Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Velo-City 2013 - Philippe Crist, International Transport Forum

(Monika Jones, master of ceremony, with Philippe Crist at Velo-City 2013)

"Cycling equals a pure unadulterated and enduring sense of freedom" - well Philippe Crist sure got that right!

As he did with his statement that "it is inconceivable that one mode of transport alone can do all the heavy lifting" and that "cars dominate the traffic scene so much today that most cities no longer see them."

That's right we don't see them at all - we don't see the pollution they churn out, the inconvenience they cause, the congestion they manufacture, and we don't notice the entire city space no longer available to the rest of us because cars have gobbled it all up.

It was refreshing to hear Philippe Crist state that "the return of urban space is better supported by cycling" and that "health improving benefits associated with cycling ought to be factored in because for too long transport authorities have only looked at the disadvantages of cycling." As far as Philippe is concerned, it just isn't good enough any longer that we only look at crash statistics.

Far more useful in his opinion is speed management, the most essential safety strategy employed, and he gave New York as an example with their 14 x 30km zones. Apparently with the right infrastructure, cycling can act as the city regenerator only it needs political will and community support...

...oh dear 2 great big hurdles for Australia that currently from here seem almost unsurpassable!

Also really interesting was hearing him ponder why the health argument associated with cycling isn't more successful when the monetised health benefits of cycling come out ahead against the monetised health costs.

Putting my 'helmet question' to him after his plenary session, Philippe reiterated that there should be an increased focus on the positive benefits of cycling rather than the current over-emphasis on the negative aspects.

He also mentioned to me that The Lancet and most doctors in the UK believe that it is far better to have increased cycling numbers without helmets than reduced cycling with helmets, and that current safety for cycling does not involve helmet laws.

Once again he stressed that bicycle safety comes back to speed management, high quality infrastructure and a return to urban space for everyone. He said that whilst helmets may reduce negative health outcomes with regards to crashes, they do not reduce crashes and therefore do not make cycling safer.

So now apart from my helmet question, I have a new one - I want to know why can't all these sensible experts be Australian and/or live in Australia and/or organise Australia?



  1. Sue, I think a few of us here (all Victorians at this stage) would be interested in doing a ride with you at Velo-City Adelaide. So that's a possibility.

    But what would be really good, would be to get an exemption to the helmet law for the entire event. This would be to show respect to our guests and allow them to practice their culture in Australia. We talk a lot about our tolerance for multiculturalism ; this is a way to demonstrate it.

    The benefit of this for Australians attending the event , if the exemption goes ahead, is that they would have the opportunity to experience for themselves the joy of riding without helmet laws.

    1. Kathy,
      I said I'm down for that ride too and I'm not Victorian. Let's put aside State rivalries too for the duration ;-)

      I really like the idea about seeking exemption but at this stage I'd say it has two chances of being approved. Could perhaps try for it on off-road paths as per the NT?

    2. Jim,

      No intention to initiate any State competitiveness on this. I'm sorry if I missed your comment about going on the ride and look forward to meeting you if I get there. In my opinion we are all stuck in this prison together but if one State makes a breakthrough it will make it easier for the others.

      I still intend to put the exemption idea out there, even if it is unlikely to go ahead. It will re-inforce the isolation of Australia as a cycling backwater in front of an international audience.

  2. Unfortunately an exemption would likely result in too many brain injuries as the heads of the MHL loving cyclists of Adelaide explode in apoplexy. You really have to see it to believe it. www.adelaidecyclists.com:-

    "Adelaide Cyclists home page is currently a helmet debate free zone."

  3. Anonymous,
    You forfot to include the line below the one you quoted:

    'New posts and continuing debate can still be had in the Helmetless riders group here (there is a link on the page). You are encouraged to join, no matter what side of the fence you sit.'

    there's nothing like a bit of cherrypicking, is there?

