Velomobiles: giving the slip to the wind and the law

In our rush to make cycling mainstream, we forget some of the perverse pleasures that come from it being weird. The weirder the better, in some ways. At the weird end of weirdness, are velomobiles. Today the Queensland police have been circulating a photo, advertising their diligence in policing drink driving.

helmet law loophole velomobiles

Quick thinkers they are, the police who made our pilot friend pull to the side for no reason,  radioed base and ascertained velomobiles are legal to use on the road. Next they checked and made sure the rider hadn’t been drinking. Then they took a photo and let him ride off, not wearing a helmet. Up here for thinking, down there for dancing, lad.

If you think about it, cycling is illegal in any country that does not have complete bike infrastructure—unless you’re prepared to take unreasonable risks, endure unreasonable delays, or be made to look like a clown. Even the most law abiding among us, find ourselves skirting the law, and thus at loggerheads with it, in some small way or another. If you fight the law straight you’ll be beaten. Better to fight like Mr. Bean.

The further you venture from the mainstream, the more you confound self-appointed and real cops alike, and the more immune you become from prosecution, or even just being chastised. Though we’ve learned today we cannot ride a velomobile under the influence, we know that just riding a bike is sufficiently weird on any other occasion, that we can ride pissed as newts and no one will care. Small wheel bikes can go on the footpath—you can even do that in New York! Pedal powered trikes can be ridden through shopping arcades; the average Joe thinks trike-bike riders are all paraplegics. Remove all your teeth except the one in the middle, and get yourself some old stonewash denim, and you can ride your electric moped as the mosquito flies, diagonally across highways or wherever you like.

Truly though, I want a velomobile, not just for the option of occasionally flouting dumb helmet laws, but so that police might tell everybody that I made it myself. “Custom Made”, sure!

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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4 Responses to Velomobiles: giving the slip to the wind and the law

  1. In Queensland one can get exemptions on medical grounds to allow one not to wear a helmet. Therefore this rider may in fact being riding quite legally.

    • Steven says:

      can I get an exemption next time I’m in Queensland, and use that elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand? I mean, I’m quite happy wearing a helmet most of the time, just not have ing to wear a helmet. It’s the “having to” part that feels persecutory, especially when I see so many drivers not having to wear helmets as well. In fact, NO drivers wear helmets, then my taxes are used to feed them through straws.

  2. John says:

    FYI. The chap has a medical exemption for not wearing a helmet

    • Steven says:

      Thanks John. Someone told me via Twitter, but I decided not to ruin a good story for the facts :)

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