03 August 2010
Helmets can't save Melbourne from knockout blow
The teething problems of the London Bike Hire Scheme continue. The editor of the excellent London SE1 website found himself charged £150 for 'non-return' of a bike he'd returned, while further organisational and software woes are catalogued on lovingboth's blog.
But, as Paul Martin of Brisbane commented here yesterday, London is a roaring success compared to Melbourne's Bike new Bike Share Scheme. It has only logged 70 hires per day at a cost of $A5.5m (about £3.1m).
The reason? Victoria's state laws require cyclists to wear a helmet. So, unless you happen to be wearing a helmet already, which is unlikely for those of us who aren't security guards with a suitcase of money shackled to a wrist, you can't hire a bike.
Melbourne's real cyclists demonstrated to draw attention to the problem. They rode bare-headed, and received tickets. (Pictures from the Auckland Cycle Chic blog.)
Mexico City recently scrapped its helmet laws specifically because of the introduction of its own hire scheme, and London's scheme is unhelmeted very deliberately.
(Indeed, some TfL people have hinted to us that some of the forces behind the scheme see it as helping to ensure against compulsory helmet laws in Britain - and note how many people in Bike Hire, Superhighway, and ooh-isn't-London-cycling-nice ads are not wearing lids. Quite a few.)
Now, to me, it's clear that helmets should continue to be legal in the UK. If you want to wear one, that's your choice, and you should be allowed to do so. Just because I don't want to wear them, I don't see why I should foist my opinions on you and make them illegal. Same goes for combovers, or knitted ties, or replica Premiership shirts with 'LAMPARD' on one side and a beer gut on the other. It's a free country.
But compulsion, no. That's not real cycling. My position on helmets? Anywhere except underneath one. Let's hope others learn from Melbourne's headache.
Anyway, today's London docking station pic is Vauxhall, which is hidden excitingly underneath a tunnel. Is this London's most sheltered hire point?
Low ceilings here, though: don't bump your head. Cycling can be ever so dangerous, you know.