18 Jul 2010


Posted by Mike Rubbo

See press notes at the end of this post.

Plans for the ride are in place. Next Saturday a group of cyclists who feel passionately about Melbourne’s Bike Share scheme, will ride in support of a plan which we hope will help the scheme survive.

Our supportive ride will be held on Saturday, 24th July at 10 Am. The meeting place, the Bike Share docking station on Melbourne Univ. campus in Tin Alley. (detail of make on Site)

Some 24 bikes are usually docked there, plenty for our ride, we suspect. If not , there are other docking stations in the area. We learned how to use the system watching this.

Meanwhile, Denver’s scheme, the first biggie in the US, launched, April 2010, the first of many. Coming up like mushrooms, they are!

Dress will be political cycle chic, namely, looking good in our normal clothes minus Lycra, glo vests, and helmets, indeed anything which suggests cycling is dangerous.

(detail of Barcelona’s very chic bikes, Bicing, launched, May, 2007.

Bicing achieved 30,000 subscribers in it’s first 2 months; starting with 15 stations and 200 bicycles. Since then, it’s grown rapidly and now has 400 stations, 6,000 bikes znd 186,000 subscribers.)

We’ll risk fines as we ride around Carlton to show what Bike share could look like if not stifled by our compulsory helmet laws .

We ‘ll block no traffic, break no laws except the one which says adults here can’t be trusted to choose whether to wear head protection or not. The law which treats us like children.

We’ll ride to propose that there be a helmet exemption for this type of sit-up bike, so that if you ride such a bike, to wear a helmet is your choice, as it is all over Europe , Great Britain, Asia, and much of North America.

Coming into line with the rest of the world, our vital bike share scheme, which we’ve nicknamed Mixi, will have a good chance to survive.

Since so few Australians now ride sit-up bikes, few would be personally affected by our proposal.

It’s new riders who’ll get used to feeling safe and looking good without a helmet, as do most Europeans. (See Copenhagen Cycle Chic.)

(Photo from that blog, below. Copenhagen Cars enviously eye the future riding by. Yes, they know the writing’s on the road. )

Mikael Colville-Andersen, the renowned Danish cycling consultant and blogger, who’s in Melbourne to give a talk on the same Saturday, will cover our ride for his famous blog, Copenhagenize.com.

Mikael was one of the first to point out that Bike share and helmets don’t mix. We followed his lead with our own predictions and solution a year ago

He recently discovered that one city values its bike share so much, that they’ve repealed their helmet laws, just as we propose. Mexico city has done this, and Tel Aviv is planning to, Mikael reports.

Is what we suggest irresponsible? We think not. We note that there is no reported safety crisis anywhere where helmets are optional.

In Montreal, where helmet use is around 40%, the beloved Bixis, had a very safe first season. An astonishing 3.5 million of Kms were ridden in the city on Bixis, many kms. by new riders.

Yet this resulted in only 5 accidents involving the new bikes, none serious, according to the Bixi Press Officer. Is that not re assuring?

The protection helmets provide is vastly exaggerated by Australian authorities who, one suspects, like to avoid spending money on what really works as opposed to what is cheap and open to fear campaigns. True cycling safety is under the wheels, not on the head.

That means separated bike paths as one finds all over Europe. They cost a lot but such infrastructure repays the investment many times over, with cities freed of cars, with a slim and healthy citizenry, and lower carbon emissions. Indeed, many of the major problems of our time are cost effectively addressed by making bikes safer.

Bike share is the turbo charger of all that’s good about city cycling which is why it must be saved by radical measures. That’s is why we ride to draw attention to our daring solution, and to bring the contentious exemption we propose, into public debate.

After the ride and photo-shoot, we’ll dock our bikes and repair to Lygon street for coffee. Wish us luck.

Good luck to London too. Barklay’s bikes will launch July 30th.

