led the world in such safety initiatives, and how many lives were saved every minute of every day due to these wonderful laws.

Then the Senators started to question them. There were just two senators – the maverick David Leyonhjelm (the only elected representative of the tiny Liberal Democrat party), and Mattheew Canavan, from the governing LNP alliance, and a member of the smaller National party.

I have to say, the Senators were superb. They were across all the material, all the science, understood all the shonky arguments put forward by the medico-safety lobby and grilled them very effectively – pulling apart their arguments and reveling the lack of substance in their submissions. It’s rare the medico-safety lobby are ever held to account, as they avoid public debate, and tend to shut down any attempts at dialogue with high-handed appeals to authority. In this forum, however they couldn’t hide, couldn’t bluster, and couldn’t walk away. They had to admit that the evidence for the effectiveness of MHL was ‘mixed and contradictory’, they had to take endless questions on notice because they were not really across the material, they floundered badly on many very basic points and got extremely rattled and aggressive.

It was terrific. I enjoyed every moment of it.

senateThen, after a short break, I was on. I shared my slot with Nic Dow, of the Australian Cyclists Party, a cycling freedom campaigner I have corresponded with online, but never met. Indeed, one of the nice things about going to the inquiry was meeting up with so many people I have either emailed or corresponded with online but never met.

We made our opening addresses; I had some illustrations of motoring helmets that have variously been proposed, and I used them both to highlight some of the contradictions in the medico-safety folks comments, and also to show the inquity of forcing helmets only on cyclists.

Nic was all over the science, and outlined some of the most recent research that directly contradicted the ‘expert’ evidence from the doctors.

Then we had some questions from the committee. I outlined some of my experiences with going to court and so on, and spoke about bicycle hire schemes. Nic spoke more about different types of cycling, noting that a (helmeted) Neurosurgeon out for his high-speed Sunday morning bunch ride was at far higher risk of head injury than an unhelmeted cyclists on an upright bike pootling along a cycleway.

A few points I mentioned that they seemed interested in; one was my proposal to decriminalize helmetless riding by making the penalty $0, but maintaining it as an ‘advisory’ law. Thre was quite a bit of discussion about this; both Nic and I made points about the political nature of the debate – however much we might want to, a full repeal of the whole helmet law is unlikely to happen, so we explored various options for staged withdrawals and compromises.

Finally I spoke about my framework for assessing helmet laws (and similar nanny state legislation), making further points about  the inequity of MHL.

It was sort of fun, although I felt I didn’t really express myself the way I would have liked. It’s a bit hard to do when you are being questioned, rather than following your own agenda. But I’m very glad I did it.

It was also noteworthy that not one of the ‘pro helmet’ lobby stayed to listen to any of the other evidence. They all trooped in prior to their session, and then all trooped out again immediately afterwards. Symptomatic of their closed minds and unwillingness to engage in any debate, I think.

We will see what comes from this inquiry; whilst the final report is not due for a while I think it will be quite critical of MHL. What impact that has, of course, remains to be seem. But perhaps, just perhaps, in ten years or so when MHL are finally banished and we look back at the fight, my small contribution to this small process might just have played some part in that achievement.

_____________

If you want to read the Hansard transcript (yes, I am now in Hansard!), it’s here.

Flat tyres and flat caps

November 23, 2015 at 21:30 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Flat tyre

flat tyreI got my bike out of the shed the other day, and the tyre was flat. Flat as a proverbial pancake. This was a great shock, as I never get punctures. People always look at me incredulously when I say that, but it’s true. Punctures are such unusual events that I write about them on this blog every time I get one, and a quick search reveals the last one was in February 2012. I never dig out all the bits of broken glass from my tyres, and run them until they are practically disintegrating, but never seem to have any problems. (Probably because I run wide (32mm) tyres at low-ish pressures. If you’re still running horrid narrow tyres at 100PSI+, well, more fool you.)

I dug out my puncture repair kit, and set to work. It was the same wheel I struggled with when I replaced the tyre a little while ago, but I figured with my new-found wisdom on how to remount the tyre, things should be much smoother.

