Posted by: Mike Rubbo | December 3, 2009

The Guy from Cycle Chic

I’ve just finished editing the film you find below. A young filmmaker friend of mine, Violeta Brana-Lafourcade went to Copenhagen recently to interview for this blog, the famous Mikael Colville-Andersen.

Mikael is a film maker by background whose life, chance has turned in a different direction.

The uploading of a photo of his several years ago onto Flicker, a mysterious snap of a long skirted biker in high heels (she was waiting for the lights to change) catapulted him into a a new life.

The wild response prompted the creation of the blog, Copenhagen Cycle Chic, dedicated to the discovery that not only are bikes beautiful, but they present those who ride them as very beautiful as well.

Whilst the word, Chic, suggests fashion, even the fashion industry, catwalks, etc. Mikael’s observed cycle world is peopled by riders who wear their own clothes, who are not posing, who are unselfconscious in their gliding beauty.

There is no promotion of special cycling clothes here, indeed his cycle chic is all about avoiding the the usual uniforms of cycling, the tight lycra, the space age helmets.

It’s all, by contrast, about just getting on a bike, any old bike, and just riding it because that’s the the most sensible way to get from A to B. The attractiveness is the byproduct.

As my blog name suggests, I put special emphasis on the type of bike one rides, the sit-up bike and the posture it produces.

It’s no accident that almost every photo on Cycle chic has its rider proudly and serenely upright as if to say, I’m at the peak of this way of being, and I’ve nothing to do with cyclists hunched over their machines for speed.

Cycling is a broad church, everyone keeps reminding me. True enough, but here in Australia, the congregation has warped itself a certain way, and I find nothing wrong with suggesting some balance.

It so happens that this coincides with the bursting on the scene of a video from Britain which explores beauty on bikes. It’s release is imminent

We have only seen the trailer of Beauty and the Bike, as yet but everyone is rightly tantalized. Here it is.

I plan to explore this same theme here; why are young women not riding bikes?

On a smaller scale, but following the same idea, I hope to recruit a group of young women, probably around 15-16, who’ve never been interested in using bikes for transport, and find out why.

Then, having nailed down the reasons for their disinterest, we’ll get them on some stately sit-up bikes, dressed as they want to be seen, and we’ll have them riding around, savoring this new experience, and seeing if their attitudes change.

We will have a problem, Jill Charlton and I, which the British film makers did not have.

There, the girls could legally ride without helmets. Since helmets, we predict will turn out to be part of the problem, my daughter recently got on a bike after many years when I stopped the helmet nagging…..

….we’ll have to find a way to have our girls ride hair free as well.

Anticipating that problem, we’ll find an off road location which looks like normal streets, but to which the helmet law does not apply, probably the grounds of a University. There, we’ll do our test rides.

Anyone who’d like to help with this project, please contact this blog.

And if you think we’re thus promoting dangerous behavior, consider that the safest cycling takes place in those countries with the least helmet use, a paradox which it takes some time to delve, but which deserves debate it has yet to get.

See another film on this blog; Doctor on a Bike

See also the films on the charming Sue Abbott, who has chosen to confront the law.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | November 25, 2009

Christiania Cargo Bikes

If you looked at our recent film, Doctor on a bike, you might have noticed that it ended with a women, a mother of two young girls, riding on a famous sort of cargo bike invented in Copenhagen, called a Christiania.

That material was shot for this blog by Genevieve Bailey and Henrik Nordstrom.

Gen. is a bold young documentary film maker who wrote to me out of the blue about a year ago, (She’d loved one of my movies as a kid) and has since become a friend, as has Henrik.

When she told me they’d be in Copenhagen soon, I asked them to shoot some material for me. Now, as well as filming the woman in purple, I found that Gen had also interviewed her. Sadly, we don’t know the name of this interviewee.

I don’t know why the bike carries a woman’s name either. Is Christiania a real person who got someone to build her the first bike like this? Does anyone know the story?

David Hembrow (View from the Cycle Path) has just told me the name comes from Christiania, an alternative community in Copenhagen.

I’m feeling stupid. I’ve been there, and was worriedly watching my teenage daughter the whole time as she chatted with strange types, strange to me, not her.

Christiania’s are very popular in Denmark. even though expensive, both for ferrying kids and for shopping. David Hembrow also points out that similar cargo bikes are common all over Europe, especially in Holland.

We haven’t got round to such bikes here in Australia yet. Ar least, I’ve never seen one on the roads. There is one type for sale here that I know of, made by Gazelle, a very elegant machine, costing around $4000 Aus.