Russell Meddin who writes the bike share blog sent me a Barclay’s bike fun pic, relevant to our headgear issue.
(Mr. K Ranger, advisor to City of London on Bike Share)

Russell urges patience and offers the old adage;“Sihk and you will find”

Press. Notes. Why this ride?
1. Bike share has proven itself able to rapidly promote utility cycling all over the world.
2. Bike Share has never worked and cannot work with compulsory helmets.
3. We propose that sit-up bikes (All Bike share bikes are sit-ups) be exempted from compulsory helmets.
4. This will strengthen the Melbourne scheme and increase the popularity of sit-up bikes which are always associated with high levels of utility bike use.
5. Overseas experience shows this will not result in more injuries to cyclists. Everyone adjusts. Cyclist ride more carefully and slowly , drivers are more aware of cyclists and also more careful. There’s proven safety in numbers.

Questions may be left here.

Mike Rubbo and Dr. Paul Martin

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24 Responses to “RIDING FOR BIKE SHARE”

  1. I’m in – see you there!



    Unity Finesmith

  2. Hi Mike,

    I’m looking forward to the ride on Saturday. Like you, I’ll be travelling down from NSW as I believe the importance of the Mixi scheme working is paramount and will have a direct impact on the perceived viability of such bike share schemes in other Australian cities. Putting it plainly: if the Melbourne Bike Share scheme doesn’t succeed, then it’ll become a serious barrier to the creation of similar schemes elsewhere in Australia.

    Right now, it’s not at all clear that the Mixi scheme is going to be a success and I believe that the uptake, measured in rides per bike per week, in the first few weeks of Mixi has been the lowest of any new bike share scheme we’ve seen implemented around the globe in recent years. Whilst it’s true that the small size of the Mixi system is probably a barrier to making it more popular (only 100 bikes!), it’s also a safe bet that the absence of an exemption to Mandatory Helmet Laws for shared bikes is a more serious barrier to adoption. Think about the profile of an intercity, interstate or international visitor in Melbourne who, failing to pack a bike helmet for their trip, is unable to hire a Mixi bike as a ‘spur of the moment’ decision. And this surely applies to native Melbourne residents, who can only use the scheme if they plan ahead and bring their helmets with them.

    Cycling, like other phycical activiies, comes in many forms. The style of bicycle available on the Mixi scheme, being sit-upright bikes, encouraging slow and highly visible cycling, are completely unlike sports-cycling bikes with drop handlebars and encouraging a fast and hunched down racing-style of cycling. These two activites represent polar opposites in the cycling domain and the exemption of Manadatory Helmet Laws for sit-up bikes is no cause for safety concern.

    Indeed, what is cause for concern in Australia are our very low rates of cycling. Of all the evidence available about cycling safety, nothing is more confirmed and irrefutable than the FACT that more cyclists on our roads will make for safer conditions for all cyclists. As you rightly point out, every city which has adopted a successful bike share system has seen the scheme becoming a boost for cycling and an increase in cycling (and thus safety) follows.

    Mixi mustn’t be allowed to fail – for all Australians – and the best way to ensure that is to provide an exemption to Mandatory Helmet Laws for these types of bikes.

    I’ll see you and hopefully a good-sized crowd of like-minded cyclists on Saturday.



    Tom Nockolds

  3. Fantastic Unity. I will be there with my wife as well.

    Can’t wait.


    Dr Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia


    Dr Paul Martin

  4. Boy, you said it all, Tom. thanks a lot, Mike


    Mike Rubbo

  5. Excellent summary, Tom. I agree.

    Clearly, bike share is no silver bullet but its failure could be a fatal blow to (proper) city cycling in Australia – ie. much more variability than just the ‘training’/'recreational’ cyclist we’re used to here.

    I’m looking forward to meeting you all there. I hope this really makes ordinary folk ‘situp’ and take notice.


    Paul Martin
    Brisbane, Australia


    Dr Paul Martin

  6. Wish I could join you all to take a stand against helmet legislation and to support the bicycle sharing scheme – but unfortunately I live on the other side of the world.

    Best of luck on Saturday! I hope you get some good exposure to support bike sharing in a positive way.