And indeed they were, although as it turned out it wasn’t a puncture at all, but the patch I had put on the tear in the tube had failed. This was the tear, you may recall, that I made with tyre levers whilst struggling to remount the tyre last time.

This did make me a little embarrassed. I mean, having a patch fail. Come on. In my defence, it was a large-ish tear (perhaps 8-10mm across) which can be hard to patch successfully, and given I have so few punctures my repair kit is invariably dried up and dusty. Not that’s really much of an excuse. Anyway, I put the spare tube on in its place, and all was well. I even managed to re-mount the tyre using only my thumbs.

Flat cap

hunters hill cycling signI was quite taken by this poster for the Hunter’s Hill family ride. Well done, Hunter’s Hill, for holding a ride not predominantly aimed at sports cyclists, and also for not including a single sports cyclist in the picture on the poster. I was of course most taken of all but the fact that the front two riders appear to be not wearing Australian regulation headwear, given one has a sun bonnet, the other a flat cap. I hope this subtle message is a deliberate anti-MHL stance by Hunter’s Hill Community Services. I wan’t able to go to the ride, but was heartened when I saw that the website was similarly devoid of any mention of helmets. Indeed, they didn’t even mention in the ‘rules‘ that you had to wear one, which is almost unheard of (every other organised cycling event I have ever looked at says ‘helmets must be worn’ almost as the first thing). Next year, I must try to get along. Wearing my best flat cap, of course.

 

Senates and Helmets

October 27, 2015 at 20:49 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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australia in stackhatsI don’t write about bicycle helmets much any more. I probably should, as they make for good click-bait, getting lots of hits on my blog. But to be honest, I’m rather bored with the whole thing. After spending years debating, scrutinising, reading and analysing research and commentary about them, it’s just so obvious they helmet laws are a complete disaster in every respect, and bicycle helmets in general are a drag on a healthy cycling culture that I can’t really be bothered arguing any more.

However, a senate inquiry has been set up to look at the issue of the ‘Nanny State’, and one of the specific terms of reference is bicycle helmets. So I found the energy to put pen to paper (or rather finger to keyboard) to make a submission.

There are lots of other submissions too, and most of them seem to be about bicycle helmets, despite the terms of reference including other topics such as alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Apparently we love debating bicycle helmets almost as much as we love forcing people to wear them.

Some of the submissions are predictable; one-dimensional perspectives from the medical fraternity somehow claiming that repealing the helmet law would cost millions  as every cyclist in Australia instantly falls victim to incapacitating brain injury. Yawn. I’ve dealt with all this before.

Lots of them are more interesting. Quite a few from people saying they cycle less or not at all because of helmet laws. Which is interesting, as according to many helmet zealot ‘academics’ these people do not exist. Many well researched and argued submissions pointing out the flaws in the helmet law. And a lot of refreshingly short ones, which basically say ‘please repeal the helmet law as it is rubbish’. Hurrah for them.

Anyway, if you are interested in my lengthy discourse on the topic, it is here. Be warned, though, it’s very boring. You’d be better off riding your bike.

Helmet unpleasantness and cycling marvellousness

July 14, 2014 at 22:29 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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I got called a d*ckhead by a fellow cyclist tonight. It’s only the second time this has ever happened (the first time was some years ago, so it’s hardly a common occurrence), and as always with these things I start reflecting on how it came about, and whether I should care.

The incident that triggered it tonight came about as I rode through North Sydney. I was lumbering uphill on the Radish, heading to a rehearsal with my viola and various other musical accoutrements onboard. I heard the gentle swish of a cyclist coming up behind me, and I turned, ready to exchange a cheerful ‘hello’.

It was a woman bowling along on a smart road bike, looking quite marvellous. Before I could say anything at all, she shouted out, ‘Where’s your helmet?’, and sped past.

Oh dear. How tiresome. Still, it happened that I was picking up speed anyway as we’d reached a downhill section, and I caught up with her. OK, to be honest I probably sped up a bit in order to do so.

