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14 Jun 2013

Vancouver is coming along nicely

Posted by Mike Rubbo. No Comments

This is a film about cycling to make you feel good and if your not a cyclist yet on a comfy sit up bike, to  think that maybe you could be .

Made by Vancouver Cycle Chic

13 Jun 2013

Good news from New York city. Citibikes launched

Posted by Mike Rubbo. No Comments

Hers is a great film made by those prolific producers, Streetfilms. This one celebrates the  launch of Bike share in NYC.

But if you watch it on YouTube, you’ll see I have questions to ask

The bikes they use are from Quebec the same bike in use in Montreal, Melbourne and London. Big feather in Quebec’s cap to be able to design, build,  and globally market these  sturdy bikes.

Australia  could so the same if we got off our bums and subsidized  some transport mode other than the car industry

9 Jun 2013

Geri-activism on youTube.

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 1 Comment

It’s so long since I posted on this blog. That’s because I’ve been dragged away from my bike activism to work on saving our beautiful single screen cinema at Avoca Beach from over development.

They want to turn it into five screens,  the silly buggers,  and for a town of our size which loves the theatre the way it is, ( one more screen perhaps)   that is being  SO opposed

So my geri- activism has meant making several movies to not only to tell the Avoca picture theatre story,  but also that of Mount Vic Flicks another single screen in strife .

Thank God for this wonderful movie platform, Youtube.

When I began making documentaries  50 years ago, the idea that one would be able to release films to the wide wide world for no cost , and asking no one’s permission,  well, that was a dream we never dared indulge.

Now, out go our activist films,  made on a shoe string,  making a difference  we hope

I’m calling  this way of working; Tube for Change . Here are some of the recent movies.

First,  one about the Heritage value  of our theatre. The last of the Last

Now, here’s the story of Mount Vic Flicks, fighting to stay open after july 7th.  2013

This drama  in part prompted me to  come up with the name, Tube For Change.  and the idea of being a geriactivist. As you’ll see,  the camera does become an agent for change in this story.

What happened in that little theatre  brought back memories of when I worked at the National Film Board of Canada.

In the 70s there,  we had a program called; Challenge for Change which used very early video equipment to empower people without power. Now,  my far better technology does somewhat  the same thing.

So,  all of that’s taken me away from bikes to some extent.

Not completely. I’ve become very interested in Lord Howe island as a place to ride bikes. It seems that kids actually go to school there on bikes whereas in the rest of our silly nation they are bussed, fussed and SUV’d.

It looks like a great place to ride. It looks like I need to do a movie there.


Bikes are transport for adults too on the island.

So, I’m asking them, being a very laid back place with little traffic,  whether they might consider a helmet exemption like in the Northern Territory.

You’ d think this would be the last place you’d need or want a lid.

Lord Howe already have a seat belt exemption, apparently,  and so why not  helmet choice for bikes?

I need to speak to the local doctor to see what he thinks. I’m told that they’s had some nasty bike accidents and he’s apt to think I’m crazy. But who knows!

Helmet choice  could put the Island on the map since many  mainlanders and  European tourists crave to ride with the wind in their hair, and the island depends on tourism to survive

Another good bike thing I’ve done is to lend my spare Electric bike to Collette. This is a good move because her ride to work is about the right distance, she does face some hills,  and she’s the sort of activist who is going to make sure everyone around her hears how great E bikes are.

The bike I’ve lent her has, as you can see,  the Lithium Polymer battery behind the seat. The motor is in the rear hub and is 200 watts. Now,  it’s legal to have slightly bigger motors, 250 watts.

The downside of the law changes is that new bikes no longer come with throttles like this bike has . The throttle is by far the best way to control the power I feel.. The new bikes   add power automatically as you pedal.




9 Dec 2012

Strange challenges in Bike Art.

Posted by Mike Rubbo. No Comments

Terry got in touch with me last week.

She wanted to give her husband one of my linocuts for Xmas.  After searching my site, she’s chosen  this one, Riding through the hills.

It’s actually not quite so sepia. Shot with  incandesent light tonight

A  few days later, we spoke on the phone, finalizing the price , and I asked a few questions about her husband. Turns out he loves all sorts of cycling but is a bit of a racer.

I thought, I wonder if he’ll like my strange figures rising from the saddle on Dutch sit-up bikes?

I got so concerned about this that I decided to try creating another linocut with the same four riders but much more racer types.

I  should have just left it alone, Terry was perfectly decisive in her choice, but something bothered me.

Perhaps it’s because I’d like to  be a bit more open to a type of cyling I know nothing about in my art, the racing,  Lycra world.

So, I slaved away all weekend and produced this image,  which I rather like  and which eases the itch.

But I wonder what Terry’s husdand will think, or Terry herself?

I call it,  How’s it going?

The riders are certainly more  authentically racer-ly, I’ve captured that but I drew the line at helmetting them.

Now, what to do? There’s no way to share this with Terry because Katya is dragging  me off to a Russian Monastery for 5  days, leaving  at 5 am tomorrow.

It’s  a place in the Snowy mountains without electricity and so I cant communicate,  and if I wait till  we’re back  it’ll be  too late for her husband’s  Xmas.

And so I’ve put both linocuts  in a tube and will mail them  tomorrow from Cooma where the bus to the prison, I mean the Monastery, stops for lunch before  careening back in time.

That way  Terry, or both of them,  can choose which they like best.

I trust her to return the other. She sounded American, which is no reccomendation these days, but also trustworthy.

Next time I’ll tell you about what I’ve done for Chris across the street who wanted, as a commission,  to be inserted into a  Paris street.

24 Nov 2012

Eveleigh Farmers Market by bike

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 1 Comment

Here is the promised film on Bike shoppping. Hopefully it will spark discussion about this sort of bike use which is actually much more do-able for non riders, and thinking about it riders, that commuting.

I suggest in the film that we can form new alliances with Chambers of commerce  which will not only help cycling  to the shops,  but bring business to small endangered shopkeepers who can be the beneficiaries of such traffic

I meet the president of the Five Dock Chamber of Commerce, Joe Di Giacomo,  at the end of the movie. he sounds quite hopeful.

I brag about carrying 30 kilos of shopping in the film but the discussion on Sydney Cyclist reveals that’s nothing.

Phil Byrne writes on Sydney cyclist.

I‘m going to brag. I’ve carried everything imaginable in my Christiania: Wine barrels, bladder based rainwater tanks, inflatable kayaks, 26 inch electric bike, kids bikes, folding bikes, small trees, potting mix, 6 metre length of storm drain pipe, bookshelves, chickens,dogs, old pallets, 4 metre roll of lino, structural timber, poly roof sheeting, power tools and a lawn mower.

Then there are photos from Colin  like this laden beauty from above.

In another photo of the same bike we glimpse  A Bionx battery. He has some well deserved help does this rider and do I on my bike.

I’ve just got myself a Bionx, which comes very highly regarded, but can’t say I like yet. Teething problems I hope———–

11 Nov 2012

Go viral, good slogan!

Posted by Mike Rubbo. No Comments

My sister sent me a google search which showed that  a clever slogan relating cars to bikes, is going viral, and well it should.


Get the message, spread the message. Stencil roads, paint children, fat bums,  abandoned cars, whatever!



2 Nov 2012

Presenting at Pirrama

Posted by Mike Rubbo. No Comments

Pirrama is a new park at the northern end of Harris st. in Sydney. Yesterday Oct.21st 2012  with was  the  end of the shorter ride of the Annual Spring cycle ride organized by Bicycle NSW.

