Tuesday, March 16, 2010


(Shakespeare's fabulous cartoon illustration, page 3, Sydney Morning Herald, 16th March 2010)

I can hardly contain myself, I'm so excited!!!!! At last an article from the Australian media that actually addreses the issue of helmets and the possibility of a legislated 'lack thereof' that could be beneficial to our community.

After a somewhat predictable missive on the front page of last Saturday's SMH seemingly intent on scaring us all back into our cars, today's SMH sees Matthew Moore report further on some of Professor John Pucher's findings, such as the excellent notion 'of doing away with the helmet use law...'!!! YAY!!!...he also went on to explain that:

"...compulsory wearing of helmets
was a 'band-aid strategy'
adopted by governments shying away
from more difficult initiatives of
building separated cycle ways, calming
neighbourhoods and educating drivers
and riders..."

Well done you, Matthew Moore, on finally taking this 'bull' by the horns, and forcing our community to have this extremely necessary and overdue discussion!!! It should be music to all our ears! It was so reassuring to read that the social zeitgeist has actually been recognised and articulated by the press.

However I do feel we must avoid being prescriptive. It serves no purpose dictating what sort of bikes or wardrobe options people should choose. Whilst I adore my european ladies' bikes, strategically placed in Sydney and Scone, the men in my family would probably shove them down my proverbial throat if I started preaching on the merits of Electra Amsterdams & Giant Suedes, the simplicity of 3 gears & coaster brakes, underpinned by the freedom of long flowing dresses and pretty leather thongs.

It should be a matter of choice - we should be welcoming the diversity, which is actually what we are starting to do anyway!! I've had some great conversations at Sydney traffic lights with fellow cyclists who, whilst equipped in the latest of everything aero-dynamic & soufflé light, have kindly passed favourable judgment on my beautiful bicycle and how it suits me!!

...oh and for the record, Mr Birdsey of Bicycle NSW, you do sound sexist!


  1. This is a great 'break through' article Sue, essentially saying that the types of cyclists that exist in Sydney are symptomatic of the road conditions, as oppose to a 'choice' in the type of bicycles out there; that is to say those who currently cycle do it in spite of the prevailing road conditions, not because of them. 3 speeds are great (I have one and have no issues getting up hills) and cycle in my ordinary clothes most of the time ala the european style - and that will all come more widely here in London and there in Sydney once conditions for cyclists improve. The reason people get dressed up in all the gear is because it makes them feel subjectively safe, as if the performance inducing qualities some how make you more able to navigate the 'mean streets' more easily.

    What I find most worrying is the attitude of the rep from Bicycle NSW: yes, he does sound sexist indeed, but more worrying still is that he says you need a zippy sporty bike to survive, not a re-conditioned road environment. Do Bicycle NSW not want to see true mass cycling? They've got nothing to loose and everything to gain so why have they adopted this strange position? More on them and their stand point would be very interesting Sue!

    i b i k e l o n d o n

  2. mark, you're so accurate in your interpretation of everything!

    - re bicycle nsw, they routinely refuse to communicate with me - apparently i'm bolshie!! - but i accept your 'task'!!!!

  3. Hi Sue if everybody gave up on the Technical side of Cycling then NSW Bicycle would be at the lost of a lot of Spondulic's Dosh Money. They are afraid of Cycling becoming more normal,People using City Bikes and ordinary Clothes and using Bikes for Transportation as opposed to the Sportif.

    Little do they know that they are Shooting themselves in the Foot by this attitude. At the moment very few People are actually Cycling in Australia apart from the Sportif and a few Die hard Cyclists like yourself. If more People thought Cycling was safe with better infrastructure then they would start Cycling for normal everyday activities. Then more Bikes would be sold not the Racing Bikes but the normal City type Bikes and most People would not be using those Helmets. The Bike Companies would sell more Bikes and also they will still be selling those Sports Bikes together with all the Lycra Computers etc and those Helmets to the People who want them.

    I think you have started a trend by your little stance,they are all waking up and Criticising the Government about that Helmet Law and also Demanding better facilities.

  4. As a further aside most of the People I know have several Bikes some have four. They usually have a City type Bike,a spare Old Crock of a Bike that they can leave anywhere, A very fast Bike for going long Distance for which they sometimes use the Sportif Clothes like Helmets and Lycra.

  5. I can't help but think that we shouldn't get too hung up on the type of bike people commute on. There is an ever increasing range of bikes being produced aimed at commuter cyclists which do not conform to the traditional European model but which are not mountain bikes or racing-oriented road bikes. Many of these may be better suited to Sydney's hillier terrain than their European counterparts.

    Also, unless you are lucky enough to live in the suburbs around the CBD, Sydney distances rapidly increase to the point where traditional European style bikes just aren't practical. My commute is 65km round trip and I need higher gears to do that in anything approaching a reasonable time frame. (Although my bike is steel, has drop bars, disc brakes, full mudguards and a rack so it's not a racing bike!)