I’ve just been corrected by Peter. Christiania bikes are available from PSBikes in Collingwood, Melbourne

In any case, we have to consolidate the idea that bikes are practical transport for a human, before we start loading them down or filling them up with stuff.

It’s very interesting that this Christiania rider in the clip below, does not own a car. Also, the problem of bike theft in the city, which she candidly discusses, is fascinating. The thieves seem very persistent there, even with burly bikes like these.

Here’s a Youtube version. Some people have trouble with Vimeo

By the way, here’s one of my favorite cargo bike photos from

I like the composed elegance, and the suggestion of a conversation between propulsion and purpose, the kid turning back towards the driver.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | November 22, 2009

Doctor On a Bike

Dr. Ian Charlton and I made this film over the weekend.

I think it’s probably our most important video in terms of what he and I feel about the future of urban utility cycling in in Australia.

Ian’s main interest is in the obesity epidemic we face. How to get people exercising more, using public transport more so as to avoid obesity and all the life style diseases which go with it.

This vimeo film about Ian may take a while to download. Please be patient, do something else.

Here’s the same on YouTube which may download faster

We face a challenge. How to shift our cycling culture from the present leisure and sport based culture, to one that makes more use of bikes as transport. There is some utility use, here, but it’s nothing like in Europe.

For starters, our everyday getting around bikes probably need to be a different sort of bike, not flat bar road bikes , not racers, but the classic sit up type of bike which you see all over Europe.

Next , we need different rules for these slower, safer, bikes so that the Bike Share schemes can work here. These are now sweeping the world, like Velibs in Paris and Bixis in Montreal.

At the moment, Bike Share is blocked here by our compulsory helmet laws since it’s impossible to economically rent a tested, sterilized, helmet along with these bikes on the street.

If we want Bike Share, seems like our laws must change.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | November 22, 2009

Marvellous morning at MacMasters

Last Saturday, I happened on a wonderful community market at MacMasters beach.

A lady at the fish shop had told me about it, and remembering what a charming spot it is,  with its  modest little community hall, we  could not resist going along, Katya and I,  and me taking my E bike with me.

Here’s  the view down on the little hall from the road.

Can anyone imagine a scene more charming than this?  Or how about looking  back at the stalls in the trees?

Ah, the delight of dappled light on a sunny Saturday morning, with nice people all around.   Of course the lady who’d done a bike painting caught my eye first.

She had placed it in front of the Wagstaff hall in her picture,  (the nicest community hall on the Central Coast) but had seen the bike elsewhere, just the sort of bike I favor, sit-ups. Well painted too, no?

Katya was off looking at books which I never got round to doing,  and buying jams.

I had a mission of sorts.  I set up my E bike under a tree in front of the Band,  and then went for a wander.

They was playing jaunty Dixiland stuff, just right for the time and place.

I have a  pod on the back of the bike, and in it , some pamphlets about this sort of E bike,  in case anyone was interested.

About this turquoise pod, hand made out of fiberglass, I like to say;  my car knows it place, on the back of the  bike!

My sign, lettered for the occasion,  makes  a bunch of modest claims about E bikes.

Soon,  a fella did stop for a sticky beak.   He turned out to be a bloke called Max, from Sydney who has a relative living up here.

A marvelous  Saturday morning type of chap, was Max! He went for a wobbly  ride whilst I wandered around.

I had to explain I was not  selling electric bikes,  just an enthusiastic advocate.

Here’s these bikes in action and me tricked into a stunt.

What a typical Aussie posture,  I thought,  that bloke there,  talking to the Sheila . Make a good painting,  they would,  half listening to the Dixieland but in their own world too

She turned out to be his Missus. More about them later.

Then,  there was the little girl who was wondering how the Wheel of Fortune worked. Having fun spinning the lucky mermaid.

And the dapper bloke who’s  painting was good for a laugh. He was fun.

He called it; Grandma’s last smoke, It showed  an unrepentant Gran enjoying a last puff before she kicks the bucket.

The smell of sizzling sausages filled the air as they usually do on such occasions, but ,  happily,  we were both able to resist  them

I met a nice old bloke who’s look intrigued me, a bushie type,  he seemed.

His name is  Les Waddington, he’s 88, and he’d  just bought a painting from the lady who did the bike.

Les, it tuned out,  much admired my beloved Uncle, Francis Sutton, the environmentalist who died this year at 97 . Here’s dear old Frankie Boy

Francis was way ahead of his time, proposing in the early seventies,  that we shouldn’t be wasting our sewerage by piping it into the sea .

I made a film about him called: The Man Who Can’t Stop, and f0llowed his story as  saving water  became a lifelong challenge for him.