We plunked down $120 to rent  a tent for the day, thinking that those who came on their bikes, thousands of riders,  might  like some bike art of the superior kind. An Xmas present perhaps.

Indeed, we called the stall modestly,  Better Bike art

Better than what ,  we hoped someone would ask but no one did.  More  art for Xmas can be discovered on our web site,  http://situp-bike-art.com.

I like these tents . They are sort of hasty houses and you feel like an instant property owner, standing on your domain..

Once I knew what sort of tent Bicycle NSW  was providing, intense thought went into how to display the works. You might find our discovery useful one day and so here’s how we did it.

It was not a tent into which people could walk like we had in Newcastle,  (see previous post) and so the art would have to be on the outside.

Also, as I’d found in Newcastle,  where  three of the heavy display screens blew over nearly braining us, wind is a threat.

So,  moving air  had to be able to get though without spinning the art away like frisbies. Can you see how we did it?

From wooden rods,  I suspended thin black webbing.

At first I thought that velcro dots on the webbing and also on the backs of pics would do the trick, but they worked loose,  and so we clipped the art onto the webbing  directly with these distinctive  black clips .Aligator clips, are they?

This system worked extreme well. I offer it freely.

As well, our strange  Socialble, the side by side tandem,   again worked well as a draw-card though getting it to the venue  on the back of our tiny car,  wasn’t easy.

People always  find it curious and amusing and cant  resist stopping to look (I”m glad I didn’t sell it)  at which point we’d cry…..

“There’s bike art here as well!”


One of the highlights for me, apart from making a few bucks,  was seeing a superb new Electric bike.

What made this bike special was firstly it had the excellent Bionx system,  made in Canada, which I’d read about.  While Bionx ‘s expensive, it has a great reputation.

But more than that,  the Bike it’d been mounted on called, Change, is a full size folding bike.

As you know most folding bikes have small wheels and have never interested me since I don’t like the ride. But a full 26 inch wheel and folding,  that, folks,  is  very appealing.

The frame swivels at the point of that black band just under the seat.

I wish I’d taken the name of it’s  proud owner. But I do know the name of the shop where be bought the components and  had it made up,  and intend to look into it further.  It’s from Sydney Electric Bikes

This bike would solve the problem of taking bikes on trains,  esp. Interstate.

I love going to Melbourne by overnight train.But its a real drag when they insist bike be taken apart and shoved into a bike crate.

You feel so stupid  disassembling everything at the station, even taking off pedals and handlebars because the crate they provided was for a smaller bike.

Doing all that   on the platform prior to departure, I felt  so stupid,  that I’ve vowed not to do it again

Apart from that great discovery, sales were pretty good , and I actually managed to take photos of two customers. Here’s the first.

The second customer was memorable for the way he strapped his purchase on his back.  Katya is here admiring it

Speaking of my dear one,  she went off to buy a smoothie and found she had to pedal for it .

She found it not so smooth as the guy kept saying, “more, pedal  more!”


Anyway, thanks to Bicycle NSW. It was a fun day.

This post has taken so long to do because I’ve been dragged away onto several other projects which I’ll mention here in case you interests are wider than cycling.

I had  to do a film in defense of our right to walk dogs on our beach at Avoca. 

Down on Dogs will give you and idea of the bucholic surroundings in which we are lucky to live. ( I’m making the links to these movies hot because the embedding is not working for some reason .)

So if you want to take a peek, click and you’ll be on Youtube. Though the movie  might suddenly appear below as it should


Then there’s the “thing” I’ve invented.

I call it,  Spin me Stories, and rather than try and describe it to you, take a look at least at the first 30 secs,  and you understand immediately.

What you see here is my prototype, my one working example. Hopefully from one,  I can come to some arrangement to make many. I’ll probably try and crowd fund the next stage of Spin Me Stories through Kickstarter.


Lastly , in case you are in need of  changing your lifestyle,  and have enough loot to indulge in some really good  care, here’s the place, The Golden Door, to go.  Katya dragged me there, kicking and screaming , tow months ago

I was reluctant because it’s not cheap, but the visit has proved life changing,  and during the week we spent there,  I came to love Tai Chi, and now do that every day, along with lots of great stretching.

I made the  Golden Door movie because the place was so goof.


So you see,  it’s  been a busy few  weeks.













8 Oct 2012

BikeFest Newcastle

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 4 Comments

Newcastle held its first weekend Bike festival last weekend, Oct. 6th and 7th 2012. The city is coming on fast as a bike friendly place   and  this was a way to anchor that fact in the public mind.

I was invited to show my bike  art. At first,  it was planned that we’d show  in the historic museum buildings but then we got moved to a  marquee on the Boardwalk which was much better in terms of passing foot traffic.

The organizers had supplied us with heavy carpet covered screens to which my light art works were  easily affixed with the help of Velcro dots.

Those dots are the  way to go, one can play around with the arrangement so easily. But what to do, I wonder without  those screens which are way  too heavy for us to lug around in our tiny Getz?

Katya was with me for the whole weekend and was a superb seller. Here’s me in front of our stall  and…

….my darling helper, the exotic Russian.

A huge asset in terms of  getting people to stop and look was our Sociable, a strange side by side bike which we think is the only example in Australia. Parked out front,  it was a great draw-card.

See the two seats side by side? If you don’t believe this works, take a look at these two  who’ve taken it for a spin, managing to master its peculiarities.

It is not an easy beast to ride, though.

And it’s been in danger of being sold to some sucker for some time now, ever  since I bought it from the Canberra Bike Museum 3 years ago. (Museum since Closed)

But now, the old sociable  has proved it’s drawing power as a two wheel freak, and so I’ve decided not to sell it

Nearby,  were interesting stalls . Our immediate neighbors had  beautiful bikes of the sit-up sort on show.

They were  Suellyn Everett and Jimmy Stephenson who seem to share a business called Morgan Cycles.

We could not stop looking at the superbly crafted machines from Belgium and Denmark.

Suellyn admitted the color of the one  we liked best, was not her favorite,  a Belgian machine I believe.

I’m always on the lookout for  bikes and riders to draw. I’m not interested in bikes alone, no matter how elegant. They have to have a rider , and a graceful rider moreover.

When I saw this woman browsing opposite,  caught her easy graceful stance,  I knew I had to see her on one of those bikes

Photograph her and and transform her, eventually,  into a  bit of my art.

Doesn’t that bike look like it’s just begging to be ridden ?

Well, we both got our way.

Here’s the pic . I’ll probably work with. I think she was working for the Bikefest, and so she’ll hopefully get to see all this and follow the fortunes of her image. .

Or maybe  I’ll use this one.  What do you think?

She’s not completely comfortable, holding her head a little tensely. I may change that,  or make it the point of the drawing.

Soon after that, I tried a cargo bike for the first time.  It was surprisingly easy to  to steer and rider friendly,  though   I still felt  a bit decrepit compared with she on the blue bike

That is, until I got momentum. Then, I  saw myself a  compelling image,  suitable for a nation-wide cargo bike ad campaign.

Picture credit goes  to Katya who applauded helpfully.

The Sunday was our big selling day, the weather being better, the crowds thicker,  and our message more resonant

As people came in past the Sociable,  into the tent…

…I explained how I saw buying bike art as a political act. Sort of like GetUp in the art world

I claimed that when people put good bike art on their walls,  it becomes  a statement about the value of the activity. Art  brings status and cachet to the beautiful business of biking.

