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.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pRZqRjxkHpk

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!

10 Comments

  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 🙂

  3. harley says:

    It is legal to ride a tricycle without a helmet last time i checked

    • AHeitz says:

      Really? In WA? Is there a reference that I can check? Document , etc? Thanks

    • Anonymous says:

      In WA at least, but I assume the other states are the same, passengers on tricycles don’t need to wear a helmet, but the rider does.

    • Steven says:

      Here I think the law says paying passengers of a bicycle rickshaw / pedicab don’t have to wear helmets. So make sure anyone you’re dinking gives you 5c.

  4. Holly Champion says:

    What is the law like (I’m in NSW) for velomobiles that have built-in head coverings, or total enclosure? Surely then you don’t have to wear a helmet???? I have fallen in love with velomobiles since two weeks ago when I idly wished that enclosed e-bikes existed, and then found online that they do. I live in Sydney and I have never ever seen one of these being ridden here, but apparently they are big in Europe. Why are we so backward? But then, we do have an Aussie velomobile manufacturer– Trisled and their Rotovelos are pretty attractive to me, with a fairly reasonable price point, though it looks like they have to be worn with helmets as they don’t have full enclosure (your head is out the top). What I really would love is if VeeMo would bulldoze through NSW regulations and install VeeMos everywhere for ride sharing. That would be frickin awesome. A Sydney of the future where these babies are the main mode of inner-city transport would be so great– healthier, less polluted and less congested.

    • Steven says:

      we need a company or individual to take helmet laws to the high court, as in breech of implied civil liberties in our constitution. Until that time, we’re just bitching about laws none of us have the guts, time or means to have changed. As to Rotovelos, I saw one going along Newcastle Beach a few weeks back.

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