my refusal to wear a bicycle helmet

my refusal to wear a bicycle helmet
...is informed

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Get off the road, granny!!


Sad and disappointed!

I cycled passed 2 teenage boys today on the above shared path in Scone, and as I approached them it occurred to me they were watching me way too intently & that they had assumed complete control of the path. "Whoa", I thought, "am I about to be pushed off?" This unpleasant notion presented as a real possibility.

So I immediately engaged them with a breezy greeting, "hey! how're you going?" to which they grunted "good thanks", but by the time we'd put half an Olympic Swimming Pool between us, they had turned round (as I did too now) and yelled "Old bitch! Ride a f#*king normal bike!!"

I was in 2 minds to cycle after them to get them to repeat what they had just said but with all my shopping and many more kilometres to go before home, I couldn't be bothered, and by now the gutless little 'toe-rags' had bolted.

But I feel that this episode of juvenile crass behaviour has highlighted the murky & exclusive nature of Australian cycling.

That my age, gender and choice of bicycle was perceived by them to preclude me from cycling is an indictment of our Australian society - and there's no dodging it - this is how we are. In fact, these ridiculous little boys unwittingly tapped into the 'Australian bicycle view'...that it belongs only to the following:

* young sporty men on young sporty machines

Pathetic - we should be ashamed of ourselves.

How did this sense of male entitlement pervade through our society?

Why did these boys feel emboldened enough to attempt to intimidate me?

.....talk about 'out of the mouths of babes'.....

Inter alia, their 'comment' echoed a sentiment posted on this blog last week by an annoymous reader - 'get off the road, granny', I was commanded imperiously!!

What a country!

- and for the record NO I WON'T!!!

11 comments:

  1. Wow, the "lycra disease" has seemed to infected everyone over there. The culture will eventually need to change - you're just ahead of everyone else unfortunately...

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  2. Hey! James!

    I think it's really sad that what I'm doing is deemed weird, and therefore 'open season' for aggression & intimidation - pathetic and utterly gutless!

    This is Australia!

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  3. Sue, what you are doing is not weird at all, only other's people's warped perceptions of you make it that way in their heads. As James says, you are way ahead of the game!

    Sorry that you had such a horribly experience, Sue, and sending you upright, three-speed old English bike love your way!

    I don't really have advice as to how to deal with kids like this, sadly you get them everywhere (their Dads are the ones drinking their lives away in the town hotel) but just hold your head up high and ride on with a smile. I must say though that I think it SUCKS that in a situation such as this it's a woman who must suffer because the man is so fucked up. What a nonsense!

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  4. Hi Sue,

    I really empathise with you on this one. I get this response every so often on my 22km commute to work on my dutch bike in my normal clothes with my pannier bags...

    It is only ever from a lycra-clad racer type (usually fat, middle-aged TdF wannabes) who only seem to be out and about when the weather is fine. Interestingly I never see any of them when I'm cycling to work and it is raining or cold.

    The other thing is that they are not cycling instead of driving a car - they're cycling in ADDITION to driving a car as they only are 'training'... for what exactly I am not sure.

    I was almost barrelled over by a peleton yesterday; of course they felt the need to pass me within inches with no warning; they though it was hilarious, giggling away to themselves. They were probably trying to remind me that I wasn't wearing a helmet (just a beanie - much more sensible in the cold) in case I had forgotten how dangerous that was.

    Even our Premier, Anna Bligh (Qld), when opening the new cycle path on the Gateway Bridge duplication, said it would 'open up new areas of Brisbane to training for Brisbane 'cyclists'... sigh... They don't see it as a viable transport option no matter what they burble during election-mode.

    The bridge has a speed limit for cyclists of 10km/h which she said should be enforced by the police from time-to-time. I would hate to see the state of my brakes at the end of that >1km 5% downhill.

    I fully support you Sue. (sorry for the long rant!)

    Regards,

    Dr Paul Martin
    Brisbane Australia
    PS: Heading to Melbourne to see Mikael (from www.copenhagenize.com) talk on 24 July. Will be renting their Bixi bikes and riding around as much as possible sans helmet. Hope to get caught.