People seemed to like  the idea and began buying, especially rubbings, no doubt pedaling home fast to politicize their walls before the visitors arrived.

As the numbers grew, we  felt that  Bike art was on a roll at last!.

What sold? Well, the digital prints of the rubbings sold best, being the cheapest,  I guess. They went for $40. They’re certainly a way to have a nice image, but there’s nothing handmade about them.

The rider reflecting on the banks of the Seine, is always snapped up.

Being a rubbing, means that I coat the paper with glue, apply color all over,  and then rub it off the make shapes and highlights. No brush work involved.

This one, two  riders in Prague, is loved for the colors and often sells well.

The third digital print sold on the weekend, is one of my most popular rubbings.  The original left Australia in early 2012, bound  for for the US, fetching  a nice price.

Again,  the digital copy was $40. It’s called, Reaching for her Purse.

We sold old one drawing which surprised me. I thought the simple lines,   the economy of the  drawn images, would appeal more.

Of course they cost more. We’ were asking $150 but settled for less because the buyer was so helpful in helping us with the setting up

Actually,  it’s not true  Late Sunday, we sold this drawing too, done with heavy Indian ink.

It shows workers leaving a factory in the 40′s,  their handlebars turned up . It was bought by a guy who’d worked in a factory like that here in Newcastle, and remembered the rides to work.

My picture framer thinks this is one of my best, and urges me to do more such dribbly ink work. Anyone agree?

Lino cuts are always a goer, being so bold. I was happy that this Tapestry of bikes sold,  since it’s usually passed over. No more.

I’ll probably start a numbered addition of this one, now that it’s proved itself popular.

I was equally delighted that we sold two artist proofs of  Riding through the Bois de Boulonge

It’s a strange and subtle image, full of story as art often is.

Who’s the faceless man she just passed?  Did they look at each other briefly as she headed deeper into the Bois?

Lastly, the image of a Velib, one of the public bikes of Paris, see here  lost in traffic.

As well as pitching and selling furiously, we had   a few snatched moments to drop by other stalls and greet colleagues also committed to a stately sort of riding.

There was Tom  and partner at the trendy Treadlie magazine   stall. Treadlie comes from  Melbourne.

And I saw Paul from Gazelle Cycles.  He distributes  an amazing E bike. Paul also led a study tour to Holland two years ago which is still talked about.

Maurice Wells I somehow missed getting into a  photograph.

Maurice runs Glow worm bikes in Sydney, selling new high quality E bikes,  and second hand regular sit-up bikes he imports from Holland.

I can’t help ending with some juicy images from the stall right in front of us, Morgan Cycles.

Or should I end more menacingly with this Knuckle duster bike?

Or end with a really nice pair of baskets?

This is certainly the way to end,  and yet not end,  because I haven’t mentioned the  great talk I heard on Smart Moves  by Anne Lusk, Research Scientist  at  Harvard School of Public health.

Anne talked about the  health and economic benefits  cycling delivers to a city, saying Newcastle had great potential to become an Australian leader . (Bikefest Newcastle bought her out, I gather.)


Anne also  touched on matters germaine to those  baskets and my current interest, namely how to get more Australians shopping on bikes

It seems to me there’s a natural alliance just waiting to be created between Chambers of Commerce which  work to promote small businesses on the high streets of the land, and the bike shopper.

If Chambers of Commerce were to get their members to promote shopping by bike, installing  bike racks out front,  and perhaps offering discounts to those who come on a bike, we could get a win win situation going quite easily.

We mostly live quite close to our local shops as opposed to supermarkets, often more distant.  We can thus shop easily and frequently,  using basket rigged bikes. That’s  for us both heath and money-wise,  and will also help keep    the friendly world of high street shopping,  going strong.

Mike Rubbo. Oct 9, 2012





24 Aug 2012

Bikes on a roll in Montreal

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 1 Comment

As some of you know, I used to live in Montreal, was there for 25 years, ending in 1996,

In those days, Montreal was not a bike town. I knew hardly anyone who ride a bike.

But since the Bixis arrived a few years ago, ( they’re the public bikes, and there’s 5000 0f them on Montreal streets.) the city by the St Lawrence river, has become one of the great bike cities of the world.

Bixis made bikes cool in Montreal

My friend and helper,  Violeta Brana-Lafourcade  is there right now.  Here she is, enjoying a perfect Montreal summer.

She’s loading her facebook page with bike photos which I want to share with you.

Actually she’s been on assignment for me in Holland, filming bikes which I’ll use for movies and bike art, and now she giving me a Montreal bonus.

Here’s couple of her offerings.

She explained that she was in a market area which is why everyone was pushing their bikes.

Several things stand out for me. There are only two Bixis in the twenty or so  photos. The rest are private bikes of various sorts.

When Bixis primed the pump as it were,   non riders realized how much they liked being on a bike,  and went out and bought their  own.

The second thing is that quite innocently, she’s  not making propaganda to suite my prejudices, not one of the riders Violeta finds, is wearing a helmet.

Now, I know many of you will find that a boring observation. You may love your helmet and can’t imagine rolling even a meter without it

But as some of us   muster the arguments for helmet choice in Australia, we do need to grab evidence like this, that riders in cities elsewhere feel perfectly comfortable and safe riding without lids.

Do these riders look nervous, stressed?  Are they wearing  those alarmist iridescent vests, and another sign of the fear culture here.

Note too that none of the riders are on separated cycle ways, though there are now many in Montreal.

So far it’s  all women, another big change over there..  Here,  of course, male cyclists still outnumber women two to one. That’s because  riding a bike is perceived as dangerous here, and maybe the helmet hair question plays a part as well, keeping women off bikes.

But the guys  In Montreal are equally head bare. (not thread bare)

Now, notice something else. These riders are all in a street of….

….small shops. They are browsing and probably buying.

I think I’ve just hit on a useful truth. I’ll preface my revelation with telling you that our local Coles is  expanding and driving other shops out of the  Kincumber shopping centre.

Coles used to share the center with  an independent green grocer, PJ’s , a pastry shop,  etc. Now they are all gone and in days,  we’ll have a very big Coles.

With the expansion and the renovation of the car park, have gone the few bike racks there used to be. Now there are none.

I’ve just realized that Coles must know that few bikes  come to supermarkets. Nor do they go to corner stores in Australia, not yet at least, one must add.

But in Montreal and Europe, I bet small store love cyclists since  with their small carrying capacity, they surely tend to shop in small stores .

I’ve asked Violeta to find out if this is true. Because is it is, then we have a great new weapon with which to fight for bikes as transport.

There must, for example,  be small business associations who  could be brought to see that a campaign for bikes, could be mutually beneficial.

Perhaps a 10% discount for whoever rides up with a basket on the handlebars, offered at participating small shops.

I don’t have the evidence as yet to prove the point.  but these photos are a good start. Almost every bike she photographed is set up to carry stuff,  often with baskets front and back

This is surely an angle to pursue. Because if small business came to see cyclists of this sort, not the sports cyclists but the shoppers, as their friend, they might join us to lobby for helmet choice, if, taking them a step further, we can show this will get a lot more women, shoppers all, onto bikes.

You might not believe it, but right now if you were to go to any suburban main street,  with it’s cluster of shops, some probably doing it tough, you would be lucky to see a single bike shopper.

They just don’t exist, except for me that is.

For the rest of  Violeta’s photos, here’s  her page.

I await my info from her on this link between small shops and bikes





15 Jul 2012

Bike art is (almost) everywhere

Posted by admin. No Comments

I have a Google search on both bicycle art and bike art . Why wouldn’t I since that’s  my life these days?

