26 Jul 2010
WE DEMONSTRATED AND WERE FINED
Saturday, 24th July about 20 people turned up to ride Melbourne’s new Bike share scheme which we’ve dubbed, the Mixi, without helmets.
We wanted to make the point that the scheme, hardly used since opening, is crippled by our compulsory helmet laws.
The day before the Age has run a story by Clay Lucas on our ride and an astonishing 12,000 readers voted on our proposition, that this sort of sit-up bike be exempted from the helmet law.
(Age photo of me from Clay’s article. Pat Scale)
Helmets are a very emotive issue here. Many local riders claim their lives have been saved by helmets, and the idea that adults might be allowed a choice, appalls some.
So, we were chuffed to see that 72% of respondents to the Age poll agreed with our exemption idea.
Time will tell if bike share is the Trojan horse they pulled into helmet-land
Here’s Paul Martin and his wife, Veronica who came down from Brisbane to be part of the ride. Paul was also a spokesman, and as a doctor, extremely credible.
Here’s Unity Finesmithh, her husband in cap, myself on the left and Mikael Colville Andersen, before the ride.
Mikael took lots of photos of our encounter with the cops and will hopefully have them on his famous blog, Copenhagenize.com
Mikael was in Melbourne to give a talk at the State of Design Conference, and it was his coming which initially also brought us all to town, me from NSW., the others from even further.
Unity, you may know from her great blog , Auckland Cycle Chic.
Underneath the worry we all felt, being about to break the law and incur a hefty fine, was the pleasure of meeting each other for the first time.
I feel I know Mikael, Paul and Unity quite well from our blog work, but we had never met.
So 21st century, eh?
Bike cops had had been hovering all morning and as 10 am (our ETD) approached , the press was there in force as well.
Four TV cameras faced me as I mumbled a confusing rationale for our actions. How I hate it when one’s clearest thoughts and intentions turn to garble under the lens’ gaze.
I wasn’t helped by the hostility of the questions. “You must be very disappointed by the small turnout.”
Not at all! We had enough riders to empty the bike rack like it had never been emptied before. Here’s the Mixi rack as we rode off.
I’d staked out these same bikes for the two previous days and not seen one, a single one, borrowed.
We rode out through the University grounds, and as expected, the cops did nothing till we hit the streets of Carlton.
There, we were politely pulled over (the cops were always extremely courteous)
As our details were being taken, we thought we were being ticketed. Not so, apparently.
Should we push the bikes from this point, we wondered? That was an option. The press, craving pain, mocked us as we pondered what to do.
Escaping the fines, were we? Never!. We hopped back on the Mixis and 100 meters later some of us, the ring leaders. were ticketed for real. (Photo by Auckland cycle Chic)
From that point on, having paid our dues as it were, we did push the Mixis around the rest of our circuit , back to the Melbourne Univ. docking station.
I guess it all took a bit over half an hour which put most us outside the free first half hour the Mixis allow, and meant an extra $2 would be on our credit cards.
We felt very good about the whole thing, even when that evening, Ch. 9 TV made us into farcical figures and falsely reported we’d avoided tickets. The ABC, on the other had gave fair coverage.
I am sure we should wait for warmer weather, and if the usage figures have not improved, as we are pretty sure they wont, then we will do this helmet-less ride again, but on a larger scale.
We’ll pick up Mixis from all the approx. 40 docking stations around the CBD and ride them to some central rally point.
Let the press laugh again if they wish. We are making a valid point. Helmets are the catch 22 of bike share as I pointed out in Sept. last year in this movie
Does it matter if MBS fails? Indeed it does, and a great deal. These schemes are proving they dramatically boost urban cycling wherever they are installed
It will be a tragic loss, not only for Melbourne if MBS fails, but will impact the whole country, for, what other city will dare try bike share if Melbourne fails?
What too will a failure do for our international reputation as a country already struggling to be serious about utility cycling and our carbon emissions?
Hey Australia, couldn’t make Bike Share work when everyone else can? Not a good look.
To Minister Tim Pallas we’d say, please pause for some greater thought before dismissing our idea of an exemption for these bikes so brusquely, as you’ve just done.
Ask yourself, how it is that these schemes can run safely in 135 cities around the world, and with helmet choice?
You say safety must come first.
If there were unacceptable injuries in all these other places, helmets would surely be called for, and we’d hear about it, no?
It can’t be, surely that they care less about their citizens heads, can it?
It can’t be surely that their drivers are more careful of cyclists, not when you note that Rome and Paris both have such schemes, cities notorious for their traffic and their fast driving.
No, it must be that a new dynamic gets set up where, through a combination of factors,
A. the safer nature of these sit-up bikes,
B. traffic calming and even thinning out they induce,
C. the whole mix slows down.
Many things subtly change, meaning that greater safety is achieved.
Is that not ideal? Especially when you couple it with the huge tourist attraction these bikes, freed up, can be.
Is Melbourne not into tourism anymore?
As it is, I bring back stories of angry and frustrated tourists spotted near Federation Square.
Folks working in a mobile soup kiosk near the well stocked bike stand stand there, see tourists, having taken the Mixis, ticketed or warned, then pushing them dolefully back to docking stations
Melbourne is a city with flair, Minister. Flair leaves town when you try and run Mixis with compulsory helmets.
And when, you rightly point out that such a change would be hard to do, given that the first helmet-less accident would have the press up in arms and on you like a ton of bricks, ponder this.
The officials in cities which set up bike share, also run a risk. They are putting out hundreds of bikes as an inducement to people who’ve never ridden before, to plunge into city traffic. Could they too, not be held liable for creating risk?
Imagine, a young woman in London is knocked off a bike she’d never have ridden if it was not for the City of London dangling it in front of her nose, a station every 300 meters. Could not her parents go after Boris Jonbson, London’s Mayo, who’s bringing Barclay’s bikes to the streets?
Yet they go ahead, those politicians in London in Dublin, in Paris, in Montreal, in Barcelona, in Rome. in Denver , and now in Minneapolis and it works! . The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Here’s my friends Gen. and Henrik, ridding into the future.
And the bikes? Oh, they ride pretty well. Very solid and very smooth. Devinci, which builds them in rural Quebec, is doing a good job. And Michel Dallaire, the famous Montreal Designer, has created a winner with this bike, selling all over the world (photo. Living with Style)
I’d like the handle bars a bit higher. If you are going to be on a sit-up, it’s nice to be ramrod straight, with no strain on the back at all.
Secondly, a lock would be a good idea. What do you do if you want to stop at the shops during your rental?
Is that wire loop behind the seat meant to be used with the lock you carry with you, along with the helmet?
The basket could be bigger and more containing, as it is on many bike share bikes.
Lastly and most important, I regard a rear view mirror as essential safety equipment. These are especially important for casual first time riders who find it unbalancing to try and turn and look over their shoulder as they ride.
On my sit -up, I am constantly monitoring what’s coming up behind me via my mirror.
I realize that a normal mirror on these bikes would be prone to vandalism. But surely there is a way to make one of shiny metal, solidly encased, which would not allow passing hoons to twist it off?
Paul sent me this from the Age.
A late addition to this post. Here’s the Barclay bike in action with its father, mop haired Mayor Boris Johnson, defending the advertising splash it gives the bank. Ah, it seems the Reuters clip wont embed. maybe it will paste.