Bike helmet laws

According to New Scientist, an Australian academic has determined (using a mathematical model) that the costs of mandatory bike helmet laws may outweigh the benefits. This relies on the notion that fewer people cycle if forced to wear a helmet, and so do not receive the health benefits of cycling. However, there is some debate about the numbers used in the model.

As a cyclist, the helmet requirement has never entered my mind as an inconvenience. It’s just something you do, like putting on a seat belt.

I imagine some people might be put off cycling in the short term, when helmet laws are introduced, because they can’t be bothered to go out and buy a helmet. However, I can’t really imagine that these laws would reduce number of people on bikes in the long run. For anyone considering purchasing a bike once the laws are in place, a helmet is not an onerous requirement. (Bike accessories are often thrown in for free, at least around here.)

Freeway riding

Another Freeway Bike Hike comes and goes. Team Exermacise was down to three people this year, due to a combination of injury, other commitments, and general slacking off.

It’s a nice ride – the fastest 30km (or 10km, or 60km) you’re likely to do on a bike, at least in Perth. However, I’m now sitting at home about to set off on an 18km ride to uni – 18km of at least 75km that I ride in the course of a normal week – and pondering what makes the freeway bike hike stand out*. Possibly it’s just the socialising. The freeway actually makes it easy to socialise while riding – it’s much wider and everyone’s moving in the same direction. It’s much easier to strike up a conversation when you’re side-by-side and you don’t have to worry about pedestrians, cars or oncoming bikes.

Everyone’s favourite health insurer was in on the sponsorship gig, had plastered advertising all along the route. Also along the route could be seen tortured souls, presumably running on pure caffeine, whose official task seemed to consist entirely of clapping at the cyclists. There were a lot of cyclists. One person towards the end simply stood on the road with his arm pointed at the freeway off ramp leading to Joondalup – possibly qualifying as a form of torture.

However, upon passing beneath the hallowed inflatable finishing gate, we were blasted with festive music and numerous people distributing free orange Powerade**. It’s got electrolytes! I stuck to my cache of water, grapes and garlic bread.

** This brought back vaguely nostalgic memories of the exit from the central train station in Naples some years ago, except instead of Powerade I was being offered mobile phones.

* Possibly I should also be getting to uni and doing some actual work rather than just blogging.

The arrogance

I took a good opportunity today to feel smug and superior on my bike. My regular “scenic route” to uni takes me down a bike path right next to the Kwinana Freeway. With a slight headwind and managing 25-27km/h, I was overtaking the peak hour traffic for the whole 6-7km distance.

Normally I can only feel smug and superior for the first kilometre or so, until after a lane merge where the traffic usually picks up. Long may the congestion continue! Hahaaa! That’s me laughing at the misfortune of others. Here, let me do it again: Hahaaa!


“Thief!” yelped Professor Geoff West as I stampeded past him in the stairwell of the New Technologies building armed with a deck chair and a backpack stuffed with household cleaning equipment.

“It’s mine!” I yelped back. Indeed, I had been carrying the chair since I left my new home in Manning half an hour beforehand, riding one-handed on my bike and occasionally no-handed as I signalled my way through the light morning backstreet traffic. Nobody else had commented on the chair up until that point.

“Why do you have a chair?” Geoff asked, shattering this conspiratorial code of silence.

I thought about this for a moment.

“It’s complicated,” I managed.

It wasn’t that complicated, I later admitted to myself. I had a bag full of household cleaning equipment because my previous property manager, wielding the considerable insight one is gifted with in such an occupation, had decided that dusty skirting boards and a box of a few items present in the Rivervale flat from before I moved in constituted sufficient excuse to threaten my bond money, if I didn’t immediately clean it all away. She’d made a good go of being extremely distressed about all this on the phone the day before. I had a deck chair ostensibly so I could clean the light fittings while I was at it, but mostly it was so I could extract a small measure of revenge by stealing the power-saving light bulbs.

After all, they were my bulbs, and I’d replace them with functioning incandescent bulbs from the aforementioned box of what the property manager had, with much distress, termed “rubbish”. There were also several small air fresheners in that box, I realised on the bus, in between wondering whether my chair truly deserved the seat it was effectively occupying. Excellent. I’d steal them too.

My machinations eventually fell apart, however, when a representative of the dark forces of property management arrived to conduct a property condition report before I was even half done machete-ing my way through the skirting board dust. This was the same person who had handed me the keys to the flat, though probably not the one who phoned me up. One can scarcely imagine how the remaining catacombs of dust could have escaped such a report, given the length of time she spent in (I assume) studious analysis of the six otherwise empty rooms. Yet, if they didn’t, theoretically the next tenant would bear no responsibility for removing them.

In any case, I probably wasn’t going to be stealing anything in her presence, and her mind powers somehow erased all motivation I possessed for doing so at all. I even let the smoke detector stay, even though I could quite legitimately have nicked that if nothing else. Oh well, the best laid plans…