Each day Google finds me bike art around the world .

In London, the Tour de France is celebrated in a show at the Snap Gallery called Le tour, the art of James Staffron.

Writing about the show, the Snap Gallery says that the appeal of this iconic bike art, mixed media, three dimensional and installation pieces,   derives from cycling having become the new  religion for many men over forty.

Not for me. Not sort that of cycling.

I’m not attracted by the frenzy, the speed, the pumping, head-down riding.  For me, it  has lots of excitement, but very little beauty.

I’m interested in the beauty of the body on the bike coming, not through speed,  but grace of posture and of movement a sort of bike Tai Chi.

I suspect this show in Florida is  more to my liking.

Here’s a  review of a new Florida bike art show   in a place I’ve never heard of, Palm  Coast.

They have  a local rag there called;  the Flagler live.com.

Nice name,  that . I guess it’s linked to flagging things of interest.

Here’s the  review of the show at the Hollingsworth Gallery which caught my eye.

It’s  by Christine Sullivan who, herself, has a nice painting in the show. Here it is.

The show is called; The Art of the bicycle,  and is  the Gargiulo Art Foundation’s first Annual Juried Bicycle Art show. As well as exhibits,  there are lots of bike related activities linked  to the show.

Palm coast, Christine’s review  reports, has over 50 miles of manicured bike trails. That might not  sound amazing  but if Palm Coast is small, then it  is indeed  impressive.

The trails do look fun to ride.

Not sure if this one  is bikes only.

How many Kms. of bike trails does Avoca beach, have? (That’s where I live ) you might ask?


Tom Gagiulo, the president of  the Hollingsworth art galley in Palm Coast , explains why he thinks that bike art will be a winner in the town.

His inspiration came from and article he saw in the  Smithsonian Magazine.

He says; “The article was about a small town of something like 700 people.

Well, on the weekend that town’s population would swell to something like 10 times that, even though they only had something like one art gallery and theater, recreationally speaking.

What brought all these people in was that the town had a lot of bike paths and parks for riders.

“We have more than that,” Tom says. “We have more riding trails. We have the Intracoastal, and we have a burgeoning artistic community with Hollingsworth Gallery, the Flagler County Art League, and the Gallery of Local Art (GOLA) at Flagler Beach.

I expect we’ll have a lot of tourist development next year because there’s a lot here for art and cultural people.”

Like the small town in the article, Palm Coast is a veritable biking haven, says Gargiulo, who’s originally from Connecticut.

“There are a lot of people who will buy a painting strictly based on its subject matter,” he says. “For instance, if someone has been to Venice, they’re more inclined to buy a painting of Venice, even if they’re not normally people who buy art. I think this show could have that type of response with many people who ride bikes.”

Sounds logical to me.

I’ve left a comment on Christine’s blog, offering news of bike art here

I have some theories about such art too. I like to make  the  prediction that it won’t be long before it  will be a rare thing to find people who are active and playful,  who don’t  have bike art on their walls.

It will become, I believe, almost a household necessity, the done thing.

Good luck with the show,  Tom and the Hollingsworth gallery.

Mike Rubbo


17 Jun 2012

Bicycle art. Frank Hinder

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 3 Comments

Martin in Canberra wrote asking if I knew the bike art of Frank Hider done of the bike scene in Canberra after the 2nd World War.

I knew this lithograph.

But I had no clue about the other lovely stuff in the Hinder catalogue. Frank Hinder was born in Sydney 1906 and died in 1992.

Here,  the image is reversed and in color.

My curiosity was aroused, especially when I found that Hinder was interested on what now fascinates me, the power of the simple line.

When I saw his  exploratory drawings,  I realized we were on a similar path, him way before me of course

Then,  as I went though his catalogue,  I realized that that I actually  knew someone in one of the drawing, Ewart Collings, and what a great drawing of Ewart it was.

Who’s Ewart Collings nd how do I know him?

He was a friend of my family, and not long ago I found his widow,  Betty,  living in a Kurringai nursing home. She’s in her 90′s

Ewart was a camouflage artist during the war, helping design covers, drapes nets which would hide  planes and guns from eyes in the sky.

Next, I discovered that Frank Hider was  a  very important camouflage artist too.

Indeed,  he designed  something called the Hinder spider, a portable covering for guns and aircraft.

I found a photo of the spider in action but so effective was it,  that there’s nothing much to see.  See what I mean?

More visible, is this dummy aircraft also   by Hinder, meant to achieve the opposite, to  convince  spies in the skies that something is there when it actually  isn’t.

Interesting how artist were taken into the war effort, isn’t it?


I know this is getting  a long way from Hinder’s bikes. The artist was fascinated by what he called Dynamic Symmetry.

When in Canberra after the war,  discovering  lots of people on bikes, he went for the symmetry in the action.

I find I’m after exactly the same thing, and am amazed that others don’t see this rhythmic  potential of the bike,  artistically. I wish I could have talked to Frank.

Then, digging further into Frank’s story, I found perhaps the most important reason for making this discovery. In 1916,  Frank was a student at Newington College , a famous Sydney secondary school.

Who was the art teacher there at the time? Antonio Dattilo Rubbo, my Grandfather.

Here’s grandfather in a self portrait.

More on him at Family art stories Rubbo family

But did he teach Frank Hinder?

Undoubtedly,  because  Frank went on to be his student at a later school grandfather Nonno (what the family called him) ran at the Royal Art Society.

And here’s his brilliant pupil, Frank Hinder.

So, now thanks to Martin in Canberra I’ve got to know Frank Hinder, found the family connection, and go back to my own bike art freshly inspired.

I’ve been experimenting with very simply drawings in Indian ink. This challenging rider is one result.

This, I  transferred to this polymer plate, using the sun’s rays.

and then printed this on a nice textured paper.


And if you don’t care for her sullen look, how about this one called,  shady departure. First.  the plate.

and the solar print from  this plate.


My present challenge is to simplify my drawings and make them more decisive.

I rather like this self portrait, a younger me with my electric bike.

But I’ll leave you with some Hinder masterpieces.  Bike and non bike.


12 Jun 2012

Bicycle art. My Manifesto

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 2 Comments

For me, it all begins with the kids. Here’s Riley, pushing  a bike  which is way too big for him.

What happens if this  bike art ends up on the walls of his house as it probably will since it’s promised?

What would have happened if this youthful me had been on my walls?

I’ve been working on a  Bike Art manifesto, clarifying  why I’m obsessively doing this bike art.  To be honest , the crude reason…

might be  that I find women and bikes an extremely alluring combination,  especially if their hair is free, unhelmeted

Like many of my bicycle art drawings,  this one is based on someone I’ve never met. I’ve tracked her down,  though.

Her name is Elizabeth Morrow and she has a blog called, Delightfully Tacky.

Ive changed her face in case she’s not flattered.   It was the pensive posture which intrigued me.

And this woman who I’ve given a…

a dog,

She comes from the Cycle Chic world.

I equally like  putting men on bikes as long as they’re posturally interesting and  bare headed, helmet-less that is

Capped is OK. There’s line to many hats and they’re..

cheeky sometimes, expressive of character

This is who I am!

But bike art is important in unexpected ways.

I believe that if bike art ends up on walls, it brings bike images into people’s lives, esp. young lives,  in a powerful way.

By hanging around in the edge of vision, it’s  a constant reminder of a beautiful activity to be remembered, taken up again, or continued.