As I pulled alongside, I said hello, and I attempted to explain a little about my reasons for riding bareheaded, but she didn’t seem interested in chatting. Mind you, the pace we were going wasn’t really conducive to conversation, especially when riding a 35kg cargo bike so I was probably gasping and wheezing a bit.

She pulled away again after telling me I was ‘giving us all a bad name’. This is a line of logic I am particularly interested in, and as it happened I pulled up next to her at the next set of lights. However, my next attempt at conversation was met with something that ended ‘…d*ckheads like you’, although I missed the beginning as she was pulling away down the hill, and I in any case was turning off.

So now I’m torn. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, and a cyclist too. Hurrah. But did I do something very wrong, I wonder?

I guess one interpretation is that she called out a comment that self-evidently did not need a reply, and then I pursued her through North Sydney, my attempts at friendly conversation coming out in a series of gasps that was perhaps unpleasant and even threatening. If you’re reading this, and that’s how you felt, then I’m sorry, cycling woman.

An alternative is that she felt it was quite OK to shout abuse at a someone else on the road, confident that she was going to be so much faster than me that there would be no further interactions – which as it turned out was not the case.

Or perhaps normally she would have been happy to have a conversation, but the darkness, lonely streets and my out-of-breath demeanour spooked her. I don’t know.

All kind of sad, really, on lots of levels. Sad that we have these divisive laws that create stupid arguments. Sad that we make value judgements about each other. Sad that there was a moment of unpleasantness that could have been avoided by either party so easily. But, there is a flipslide. We were both riding bicycles. And that is quite marvellous.

More cops, more tickets..

May 4, 2013 at 19:06 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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police carWell, it happened again. And again, actually – I’ve really had a spectacularly successful run of collecting tickets over the last three weeks, totalling six tickets. That’s about $400 in fines (assuming the ones I contested for various reasons are upheld). But the one that I was going to write about didn’t happen on Pyrmont Bridge, and is notable as it’s the first ticket I have ever received from non-cycling cops. Indeed, it’s the first time in my life I have been pulled over by a police car, complete with flashing lights (no wailing sirens, unfortunately, although I like to think they just forgot to turn it on).

As is usually the case on these occasions, they were very nice, and listened politely as I explained my reasons. The female officer told me she would have to look up my record and decide whether to give me a ticket or a caution. I did ask for a caution, but did have to wryly admit that she was going to find a lot of helmet offences on my file. Whilst she was taking down my details, I had a nice chat with the other (male) officer about fixed gear bikes; he asked me how it rode and why I liked it. He was a cyclist, as it turned out, and we have a very nice chat.

Unfortunately, it was yet another nice chat that cost me $66. And whilst my dealings with the NSW police have (with one exception) been very cordial, friendly affairs, I am starting to wonder whether $66 for each chat is really good value. And so I have been forced into something I really didn’t want to do. No, I haven’t started wearing a helmet.  I have obtained a medical certificate from a doctor that says I cannot wear one for medical reasons. There are plenty of valid medical reasons why wearing a helmet is a bad idea, and plenty of doctors familiar with them who are happy to write out a certificate. The only flaw in this plan is that, unlike in Queensland and Victoria, there is no specific provision in NSW law for such an exemption. That said, last time I was in court the police prosecutor said that if I had such a certificate then the police would not issue a ticket, and the magistrate did say it would be a reason to dismiss the case. So we shall see. So far, though, it seems to be working as since I have had it tucked into my saddle bad, I haven’t seen a single policeman…

Bike cops, bridges, taxis and bike lanes…

March 22, 2013 at 08:34 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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bikecopsI’ve had a bit of a bad run of it lately. The bike cops are doing another helmet  blitz on Pyrmont Bridge, and I’ve been stopped three times in the past couple of weeks. Had a lovely chat with them, but each chat costs me $66 – this the penalty in New South Wales for the heinous crime of riding a bike slowly in an area with no motorised traffic whilst wearing an ordinary hat.

