Saturday, August 14, 2010

An Interview with David Hembrow

Via Situp Cycle

Needless to say, we're big fans of David Hembrow.


Michael said...

Thanks for passing on my film; Talking to David Hembrow. It encourages me to dip into the other footage I have of him and cut a sequel.

I've been sidetracked, or perhaps I should call it main-tracked, by the great bike share drama which is unfolding here in sad tandem with Boris's Bikes.

Melbourne, as you may have heard, has a bike share scheme going by the imaginative name of; Melbourne Bike Share.

It's the same size as Dublinbike, give or take a bike or two, but whereas Dublin reports stunning usage figures, as does London in its early days, MBS limps along with about 70 rentals a day for the 400 bikes.

The reason, clear to everyone except those who run MBS, who press on in hope, is that you can't ride a MBS without a helmet, and they are not, cannot be, supplied.

Everyone warned the RACV, the motoring group behind the bikes (suspicious?) that MBS could not work.

Now, much more is stake than the sad sight of docking stations full of unused bikes. (see film)

We have rightly seized upon this situation, to dramatize something which hitherto never got traction outside bike forums, and that is how our compulsory helmet law warps and stunts our cycle culture in toxic ways

Nobody cared before because the opinion setters in our cycle world all wear Lycra, love their helmets, and will tell you'd be mad to go even a yard on any bike in any situation without a helmet, so dire, so dangerous, (and inherently so) is cycling.

That sort of nonsense has ruled the roost till now. But as the excellent safety stats. come in from Dublin and Montreal, where for example, Bixis, the famous Montreal share bike, clocked up 3.5 million kms. with only five minor accidents in their 2009 season, some are saying that Emperor has no Lycra.

Hopefully, with the help of our pointing, and your interest, things will come to a head, and our very sensible suggestion that MBS bikes be exempted from compulsory helmets, at least on a trial basis, will be taken seriously.

At the moment, local denial has RACV spokespeople confidently predicting the opposite, that the rest of the world (that is 135 helmet free share bike schemes around the globe) will follow our lead, i.e. you'll be forced to wear helmets on pain of fine, well before we budge an inch.

I guess if we don't see signs of the tide turning pretty soon over your way, we'll be sending over ambassadors of fear, grim skeletal figures with smashed helmets, to explain how satisfying it is to fear cycling.

More of this on my blog Http://

And here's the key film; Melbourne Bike Share in Trouble?

Mike Rubbo

Bicycle Pilot said...

I feel for you an applaud your efforts! You just have to keep fighting against this helmet insanity there is no other way to keep the safety crazies and vested interests from enforcing their neurotic concerns onto society.

Daniel said...

Safety crazies. I guess that would be funny, that is, to those of you who have never seen their (experienced cyclist) friend take a spill on their bike, on a BIKE PATH, mind you, on the one day that he forgot his helmet, smashing his glasses into his bloody face and having a seizure on the pavement.

After that, I don't go ANYWHERE without my helmet, and I'll admit that it makes me crazy to see bikers here in Minneapolis (Bike City USA!) riding on bike paths with helmets looped around their handlebars. It would take some kind of fall for that helmet to come in useful that way.

We have a great bikeshare that just started here. No helmets. I was just in Chicago, where I saw some pretty great Treks in Streeterville as a part of that wonderful city's bikeshare. Again, no helmets.

I think maybe this issue, like so many, is neither black nor white, and maybe in all that nuance and complexity, the solution is simple: These bikes aren't necessarily cheap to begin with - how much more would it really cost to make sure that each bike had a universal helmet that was somehow included? Not sure what the logistics would be for this, since the helmet and the bike would be separate, making for easy helmet theft, etc., but I feel like there are probably creative solutions for this (a way of monitoring electronically, for example, whether both helmet and bike were returned).

I'm not trying to tell anybody they're wrong, it just sounds like the situation in Melbourne is logistically screwy, and I, personally, would like to see helmets included as a part of all bike shares. Seizures are really scary.

kfg said...

And having been scared, you are running scared. In other words, your responses are no longer rational. Helmets are not designed to protect against the sort of injury your friend suffered and thus it is likely that even had he been wearing one the outcome would have been the same.

". . .a universal helmet . . ."

. . . is impossible by the laws of physics. That's just the way it is. You'll also find many health officials who would be dead set against the idea of public HATS, as are most of the public. Same for public shoes (which is why the Japanese offer paper disposable slippers).

I love this interview. David can come across as a bit strident at times on his blog, but here we can see he's a gentle pussy cat. I'd love to be able to ride with him someday.

Daniel said...