The cycle chic movement out of Denmark, Copenhagen cycle chic started promoting the beauty of transport cycling.

The many cycle chic blogs which that movement has spawned, now effectively proselytize the beauty of the body on the bike, and off the bike too. (from a cycle chic image)

But those cycle chic images are mostly eyed online and the eye time they get is short. This drawing was also  inspired by a cycle chic photo.

Few such images get put on walls, I suspect -  though they should.

The bike art I’m doing is also seen online, but maybe it has more chance to end up on walls, being wall destined in its conception.

Workers leave a factory in the 40′s

Arriving on walls, bike art brings status and attention to cycling beyond the buyer’s conscious intentions.

They’re images which have been favored. They’ve had money spent on them or given as gifts. They are thus precious.

If there is a story attached to them, even better,  for art has much to do with story. Serge Huercio for example.

Serge Huercio, circus cyclist with a touch of Jacques Tati,  has become a friend and an inspiration.

Arriving on walls in people’s privileged place, bike art images slowly sink into the unconcsious.

This happens with adults but esp. kids, even if  the art is not consciously viewed much of the time.

I bet you remember what was on the walls of your home when you were a kid. Most people do.

Chances are those images are still important to you, often made story rich by your imagination and even now many years removed, have stayed in the mind.

Often there was  a strangeness you pondered..

They’re images which helped to anchor you, images which made home,  home.

Imagine bike art building that sort of impact on young minds.

So,  that’s my manifesto and here’s more of the art,


By the way, the above image, the velodrome, is an exception.

I rarely do cycle racing. I feel that it gets most of the eye time devoted to bikes,  and doesn’t need my help.

Of course it’s powerful. Its about speed and winning, all those compelling things, but there are no faces here to let the artist  delve the soul, and that we crave.

More Bicycle Art at http://www.situp-bike-art.com

8 Jun 2012

Bicycle art video

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 1 Comment

I finally got around to putting some drawings on Video. I don’t know why it took me so long. I guess thinking that they would not look good.

But they look fine. Simple lines are powerful since they create a space and make it mean something. Less is surely more.

It’s like you wrapped a single string around yourself and then the string hardened, you stepped away and the string became a representation of you, thin fragile but recognizably you.

The Indian ink drawings are messier. It’s harder to control the ink line than the pencil, but their roughness makes them more meaningful I reckon.

The still for the film is Indian ink, factory workers in the 1940′s or 50,’s  riding home.

See what you think

18 May 2012

Rani and the Russians

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 3 Comments

Rani is a sikh. She moved to Sydney when she married an Australia, coming from Amsterdam where she went everywhere by bike.

She’d love to be able to ride here as freely as she did in Holland. But she has the problem of her Dumalla. That’s her Sikh turban.

Sikhs never cut their hair, rather they wind it round in clothe under the Dumalla.

This makes it impossible for Rani to wear a helmet. So every day she has to run the gauntlet  of cops who’d like to ticket her for breaking our laws.


Rani thinks she should be able to ride with her turban and so she is campaigning to be allowed to do so. She tell me that some states already have  an exemption for  Turban wearers, but not NSW.  I hope she succeeds.

It will make it easier to get an exemption for all riders of public bikes which we sikh..

My wife, Katya, is just back from visiting her mother in Moscow. On Victory day, May 9th.  the usually clogged streets  of that city were  empty and she snapped this  joyous image of two riders in heaven.

What a great  photo. All the joy of free and easy riding is on their faces.

I think the one on the right is a boy.

The bike’s no give away since both sexes fee comfortable on step throughs.

I’m sort of hoping they might find themselves here and tell us their story

Victory day, which was discontinued for many years, commemorates victory in the Second World War in which 20 million Russians died, defeating the Germans.

In a park,  they set up an army kitchen of the era, serving what soldiers would have eaten in that war.

Katya would have liked to get some of the buckwheat and tea they were serving, but the line was too long.

There were a few other bikes around, but not the sort which interest me that much.







10 May 2012

Good news from Western Australia.

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 2 Comments

It seems like WA might be the first southern state to bring in a bike helmet exemption  for certain situations.

This article in the West Australian explains the push.

Under the trial, helmets would be optional for adults cycling on separated cycleways, dual-use paths and roads where the maximum speed is 50km/h or less.

This blog takes great pride in being the first to bring the news that the Mayor of Fremantle, Brad Pettitt supported an exemption .

Here you see Brad going public with his controversial plan. At that point it was targeted at enabling a bike share to work.  This should still be a key goal and a reason for urgency.

It’s both essential and  inevitable that Australia embraces public bikes since they are proven turbo charger of utility cycling.

It’s the public bikes of London, of Paris, of New York ( very soon) which entice non riders to discover what superb transportation is the humble situp bike for many short trips.

Naysayers predicted that London’ s public bikes would be a failure . But so successful have they been,  that they helped re elect Tory Mayor of London.  Boris Johnson.

He’s the  guy who brought them in, and who’s just now been re elected in large part because the public loves Boris Bikes, bucking a trend to labor one might add.

I hope that our Premier in NSW, Barry O’Farrell,  takes note that he’s on the wrong side of history when he disparages bikes as transport, when he talks about ripping out Clover Moore’s new separated bikeways.

She’s  Sydney’s Mayor and one of the few visionaries in the country when it comes to bikes as transport

Mr O’Farrell would do well to take  a leaf from  Boris’s  book, encouraging not only separated paths,  but a bike share scheme for Sydney as well.

Clover Moore would love to bring public bikes to Sydney  but she knows that our comp. helmet laws would doom it to limp along,   as they have Melbourne’s scheme.

This brings us  back full circle to the West and the hope that they succeed and show the rest of Australia the way.

In the meantime, for the fearful pollie, it’s comforting to know that the Northern Territories has had a partial helmet exemption for many yea rs with no ill  effects.

I went up to have a look. here’s my report.

For Much much more, visit Chris Gillham’s blog

23 Apr 2012

Challenge to SBS

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 3 Comments

Last week, SBS TV was  running the velodrome championships. Blanket coverage.  Australia did well and I got quite mesmerized by the rather robotic riders,  circling the banked track.

I’ve never used racing as a a theme for my bike art. I guess this is because it’s so dominant in our bike culture  that  I’ve felt it needs no boost from the artist.

Moreover, with the standardized gear, their heads down,  racers don’t give me much to work with.

The face is the mirror of the soul, someone said. Well you usually can’t see the face of the sports or racing cyclist, and so no soul searching  is possible.

But here’s what came of my viewing. It was fun  to try an entirely new theme

I like first conga line a bit better than this busier version of the same thing.

What do you think?

The riders do look like machines to me and so I made the most of that.

This theme, below,  I also tried as a solar print. Here’s the lino cut version.

and here’s the solar print .

Whilst I enjoyed this foray into a new field, that’s enough.

I rushed back to doing what appeals, to where I could see faces, play with relationships,  and celebrate the small moments of everyday biking, like this woman unlocking her bike.

That’s a solar print. With the help of my mentor, Leonard Matkervich, I’m now able to get the feel of a drawing into my solar prints.

Here is the same plate, printed so as  to bring out the drawing aspects.  Which do you like better?

This one is based on Saskia with a Dutch child added.

Here’s a relationship  image. This woman, stepping off in Amsterdam , is  in many other works of mine, and often given the cold shoulder.

But here she might be about to meet someone.

