Monday 14 September 2009

Sue Abbott without a helmet

From Mike Rubbo's blog Sit-Up Cycle, this video is of Sue Abbott, an Australian who is facing legal action in Australia for refusing to wear a helmet when cycling.

As most readers will know, Dutch cyclists are both the most numerous and the safest in the world. In fact, the roads of the Netherlands are the safest in the world. Helmets are very rarely worn in this country, virtually not at all for utility journeys, though sport cyclists tend to wear them as part of the uniform. Australia's helmet compulsion is a misguided attempt to improve cyclist safety, when what really needs to happen is investment in cycling infrastructure. That is the way to increase the cycling rate and to make the population more healthy.

Update: Sue has now been to court. See the follow up post and video on Mike's blog.

Mike Rubbo is an Australian who has directed, produced, and filmed many wonderful movies that you may already have seen. Sue now has her own blog.


spiderleggreen said...

Helmet laws were created by do-gooders gone wrong.

l' homme au velo said...

Helmet Laws were created by the Propaganda of the Helmet Manufacturers spreading Hysteria.

Paul Simms said...

Helmets can and do save people from serious injury. Making all cyclists in all disciplines of the activity wear a helmet is so against the freedom of the sport.

I would much prefer the wearing of helmets to be advisory for all, and let parents shoulder the responsibility for their children.

It's a catch 22 scenario really, as our roads are car-orientated, the perceived risk increases, and helmets are seen as the saviour.

The helmet would not have stopped the accident, but improved facilities and increased cycle use, and cycle handling experience gained from the cycling will decrease incidents.

Wrapping people up in cotton wool and sending them out onto the same dangerous streets will not stop incidents, just lessen some of the outcomes - and then only some of the time.

Unknown said...

Great video. I fully support her. I currently live in a Province that only has a helmet law for those 16 and under, which is NEVER enforced.
In a year or so time however, I'm moving to a Province that has an ALL ages helmet law and I dread it.

Mark W. said...

Spot on this video! Especially the final conclusion!

xxxxxxx said...

I agree with all the above, however some of what she says about how helmets feel strikes me as pure hyperbole in my humble opinion.
I have a question to consider: I'm curious about what other possible causative factors around the time mentioned (when cycle helmets were made compulsory in law) that may have also led to cycling became less popular?

Anonymous said...

Concerning Sue Abbott and the humble bicycle:
I rode a bike every day to work, from 1974 to 1987, four years before 1991, when the disastrous helmet law was introduced. I never wore a helmet either.
By 1991 I had covered many miles in Ireland, England and France. I never wore a helmet, because I'd never worn a helmet.

Every bit of research I've read argues that the compulsory helmet law sent a subliminal message: "The Government has determined that the wearing of helmets results in crushed heads."
Cycling declined everywhere in Australia (similarly in NZ), by an average estimated factor of 30%.

My beef is this: where the bicycle is concerned, Australia is suffering from a loss of folk memory. A generation ago, a broad spectrum of people used bicycles to get to school and work, to shop, to 'lighten up' after work, to slip away to the beach. This normal, healthy and profoundly sane activity has been erased from memory both by the passage of time and the intervening overload of electronic games, dumbed-down TV, the ever-spreading car-culture and other passive entertainments: being driven to school, or the shops, the restaurants, bingo halls and the bars. There has been a collective loss of folk-memory, akin to losing a slice of our identity, and almost no-one has noticed.

I tell my friends in the US and Ireland that in Australia people use big, four-wheel drives, not to cross crocodile-teeming flood-waters but to drive to the gym. And afterwards, the shopping mall.

It shows how badly things have slipped that the sight of Sue Abbott on her ordinary bicycle doing what millions of people in Europe and all-over Asia do every day should cause cops to stop and fine her, and Mike Dubbo to be amazed at her 'behaviour'.
Racing cyclists haven't helped. They belong to the world of specialisation, and in their own way have unwittingly sent a disastrous message to millions of ordinary people: cycling's a blood sport, like downhill skiing or rock-climbing or motorcycle racing: macho rules, OK?

Will those who rule us understand any of this? Will they understand what they've done? Lawyers who don't cycle making rules for those who do? Or, if you prefer, the descendants of colonial masters lift the boom and allow the descendants of convicts to glide on their merry way, helmetless? (We know what's best for you, and by golly, we're going to make sure you do what's best for you)! The legacy is conformity, colourlessness, a decline in bicycle use and a loss of collective memory.


Milo Hurley.

David Hembrow said...

Milo: The same "loss of folk memory" also happened in Britain.

I don't blame the racers, though. They're just doing what they were always doing. The blame really lies with the politicians and planners who allowed the environment in most countries to become so hostile to cycling. The same thing happened in the Netherlands too, causing a decline in cycling until the 1970s. However, this country has benefited from 30 odd years of consistent policy reversing this.