Thinking of Francis,  who Katya and I both loved so dearly, and then meeting a stranger, Les, who’d admired him  too, was a strange thrill of  the six degrees type.

Katya and I suddenly had this flash of being  suspended in a moment of perfect contentment, in our little world, so green, so tranquil.

Doesn’t  she look  contented?  And me, in my converted helmet?

We are realize how much we like things in moderation. How much we love funky little community halls like  MacMasters, stalls with not much on offer ,  just a patient little chap, waiting to be of assistance.

We went to see Mike Moore’s new film a few days ago, Capitalism, a Love Story.

Katya was shocked that we were the only two in the theatre. We both felt Mike nailed the greed behind so much capitalism,  very effectively.

Speaking of small, Nina’s little shop, is something to visit before Nina is gone. Sadly, she’s selling up. I made this movie last Xmas as an Xmas surprise for Nina.

Back to Mike Moore and Capitalism. I feel a theory coming on. I don’t think the “ism”  of capitalism is the core problem. As Katya said coming out, things were just as bad under the other big “ism ” communism,  when she was growing up in Moscow.

No,  our underlying human problem,  is our addiction  to excess. We adore excess,  even as we know it’s bad for us and the planet.

Excess is everywhere,  almost equally,  even though the US has for long been a sort of excess theme park,  and is both loved and hated for being just that.

But it’s  here too. The mainstream media live off  local excess, often the greed of some rascals  in the business world,  or Pollies on the take.

So, I’m hoping to get around to doing a Mike More type film  which will be about excess.

But by contrast, it will be and must be,  made for virtually nothing. Excess pinned to the mat by moderation, the the goal.

I might call it. Saving the world, The Cheap as Chips way. We’ll plunder the internet, youtube, etc.  to make this movie . They  will be our cornucopias , the excess we draw upon .

I was daydreaming as the jaunty music played on towards noon.

The squatting bloke, Ian,  is a horticulturalist,  he told me,  and his wife is  something to do with nature and balance.

We might do a small project together. I would like to see my bike burdened with  trees as a green delivery vehicle, for example.

Like those bikes which won the war  for the Vietnamese on the Ho Chi Minh trail, years ago. They are thinking about it.

Ian would provide the trees and I,  the bike.

The other exciting thing to come out of our morning  at MacMasters, was to hear from Barbara Wills about their dream of a building bike path south from MacMasters through the Buddi National Park.

How good would that be , eh?

And on shady bushland trails too!

I volunteered to make a film to promote their idea.

I’ve  walked the famous Abel Tasman  track at the top of the NZ’s  North Island a couple of years ago,  and wondered how come the Kiwis get all the foreign visitors,  when we have a coastline just as spectacular to offer?

And you know, what we both have to give, us Antipodeans is wild places. The bush, the sea,  and silence,  or gentle wave lap,  all of that is  never far way.

Now,  is this below, NZ or Aust?  You guess.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | November 8, 2009

Taking the Bixi Challenge

Montreal 500

Even though I  lived in Montreal for a  good part of my life, indeed from 1965 to  1995,  I never thought of Montreal as  a bike city, I  have to say.

Some friends  rode bikes in summer, Martin, Dorothy and Marie, for instance.

I  took little notice, apart from a few nice glides along the Lachine canal on a Sunday or  two. I cant even remember owning a bike though Katya says I did.

It was in Montreal that our Ellen was born

katya and ellen

Montreal is an apartment city and many of the triplexes have steep exterior stairs.

Getting  a bike up to your apt. especially in  winter when those stars are slippery, is, let’s say,  discouraging.

montreal stairs

I also have to confess that,  though my friend, Martin Duckworth told  me on several occasions about Bicycle Bob, the amazing Bob Silverman, I paid little attention to that interesting character either.

Journalist Josh Freed, in a 2007 article,  called Bicycle Bob the Johnny Appleseed of cycling.


Yet the  American apple tree planter was less colorfully extreme, I suspect  than Bob Silverman.

For example, in the 1970’s   he and his guerilla band lay down one afternoon  in a Montreal  intersection in rush hour traffic,  covered in ketchup blood,  to protest the mayhem caused by cars on bikes and pedestrians .

On another occasion , Bicycle Bob dressed as Moses,   tried to part the vast  St Lawrence river which runs past the city,  so that cyclists could escape the unfriendly (for bikes)  island on which Montreal sits.

Bob must be getting on now,  but also taking pleasure from what’s happening with  bikes today,  because, I guess, it all starts with him.

I miss Montreal, miss friends, the things I used to do and those I didn’t do also, like ride a bike.