We’d had a demo in Sydney,  Rolling with Clover, which called for riders to come in  suits. The turnout was great, about 500, but few suits. It was organized by Jane Salmon

Riders in suits often turn up in my art. A dream of things to come I hope,  shared  by Saskia  and her Sydney cycle chic blog.

This fattish man  forever rides away from me and from the big bottomed lady, a  frequent visitor in this art.

So, what’s this about a challenge to SBS?

I  invite the network to spend some of their bike programming  money on utility cycling,

Get out and meet  cyclists who don’t want to go that fast, who get around in their normal clothes, just going the places they need to go.

No audience for such a show, for a one off documentary, a series, you say?

Done the focus group tests, have you,  and found Australians just don’t see bikes as transport, or not  in numbers that count for ratings?

Even if that’s true,  there’s drama in  such disinterest since it puts us so out of step with much of the world

Create an audience, SBS.  You’ve  built one for you endless parade of cooking shows.

You’ve done your little bit  to create  a nation now desperately needing to trim down. So, get them on bikes for some program, and body, balance

Let me be even more specific. Your off to the London Olympics soon, are you not?

Lot’s of build up programming is in the works, I’m sure as audience anticipation  builds.

Well, how about  an in depth doco on the Boris bikes, the  5000 public bikes  named after Mayor, Boris Johnson, which are  such a success.

And an unexpected success at that.  No one predicted it. Can that  really be of no interest here?  Is it not the perfect  balance to all that competing, winning,  you are going over for?

Let’s  ask the million dollar question. Why can London have a successful public bike scheme and we cant?

Why do the Melbourne and Brisbane schemes  languish, and Sydney can’t even get started.

We can guess why. Well, let’s  see SBS showing  the courage to address that thorny issue  instead of just sticking with the safe cycle wicket your now on.

Such a program  can take us to the bike  future we have to have, at least to talk about it.

Here, I’ve made my own little movie, The Return of the Speedwells,  as a pump primer, grabbing a bit of your pzazz in passing.

Your turn now, SBS (from a fan)

Late Edition, this great site on how bike can change our economies which Violeta has sent me.











27 Mar 2012

Rolling With Clover

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 2 Comments

If you’ve  read recent posts, followed the news in this town, you’ll know that that our Mayor, Clover Moore , has been under intense attack for her pro bike policies.

Egged on by the Tabloid press, the new state Premier is threatening to rip out the five kilometers of separated bike paths which the city Government has already built, plus block further construction

This has to be opposed. We want the whole separated path  network installed, all 55 kms of it.

We want to be able to  ride safely around the city on private and public bikes .

We’re Rolling with Clover, this  coming Sunday, April first.  starting at noon at the Town hall.

Clover’ll be there, I’m told, to see how we go.

We’re hoping hundreds of you will come to ride the hour and a half hour circuit,  ending up at Town hall again, and taking in some of the new separated bike ways.

We  want to extend a special invitation  to  visitors to Sydney, cyclists from other countries

My Friend,  Patrick Jeffery,   is working his way around the  the backpacker packer hostels this week to explain what we have in mind

The idea is that what you know about cycling in your home country,  can be useful here.

If you come from some city were bikes are big, public bike schemes thriving, please come along to tell us about it.

No doubt you’ve wondered  why you don’t see many people using bikes as transport here.

No doubt you’ve wondered where our public bikes are.

You have no bike  to ride in our rally most probably, but come anyway to the start of ride, noon at the Town Hall on George street,  and tell our cameras what it’s  like  where you live.

We expect the mainstream press to come.

Tell them Clover Moore is on the right track, that from your experience in Berlin, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Paris, wherever, that  separated bike paths do work, that they increase cycling, making  it safer, more pleasant.

Whether the press pays attention or not, I’ll be there with my camera,  and a movie, featuring your comments,  will be up on Youtube very soon after the event.

For those who can ride, there will be two prizes given. One for the best video of the actual ride.

The second for the most business-like rider, in appearance,  that is.

The The Daily Telegraph has recently claimed that business men and women don’t ride bikes  in this city. We want to show them that’s wrong.

In both cases,  the prize will be Bike Art worth $250 which I’m donating.

It could be these solar prints.

Or a lino cut.

or a rubbing.

There will also be a prize for the visitor who tells the best story about cycling elsewhere, who turns up either with or without a bike.

Sitting in a Sydney cafe this week planning the rally, a hip young architect stroked his phone screen and called up London’s public bike scheme, the famous Boris bikes.

His fingers,  by turns squeezing and spreading across the small screen,   conjured  up for me   the hundreds of docking stations across London and then,  where the 5000 blue bikes actually were….


…..at that very moment.

If we’d been in London, we could have walked round the corner, knowing  that 5 bikes out of 25 , were waiting for us to hop on and ride.

It was a gob smacking demonstration of,  the beyond-modern meets classic  technology.

For bikes are classic stuff, you know, essentially unchanged in the long stretch of  130 years

Ah, what a shame that there’s no such public bike scheme as yet in Sydney, one  that this architect could call up on his phone.

No bikes outside on Albion st. that we could ride to the next event in our busy day.

See you on sunday.

18 Mar 2012

Bike Hour.

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 1 Comment

Before I forget, here’s another good post from Alan Davies who’s now moved his Urbanist blog to Crikey.

The piece looks at why Sydneysiders cycle half as much as Melbournians when it comes to using bikes as transport. Well worth a read!

I hope you can access the story here. I’ve actually subscribed to Crikey in order to continue  reading  Alan’s pieces

The urgent news is that Architect/cyclist,  Steven Fleming is organizing an Earth Hour bike   ride in Newcastle for tomorrow night ( Tues 20th) The idea is that this might become an annual bike awareness event.

You can find all about Bike Hour on Steven’s blog, cycle-space.com

Steven approached me suggesting  that  he’d challenge riders to make videos about their bike hour events, and that I’d donate bike art as the prize for the best video.

Since, the ride is tomorrow, I’ve been working hard to create some new art to add the the art pool for the prize. Here are some new rubbings which might become prizes.

This one uses the stepping posture I love and have used many times,  but never as a rubbing.

This also uses some favorite characters.

What do they see at the same moment?

What are they talking about?

Where go these green riders all in a line?

I’ve also  being making another version (this will be the third )  of Reaching for her Purse.

I’m doing this version as a commission  for M….. who’s nurse in Salt lake city .

On April First and Second there will be a ride in Sydney to answer the  State Govt. campaign against our new Bike-ways here  in Sydney.  It’s being organized by Jane Salmon. Find out more from her site, Rolling With Clover

For the full story on the attacks, see my last blog post, just below this one.

This Editorial in the Daily Telegraph, which has been leading the campaign, is part of a general attack on the Mayor which can’t go unaswered.

One last thing. I’ve produced a Bike Art Poster which I’m hoping bike shops will choose to display.

If they do so  and a sale results from a viewing in a shop, then I’ll give a share of the sale to that shop.

If you know a bike shop where you could place one, get in touch and I’ll send it to you.

Or if you have some other interesting use for it, let me know that  too.



11 Mar 2012

Sydney cycling, clashing cross currents

Posted by Mike Rubbo. 12 Comments

I found it hard to believe the venom of the attack in the Daily Telegraph this week on our Mayor,  Clover Moore,  and all   for trying to make Sydney a bike friendly city by building safe separated paths for cyclists .

The Murdoch press,  which seems to dislike anything visionary, is having  nasty fun  as it joins forces with our Conservative State Premier, Barry O’Farrell who apparently has no interest in bikes as transport.

