Yet Another Cycling Forum

General Category => On The Road => Topic started by: andygates on September 05, 2009, 12:50:44 pm

Title: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: andygates on September 05, 2009, 12:50:44 pm
I dunno who Adrian Short (http://adrianshort.co.uk/2009/08/24/456/) is, but he hits the nail on the head with this:

Quote
Ethical Consumer has a feature called Love this, ban that! which asks an assortment of the green and the good which saintly products they love and which evil ones they’d ban. Sadly, only Mayor Boris took the opportunity to challenge the premise that banning things is the best way to steer society down a more sustainable path and to allay the well-founded suspicion among many outside the green ghetto that environmentalists tend to be ban-happy authoritarians.

Inexplicably, Ethical Consumer didn’t contact me to take part in their survey but I’d like to nominate the bicycle as my favourite “ethical consumer product” and the cycle helmet for an immediate, total ban backed up with the full force and violence of the criminal justice system.

I hope that choosing the bicycle as my preferred product needs little explanation or justification but my proposed ban on cycle helmets might be a little more problematic. For a long time I’ve harboured the suspicion in my more paranoid moments that there’s some kind of collusion between the road/oil lobby and elements of the cycling fraternity to ensure that cycling in Britain remains a marginalised, unpleasant and largely despised activity.

For those of us looking to travel between around a mile and eight miles without an extreme amount of cargo, the bike should be the default choice. Done right, cycling is convenient, cheap, safe, accessible, fun and sustianable.

Done right.

It’s not possible to uninvent the bicycle but if Shadowy Forces wanted to minimise the number of people cycling so as to benefit their Evil Agenda they’d probably want to chip away at all the things that make cycling potentially great so as to diminish the whole experience. If you can’t ban it, knacker it.

Here’s how to do it:

Cycling is cheap? Can’t have that. Now, let’s see. Let’s start at the obvious place by making bikes more expensive. Load them with features that cost more to build (complex braking systems, gears, suspension) and require expensive expert maintenance rather than DIY. Turn the bike from an everyday utilitarian thing, a utensil, and make it a product. Desirable. Fashionable. Consumerable. There’s a lot of choice, so shop around. Read reviews. Get recommendations. Worry, because it matters. Who’d want to be seen riding a cheap bike? An unfashionable bike? A tatty bike? Now accessorise. That expensive bike needs an expensive lock — or two. Got to protect your investment. Buy insurance. (Shop around, shop around.) Compare the tensile strengths and style options and get a helmet. A bone dome. A skid lid. Don’t be cheap — your skull could depend on it. Get a hi-viz jacket that’s more breathable than a string vest and only fifty times the price. Padded shorts for that tiny, bony saddle. Special shoes to couple perfectly with your special pedals. A messenger bag from this week’s premium brand.

Here’s the safety strategy: Make it less safe and make it feel less safe. The best way to make cycling less safe is for cyclists to ride faster. Encourage this wherever possible. Forget ambling, casual, pedestrian images of cycling. Emphasise sport, fitness, competition. Measure speed. Sell speedometers and odometers. Get people to monitor their performance. Track their MPH, their heartrates, their calories, their carbon footprints. Compare with others. Compete. Idolise road racers, couriers, extreme mountain bikers, BMXers. Alleycatters. Lance Armstrong. Jump the red light. Race other cyclists. Race cars. Race the clock. Race, race. It’s not fun unless you’re taking risks. Life is one big risk, right? Cycling just got a whole lot more dangerous for the sake of a marginal shortening of the average journey. Ohh, wipeout. Nice one.

