Growing contacts in the bike lobby fraternity, this year saw me volunteering to lead a bike bus to work, on this, the once a year, official, "ride to work" day. Oh the indignity! Rather than waking naturally, I had to do what non-aristocrats do: I set an alarm. That was so I could be at the meeting point at 7am. Why? Because the slow pokes I would be leading cannot muster half the speed of a Dutch grandma, despite Dutch grannies using bikes many times slower than the new aluminium hybrids my colleagues all went out and bought, for this special day. I can see them at the bike shop last Saturday, getting kitted out as though they were about to tackle mount Everest.
If the indignity of being seen with once per year riders wasn't enough, one of them chastised me for not wearing a helmet. I should have said "sir, you are riding a small-wheel bike with sprung parallelograms instead of forks!" (You know the contraption to which I refer). But no, since I was invited, I took the time to explain rotational injuries, nonsense testing methods, and the effect of deterrents on the bike modal share, that, if it could be raised, would make roads safer for all.
Not one to ever be beaten, or wrong, he rode ahead and shot off emails demanding my scalp. Since then, cries of "please explain!" and "what was this hemet shirking fiend's name!" have reverberated from the computer screens of nervy nerds, with strange sounding positions, until finally landing in my in-box… correction: trash can. I don't say others shouldn't wear helmets. However, it would help if people adding fuel to this fire knew that there is a legitimate movement of Australian conscientious objectors to helmet laws. Instead, they run with the line that I have set a bad example to all those adults who were looking to their bike bus leader as a role-model. Behind their angst, I'm sure, is that antelope fear of lawyers plaguing all Australian institutions these days. What if one of my proteges now rides with a nude nut, and is killed getting to work? Who would be liable? My employer, of course, as they are liable for deaths sustained by anyone who crashes when driving to work. You can see the double standard, I'm sure.
The particular gentleman behind this hysteria, wasn't with my bike bus when I led it along footpaths, rather than bike paths in door zones, and he had ridden off before getting to see me waving down cars at a notorious blackspot, so that my mignons might all cross unscathed. I ride to work every day of my life, and plan to keep doing so. To save my neck, and ensure drivers pass me with caution (and for the sake of good hair) I have decided to do that, without a helmet. In the heat of Summer, a Panama hat reduces my risk of skin cancer, as a helmet will not. The absence of bicycle infrastructure in my city, means I have no choice but to flout a few laws, to ensure I keep getting to work, alive, into old age. I pass police every day, who once a month might call from their car window, "Where's ya helmet?" but they never pursue it. If ever one does, I'll politely accept the fine, and tell myself that at least riding is still cheaper than driving.
Around 20 people followed my lead this morning, and many thanked me afterward, for drawing the safest possible route to their attention. I'm always happy to share what I think is the safest way, for me, to ride to work, in this city where strict law adherence is deadly. But no more helping with "ride to work day". Next year, I'll head off at 8.30 as usual. And hopefully this year's unsatisfied customer, will read this blog post, and volunteer to take my place as a leader.