Whilst I have no argument with the individual cops (they are doing what their command have told them to do, and it’s obvious they think it’s a waste of time), one of the things that does bug me is that there are so many better things they could be doing. Like looking out for the kind of driver behaviour that actually puts cyclists at risk. Bike cops would be perfect for this – very easy to keep up with cars in peak time traffic, and then pull them over when appropriate. But no, their commanders seem to think that bike cops are only useful for policing people on bikes.

taxi in bike laneI was reflecting on this on the way to work when I came across a taxi driver merrily driving up the King St bike lane. He’d dropped someone off, but why he felt he need to drive in the bike lane to do so I have no idea. It’s illegal, inconvenienced a whole bunch of cyclists and is potentially dangerous. I took several pictures, and was thinking ‘where are those bike cops when you actually need them!’.

Later that day I was riding home and a pedestrian on Pyrmont Bridge kindly warned me that the bike cops were on the bridge again. Thanking him, I hopped off and walked, and sure enough there they were. They hadn’t seen me riding, so no ticket, but I did go up and have a chat. During the conversation I said,

‘I was hoping I was going to see you guys today, as I have a crime to report!’

Their eyes rolled a little (this must be an occupational hazard for policemen), and asked me to explain.

I pulled out my phone, and showed them the pictures of the taxi I had taken that morning. To their credit they were very interested, asked me to email them the pictures, if I had a description of the driver and so on, and if I would be happy to be a witness if it went to court. I agreed, and thanked them for their time. They then rode away. Possibly because they had other matters to attend to or perhaps – I like to think – so that I could get back on my bike to continue my ride without the embarrassment for all concerned of either watching me hobble up the street in my bike shoes or having to come after me to give me another ticket.

And I’ll wait to see if I hear back from them about the taxi driver. I hope they throw the book at him!!

Invisible helmet advocacy…

August 23, 2012 at 17:41 | Posted in bicycles | 10 Comments
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Writing about bicycle helmets always fills me with a slight sense of weariness. It’s just so tiring; all those tiresome arguments, fatuous ‘a helmet saved my life’ anecdotes and calls that unhelmeted bicycle riders should pay for their own care when they inevitably end up as brain damaged vegetables . The other problem with writing about it is that it seems it be something that people use to define me. I’m known as ‘that helmet guy’ (or perhaps ‘that helmet nutter’, depending on the viewpoint of the observer), when in reality helmets are quite a peripheral question in my wider interest in active transportation and urban planning. Still, a couple of helmet-related things have thrust themselves into my consciousness recently, such that I feel compelled to write about them.

The first is the inflatable bicycle helmet that has been in the news recently. I’ve been aware of it for some time, but it now seems it is on sale. For some reason, half the people I know have seen fit to send me information about it, usually along with some kind of crowing ‘Ha! What do you think of THAT?!!’ comment. Well, actually I don’t think very much about it, to be honest. If it works, and people want to buy it, well, good luck to them. I certainly don’t want or need one, but then I don’t want arm protectors either, although I know several people who wear them. The only interesting point in the whole thing to me is that the inventors are now calling on Swedish authorities to make cycling helmets mandatory, no doubt out of selfless concerns for Swedish bicycle riders welfare, as opposed to any commercial advantage they could possibly gain by the Swedish government coercing every Swedish cyclist to buy something that they sell…

The other thing that caught my attention recently is the apparent softening towards helmet laws by some Australian cycling advocacy groups. Of course, the fact that our ‘advocacy’ groups in general strongly support helmet legislation is extraordinary, given the harm they do to cycling participation. Still, there have been a few hints that this attitude is changing – or is it?

On the surface, perhaps it is. I have seen several examples recently of groups and individuals expressing a desire to have the helmet law changed or revoked. But. And there is a but. The but in this case is that it needs to be done in conjunction with a ‘package of measures’ to improve cycling conditions – things like lower speed limits, separated cycle lanes and so on. Apparently simply making it a matter of choice to wear a helmet cannot be countenanced until we have better cycling infrastructure. I suspect this attitude is borne of the fallacy that making people wear helmets actually improves safety at an aggregate level (it doesn’t, of course, but our cycling advocates are remarkably uninformed on these matters), so in some sort of compensatory logic helmets have to remain mandatory until such time cycling in Australia is safer than it is now. This is then often linked to another theme – that getting helmet laws changed is therefore not the most important thing on the cycling agenda, so we should all forget about the helmet thing and put our energies into lobbying for better road environments instead.