Now the perception of safety. Talk about safety, safety, safety so everyone thinks danger, danger, danger. Don’t show images of cyclists without helmets, especially not children. Never children. Sending your children out on bikes without helmets is tantamount to child abuse. Don’t you care? Don’t you care about the children? Would you send them out to their deaths? Photos of cyclists without helmets are like images of people with cigarettes. Historical documents. Anachronisms. Forbidden outside the intellectual safety of the academy. Be safe, be seen. Hi viz. Yellow jacket, yellow jersey. £100 lights that can dazzle shipping 20 miles off the coast. Lumens. Got to get more lumens. You need a bell? You need a foghorn. Radar. Missiles, if you could get them. And you need training, because it’s a war out there. Drivers hate you. Pedestrians hate you. Other cyclists hate you. The law is indifferent, the police don’t care. Every other road user will kill you if they get a chance. Unless you get trained. Unless you can stay one step ahead of them. Unless you can get them first. So you go to boot camp. You get trained. You are approved. You are a Cyclist. You feel a little bit safer in that dangerous place. Until you see the ghost bike. Don’t be a statistic like the pallid, mangled wreck chained to the lamppost at the roundabout. Don’t be a victim. Go faster. Be a winner. Beat them.

Do you smell? People shouldn’t smell. If you cycle, if you cycle fast, you’ll smell. You’ll need a shower. Does your workplace have showers? No? Don’t cycle. Does the pub have showers? No? Don’t cycle. Does the shopping centre have showers? No? Please, don’t cycle.

If you don’t mind smelling, you can’t cycle to work because they don’t have lockers. You need a locker for your helmet. Your jacket. Your padded shorts. Your special shoes that couple so, so perfectly with your special pedals. Your quick-release (eezy-steal) saddle. Your lights and all their lumens. Your handlebar computer with its data, its intimate knowledge of your body, your performance, your lifestyle. Your hydration system. Your lock. You worry about your lock. It cost more than your first bike. And the bike itself? That needs a CCTV-monitored, thumbprint-secured, climate-controlled vault. A lamppost won’t do because your bike takes a month’s work to buy but only a minute or two to steal.

Are you fat? Don’t cycle. You don’t, do you? Fit people cycle. Fat people do not cycle. (Fat people do not swim. Fat people do not run. Soon, fat people will not walk.) Cycling is about fitness. Fat people, un-fit people, do not cycle. Fat people look ridiculous on bikes. Fat people look crap in lycra. Fat people look even more fat in lycra, if such a tragically hilarious thing could be possible. Fat people can only go slowly but cyclists must go fast. They must race. They must perform. They must compete. Fat people are not fast off the lights. Fat people do not look like Lance Fuckingarmfuckingstrong. Fat people must enshroud themselves in cars as a prophylactic against polite society’s sight of their ungainly self-propelled movement. Fat people must squeeze themselves onto buses and trains and tubes with all the other huffers and puffers, the children and the old people, the timid and the nearly dead. They say obese but you read fat. People like you are an epidemic. You are contagious and the things you must do to make the rest of us safe you are not allowed to do. Fat is getting thinner all the time. If you are fat, don’t cycle. You don’t, do you?

Cycle helmets are the most visible and potent symbol of all that’s wrong with Britain’s (anti-)cycling culture. Cycle helmets say we cannot cycle without the right precautions, the right equipment, the right infrastructure, the right training. Cycle helmets say there must be more to cycling than a person, two wheels and the surface of the Earth. Cycle helmets say that cycling is more dangerous than not cycling. Let’s ban them now before it’s too late. Let’s lock up all the people who buy them, who sell them, who use them. Let’s drag them off to jail in handcuffs, in tears.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: toekneep on September 05, 2009, 01:01:59 pm
As I read that I couldn't help but reflect on the effect that being on this forum has had on my cycling. I used to just ride a bike because it was fun. Hmmmm.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: citoyen on September 05, 2009, 01:16:22 pm
Hallefuckinglujah!  ;D

I looked at all those words and thought, Can I be bothered to read this? But I'm so glad I did.

I'm not sure I totally agree that banning cycle helmets would have the effect he desires but it doesn't really matter - it's a beautifully eloquent argument and he makes his case well.

d.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: gordon taylor on September 05, 2009, 01:42:10 pm
Hallefuckinglujah!  ;D

I looked at all those words and thought, Can I be bothered to read this? But I'm so glad I did.

I'm not sure I totally agree that banning cycle helmets would have the effect he desires but it doesn't really matter - it's a beautifully eloquent argument and he makes his case well.

d.


