Todays kids need a hero like Piet Pelle

I’m reading a book called The Dutch Bike, and learning about a comic book character created in 1908 to advertise Gazelle Bikes: pucky Piet Pelle, who rides around prevailing all manner of peril. Think Premium Rush, for a slightly more mature audience.

But what I like about our Piet is how he was enlisted in the sixties to promote cycling to school children in Holland. Here in Australia we had a bike education film too, that toured around all of our schools. I remember all our parents came too, to a night-time screening. Our headmaster dicked around figuring out how to use the reel-to-reel projector, before the screen turned into what I recall as a flickering of blood and bent handlebars to scare the bezeasus out of everyone there. We wouldn’t be traumatised like that again until high school, and those birthing films they made us all watch—holy Christ! After the film came an invitation to a John Forrester style rider-ed day, to learn how to hand signal; as though all the deaths we had seen in the film were the stupid kids’ fault. Why couldn’t we have gotten pucky Piet!?

Okay, so it’s too late for us. But perhaps not too late for our children. It wouldn’t be the first time one of my blog posts inspired someone with skills beyond mine, to join the task of furthering cycling. If you know an animator, or video game designer, suggest to them that they come up with some modern day character who will inspire this current generation of screen addicts to get out there and ride. When I was a lad, our inspirations were The Thrill Seekers (introduced by Chuck Connors), the Holden Precision Driving Team (before their big crash), all knights of old (because we could copy their jousting), and of course Evel Knievel, thanks to whom every plank and sheet of ply ever left unattended in my little hood enjoyed a new life as a jump ramp. Give us a fearless hero who saves the day with his (or maybe her) bike skills, and who goes everywhere on their bike.

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. My favourite bikes are a titanium racing bike I use for racing, a Velorbis retro commuter for riding to cafes and work, a single speed ultra light Brompton that I take with me when I travel on planes, a 29er hard tail mountain bike that I get lost on in remote places, an old track bike that scares me, a 1984 Colnago Super with all original campagnolo components that is plugged into a virtual realm that I train in, and a Dutch-made Bakfiets, that could easily replace half of the bikes I just mentioned.
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2 Responses to Todays kids need a hero like Piet Pelle

  1. Julie says:

    And the BMX Bandits!

    • Steven says:

      I did mention them when I was drafting this, but in all honesty, I don’t think I ever saw it. But I guess the whole thing is free to download on youtube these days. Still, I might pass :)

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