I was busy making movies. It  never occurred to me,   when I writing  the scripts for the family feature films I made with legendary producer, Rock Demers   to make bikes a part of the plot, even though many of our characters did rush about on two wheels when they needed to.

Here are some of the faces from one of the movies which preoccupied me.

tricker gang

It pleases me a lot  that these faces would be well remembered by the  many Quebecers now riding on Bixis, (see below)

They are the  stars of Tommy Tricker and the Stamp Traveler. In French it was;  Les Adventuriers Du Timbre Perdu, and in both languages, a hit, even without bikes.

I saw no magic in bikes in those days. The young heroes  we  put on the screen,  moved magically around  the world in another way, on postage  stamps, willing prisoners in the little pictures.

stamps 300

Tommy Tricker was our rascal.

Trommy 250

So,  it comes as a great surprise to me that Montreal is now one of the leading bike cities in the world. Indeed, probably the leader in north America though Portland,  Oregon,  has had that title for some time and still holds it in some respects.

Montreal now streaks ahead due to the brilliant street bike rental system it has created with a sit-and-beg type bike called;  the Bixi.

5000 Bixis have  just finished  their  first summer in the city. And,  as if by magic,  these sturdy   but fun bikes,  have rolled Montreal into a new reality.

(I don’t know who took these photos. Hope you don’t mind.)

bixis.gils 300

The stats are impressive. Firstly,  the whole shebang all was put together in record time

There have been approx. 400  pick up and drop off stations around the city. In some places,  they are so numerous,  that you can see one of the solar powered docking stations from another.

bixi station

bixi docking station

Apparently, the planners  knew that  the scheme wouldn’t work unless the  bikes are literally everywhere and getting one,  was  seen as, “no problema ”

Bixi now has 8419 members. Those are  the locals who’ve  paid an annual fee and have unlimited access to the bikes.

Visitors swipe a credit card . For them,  the first half hour is free, and many  of the million  borrowings this summer,  were for a half hour or less, and so free. What an encouragement to try using a bike as transport, eh?

The name Bixi comes from putting bike  and taxi together, and indeed, they  are decongesting the city of both taxis and cars.

It’s  impressive that these  Bixis have kept  almost a million  kilos of green house gasses out of the atmosphere, according to their controllers.

This first season saw  approximately 3.5   million kilometers ridden on Bixis.

It’s very weird for me to see these streets I know so well with this curious new public furniture on them.

What does it do to the head, I wonder,  to have a constant visual reminder of this other way of getting around, not only reminder, but easy access as well.

Surely bikes, esp. these often derided sit-up bikes,  have made a stratospheric leap in status?

bixi on jean mance

No wonder that over 100 cities around the world have made inquiries, that London already has its 6000 Bixis. Boston is on the brink of getting 3000 , and Melbourne has just signed a contract for 600.

Hm, 600 only?  Didn’t I  read that these schemes won’ t work unless the bikes are everywhere?

Here’s a related movie made by the famous,  Streetsblog, blog It’s a happy birthday to  the mother-ship of bike share schemes,  the Velib system in Paris.

20,000 or is it, 30,000 Velibs are  now on Paris streets.  This film also   argues that you  have to swamp a city with bikes for Bike Share to work.

Otherwise,  it’s a novelty tourists might try out as an  attraction,  but no local would rely on. This  film on Velibs addresses another mystery as well.  How are these bikes paid for?

Why do locals love these systems?  It’s a no brainer,  actually.

Here’s a bike  you don’t have to take care of.   (Bikes do get punctures frequently you know,  and those gears are always out of adjustment, aren’t they? )

Secondly,  you don’t  have to worry about it being stolen, the bike owner’s nightmare. Thirdly,   you don’t have to carry it up all those stairs to your apartment,  nor store it through a  cold winter. It’s  a dream situation .

A dream for vandals and the disaffected too,  apparently,  with 80% of Velibs  already trashed and replaced.

Montreal  has not had that problem… yet.  Montrealers  are  immensely proud of their bikes and the new identity they bring to the city. They hope things  won’t turn destructive  like that, there.

The Bixis cost approx.  $2000 each. That’s  ten million dollars  in bikes on the streets. Wow!

They are managed and paid for by the city,  through Montreal’s parking authority, not by street advertising rights, as in Paris.

Andre Lavalle, the Montreal city politician  behind  the Bixi success,   opined that the city parking people had the infrastructure and know-how  to run this thing.

I should not have been surprised  to hear that Montreal had become bike famous almost overnight  because it’ s a  city famous for its flair. When  they do something,  they do it with style.