+1

Thanks for that, Andy.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Wowbagger on September 05, 2009, 01:49:17 pm
Very good indeed. I've had quite a few of those thoughts myself, especially about the anti-cycling conspiracy.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rogerzilla on September 05, 2009, 02:36:12 pm
I must be a child abuser, since Miss Z learned to ride without the plastic hat and refuses to wear it (if she ever wants to ride to school, the H&S nazis require it*, so she does own one-  in fact, so do I, although the last time I wore it was at Calshot in 2006 and the next time will be the Bromptoin Worlds).  She falls off a lot too, but just gets back on without complaining.

I'm amazed that kids survived before the 1990s.


*although we ride there most nights for a few laps of the empty car park.  Muahahahaha.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Basil on September 05, 2009, 04:48:09 pm
Thanks Andy.  :thumbsup:
And thanks Smutchin as well, for encouraging me to read it.  (Like you, I saw a mass of small print and thought I wouldn't bother) :thumbsup:

Amusing and thought provoking. 
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Aidan on September 05, 2009, 05:13:42 pm
+ whatever  to what everyone else has said.

Thanks Andy, for posting that
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: nuttycyclist on September 05, 2009, 06:32:56 pm
A good comment there.



And another thought re planet versus helmets - aren't helmets made out of nasty polystyrene and plastic?
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rower40 on September 05, 2009, 07:43:41 pm
Please can I keep my Ree-Vu helmet?  Please?

I don't wear it for its head-protecting properties, but simply so that I can see behind me (*).  And I know that I'm perpetuating the "Cycling is dangerous, Must Wear Helmet" vibe, for which I'm extremely sorry.

(*) It has a set of three mirrors, arranged like a periscope.  Wonderful field-of-view and a marvellous antidote to the stiffening neck that comes with age, and makes the lifesaver look-round more difficult.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: nuttycyclist on September 05, 2009, 08:03:00 pm
Why not just fit mirrors to the bike?   I have.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Aidan on September 05, 2009, 08:07:57 pm
Why not just fit mirrors to the bike?   I have.

OT I know, but where did you get those?  I've been looking for some since I saw your bike and can't find them anywhere
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: nicknack on September 05, 2009, 11:18:30 pm
Excellent article.

A lot of comments on the original article totally missing the point.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Ian H on September 06, 2009, 10:27:15 am
Perhaps I should fit ordinary pedals to my 40yr old fixed-wheel.

Articles like that are almost designed to be misunderstood. Especially in this age when people don't read words, they just see messages.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: GruB on September 06, 2009, 10:47:32 am
All well and good in fine print, but wake up and smell the coffee people.  Like any of that is ever going to happen?  The full weight of the criminal justice system.  Yeah right.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rae on September 06, 2009, 11:06:23 am
Sorry, but that's the biggest load of cock that I've read in a long time.

If people want to ride a cheap bike in whatever clothes they want, they can.  If they want to ride a £5000 titanium bike while wearing Assos' finest, that is also fine. 

Honestly it reads like it is written by some inadequate who would like a decent bike and kit, and just can't have it.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: RJ on September 06, 2009, 09:46:24 pm
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Your lock. You worry about your lock. It cost more than your first bike.

Good rant.


If people want to ride a cheap bike in whatever clothes they want, they can.  If they want to ride a £5000 titanium bike while wearing Assos' finest, that is also fine. 

Is (actually) more-or-less what the piece says - its target is the portrayal and promotion of cycling in this country, not (in spite of the rhetoric) cyclists.

Quote
Honestly it reads like it is written by some inadequate who would like a decent bike and kit, and just can't have it.
 

See above - not how I read it  :)
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: nuttycyclist on September 06, 2009, 11:44:43 pm
Why not just fit mirrors to the bike?   I have.

OT I know, but where did you get those?  I've been looking for some since I saw your bike and can't find them anywhere

This is the link I used, if I remember correctly.
Wildoo - Mirrors (http://www.wildoo.co.uk/mirrors.htm)

Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rae on September 07, 2009, 12:07:45 am
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Is (actually) more-or-less what the piece says - its target is the portrayal and promotion of cycling in this country, not (in spite of the rhetoric) cyclists. 