    The comments by the Bicycle NSW rep are more worrying. As a recent arrival in Sydney I was thinking of joining BNSW but now I'm not so sure. Is this idiot really representative of the people who would be advocating on my behalf? I hope not. I suppose the more constructive approach would be to join BNSW and then get involved as much as possible to try and get a change in their position.

  6. l'homme au velo, as usual thanks for your words of support!!

    anonymous, i too once thought of joining bicycle nsw but became very disillusioned with their pathetic advocacy - personally i think they're too involved with bicycle merchandise and as a result their outlook on cycling and people who like to use bikes to get around has become compromised

  7. The 'sporting vs utility' cyclist is old, and tired. Bicycle NSW should know better. The Netherlands have some fantastic sports cyclists, but they also have utility culture. At a commercial level that boils down to this: there are the core of sporting cyclists buying all of their kit and sporty things and accessories (as in Australia), but there are ALSO two thirds of the population buying bicycles and inner tubes and service. That is to say; grow everyday and ordinary cycling and you stand to grow the commercial market. And of course the more people who try bikes the more likely they are to try the sporty side of things: at the moment there is an entire generation in Australia growing up who have never even learnt to cycle: this is the future that Bicycle NSW have to contend with if they don't buck up their ideas. A slow and drawn out death indeed.

    Just to pick up on the comment by Anonymous; a 65km commute is commendable indeed (I'm not sure I could manage it!) but for mass cycling to take hold most people will be cycling much smaller distances. Build the infrastructure from the CBD out to the inner suburbs and you'd already have a cycling revolution on your hands: it seems ridiculous in the extreme that there are people living in Glebe, Woollahra, Ultimo, the North Shore etc who are driving into the city. Build that core of mass cycling and the effects will ripple out to the outer suburbs in due course. People will see others out on their bikes and consider trying it. Outer suburb councils will build their own infrastructure to connect in to the inner suburbs. It will take years, for sure, but that's not a reason why it shouldn't be done.

    Copenhagen has some of the worse urban sprawl in the world, but they've managed successfully. Why can't Sydney?

    Of course, there would be no reason, even if you built all this infrastructure, for people to cycle if it was easier and more convenient and cheaper to drive, which is how it is at the moment in Sydney. Parking in the CBD is cheap, the roads in and out of the city are fast, the car driver is not disadvantaged in any way. Bike paths are a carrot, but you need a big stick to get people to take a bite...

    The long term plan for myself is to eventually move back to Sydney, once I get bored of London. ;-) But I do worry that I may have to leave my bike behind: I hope by the time that I get there things will have improved sufficiently enough to make me change my mind.

  8. wow! mark! thank you for your insightful comments - and DON'T leave your bike behind - it'll be all sorted by then - PROMISE!!

  9. Not sure if I can get behind the sans helmet movement or not needing a lot of gears, BUT I wholeheartedly agree there needs to be a change in the cycling culture of Sydney. It is too dominated by the lycra and click in gang, particularly in the bicycling advocacy area.

    I ride to work every day on an upright bike with baskets (which took going to several bike stores to find a bike that wasn't a road bike or mountain bike) wearing my leather sandals. I can pretty much keep up with the lycra people, in part because you have to stop so much at intersections the efficiency of the lightweight bike and the click ins just gets shot.

    With regards to driving in the city, it may be cheaper to park in central Sydney than central London, but something like 74% of Sydneysiders that work in the city get there by means OTHER than a car. There are already lots of people have a reason to bike instead of take the bus.

    My ride into work is faster than taking the bus (my ride in PLUS showering at work is faster than the bus!) though I don't see how people can get around the city with only 3 speeds in their work clothes. Getting up the Clovelly Road hill every day would be a nightmare without more gears.

  10. Here in Brisbane I use a combination of the train and my bicycle (about 30km of total cycling per day) to get to work. My average pace is about 20km/h and I can arrive at work without sweating much.

    I ride an upright Dutch Gazelle bicycle with panniers in normal clothes and I love it. I too catch up with all the others at the few crossings we have to wait at - and I'm usually WAY ahead of them while they're all looking at their pedals, frantically clicking into their cleats. Now that's dangerous!

    The cartoon is a bit disappointing in that it says that the upright bikes have 'one or three gears'. My Gazelle has a Shimano 8-speed internal hub geabox (my wife's 7-speed) and it is PLENTY for the hills here in Brisbane - using hilliness as an excuse for needing a light 24 gear racing bike is just nonsense (but there are Gazelles that have Derailleur gears too if they REALLY bothered looking).

    Someone should tell these people that there is even a 14-speed hub gearbox on the market! I think these guys can only remember the Sturmey-Archer 3-Speeds (and they are still very good).

    As an argument it is a bit strange coming from the lycra brigade. They argue that if you had fewer gears you'd have to work harder up hills. Surely this would HELP you get fitter and isn't this what all these 'advocates' want. They should all have NO gears and they'll be super-fit in no time (unless of course they just want to LOOK fit... now there's a theory)


    Dr Paul Martin

  11. there are some no gear fanatics - the fixies, who wobble back and forth at lights and get in everyone's way.

  12. hey Carolyn! thanks for your comments, and good for you cycling up Clovelly Road - very impressive!