I remember Expo ’67, the Worlds Fair which was predicted to be a flop so late it was in the building, and yet it was launched  on time as one of the most thrilling displays of human creativity and good vibes, ever  seen on the planet. That was Montreal at is best. It’s a summer I’ll never forget.  I was working for the NFB, then.

Here’s the US pavilion at the famous fair, a Buckmaster Fuller dome.

Expo Us pavilion

Expo 67 was supposed only to last a summer, but so good was it,  that the summer fair  went on for years after  as Terre des Hommes, with the temporary pavilions  somehow lasting long past their use-by date.

So, Bixi is in that same tradition. It will be a great surprise if it turns out to be a passing fad.

All over the world cities are just getting on with Bike Share, not waiting for foreign experts, not agonizing, just  doing it.

In this video,  Spain, which does  not have  a strong bike culture, we see Bicing taking off in Barcelona.

Note the commentator  reports that in one year,  the number of cyclists has doubled.  Many people are riding for the first time, and the city, hitherto almost without bike paths, is now building 160 kms. of them

He concludes, “we could wait 20 years or do it all in a  shorter time.”

Australian cities wont be able to hold out for long against this seduction,  the benefits are too compelling.

Indeed,  Melbourne and Brisbane have signed small,  cautious contracts, too small to work,  say some experts.

But, as previous posts have pointed out, we are hamstrung by our very atypical helmet laws. You see no helmets in the Paris video, the Bixi material,  nor on the Bicing users in Barcelona.

It  first struck  me how far behind we are, when I took a camera with a friend when cycling around Sydney one beautiful  day,  and saw only 6 other bikes in as many hours. Compare this with the  Barcelona images.

I think bike share will be the truth teller for our helmets laws, a sort of  touchtone.  It may go like this.

I understand that only about 10% of  Montreal rider wear helmets. If it  turns  out that  even with the larger numbers on bikes in Montreal this last  summer, (moreover riders who ere less experienced, plus tourists who didn’t  know the city and it’s  traffic)

If even  with all of that,   the injury rate is  not significantly up on last year,  then it will strongly suggest that our helmet laws,  and  the constant fear-based promotion of helmets,   may have been  bogeyman talk.

We shall see

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | October 25, 2009

Bike Share, will we ever get it here?


It’s just been announced that a consortium made of the RACV, along with the  US company, ALTA,  has just won the contract to bring bike share to Australia for the first time.

Brisbane has recently signed a similar contract, that one with the French company,  J. C. Decaux.  Which city is up and running first, if either, will be a race to watch.

The winning RACV  bid plans to  put 600 public bikes into  the Melbourne inner city for easy public access on the swipe of a card or insertion of a membership tag.

The bikes  for Melbourne will be the BIXI model which has just had its  first very successful North American season.  5000 of  the sturdy sit-up BIXI bikes have been  on the streets of Montreal since the northern spring,  dispensed from numerous solar powered docking stations around the city.

For Melbourne though, now starts the hard part. I found out  from the winning company,   Alta,  presenting at the recent Bike Futures conference in Melbourne, that there’s a huge stumbling blog in the way.

Whilst there are now hundreds of bikes shares schemes  around the world, either up and running or in the planning stages,  there has never been one successfully set up in a country with compulsory helmet laws such as ours.

How to dispense helmets with these bikes, is a long way from being solved,   as my interviewees, candidly admit. For legal and health  reasons, helmets can’t be automatically dispensed along with the bikes.

Yet if they are not, the flexibility  which it the key to bike share success, is gone

You can see my exclusive investigation in the film below.

In my report, I call the bikes we may get, Mixis.  The Montreal name, Bixi, was decided through a public competition. It’s  a running together of the french word for bicycle and taxi.

Back to the helmet problem. A friend sent me this clip about a new folding helmet. It might be part of the solution, at least for the local bike share clientele.

By the way,  I do very much  like the elegance of slow riding that Mixis would bring to our cities.  

The slow bike movement started by Mikael Colville-Andersen of, is a great idea.

I visited David Hembrow’s excellent blog,  (The View From the Cycle path. Link on the side)  to find this wonderful portrait of the  biking past, cycling  in Holland in the 50’s,  put together by Mark Wagenbuur.

Mark’s the one who also did another clip I borrowed, one which showed how up-straight people ride in Holland, and, as is clear from this video,  they did back then as well.

This is a film to just bathe in,  to  bask in the glide,  the beauty of bicycle movement, the serenity of such a life , much of which has been lost today,  outside of Holland.