    Seamus Gardiner

    1. Hi Seamus, I'm interested, are you a professional "Australia's Mandatory Helmet Laws" thread contributor? Do you get paid per metric ton of verbiage? You seem to be the most prolific poster on the subject. The Helmetless riders group on AC was setup specifically to stifle any dissent to the hysterical position (orthodoxy) that if you ride a bicycle without a plastic hat you will be sucking oatmeal through a straw for the rest of your wretched life. It was setup for a poster called Stephen so he could be banished to his own little corner. If you think the disclaimer in any way shape or form changes this then you are mistaken. Seems a little bit 1984ish to me - some posters are more equal than others - the sports cyclists can post puerile and offensive pictures of monkeys impaled on sticks to demean anyone who disagrees with them, whereas sober posts by people such as Edward (bikeadelaide.blogspot) are censured. The position of many AC posters is that if you want good infrastructure and not to wear a helmet then F off back to bloody Copenhagen. I stand by my position that if a helmet exemption was enacted for the duration of VeloCity then all the fervent believers on the AC site would have a pink fit - obviously they literally wouldn't end up brain injured but then again maybe one or two would have a brain aneurysm.

    2. Hi anonymous,
      I am not a 'professional "Australia's Mandatory Helmet Laws" thread contributor'. Would it make you more comfortable if I came from a position of paid advocacy rather than having my position established by critically examining the evidence for and against?

      I don't even support MHLs for adults (although I used to and I still think children are a different category). What changed my mind? evaluating the evidence.

      Every time anti-MHL advocates use disinformation and emotive argument the cause gets set back another increment.

      ponder that. Unless you just want to 'stifle dissent' in your own way.

      Good on Sue for allowing me to dissent on her site.


      Seamus Gardiner

    3. Hi Seamus, My question was sparked by the voluminous number of posts by you on The Conversation - and it seems here but I haven't bothered looking. In any MHL thread you seem to post the most. I always wondered how you found time to earn a living - if you were a professional poster that'd offer an explanation. No need to get precious about it.

      I also critically examined the evidence - but unlike you I never supported MHLs - my gut feeling was that they were wrong, the evidence just supports the fact that the legislation is not good public policy. My observations of the crackdowns post law and how they impacted casual cyclists offered confirmation. After an absence of some years I was dumbstruck as to how Australia now has a highly visible population of sports cyclists. And I find it extraordinary that these sports cyclists seem to revel in the idea that cycling is dangerous and that plastic hats are absolutely required no matter how one may cycle. Coming back from a cycling friendly country with huge numbers of people riding about in casual clothes the difference is astounding.

      Non-emotive argument is overrated - people with passion and emotion will make a difference, since the science is split it isn't able to be used to repeal the laws. The policy makers have people such as Grzebieta to offer confirmation that the policy is correct - who can argue with him? No one is more qualified than he when it comes to helmets, are they? How about Dinh?

      So does your disdain for disinformation and emotive argument extend to all those Australians who are compelled to write "a helmet saved my life" whenever there is any article in the media? Ones who troll overseas forums to post tales of daring do and helmet shattering impacts to show how misguided the non helmeted cyclist actually is?

      If "helmets prevent 88% of head injuries" and "Think of the children" isn't disinformation and emotive, what is? (These, as I would expect you to be aware, are gambits used many times to support MHLs, in fact until very recently the 88% factoid was the official position of the Road Safety Board of the USA.)


    4. Hi Anonymous,
      I agree that pro-MHl advocates are as willing to obfuscate as any other poster. The opposite of evidence is anecdote.
      Emotive argument has it's place in public policy so long as it is after critical viewing of the evidence. Otherwise one only sees what one wants too.
      Anyway i have to dash, i have to cash my checques from giro, bell and met....

  4. As a country we are pathetic and timid - why oh why are we so terrified of an everyday ordinary activity that babies, grannies and grandads do the world over except in Australia? - we are the biggest bunch of scaredy cats ever.