  7. I’ve been quietly doing this for TWO YEARS on my own bicycle…and on a blue bike as well.
    Is there any point in coming along with my own sit-up bike? I can’t touch the ground properly on the blue ones….verrrrrrrrrrry inelegant and verrrrrrrrrry cycle-unchic.



  8. Do come along, Erin, if you want to. We’ll work out a place for you. Mike


    Mike Rubbo

  9. Thanks, James and hopefully a story you can run on your blog. Mike


    Mike Rubbo

  10. Erin, please do come along. I don’t see why you should be left out!

    See you on Saturday!


    Dr Paul Martin

  11. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Readings, Christopher Hire. Christopher Hire said: RT @ReadingsBooks: This weekend folks will be riding Melbourne's shared bikes to propose there be a helmet exemption for the sit-up bikes. http://bit.ly/aioEuw [...]

  12. [...] greater good 20 07 2010 Serial film (or is that trouble ) maker Mike Rubbo has organised a small protest in Melbourne for this Saturday. His stated aim is to try to help the new Melbourne bike share scheme succeed. His argument is that [...]

  13. Matt

  14. I just read in the age you were fighting for helmets not to be compulsory when riding bikes, you are are a fool.

    When I was in my teens riding to school back when you did not need to wear a helmet I fell off my bike, hit my head on the ground and ended up in hospital with severe concussion, that hit nearly killed me. Had I been wearing a helmet I would have been ok.

    Maybe, if common sense prevailed, you should be championing the company that supplies the bicycles to supply helmets.

    How many lives have been saved through the compulsory use of helmets?? Wake up.

    Be it on your HEAD if someone falls off and smashes their head on Saturday morning due to your stupidity, or is it that your looking for a new angle for a short??

    Whatever happened to common sense??

    I don’t wish you luck in your crusade.



  15. If you look at the Bicycle Victoria bike counts you will see that cycling is growing rapidly and successfully in Melbourne. And Paul I don’t know about Brisbane but in Melbourne our cyclists in the city are by vast majority commuters not “training/recreational” riders as you suggest. The continued growth of cycling in Melbourne has little if not anything to do with this poorly thought-out bike hire scheme.

    This sort of demonstration will just bring more heart ache to commuter cyclists like me as the motorists will find it another excuse to abuse us (remember the bike ride through the Domain Tunnel). I cannot see anything constructive coming out of it just more cyclist bashing by the media. I guarantee you that there will be no exemption granted for not wearing helmets. Especially for those of you coming from interstate – thanks but no thanks.



  16. As a Melbournian who now rides around in southern Sweden without a helmet on a daily basis, I love the freedom of just jumping on the bicycle and heading to a friends place. I live in a pretty quiet area and there aren’t many cars on the road.

    But, you probably don’t hear or some of the people that get killed and severely injured over here, usually when riding in the city alongside cars and buses. Helmets would certainly have minimized the damage and undoubtedly prevented the deaths of many.

    The roads in Copenhagen are very different to Melbourne’s inner city. Copenhagen’s separate bike lanes, traffic lights (bicycle specific), and driver awareness significantly reduce the opportunities that a car and bicycle can have an accident. These factors and allow cars and bicycles to co exist with a higher degree of safety for cyclists.

    Frankly, I’d never ride around Melbourne without a helmet at the moment as it just isn’t safe. Especially considering the dangers of tram tracks.

    Stay safe on your protest, but you should be aiming to improve Melbourne’s cycle-safe infrastructure before attempting to remove the requirement to wear a helmet.




  17. I just found out about the ride and Mikael Colville-Andersens appearance at the cycling forum. I must say I am surprised that bicycle victoria invited him, as I have found they refuse to talk about the one greatest impediment to cycling in this country.
    I have been out of touch with helmet stuff for years. I got a bit depressed about the stupidity of cycling policy in this country after I was stopped over thirty times by the police in the small country town where I live in the first two years of the helmet farce, and my partner was sent to jail for the same when six months pregnant. Maybe its time to get back in the saddle and join the demo, though I can’t really say the bike scheme deserves to work in a city with such a dumb attitude to cycling. Phone if you like 54226216



  18. Mike – Wake up and smell the flowers… please read http://bluerajah.blogspot.com/


    Blue Rajah

  19. Bloody fabulous – arriving early am from Sydney, hope I get there in time !!



  20. Here is my posting to the UK based Cycling and Society listserv. I am not sure we really got any words of wisdom from the State of Design panel, since nobody mentioned the word politics, and Mikael seems to be more into advertising messages. So I am only partially with you in spirit (but pounding the roads in Melbourne daily!)