I say, outside Holland,  because as David points out,  little has changed in the way people  get around there, even today. Enjoy it.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | October 20, 2009

Electric Bikes. Are They Cheating?

I’ve been riding an electric bike for about a year now. Indeed, I have two, each a slightly different system.

One is a hub motor and the other a crank motor.

If you are not riding to race or to train, I can’t see how these bikes can be called cheating.

In training, you could say you were cheating yourself out of a tougher workout, and if racing, that would only be interesting, electric against electric.

So, if getting around efficiently, avoiding gas pumps, and all without too much strain is your goal, I think they are great. I describe the ride as; effort without the pain.

Another way to to imagine the ride is to think of it as tandem. You are riding tandem with a small motor, the motor approx. doubling your effort.

So, maybe we can call E bikes, motor tandems and it’ll be clearer.

That said, how much advantage do they give over a regular bike?

Scott Dickason, who supplied my first bike (EVs is his company) asked me to film a test for him.

Here it is.

What I didn’t know, was that he was planning to test me too.

What is perhaps remarkable is that I’m doing well, and yet sitting upright in a supposedly inefficient posture.

The next test I’d like to do is to have Steve do the same hill on his road bike and then on a motor-less comfort bike, one about the same weight with the same number of gears.

I know the latter will be slower, but how much slower?

Scott wanted to pay me for making the film. I said, no, because I want to be free to recommend any bike I like, not just his. which I do think are pretty good.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | October 14, 2009

Bike Share. Possible in Australia?

All over the world, Bike share schemes are bursting out as many countries and cities jump on the bandwagon, all excited, amazed, by the 30,000 Velibs on the streets of Paris.

There were smaller bike-share programs before, many in France.

But it’s been the Velibs, paid for by providing bikes in exchange for city street advertising rights.

(You’ve seen those big photos on bus shelters for soft drinks etc? ) This barter scheme has led the way. And it was the clever French company, J.C. Decaux, which began the bushfire.

Here’s a line of Velibs, waiting to be rented.

Bike share paris Vleibs

From city to city in Europe, the bike- share machines come in a dizzying array of colors, but if you look closely, they all have one thing in common

Here’s a sample of the 6000 share bikes coming to London soon, to be dispensed from 400 docking stations.

You’ll swipe a card or use your mobile, and the bike is yours, usually free for the first half hour, and then a sliding scale upwards, after that.

bike share, London

And here are samples of the 450 bikes, just arrived on the streets of Dublin.

bike sghare, dublin

That’s a smallish number. How about 21, 000 share-bikes for Wuhan, China?

Bike sare Wuhan

By now, you’ve certainly spotted this thing they have in common. For a last clue, check this bike from Avignon.

Bike Sare Velopon Avignon

Yes, you got it! They are all unisex, sit-up straight bikes, as ridden by only …. 5% of Australian cyclists.
Yes, it’s not a posture we favor here.

What a shock it’s going to be to local riders, locked in what I call the beetle posture, to share the roads with tribes of up-straighters on share-bikes.

Just to remind you, here’s the preferred Aussie bike look.

spring cycle 007.yelow jacket 300

It may be uncomfortable, inconvenient for commuting over shortish distances, but never mind, it’s ours and it’s reputedly faster!

spring cycle 010.jpg pink 300

Am I making too big a deal of posture?
All I can say is, try a bike like any of those chosen for bike share programs, and you’ll feel the difference. It’ll be heavier and more sluggish but oh so comfortable

But, anyway, will we ever see Bike-Share on our streets? Very doubtful. It won’t be for lack of examples to emulate, but because we’re saddled with our very own catch 22.

The list of cities starting up. or already going with bike share, is staggering.

Even parts of Europe, not known for urban cycling, and which don’t have good bike-ways etc. like Spain, are going great guns.

Here’s a Barcelona rack

Bike share barcelona

And here’s a charming lower end offering in little Girona.

Girona. Presentació

Why aren’t we getting into bike-share bigtime? Well, we are, apparently.

Brisbane City Council has signed a contract with J.C. Decaux, the same company which set up the Paris system, and is all set to bring the magic to Brissie, or are they?

And Melbourne is about to sign a contract for 600 bikes, spread around the CBD as well. Two companies vie the build the system, I’m told

So why am I skeptical? What’s the catch 22?

All those European cities, and the ones in the US which I’ve yet to mention, like Boston and Washington D.C, all have one huge advantage over us.

For some strange reason, they all agree that adults should be allowed to choose whether to wear helmets or not.