@kfg: I tried very hard to not be inflammatory with my remarks, which is why I find it somewhat mindblowing that, here on the internet, under the veil of anonymity, you feel confident telling me that I am running scared. Do you know me? Were you there? You say, "helmets are not designed to protect against the sort of injury your friend suffered...." Were you there? I feel like this is so much hot air, blown to support a position, but upon close examination, there is little there in the way of support. Look - you weren't there. I was. If I'm scared, fine. It's not that hard to strap a helmet on. If that makes me a victim of fear, whatever. If it makes me a safety crazy, well, I guess it's a lot better than a lot of other types of crazy I might expect to be called.

All I was trying to do in the first place was to brainstorm a possible solution that allows both for safety AND for public bikes. I'm not sure why that should be a position that leaves me open to be maligned by internet personalities who, while apparently very fluent in the ways of sarcasm (hats and shoes? What's the matter with you?), really have no reason to not enter into intelligent conversation with me to work towards a sustainable solution that allows for the maximum number of humans possible to ride bikes safely.

Clearly this is my fault. My irrational ass straps that helmet on and rides past ghost bikes every day, but man, everything's cool! Just RIDE, brah! I'd love to live in a world where that was a rational approach, but not only do I no longer ride a track bike, but I run a front AND a back brake, AND I wear a helmet. Can you believe it?

Bicycle Pilot said...

Daniel, my definition of " Safety Crazies" is when there is an over emotional reaction to an activity related injury resulting in obsessive precautions to prevent another occurance. Yes, people get injured riding bikes like your friend and it is unfortunate when it happens and those who want to wear helmets should do so but enforcing everyone else to do that is "crazy" in my estimation.
When I was a kid you could ride in the back of a truck and it was a fun and economical thing to do and people were fine with this for 70 + years then a group of joy riding teens were in a truck and it rolled - very sad situation. Was it the drivers fault no! We gotta pass a law now to stop this from ever happening again so no more riding in the back of trucks ever again - how about better drivers instead?
As an example I also surf an this is a sport that has some risks including head injuries. About one out of every one million surfers wear safety helmets when surfing and the rest of us go without. Passing a law to force surfers to wear helmets to "protect" themselves whould not work. Same goes for skiers!
Walking on a sidewalk can be dangerous too and there are probally thousands of instances where if one had a helmet on a serious injury could have been avoided and if people want to wear them on the sidewalk fine but I'll be dammed if I would!
That being said I think helmets for organized racing and mountain bikingand other extreme events makes sense but casual sit up riding along city streets - no way its over protection and lame!
The more laws that get passed to protect us the more miserable and less freedom we get which is far more dangerous.
Mandatory helmet laws reduces the number of people who will ride a bike and in the long run that is the most frightening statistic of all.

Daniel said...

I think maybe you guys ride amongst nicer, more considerate drivers than I do.

Anonymous said...

Does the wearing of helmets make cyclists safer?

The most stringent helmet standard is the Snell standard. IIRC, the only helmets currently certified to the superior Snell standard in the UK are made by Specialized.

Anecdotal evidence must be set-aside and disregarded, because any conclusions must inevitably be invalidated by numerous uncontrolled variables.

One of the problems of cycle helmets is that AFAICT, that helmets are neither designed nor constructed to cope with the energy of collisions with motor vehicles. They are designed to protect the cyclist's head when falling-off the bicycle at around 12 mph / 20 km/h. These are two quite different events. It seems highly unlikely that current designs of helmet will achieve much in a collision with a motor vehicle.

There is evidence that helmets may make rotational injuries worse than not wearing a helmet.

There are claims that wearing a helmet may influence the cyclist's own behaviour. There is some evidence that wearing a helmet may affect other road users' behaviour and encourage some to pass at a closer distance. It is of course those vehicles that pass too close that pose the greatest risk.

Now I'm no expert, but I respectfully submit that a serious in-depth consideration of the multiple factors involved in helmet safety must consider in detail a wide range of numerous but often unrelated aspects and would necessitate a multidisciplinary approach. Few single 'expert' opinions have this crucial multidisciplinary aspect and it is likely that when a single expert in a particular field expresses an opinion about the usefulness of cycle helmets that its overall value has to be considered in the light of the breadth of expertise of the expert.

Basically, what is required is multiple better multi-disciplinary research studies that show what the benefits and disadvantages are. But compelling cyclists to wear bits of hot sweaty plastic of dubious value on their heads, is to ignore what the Dutch have known for a long time, that separation of cyclists from the primary danger - motor-vehicles is the true path to much increased cyclist safety.
Compulsory helmet wearing will inevitably deter many from cycling, when physical activity is declining in industralised countries.
Participation in cycling reduces the general morbidity of the population and benefits society in numerous ways.

Lastly, cycling is fun, but its fun value can be distinctly diminished by aggressive motorists who throw missiles; spit; shout obscenities; suffer from tiny penis / sad bastard syndrome; and deliberately intimidate cyclists by driving too close at speed; drive too close behind revving their engines; suffer from the 'must overtake all cyclists at any cost (to the cyclist)' mind-set; left-hook; right-hook; etc.
Yes, I've experienced all these.