Well, I’m sorry folks, but this just doesn’t wash. It doesn’t wash logically, and it doesn’t wash as a strategy. And here’s why.

Let’s look at the idea that cycling infrastructure needs to be improved before freedom of choice is granted in terms of headwear. The implication is that ‘cycling is dangerous and helmets make it safer’. Presumably under this logic the law should be repealed at the point where the safety benefits  delivered by improved infrastructure are equal to the safety benefits currently delivered by helmets. Leaving aside the point that there are no significant safety benefits to a helmet law (which is different to saying there are no benefits to wearing a helmet, although this distinction is lost on most), there are two major problems with this.

Firstly, it implies that there is some kind of absolute standard of cycling safety, and that the conditions we have right now represent that minimum. But why? Who says the current conditions are that bad anyway? Riding a bike in Australia, whilst relatively more dangerous than riding in, say, Denmark, is still comparatively safe. It’s safer, for example, than playing netball. So on that point alone, the argument fails.

However, it really falls apart when you consider the different profiles of locations and riders. A slow, utility cyclist who is lucky enough to live in an area with quiet roads and good bicycle facilities is at less risk than a fast, sports cyclist who lives in an area with no bicycle facilities and busy roads.  Indeed, our utility cyclist one imagines already meets the criteria for ‘safer cycling’ envisioned by cycling advocates. So why does she still have to wear a helmet? Apparently because the sports cyclist is unfortunate enough to live in an area with poor bicycle facilities. So we have the bizarre notion that our safe utility cyclist will only be allowed to wear a sunhat when a cycle lane is built somewhere miles away from where she lives. If the ‘package-of-measurists’ were actually consistent and logical, they would be calling for a relaxation of the helmet law now for low-risk cyclists – perhaps akin to the Northern Territory law which does not require a helmet when riding on a path or bike lane. When you consider the NT has the highest cycling participation rate in Australia you’d think the advocates would be pushing at least for this. But they are not.

Notwithstanding the lack of logic, thought, in terms of a strategy to get better cycling infrastructure it also falls down. This is because the one thing that makes it more likely that infrastructure will be built is getting more people cycling. Yes, it’s a chicken and egg thing, but there is no doubt that if there were more people cycling, cyclists would be more visible, have a larger voice and more political clout. So if getting more people riding bikes makes getting infrastructure built more likely, what can we do to get more people cycling? Well, lots of things – but the most significant one (aside from building bike lanes) is repealing helmet laws. And the harsh reality is that in the current political climate there is a much greater chance of getting helmet laws changed than there is of getting significant investment in bike facilities. A campaign to repeal the helmet law is probably one of only a few cycling issues that it would be possible to mobilise the non-cycling majority to support, given that it can be wrapped up in a number of more general memes that resonate with people. Pushing for increased spending on cycling infrastructure is an uphill task by comparison, as the majority of Australians, far from simply being apathetic on the issue, actively resent such expenditure. Thus the strategy of ‘build bike lanes and then we’ll talk about helmets’ is really back to front. Doing it the other way around actually offers the best opportunity to get more people on bikes, which then delivers additional leverage to get the infrastructure built.

I’m sure that there are some readers of this who have taken umbrage that I seem to be implying that lobbying for better road facilities is pointless. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, if a genie came down tomorrow and offered me the choice of repealing helmet laws or waving a wand to create a network of high-quality bicycle lanes all over Australia (or, more parochially, simply over the bit of Sydney that I travel around) I’d go for the bike lanes every time. In that sense the ‘package-of-measurists’ are right in that infrastructure is more important that helmets. And I shall continue to write letters to all and sundry about bicycle facilities and issues, few of which are about helmets. However, the notion that even discussing bicycle helmet reform is not important, and that there are other things to be done first is equally flawed. The reality is that we need to campaign on all fronts for improved conditions for cyclists in Australia. And pushing for helmet law reform is an important aspect of that campaign that should be tackled now.

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