Outside the specialist press (and places like this)...what portrayal?   Have bike, ride bike, no big deal.  TFL seem to agree, and they're the biggest advertisers of bikes in London.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rogerzilla on September 07, 2009, 06:38:20 am
London is somewhat more laissez-faire than the rest of the country.  Anywhere else and you're pilloried for not wearing a plastic hat.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Julian on September 07, 2009, 07:40:38 am
I'm sitting here watching the cycle commute traffic in Copenhagen.  There are a slack handful of people in helmets.  I haven't seen anybody in lycra yet (although we saw roadies galore at the weekend, outside the city, so they do exist.)  There are one or two fixies but almost everyone is riding a town bike  with flat bars, rack, mudguards and chain guard.  And - possibly due to weight of traffic - they go pretty slowly.  Even with full touring kit Charlotte & I were passing people (although I think this may have been a giant breach of etiquette.)  There's no Tour de Commute happening here.

Doing a quick compare-and-contrast with the Uxbridge Road at 9am it's significantly more civilised here.  And the drivers are models of patience and tolerance :D
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: mattc on September 07, 2009, 09:22:38 am
Quote
Is (actually) more-or-less what the piece says - its target is the portrayal and promotion of cycling in this country, not (in spite of the rhetoric) cyclists. 

Outside the specialist press (and places like this)...what portrayal?   Have bike, ride bike, no big deal.  TFL seem to agree, and they're the biggest advertisers of bikes in London.
I would tend to disagree. Wait for the next press article called something like "Get Cycling, Get Fit, Get Firm!" (you'll probably be waiting until May).

I predict the suggested spend on equipment will be around a grand, and is 90% likely to urge helmet purchase.

They won't say you HAVE to buy all this stuff, but the implication is the thing. And the glamourisation of the buying of the kit.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Ian H on September 07, 2009, 09:24:55 am
It is true that the rant could just as well have been about training shoes.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Redlight on September 07, 2009, 09:38:00 am
Usually accompanied by a picture of a couple of squeaky-clean mail order models wearing helmets on the back of their heads like Easter bonnets* and pedalling with their arches.

(* almost as funny as the infamous car-loving Tory Transport Minister who was photographed wearing a helmet back to front)


 
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Is (actually) more-or-less what the piece says - its target is the portrayal and promotion of cycling in this country, not (in spite of the rhetoric) cyclists. 

Outside the specialist press (and places like this)...what portrayal?   Have bike, ride bike, no big deal.  TFL seem to agree, and they're the biggest advertisers of bikes in London.
I would tend to disagree. Wait for the next press article called something like "Get Cycling, Get Fit, Get Firm!" (you'll probably be waiting until May).

I predict the suggested spend on equipment will be around a grand, and is 90% likely to urge helmet purchase.

They won't say you HAVE to buy all this stuff, but the implication is the thing. And the glamourisation of the buying of the kit.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rae on September 07, 2009, 11:32:33 am
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Usually accompanied by a picture of a couple of squeaky-clean mail order models wearing helmets on the back of their heads like Easter bonnets* and pedalling with their arches. 

I suppose you'd prefer a picture of Teethgrinder slogging up some improbable hill in the pouring rain?

Whatever picture you put up, there'll be some anorak to complain about it. 

If the writer is the sort of person who does what magazines tell him to...I have once in a lifetime investment opportunities for him....

Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: andygates on September 07, 2009, 12:11:10 pm
Portrayal examples from life:

Chuffy did a set of local ride guides for the Council.  They rejected his photos because the riders weren't wearing helmets.

I gooned up to a photoshoot for the opening of a site facility.  The photographer asked me to be out because I wasn't wearing a hat.

It's not bollocks, it's very much real.  Exactly the same non-grata status as a photo of someone smoking. 
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rae on September 07, 2009, 12:45:54 pm
That's elf and safety again.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: RJ on September 07, 2009, 01:17:41 pm
That's elf and safety again.