On TV,  Barry  reputedly said that people could walk to work on  pogo sticks, for all he cared. (Heard by my wife, Katya)

I guess he thinks that  cycling to work is equally  strange

The Tele much approves of  the Premier’s plans to take  away the mayor’s planning powers,  even as Mr. O”Farrell threatens to dismantle the bike ways she’s already built.

That would be quite popular judging by comments left on the Telegraph story.

“Bless, you Barry, than goodness.”

“Thank you so much,  Barry. This mad woman is killing the city”..

“The cycle lanes are a complete failure. You can watch them for five minutes and not a single rider goes by”

“Onya bike Clover. Sydney has had it with you”

People do love their cars here. Some do hate to see  cars losing space to bikes.

But readers might react differently if things were put in context.  If they knew   that what Clover is doing is normal good  practice world wide, for example

They’re not told of  the extensive  separated Bike-ways New York is building,

or those that London…

….Or Montreal…

…or about  the separated paths which  Paris has on the go where 25,000 public bikes a much loved.

Not told either about  Montreal cutting its car traffic by  14% through bike use,  and  vying to build more  bike-ways than  any city in North America.

We seem to be in a swirl of cross currents here.  At the same time at the Daily Telegraph mounts it campaign against bikes as transport, the Sunday Telegraph runs a story about bikes being, the new black

Many curious things in this story.

1.The riders are women who actually make up only a tiny  percentage of our  bike force.

2.The bikes shown are predominantly Dutch style sit-ups, not the bike of choice here at all.

3. The women wear fashionable clothes, not Lycra as is so common.

4. Almost none pose with helmets.

This package would have  been unthinkable a year ago.

So, what gives the Daily Telegraph  and its attack  a toe hold in the public mind here, seeing that they are so far out of step with global thinking,  as well as with local fashion trends?

Well, last Friday, March 9th 2012, I rode into town on my own bike   to see for myself.

I crossed into Sydney on our magnificent Anzac bridge, a major way into town  for cyclists.

I found a system of  separated paths already in place, far more extensive than I realized , giving an almost unimpeded run into the city.

It’s a network that you have to try to believe. A new Sydney!

Here,  the separated path, a bright green, runs down Union street…

…towards the Pyrmont bridge….

…which bikes cross, sharing  the space with pedestrians.

It’s  not ideal but O.K. because most riders do slow down to 10 Kph.

This leads to the Kent st. another key separated  cycle way, running north-south.

I took the bright green path up towards out famous Harbour bridge.

This stretch was  a revelation, a serious commitment of street space to bikes…

….becoming quite a steep hill as one approaches the bridge.

At the top, were even greater surprises, a beautiful sweep of separated bike-path coming in from the east…

…leading to this neat tunnel towards the city core..


.. that is  if you don’t want to head north over the bridge in the cage.

Boy, I had no idea this bike-ways “problem” had spread so far. And apparently this is only 10 Kms with 190 Kms. yet to be built.

Of those  kms. 55 will be separated paths like those I’m riding on today

You’ve already got a lot of  bike track  to pull out, Mr O’Farrell. Better get destructive  real fast.

Take us backwards, please, just as gas goes up!

“Good on you Barry. Let’s rip up these bike lanes and return the streets to the car.”

“No more subsidies for this tiny proportion of passenger transport”

So, there was no clue for me in the bright new  infrastructure I saw as to why comments to the tabloid press are so angry, why cyclists are so disliked.

The situation is so fertile with fury that visiting planner, John Pucher, from the US declared two years ago…

”Whether I was a pedestrian or cyclist,  I found the level of the hostility of enough Sydney motorists worse than I had seen anywhere in the world.”

If your tune into the shock jocks like Alan Jones,  you get a clue as to what’s seen as wrong. These are the  common  accusations leveled at cyclists.
1. They don’t  obey the rules of the road like stopping  for traffic lights
2 .They speed dangerously.
3. Ride on footpaths
4. Slow the traffic flow.
5. They  don’t stick to the cycle paths when they are provided.
This last charge is important. As O’Farrell does say, why build cycle paths if  cyclists are going to ride 0n the roads anyway?
What did I find? Back to Union street.
It’s true often there were as many cyclists on the road as on the separated paths. Here 50% are on the street.
Here, almost all on the street not the separated path. This is a very quiet street, though.
But when the traffic is busy, moving further down town,I found that  most riders go for the separated path.
Running red lights? Yes they do, I found. Again, in Union st.
But most cross cautiously after looking that the way’s clear.
Almost no one waits for the special bike traffic lights now installed on Union, preferring to go with the larger green.
But when  you get to a busy spot,  where running the bike light would be dangerous,  and then most obey the new bike lights . There is a getting used to factor, I’m sure.
I found strong compliance too on  with the bike lights on Kent street
And very acceptable use levels too, that is for a new system.
Ten bikes here, out numbering the car traffic.
Ten cars not clogging the road, Mr. O’Farrell?

As for speed, I didn’t see dangerous riding. But  our cyclists do  look like they are going fast perhaps because they are dressed for speed









They look like bike couriers or…













Even racers.












Women too look like they are in training which they probably are.

Here lies a big part of the problem I suspect.

Drivers sense they are sharing the road with riders who have another agenda,  and that is keeping fit for their weekend sports rides and  for racing.

(Our cyclists do look superbly fit in contrast to the generally obese population)

But it’s like sharing the road with race car drivers.

A friend who uses her bike a lot agrees that the image of riders in training is a problem.

When drivers shout  at her : “Get off the road,” she’s has the sense that behind the remark, is the idea that she’s like a kid playing cricket on the road and she should get into a park.

When in Lycra on a very fast machine, the temptation is naturally  to go as fast as you can, not to stop for lights, to weave through traffic, to look like your in some sort of game.

Not all do this of course, but that’s the impression the look gives.

This look of our commuting culture,  sets us apart from the rest of the world.

If you doubt we really bare so different, Google,  urban cycling in  Italy, France, Holland,  etc. and see what images come up

When you compare our scene with Europe, the difference is indeed startling.

This woman rides in Copenhagen (photo,  as with some others, from  Copenhagen Cycle Chic)

Cyclists  reply by saying  the way they dress here, their fast machines, is  because of greater distances  they must ride compared with Europe, and other practical reasons.

But I’m not convinced that’s the whole story

In Europe,   it turns out  people often commute just as far as we do, and whilst they  face less hills, their headwinds are fierce.

During the week in Europe ( Montreal in this case) the bike culture looks more like  this

Or this. (Copenhagen)

Or this in Dublin. (A Dublin lawyer rides between chambers and court)

An Amsterdam businessman. In Europe,  all social classes and all ages  ride  bikes. Here,  it’s predominantly young males

(From The Waltz of the Bikes)

On my morning shoot in Sydney, I saw only one rider sporting the European look. This woman looking very out of place.

Does it matter?

Well, considering the hostility  towards cyclists here,

considering Barry is planning to rip out the bike paths,

considering that sporty riders prefer the roads to bike paths,

it matters a lot.

We have to find ways to grow this other culture, the new Black as the Sunday Tele called it, the new look.

If we do, we’ll dilute the sports/training culture and change the vibe. Old ways will remain but a new color, a new friendliness,  is added

Wht will it look like? You just know this couple is not in training, not doing PB’s .

“Come ride with us” they seem to say on their Velibs in Paris.

Rather than, “Out of my way.”  (photo altered)

Our  cycling commuters are  currently disguised as something else. As  weekend sports riders, using  their commutes to train.

