Monday, 23 March 2015

Why is Julian Always Falling off his Bike? #putalidonit

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against people buying cycling helmets if they want. It's a free world. And I like it that way. If other people want to buy, wear or sell helmets that's absolutely fine.

But I'm finding something sinister about a bunch called "Put a Lid on It", who are crowdsourcing funds so Boris Bikers can buy cheap helmets. It's something about the way they use images like this:

"What is wrong with this picture?" It's obvious, isn't it? Wearing your glasses on your head is so 1980s. And if you stopped suddenly, and they slipped down onto your nose, and they were reading glasses, things would look blurry. And those Ugg boots must be murder for pedalling in. And then there's the way the text runs into the handlebars so you can't read it.

I'm being silly of course. The real thing that is wrong with that picture is that there is no decent infrastructure protecting that woman from that bus. If it unexpectedly veered into her and crushed her, a helmet would be as much use to her as those glasses. Why is she not being protected from the bus?

Then there's this.

"92% of Boris Bikers DO NOT wear helmets, that's crazy!"

Now here it's easier to see what is wrong. Using the word "crazy". It's a word that is used to attribute mental illness to people. And in the case of Boris Bikers, whether or not they wear helmets is not a matter of sanity. It's a matter of balancing the benefits of using a bike on the roads of London against the slight risk of accident, and the marginal mitigating effects of a helmet. It's complex stuff, is calculating risk. It doesn't involve slurs on anyone's sanity, including those people who actually have mental illness.

It's "fewer". 

But the main thing that worries me about this campaign is Julian. Julian appears to be part of the "team", and Julian has his own page dedicated to his habit of getting injuries.  Julian, it appears, is always falling off his bike. He's repeatedly been Smidsy'ed. He's flown over the bonnets of a Land Rover. He's crashed into cones and "Road closed" signs.

Three things I'll say about Julian. First is, he's a believer in magic:
"From that moment onwards I have never ridden without a helmet. I never had another accident riding in Belfast."
That's right. Julian puts having no accidents in Belfast down to wearing a helmet. I bet he has lucky underpants as well.

Secondly, it strikes me that, for a man who commutes in London, he's always going too damn fast.

Thirdly, read this:
"I was head down feeling really good and riding between 40-45kph along Embankment. I hadn’t realised there was a slight narrowing of the road layout due to a pothole." 
That's right. We're being advised on safety by a man who, by his own admission, does 30 mph through London without looking where he is going. Maybe wearing his magic helmet that stops him having accidents in Belfast also made him think he had super-vision? Julian does say, however,
"these hard lessons have served to make me hyper-vigilant and aware when riding"
I'm guessing it must have been the last one that served to make him hyper-vigilant? The one where he wasn't looking and rode into a road sign?

As I say, if you want to buy a helmet, that's up to you. If you want to try and sell other people helmets, good for you. But if you want to have safer roads - for cyclists and pedestrians -  that's a matter of engineering, infrastructure, reducing motor traffic (which Boris Bikes do), the Police actually prosecuting drivers who kill people, and juries returning verdicts that don't defy all logic.

And if you see Julian cycling through London, for your own sake and his steer clear. If you're very lucky, he may be looking where he's going. But I wouldn't bet on it.


  1. That is some pace of cycling - Julian sounds like a class 1 idiot on a bike, very much the head-down bum-up types who plough through red lights and hit pedestrians making their way across London's streets clogged with motor vehicles doing 8-15 mph (sorry 13-24 Kph) - no surprise really that Julian keeps bashing into things.

    Maybe we should have a counter campaign to drive out idiots cycling as manically as Jeremy Clarkson dreams of driving (or perhaps secretly does if he can get away with it) on the roads used by normal people wearing normal clothing, and driving cars or riding bikes in the same clothes they would wear walking down the street.

    One might ask who is backing this campaign - its almost as questionable as the efforts of James Cracknell who received head injuries despite wearing a helmet, but from the more complete reports, this was the result of his decision to continue riding without his 'protection' vehicle providing the 'shadow' that forced a vehicle coming up behind to pull over to the left, and with a focus riding forwards - and thus reduced attention to the vehicles coming up behind - we have no data on whether he was listening to any motivational music or other detail on limitations placed on the 2 key safety systems with around 2.3bn years of testing and improvement which are normally available to every cyclist - free.

    Just as with cars, the dark glasses, hearing impairments etc commonly seen on 'allthegearnoidea' riders make then far more likely to crash than the alert but unrushed riders using London's cycle hire scheme.

  2. As both a cyclist and a driver, I am frequently irritated to see cyclists behaving badly - either risking themselves or other road users or just making a nuisance of themselves. It brings considerate cyclists like myself into disprepute and has the potential for making drivers less sympathetic next time I'm on two wheels.

    My personal experience has been that, on average, drivers behave better towards cyclists now than they did, say, twenty years ago. We cyclists ought to show equal respect towards drivers and pedestrians.

    I do wear a helmet and it probably saved me from serious injury on hte one occasion wen I came off my bike in the street. I clipped the curb (through glancing down when something caught in one of my pedals) on a bend and went helmet-first into the bay window of one of the houses. I was uninjured and the only damage was a slight twisting of my spectacle frames. But I'm not keen on compulsory helment-wearing because it's so easy to forget occasionally and I remember the time my helmet was stolen from my panniers and think about he long walk home I would have had if it had been illegal to ride without it.

    My journey to work includes a long stretch of off-road cycleway, which is shared with pedestrians. I would ike to put in a plea for dog-walkers to remember that both dog and cyclist is endangered if it is allowed to dash across in front of the wheels and that those long extensible leads are invisible to approaching cyclists (especially when it is dusk) so shoudl not be allowed to stretch across the path like a trip wire.

    1. Thank you Judy. In the immortal words of my friend Robert, "I saw a Scotty dog on one side of the cycle path, and a small child on the other. I made the connection too late."

      Broken collar bone. If only he had been wearing a helmet.

  3. Lots of cyclists in Amsterdam. Most of them wear normal clothes (ie not lycra) and no helmet

  4. I've always thought that Cyclists were a moving target. When I was in the Army, we always had one or two cycling across the ranges close to the target area that we could practice on.

    But they all must have been named Julian, because we never managed to shoot one, but we certainly met them head on at a cycle crossover, where they were supposed to stop and look and our tank went straight on as it had the right of way.

    Nothing like a cycle jam sandwich to spoil your pub lunch.


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