... or, more likely, ignorance dressed up as H&S.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: ScumOfTheRoad on September 07, 2009, 01:18:55 pm
Chipping in my 2p worth - the sorts of people who censor people from photos etc. for nto wearing helmets are IMHO likely not to be cyclists. What is it in the British character which makes people think they can hand out advice to adult strangers?
I remember a conversation with a relative, who was horrified that I did not wear a cycle helmet. I had to stick to my ground very firmly.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: ScumOfTheRoad on September 07, 2009, 01:24:21 pm
ps. I agree with what the article says. I've said this on here before - take a trip to my local supermarket, all of one mile away. With the car, I decide to go on a whim, leave the front door, go into an underground car park in my normal clothes and shoes. I leave the car in a marked space at the supermarket, and secure it by blipping the key. I have the knowledge that it will be there when I get back (modern central locking and immobilisers have made car theft rare). I take the trolley which has been left in a special paring place near the car and go shop.

On the bike - I get special shoes on to go with the SPD pedals, I put on cycling clothes, and if the H+S types are to be followed I simply must wear a helmet. On arrival at the supermarket I unship two locks, and spend time binding the bike to a secure stand. I then strip it of all removable objects. I still have a fear of the bike not being there when I come out.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Jaded on September 07, 2009, 01:25:44 pm
That's elf and safety again.

... or, more likely, ignorance dressed up as H&S.

In Hi-Vis, I hope.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rae on September 07, 2009, 01:28:33 pm
Quote
On arrival at the supermarket I unship two locks, and spend time binding the bike to a secure stand. I then strip it of all removable objects. I still have a fear of the bike not being there when I come out. 

I think that is a far bigger problem than helmets, but of course, coming down hard on the little shits that steal bikes isn't all that "right on".    There are a number of journeys I make by car rather than bike, simply because I know the bike won't be there when I go back to it.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: Zipperhead on September 07, 2009, 01:46:20 pm
On the bike - I get special shoes on to go with the SPD pedals, I put on cycling clothes, and if the H+S types are to be followed I simply must wear a helmet. On arrival at the supermarket I unship two locks, and spend time binding the bike to a secure stand. I then strip it of all removable objects. I still have a fear of the bike not being there when I come out.

then you need a Brommie. Get on bike (in whatever clothes you happen to be wearing). Ride to supermarket. Fold up bike & take it with you to do shopping.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: ScumOfTheRoad on September 07, 2009, 02:22:35 pm
then you need a Brommie.
Ah! N+1 - I like your thinking Sir.


Get on bike (in whatever clothes you happen to be wearing). Ride to supermarket.
Latex catsuit, clown mask and welders mitts? Not a good look for the supermarket.
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: mattc on September 07, 2009, 02:34:46 pm
Quote
On arrival at the supermarket I unship two locks, and spend time binding the bike to a secure stand. I then strip it of all removable objects. I still have a fear of the bike not being there when I come out. 

I think that is a far bigger problem than helmets, but of course, coming down hard on the little shits that steal bikes isn't all that "right on".    There are a number of journeys I make by car rather than bike, simply because I know the bike won't be there when I go back to it.

That's a good point. However, I suspect it depends on the (perceived?) value of your car vs bike.

When my car was new(er), I was pretty reluctant to park in certain places. They're probably the same places that anyone owning a nice bike would be reluctant to park it. If your car is new enough to have good security, you're more likely to be pi55ed off at minor vandalism of it.

Then there's the issue that supermarkets do generally put the bike parking in a VERY insecure spot, whereas your car is parked under the nose of the security droids.

[It may be true that out-of-town superstores are actually very safe places for bike parking!]
Title: Re: Save the planet — ban cycle helmets
Post by: rae on September 07, 2009, 02:44:59 pm
A car is parked in a car park with a load of other high value items - so unless yours really stands out, it isn't going to be a target.   Modern cars are also pretty hard to break into and the police also take car theft quite seriously.   A bike, wherever it is parked, is an easy target, and the police don't give two shits about the theft.    It is also easy to nick parts - front wheel, saddle etc.   Again, no one cares.