    “Interesting debate Down Under about Australia’s first citybike hire scheme, which started a few weeks ago in Melbourne. It is probably doomed to failure because of compulsory national helmet laws, which make the idea of just taking a bike from a stand and dropping in off a while later, somewhat expensive! (a $144 fine for no helmet is sometimes policed here).
    Assessment in the broadsheets here, with video http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/helmet-law-makes-nonsense-of-bike-hire-scheme-20100722-10my2.html .
    It is somewhat galling to hear of the success of such schemes in other countries.

    Over the weekend we also had Mikael Colville-Andersen, who has somehow become the spokesperson for Copenhagen’s utilitarian approach to urban transport that favours bikes, deliver an address on the Copenhagen experience, down on the Melbourne riverfront during our ‘State of Design’ festival. The gist was that cycling levels increased in C. not because of a Danish propensity to embrace non-polluting modes, but because getting from A-B was simply quicker on a bike, enabled by enlightened infrastructure planning and high car tax. He argued Copenhageners do not self-identify as “cyclists” and nor are they terribly attached to their bikes – it is just what you do to get around. No-nonsense infrastructure is the way to go, but cycling also needs to be marketed and well presented as a lifestyle choice.

    Remembering an earlier paper I had written (below 1) when I lived there, I thought he had skipped over one essential ingredient – the political economy of Danish cycling. Saving Copenhagen’s famous trunk-road bike lanes from being ripped out, and to then get them extended, did actually require concerted political action, at a time when car use was rising in the 70s. There were numerous street protests and political lobbying. My many years setting up the Ealing LCC group in London also taught me that you have to “fight for the streetscape” (below 2) against Council infrastructure planners and road engineers, and this becomes a constant battle. And, there was no smooth and ‘gradual’ increase in cycling in central London, surely – it was the congestion charge and financial commitment by local and metropolitan councils, all of whom were elected. But let me know – I left in 2001.

    Similarly, in Melbourne, in order to save a decent public bike scheme, which some think is really important (I am not so sure) we will have to fight to get an exemption to the helmet law- otherwise thousands of commuters and tourists will be sticking to the tram and the pavements. This will be a very big campaign, about which cycling organisations are currently split. Unfortunately “the Law” is Holy Grail in this country and it has been around since 1990. It makes us a laughing stock in European cycling circles.

    PS seeking literature on these topics – I actually work on other things, mainly.

    1) Simon Batterbury 2002. Cycling in Copenhagen http://www.simonbatterbury.net/pubs/copenhagen.doc
    2) Batterbury, S.P.J. 2003. Environmental activism and social networks: campaigning for bicycles and alternative transport in West London. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 590: 150-169. http://www.simonbatterbury.net/pubs/annals.htm



  21. Mike, well done for organising this escapade, hopefully it will help to kick-start the debate needed as to why bike hire and helmet laws don’t mix; regardless of whether people think helmets are a good thing or not if a city is going to bother building a bike hire scheme it needs to repeal it’s helmet laws in order for it to be a success; simple as. I’ve blogged about you today here:
    ..and am really looking forward to hearing your take on Saturday’s events.


    Mark A

  22. great a new bikes model, definitely I must to ride in one of them.



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  24. [...] Situp-cycle.com » Blog Archive » RIDING FOR BIKE SHAREHe recently discovered that one city values its bike share so much, that they’ve repealed their helmet laws, just as we propose. Mexico city has done this, and Tel Aviv is planning to, Mikael reports. [...]


    He situp | Jeffsussman

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