Posted by: Mike Rubbo | September 14, 2009

Sue heads for court.

I came across Sue’s story, not in our media, but in a Danish bike blog which I avidly read.

Whatever’s happening in the world of urban cycling usually pops up for debate on Stories, movie clips and great photos, come coupled with pithy text from it’s creator, Mikael Colville-Andersen, and with reactions from around the world.

The blog seems to have little interest in speed, or how light a road bike can be. It’s into the social /sociolgical aspect of cycling. How bikes work in people’s lives in Denmark and around the world.

It celebrates plans and policies which make cycling more enjoyable and safer. It noses out stupidity and neglect of this wonderful way to get around.

That’s Mikael, there, and son.

mikae 300

That’s how I found Sue with her frizzy mop of hair, a compatriot and her story popping up on far away blog pages, but who was perhaps living not far away from my Central Coast lair.

sue_australia -200 muted

Mikael’s blog reported how Sue had been stopped by the police for not wearing helmet, and that she’d decided to fight the small fine rather than pay it.

She’s cycled all over the world, apparently, never had to wear a helmet, and did not see why she had to wear one here in Australia. Especially since she regards them as dangerous.

The blog was very much on her side, but there was no clue in the text to say where Sue lived in our vast land.

I was intrigued and soon decided that, if Sue was was not too far away, I would film her for Youtube and my new new blog, that is if she wanted to be filmed.

Mikael passed on ny idea her and soon she was in touch, revealing she lived in Scone, a town not too many hours away, and that yes, she would tell me her story.

At first we thought I would film on the day of the trial, hoping to get into court.

But then, finding out I’d not have access, we moved the plans forward to make this, a what-will-happen-sort of film, which is down below.

The fact that we live in a nanny state which tells us we must wear helmets if we bike, comes up from time to time in the press.

Though far more people drown each year than are killed on bikes, about 8 times as many, life jackets are not compulsory, but helmets are.

From a horse, you have further to fall, but no helmet is needed on your steed.

A cynic might think the authorities had a meeting and said….

V. man on mobile 300

What can we do to ensure that cycling in Australia…

V., man and kid 300

….never reaches the happy madness of Europe.

V man kid happy

What can we do to make sure, instead that our people go everywhere in cars, grow plumper and plumper, not like those skin and bones Dutchmen.

V. Old men 300

Why, we can make them wear those dorky things, helmets, even if they’re not children!

v. mym with baby blue helment

And, then, they’ll give up bikes of their own free will. (which many did)

V. man and dog bruges

And then we won’t have to build expensive bike paths to make cycling safe.

woan with sun glasses 400

And our kids will grow up so coddled, so SUV’d, they’ll never venture far from a play station.

V. Mum and kid cu. 400

Of course, our Govt was not so warped. Yet, I have heard that in the late 80’s, a big bike study was commissioned and it made 3 recommendations to the Govt.

1. Build cycleways for safer cycling
2. Educate motorists for safer cycling.
3. Make helmets compulsory.

The Govt of the day basically acted on just one of those recommendations, the one which cost them no money, and which shifted the safety burden to the rider.
Guess which.

If you know this not to be true, let me know the truth.

In Holland, where the above photos were taken specially for this blog by Julio Martinez Aniceto, there are presently 29,000 kms. of Cycles ways, David Hembrow tells me.

There was a second reason I was eager to film Sue in Scone, , nice country around there.

Looking at Julio’s photos and the Danish blogs mentioned above, I’m coming to realize that what is missing in my country, is the beauty and freedom of helmet-less cycling.

Woman profile so relaxed

People on bikes without helmets do look pretty good, one has to admit, and if the situation’s safe, then the bare head’s ideal.

V gay from behinbd

Couple this with the stately bikes they ride in Europe, bikes who’s handlebars curve back to embrace the rider like a lover, and you have riders of both sexes, but especially women, coming close to being sculptures in motion.

cicloeleganza Mara Carfagna2.jItalian minister in blue cop

(photo from

And not only women, either.


Will Sue Abbott be elegant? Could she come across as a biking beauty in the bush to help make my point, as well represent as the Helmet issue?

That’s what I was secretly hoping for.

Well, here’s the film we made together. See for yourself.

And do go see more Danish bike photos on those blogs.



  1. Interesting story. I liked the video. You seem to know how to put together an interesting video Mike. Well done.

    Coming from Europe, I never understood the logic behind compulsory helmets in Australia either. It doesn’t make any sense at all. All it does is discourage people from cycling, without improving safety. What’s the benefit in that?

    If the govt was serious about improving cycling safety, they would build separate bicycle paths. The helmet law seems to be a smokescreen to pretend to be doing “something” about safety, while neglecting the far more important issue of building infrastructure.

    It’s a shame really. More cycling usage would mean less traffic jams, less pollution, healthier people having fewer medical problems. This would lower the medical bill and road maintenance bill for the govt. The govt chosen way probably ends up being more costly than building a few bicycle paths where it is most needed.

    A sad story to see the quality of people’s life damaged because of such a pointless law.

  2. Mike,

    I, too, loved the film. But I fear it’s too late for Australia. Oz has spent too much time being distinctly itself, which means too far away from Northern Europe for too long. What I find so humiliating is the conviction among our rulers that their nanny-state interventions are A GOOD THING, something for which we are supposed to be grateful.
    CS Lewis described our present dilemma very well: “Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the full approval of their own conscience.”
    I rode a bicycle everyday to work in Whyalla, SA, from 1974 to 1987 then moved back to Ireland and later the US. I’ve never worn a helmet, anywhere. I love the bike culture of Copenhagen Cycling Chic precisely because it is ordinary, normal, humane and profoundly sane. Also, joy of all joys and greatest of all strengths, Scandinavian cycling is too well-etablished as part of European culture and folk-memory to be destroyed by well-meaning dummies, be their castles located in Canberra or Brussels (EU).

  3. Yes, northwest US (which is rather a country of its own) and the biking here is not so bad as I gather it is points east. And yes, bike obsessed *is* delightful!

  4. Thanks maryJan. I your country the US? There better be improvement s in less than 50 years or I’m not going to get much out of them. In any case, I’m having a huge amount of fun right now.

    Being bike obsessed is delightful. I don’t know why it too me so long. Mike datillo Rubbo

  5. Enjoyed your film! (I watched it on Copenhagenize) I like to imagine what my country and yours will be like 50 years from now if more people ride like Sue. thanks!

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