I know it sounds like madness to actually allow adults to make such a decision for themselves, when we know they’ll probably not wear the things if they do have a choice

Indeed, it’s quite shocking, when traveling in Europe, to see that most people don’t wear helmets, and seem to be blissfully unaware of the mortal danger they are in.

V couplke shhe looks 400

to angles casuals used already cop

More shocking still, the authorities in these places, just don’t seem to care about the safety of their cycling public.

Well our Governments, and it was the Federal Government which bullied the States into adopting compulsory helmets in the early nineties, do seem to care.

I hope they still care enough to do a bit of cost/benefit analysis on the problem I’m raising, the catch 22.

Imagine this scenario. You are a tourist, just arrived in Melbourne from say, Germany.

You ride a bike at home in Frankfort, and feel that nothing would be nicer than exploring this fine city with it’s many wonderful bike-ways, it’s river rides, all on a local bike.

Ah, there they are, a docking station well stocked with, we’ll call them, Mixis.

So you swipe your card and a voice from the bike stand, welcomes you to Mixi’s Melbourne.

The voice next advises that you can’t ride the bike in hand without a helmet, and if you do so, you’ll be prosecuted.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to dispense a helmet to the customer along with the bike, the voice regrets.

Helmets have to be hand fitted, and must be sterile. You are instructed therefore to proceed to a nearby human staffed, helmetorium.

You are warned that you must of course push the bike to that helmetorium.

You’ll have a number of location choices, public libraries, council offices, and some bike shops. Whether you’ll rent the helmet or buy it, is till unclear.

If it’s a public holiday, and all of the above are closed, you will be able to return the bike without payment .

That is, as long as you’ve filled out an explanatory form, detailing your search, which you need to stuff into the slot provided.

If you do find a helmet, and if you don’t mind wearing it, given that you don’t wear one at home, the same steps must be repeated when returning the bike.

Am I alone in thinking that all of this is a problem? .

Of course if you are a local and a paid up member of the Mixi club, you will have been provided with your own specially emblazoned Mixi helmet, at a very reasonable cost.

So, as long as you carry it with you on all those occasions when you think you might need to Mixi, you’ll be fine.

Though one wonders, if you are prepared to carry a helmet with you so frequently, why you are not riding your own bike?

I mean, surely these schemes work best for casual impulse renters who will be helmet-less, tourists and some who missed a train,

Don’t get me wrong. I think bike-share is essential for Australia and will do much good.

Bike share will persuade people who would never ordinarily ride a bike as transport, that it’s possible, fun, and not as dangerous as they thought.

Bike share will also persuade both new riders and old, that the sit-up straight position is a great way to commute.

A test ride on a Mixi will convince almost anyone them that being upright is safer, that you see better and are seen better. Even that, up straight, you are less likely to get into road rage situations with drivers.

Why? because you are, frankly, less annoying to the traffic than the hunched over rider. This is helped by eye contact being easier to make.

You might even take to waving to passing traffic, as does our rebel, Sue Abbott, who you should look up if you have not already seen her movies on this blog. Yes, Sue waves a lot.

So for all those reasons, plus the fact that many such share-bikes in our cities would calm traffic, save on fuel, reduce greenhouse gasses, and cut our obesity levels, all of that, we must have them.

But how? Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe there is some magic way to have the rental bike and helmet dispensed together, because if they are not, it surely cant work.

I do think that Sue’s protest against helmets, whilst it has nothing to do with their being a spoiler for bike share, is very timely because it’s necessary that we have this debate.

Sue is consistent in her opposition, by the way. Here she is 22 years ago on a Canberra rental bike of the period.

And here she is, helmet-less today.

Sue and baby long ago. 400

Sue today.

sue_australia - 200

Why cant adults be trusted to make up their on minds on helmets? Is this not the Nanny state gone mad?

Why is it that I don’t have to wear water wings when I swim, and yet about 6 times as many people drown each year as are killed on bikes?

Rugby players seem to be in a continuous state of concussion and yet they don’t wear helmets.

Why is it that this particular activity, cycling, one which can really change our lives for the better, unclog our streets, bring down our epidemic levels of obesity , reduce our per capita carbon footprint (ours is the largest in the world. 20 tons for each of us) why is it singled out?

I’m not into conspiracy theories that much, but is this the car lobby in action? It is curious that cars get so much money, are constantly bailed out, whereas bikes and their needs are little funded

When the helmet law came in, the Government was in fact shoving the responsibility for safety on to the heads of cyclists, whereas true safety is under the wheels.

But that cost money and helmets don’t.not to the Govt. at least

You have to wonder, don’t you?

Here’s Barak Obama without a helmet.

Obama 250

Barak, can you have a talk with Kevin Rudd about this in Copenhagen so you can both agree in what to do?