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  5. Hi Sue

    Sorry to hear about your experience. I encounter quite a few lycra clad speedy cyclist on my daily rides. Recently when on my way home from the supermarket I passed a couple of lads who were stopped waiting for their mates to catch up. I was riding my 35 year old CCM Galaxie (english style 3 speed)loaded with my shopping. About a kilometer down the road they caught me up and one of them pulled along side and started asking me questions about my bike, how long I've had it, how often I ride it etc., we chatted a little longer and then we parted ways and the speedy lads quickly disappeared.

    Altogether a pleasant encounter with the sporty side of cycling. I can't say that all the motorists I encounter have been as pleasant.

    All the best and I hope there are nicer people to meet.

    Kevin

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  6. aaaah! lovely bunch of comments from a lovely bunch of guys!!! thanks, guys!

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  7. Sue, the most wonderful thing about the internet in my opinion is how easy it now is to show what's possible in other areas of the world. Spreading attractive images of what's possible, whether in Denmark, Japan or wherever may be the best way to influence change. (Accompanied by numbers and costs, à la David Hembrow.)

    By the way, over in NZ there's apparently a way to get a helmet exemption by telling your doctor that helmets give you migraines. Is there such an exemption clause in Australia that you could spread?

    Adam

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  8. Migraines... excellent.

    Thanks sexify! I think I've found an angle for an exemption.

    Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia

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  9. Hey Adam & Paul!! I've read about the kiwis' exemption tactics!! (http://cyclinghealth.org.nz/exemptions.html) - had a real chuckle!! - maybe it could work here! (my partner wasn't convinced though!!)

    For me here, I applied 4 months ago to the RTA on grounds of civil liberties and therapeutic grounds (ie helmets potentially modify your head unfavourably increasing risk of diffuse axonal injury).

    RTA utterly perplexed by my submissions (!) and have tossed my matter back to Department of Roads. So I've been ringing aforementioned department continuously plus I emailed roads minister last week sending all relevant documents (re my matter) again for umpteenth time - copied in whole world too - yet to hear back!!!

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  10. In queensland,

    A doctor can give you a medical exemption. :D

    However, my location requires me to ride in amongst "queeeenslandaaaaah" traffic, and through dual carriageways.
    If I could make even 20% of my trips on proper cycling infrastructure, I would definitely pursue this.

    However, due to a combination of crappy infrastructure, and the fact that I change at work anyway, helmets do not inconvenience me, wheras being stopped and having to carry a medical certificate at all times most certainly would inconvenience me.

    If I thought I could get away with the police not constantly stopping me, I would pursue this option, as there are trips I can do, and would do, if I could avoid wearing my usually sweaty and stinky helmet.

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  11. @Matty P

    I cycle everywhere in Brisbane without my helmet and I've only been given one fine in 12 months. Often the police just tell me to get off the bike - which I do - until they're out of view and then I get back on my bike. I cycle safely and have never fallen off. I find that cars actually give me more room when passing me without my helmet on but I do try and avoid busy roads where possible.

    The problem with getting a Doctor (Qld) to sign a letter for something permanent is that if it goes to court (possible) they must be willing to take the stand. Many aren't and most are convinced that the helmets are a good thing... a classic case of 'it seems like a good idea, therefore...'

    At the moment there is a constant police presence on the Bicentennial Bikeway (undergoing maintenance) so I have my helmet in my pannier for that - I don't want to deliberately piss off the police officers who are forced to sit there all day long.

    (now, please correct me if I'm misinterpreting your comments)
    It is interesting that you feel that wearing a helmet is reasonable as you have to ride on dual carriageways, etc. This is precisely what a helmet won't help you with! They are honestly utterly useless in a car v bike scenario.

    They will, at best, prevent you from a scalp laceration in a low speed impact. The testing procedure for them involves a drop from a mere 1.5m...

    I just want citizens to have the choice to not wear one. I see you can also have an exemption in NZ on the grounds of a religious belief (ie. Sikh, etc). I wonder if my pirate hat counts? ;)

    Regards,

    Dr Paul Martin
    MBBS, FANZCA
    Brisbane, Australia

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