Let’s join them with these folks, natural lovers of  the separated paths who’ve even time to talk as they ride..

It’s no one’s fault we ended up with our  mono cycle culture.

I suspect it  all began  with our compulsory  helmet law, bought in  Australia  wide,  in the early nineties.

It seemed like a great idea at the time, but there was a downside.  Whilst many have pointed out that the new law drastically cut cycling numbers…..

so that this became a picture of the past, that is men riding to work….

(Not the only reason of course. Cheaper cars were a major factor)

But what has not been noticed,  is that the new helmet  law worked a bit  like a selective herbicide.

This Helmet herbicide effectively  killed off those who just rode  to school..

A masked ride at  Clovelly, ( State lib. of NSW Flicker stream)

Killed off too those got around with mates.

Or just rode  to the shops.

These riders  had all felt safe, couldn’t see the point  of helmets, and just stopped riding to avoid being hassled by the cops and paying  fines

At the same time,  the helmet herbicide helped grow the ranks of those who already  thought helmets a good idea, who were already using them. They thrived greatly in numbers at the expense of the others

Looking like this guy on Union st.  at  7.30 AM. (face altered)

And so we got this strange mono culture , a bike hero culture, revolving around the helmet which we still have today like nowhere else.

We thus came to to expect  our cycle magazines  to have  covers like his…

And never feature  riders like this.

And never,  never,  this.

But now the new Melbourne magazine, Treadlie,  comes in as a  fresh cross current to this  mono culture.

Note this cover.  No helmet, sit up bike. Basket

Copenhagen Cycle Chic has been a big influence here, Inspiring Saskia Howard to start Sydney Cycle Chic, as she explained in the New Black Story.

Is this a good move to question helmets? Surely we need them?

Well, high compliance of helmet use  has not made us any safer. (On my ride, I saw almost 100%)

Indeed,  we have more chance of being hurt on a bike in Aust.  with a helmet  than that Belgian father and child above.

Why is this, you might well ask.?

Many reasons.

1. There’s  safety in numbers and helmets cut the numbers.

2. Drivers tend to be more careless around helmeted riders and those not protected, a British study showed.

3. Because, in bringing in the helmet  law,  our Govts. virtually  washed their  hands of cycle safety, it was now the responsibility of the rider.

Thus authorities here, till Clover Moore and  a few other progressive politicians got going, did  nothing to build safe separated bike-ways.

Still,  politicians understand  that real cycle safety is  under the wheels not on the head. (see the film at the end on how the Dutch got their system)

We might feel safer. Whenever the comp. helmet topic comes up,  there’s a flood of testimony from riders who swear that their helmet saved their life.

These stories are  often enough to stop helmet reform in it’s tracks, especially when backed up by the sober warnings of Trauma doctors who, for some reason,  can’t see the big picture,  public healthwise

Meet here Dr. Tarek Razek,  Head of Trauma at McGill, Montreal.

Back in 2009, he was strongly urging the Montreal Bike share scheme, Bixi, to incorporate helmets.

It was an impossible demand actually,  and would have effectively killed the Bixis bikes. Fortunately,  his advice  was ignored.

Now 6.8 million Bixi trips later,  with helmet freedom,  and less than 10 serious accidents, I wonder if the doctor now admits his alarmist tone  was not helpful.

I wonder too whether his colleagues here might learn from that.

Surely our obesity epidemic should be front and centre when weighing cost benefits.

Would riding a bike to school have helped here? (photo altered)

What we need to do to  swing our bike  culture  away from the mono, the sports leisure mode,  towards the slower culture of Europe and that includes helmet choice.

Of course whoever want to wear a helmet will can always do so

Then, I predict, the aggro will diminish and more women will ride.

Bike shops will make  just as much money I’m sure,  though they wont be selling as many bikes called, “Badboy” or “Hooligan” names for urban bikes  from the very popular,  Cannondale stable

How do we  do this? We have the means at hand, the veritable magic wand, the proven way to turn masses of non riders into riders of the European sort.

It’s called Bike share . These are the public bike systems which are transforming  140 cities around the world.

These are bikes in racks, usually every 300 meters in a participating city, usually free for the first 30 mins.  once you join up. These are bikes you don’t have to own, don’t have to worry about storing or being stolen.

These are bikes for that moment you need to make a short city trip,  and keep not a second more. They are always sit-up bikes.

Sturdy,  hassle free bikes,  unglamorous it’s true, but with everything you need  except a helmet.

That’s in part because there’s just no way to dispense a sterilized , inspected,  helmet automatically along with such a bike. Thus, wherever there’s bike share, there’s always  helmet choice, meaning most of the planet.

Tel Aviv and Mexico city both got rid of compulsory helmets to enable public bikes. That’s how important authorities ranked them

Boris Bikes in London.

Here’s the mayor himself,  Boris Johnson in London, saluting the success of his scheme over all the naysayers.

Bicings in Barcelona. There are 5000 on the streets of that lovely city,  clocking up 350,000 trips a day.

Bixis in Montreal, also 5000 strong, public bikes which have transformed that city, justified all the new bike ways that they’re  building .

My son, Nicolas who lives   in Montreal,  gave up his car a year ago, and now uses nothing but the  Bixis and public transport to get around. He works for big bank

We do have two public bike schemes here, one in Melbourne and one in Brisbane,  but they are just limping along because to ride these bikes,  you either have to be carrying your helmet with you,  or buy one for the ride.

And that’s not practical. Indeed, subverts the convenience, impulse nature, of public bikes

This is why I was so glad to see  this week that the City of Sydney has adopted  the idea of a special helmet exemption for public bikes, something this blog has been proposing for two years.


The Mayor suspects, I’m sure,   that public bikes are the key to filling her bike-ways and  quietening the opposition

She may also know that Public bikes have a history of calming  city traffic and cutting the aggro,  as Andrew Montague, Mayor of Dublin points out .

This is because such bikes come across as less threatening to drivers. Public bike cyclists may be annoying in other ways, not being such  good riders, for example,,  but they produce a smile because they are…

1. Just people going somewhere. Not in training,

2. They are not running lights, or much less.

3. And they love separated bike-ways

4. They are more track-able and accountable if anti social.

4. Riding on footpaths? Public bikes may still do that,  and in the Northern Territory, few know that  it’s legal, as is riding without a helmet on such paths.

Of course we’ll still have our sport/leisure  commuters , the present mono culture, but their numbers will be diluted and a new  cycling decorum  may well emerge ,  as it has elsewhere. See, The Waltz of the Bikes to get a glimpse of what this looks like

So that’s the modest proposal for the way forward. A new,  helmet choice bike culture to be  trialled in Sydney, specifically targeted to enable Bike share to work.

It wont be easy.  But then, it wasn’t easy for the Dutch either. They weren’t born on bike wheels as many imagine. They had to work hard for the bike solutions they now enjoy. You’ll be surprised how hard.

















2 Feb 2012

Some movies to share

Posted by Mike Rubbo. No Comments

I lived in Montreal for many years. I’ve been following the story of their public bikes, their Bixies for the last few years, excited by the way the blue bikes have changed that city for the better.

Here’s a funny video from Montreal which shows how you can live on your bike, albeit not a Bixi. 

The Man who Lived on his Bike made by Guillaume Blanchet.

Have you ever heard the voice of Karen Dalton? I hadn’t until I found this clip on Alan Davies site, The Melbourne Urbanist.

It seems to belong on this blog because the extroadinary images of scrapped cars which go with the song, reminding  us of the waste   associated with the machines we love so much.