The photos I’ve used have come from an excellent US blog, The Bike Share blog,.

Also lso from, a Danish blog which has done more than any other to raise the helmet question.

I end by saying, I wear a helmet. I love my helmet, (mostly for sunshade reasons) but I want to have the choice to wear it or not.

me close up with helmet

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | October 4, 2009

No Helmet, Please!

Have you been waiting to find out what happened to Sue in Scone?

Well, here’s how the day went as she faced court for not wearing her helmet.

As i said in the movie, I myself do wear a bike helmet. I actually like my helmet…

helmet 200.jpg adjusted

……. the way I’ve modified it, but I want to be able to decide myself whether I wear it or not.

What’s your opinion.

By the way, when I said in the movie that virtually no country has followed Australia’s lead with helmets, that is not try with helmets for your riders.

They seem to be virtually universal, except in those countries, especially in Europe, where governments have worked very hard to make cycling safe for all ages, Holland and Denmark, for example, amongst others.

Posted by: Mike Rubbo | September 25, 2009

Why Our Beetle Posture?

David Hembrow’s marvelous blog, The View from the Cycle Path, is written from an English perspective.

But it comes from the heart of Holland, where David now lives, and is a superb source of sensible info as to what actually works when you have a society, like Holland, truly committed to safe and pleasant biking around.

It’s peer, I find is Mikael’s Colville-Andersen’s marvelous , blog, There are links to both blogs on the side, here.

David recently put up a video clip which, while lacking in storyline (something I obsess about) and snappy editing, is still quite hypnotic.

What you see is nothing but bike traffic, from the station of a town, a place called, Hertogenbosch.

The camera was set up by Mark Wegenbuur who resides there, I guess. What Mark gets is a lovely flow of unhurried cyclists, going where they need to go. None seem to notice the camera.

What fascinated me was that, in the two minutes running time, I didn’t see a single hunched-over Dutch cyclist, the default posture in Australia.

The posture was dramatically on show this sunny Sunday morning as I attended the start of a huge cycle ride through Sydney, organized by the city and Bicycle NSW .

I saw many thousands of cyclists, all eager to start off, bunched together in hundreds to be sent off in waves (I’ll post a video soon)

Few riders would have guessed that I was checking their postures closely.

Here are some of the latecomers. Of the many thousands, I saw only one bike with handlebars curved back, the rider upright, as is every rider in the Dutch video.

The rest, 10,000 perhaps, were all to varying degrees, hunched over.

spring cycle 002.jpg for behind 300

spring cycle 007.yelow jacket 300

spring one young 300

I can’t, as yet, find anyone discussing posture, asking the legitimate question, is this the way we should be riding?

Riding a bike is a sort of conversation with the world around you. If you are hunched over, looking at your front wheel for much of the time, what sort of dialogue is that?

In that position, do you encourage those who see you, motorists, pedestrians, to take up cycling, or do you telegraph a sort of fixated lonely purpose, getting somewhere at speed.

Is it not a cocoon posture, not as closed off as that of a motorist, but closed to some degree?

Imagine if you walked down the street, bent forward, head half raised. What sort of message would that send to those you passed on the pavement?

A, ‘leave me alone,’ message perhaps.

bikew in traffic

If you think I exaggerate, here’s the alternative, David Hembrow (View from the cycle path) fully interacting with a fellow rider nearby.

Would you not be tempted wave to this guy, even shout a greeting about the ride, the day?

V david hembrow, 400

More so at least than to these riders, surely! Would it be a bad thing if cycling, off the race circuit, became less about speed and more about friendliness?

leisure ccling small

Maybe it’s a cultural thing. Maybe it does come from the strength of sports cycling here, so that even non racers are copy catting.

It’s a debate we need to have since it might help bring in a new type of cyclist, the sort of people who are trying the Velibs in Paris or the Bixis in Montreal

It might be better for our riding health as well, to think more about posture

My partner in bike interest, Dr Ian Charlton, tells me of a local physiotherapist, treating in a rider with some of the various common cycling pains, the crick in the neck, the sore wrists and the lower back problems, and who suggested to the woman that she give up riding.

He didn’t apparently know that there’s an easy solution to getting rid of those ills, sitting up straight like all the riders in Mark’s video.

Some of the riders at the Spring meet claimed that the Hunch-over position provides less wind resistance, seemingly a good point.

I wonder how true it is since countries with ferocious head winds, like Denmark and Holland, both favor the upright posture.

Anyway, it’s something I want to look into soon.

Thanks, Mark and David too, for the video.

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