Bikes are safe so you don’t need a helmet. Bikes are safe so you don’t need a… zzzzzzz

After a hard day making a film to raise funds for our safer cycling cities campaign, Gus and I drank gallons of beer and rode around without helmets. Moments after posing here for I Cycle Newcastle (an hilarious new slice-of-life blog) we rode about wherever we liked in defiance of contextual realities here in Australia, protected only by our utopian visions.

Isn’t it so vitally important that we normalise cycling with every breath, and unravel decades of media images telling us that cycling is a dangerous sport! I mean, in Northern European countries (take Germany for instance) no one would think for a moment that these two wheeled contraptions we bike bloggers praise every day, could be anything other than safe and accessible tools for all ages to move about on in cities:

Behind my sarcasm is a pang of frustration I feel with the sheer number of people getting  on board the anti-sports cycling band wagon, when even the original spokespeople for that most vital point, seem to have made their point, and moved on. It would seem we are left with fewer vehicular cyclists these days frowning on cowards for using bike paths and not claiming the road, than we have globally conscious bike riders returning from study tours around Holland, frowning on those cowards who spoil things by wearing helmets. Or am I being too churlish?

I wouldn’t know, but if I hear one more yuppie belabour that old point about everyday cycling being spoilt by anyone on a sports bike, I vow Gus and I will take this box bike to the top of some really big hill, and aim it straight at a jump ramp, and get mashive air. Isn’t that right Gus? [Don’t worry, he trusts my riding implicitly. He sat in it filming this clip, without even flinching].

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore.
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16 Responses to Bikes are safe so you don’t need a helmet. Bikes are safe so you don’t need a… zzzzzzz

  1. Yup, “zzzzz….” is my normal response as well.

    That Bakfiets looks very familiar. Is it from Workcycles by any chance? I really like the logo.

    And is it really sad that I can recognise a Workcycles bike?

    • Steven says:

      Obviously Andy you want one :) I bought mine through Dutch Cargo Bike who import them into Australia. I believe they’re made by Bakfiets.nl And every time I jump on it I tell whoever is in the box, it’s the best bike I’ve owned. Galvinized. Rides and handles like silk. After tonnes of use the only tiny faults I can pick, are that the magnets that hold the stands to the box can loose their magnatism and need replacing, and that the front light doesn’t have any residual charge to keep shining when you’re stopped at intersections. Otherwise, what a dream! Very well considered, and elegant. I’ve let everyone I know have a ride, and they can’t believe how easy it is. It’s so much more stable than carrying loads above the height of your wheels.

  2. Daniel Teague says:

    Who need a helmet when you have a bowler?

    I think I now need an Achielle cargo bike.

  3. Edward says:

    I understand your frustration Dr Behooving but I do appreciate the yuppie position at the same time. When you’re trundling around Newcastle on your Bakfiets without a helmet, how often do you get some smartarse comment about sucking steak through a straw or something equally inane? I went back to wearing a helmet for no other reason than it guarantees I will be left alone in this crazy country. You can’t get away from it.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a specifically anti-sports thing but that seems to be the dominant image of cycling in this country. When I tell people I get to work on a bicycle, it is so often followed by a comment about lycra. When people think of cycling in this country it is what they see – that is despite the millions of videos and pictures on the Internet of normally dressed people on normal bicycles. It is as if we are living in a bubble.

    It is annoying but I think they have a point. Having said that of course, there are far more important things to do like get an Australian version of the 8 House.

    • Steven says:

      Hi Edward. I guess it always comes back to context. In the town center of Newcastle, there are so many upright bikes and people not wearing helmets that it’s become a non issue. We do get people driving in from out of town, bringing their 1980s ideas and yelling out shit, but they yell at everything actually: street signs, the moon, people in button up clothes. Don’t take it personal :)

  4. Pingback: Bicycling says we’re sort of bike-friendly; Better Bike’s Mark Elliot bounces off a Beverly Hills SUV « BikingInLA

  5. I already have one, and yes they are great bikes, although ours gets used as a farm vehicle sometimes.

    BTW When people go on about “eating through a straw” or “You’ll be sorry when you crash” I always say “Do you have any evidence for that? if so, I’ll happily talk about it woth you.” So far no-one got back to me…

  6. Lukas junker says:

    Steven,
    What exactly is the argument? As I am clearly not in the loop, I fail to understand how someone elses preferred mode of exercise and clothing affects me riding to work or to a jazz gig or to the beach with the kids and with or without a helmet and vice versa. How is anyone spoiling anything? could this maybe somehow be about the old rivalry between sport and art/culture (Lycra vs punk)? Is it simply that some cyclists in Australia are a little insecure and only dare picking on other cyclists instead of other minorities, like the Tasmanians, to make them feel better about themselves? I don’t like the helmet law and sometimes don’t wear one, but I have no issues whatsoever with anyone choosing to wear a helmet for whatever reason. Maybe all sport cyclists that don’t like people riding on the footpaths without helmets should move to Tasmania, where they could live happily ever after, and the hippies should go back to Melbourne or Byron, the yuppies back to Sydney and then we could just get on with our lifes that naturally somehow involve bicycles, even less challenged by diversity than we are now?

    • Steven says:

      Lukas it warms my heart greatly to be reminded that 99% of cyclists are blissfully unaware of the horizontal rivalries engaged in by some members of this repressed minority that all cyclists belong to. And personally I would rather all cities accommodate all styles of cycling—but only because I like riding all styles myself!

  7. Luke says:

    I have just read “In the Shadow of the Sword,” about (in part – this is not a review ) the growth of Christianity and Islam. It describes the factions of the early Church – the Arians, the Monophysites, the Orthodox, the heterodox, the heretics, the schismatics, the Chalcedonians who accepted the council of Chalcedon and the Nestorians who did not, the People’s Front of Judaea, the Judaean People’s Front etc.

    I have emerged from my reading to find there is a similar debate among cycling advocates. Just as the language of philosophy is Greek, so the language of transport cycling is Dutch.

    You have your Nederlanders, ie Dutch people unaware that they are the centre of world wide debate. They just ride bikes when it suits them. A few race bikes, most don’t. This dangerous diversity bothers them not one whit. You have your extra- or hyper- Nederlanders, who are not Dutch. They believe that any deviation from the way of Dutchness is heresy. No experiment with alternatives is permissible – the Dutch (cycle) path is the only path.

    You have your Deens (or Danes) similar to Nederlanders, but regarded by extra-Nederlanders as dangerous schismatics. You have your Deense Architecten, such as Mr CA. They advocate the riding of bikes, but regard interest in bikes as little better than worshipping graven images. Bicycle specific clothing? – they shudder to their protestant core. But they are tolerant of the sins of others.

    The apartheid followers are not cyclists – generally portly gentlemen, they believe cyclists should be kept off the roads because THEY DO NOT PAY ROAD TAX.

    The soutpiels such as yourself and Bike Snob. Part racer, part flaneur, part visionary, part book salesman, the soutipiel has a foot in Holland, another in Portland, another in racing, and another in transport, with manhood dangling in the briny sea. (This whole post is to use that word.)

    Vehicular cyclists? Just as there is no word in Spanish for vegetarian, there is no word in Dutch for vehicular cycling. As we can’t speak about them, we just have to ignore them.

    • Steven says:

      Oh god (woops I’ve blasphemed)… I should ask you to write a book forward — if David Byrne turns me down. And yes yes yes, Holland is ancient Greece! That says it all :)

    • Robert says:

      You seem to suggest that Steven has four feet?!?

      I have only ever seen two …

  8. Luke says:

    Robert, I am flattered that you got to the end. Yes, I started on that metaphor, mainly to use the only word of Dutch/Afrikaans I know, went too far and just thought “sod it.” When I produce my collected works I shall polish it.

  9. tk says:

    ha! and steven accuses me – me?! – of being verbose.

    today I experienced that most exquisite of pleasures – exaggeratedly nodding and shouting good morning to several roadies while atop my wife’s 1979 Peugeot fu-22 foldie (bright orange) while wearing a beanie (non reflective) and US army jacket. ah it’s good to be home amongst the helmet laws.

    • Steven says:

      And it’s good to know you’re back too! Can we look forward to handlebar mount footage of melbourne’s bike routes?

  10. tk says:

    when I get my life sorted out … until then it might be sub rural rail trails.

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