The small engine menace and what we can do about it

11 10 2013

This is a cross post with my other blog – Clean Air New Zealand.
The ideas in this post have been kicking around in my brain for a while, but the thing that is spurring me into action is this post at Crikey’s Urbanist Blog by Alan Davies “Can scooters make our cities work better?” That post talks about the Dutch experience of allowing light mopeds onto cycle paths and what Alan is calling Powered 2 Wheelers (P2W), which includes electrically and petrol assisted bikes and scooters.

At their lower speed end P2Ws are e-Bikes, or electrically assisted bicycles, as I’ve been riding for the last 4 years, and these tend to have the same characteristics as bicycles and happily coexist with other cyclists on cycle infrastructure.

At their higher speed end P2Ws are traditional mopeds and motorcycles which belong on the road with the cars and trucks.

And in the middle there is a plethora of products where it is not obvious where they belong. They don’t belong on cycle paths and they don’t belong on roads, as they are too slow to keep up with highway speeds. These include petrol driven motorcycles, petrol driven kick-scooters and petrol driven skateboards, electrically powered scooters (ie moped form, rather than kick-scooters) and electric motorcycles.

Preventing these becoming widespread is important

Preventing these becoming widespread is important

Why they don’t belong on cycle paths and shared paths is three things: speed, noise and fumes. Electric bicycles can go fast, but in NZ where they are limited to 250W there are plenty of normal bicyclists who ride faster than e-bikes. Fast bicycles have skinny tyres and fit, skinny riders. There are no fumes and only a slight motor hum from electric bicycles. The hum is generally so low it is easy to sneak up on ducks and pukekos without scaring them.

Conversely all those petrol-driven P2Ws just don’t belong on cycle and shared paths. The noise is annoying. It is unmuffled and high-pitched and in an environment where the other users are quiet, they piss with everyone else’s tranquility. Plus 2-stroke emissions are absolutely foul-smelling and foul-tasting, but more on that later. And whilst they may be too quick for cycle paths and shared paths with pedestrians they are generally too slow for general road traffic.  Vehicles that go 50 or 60km/hr don’t belong where people are walking and doing 15 or 30km/hr on a bike, and they don’t belong in 80 or 100 km/hr zones either. They need kind of a middle speed infrastructure. Some cities, such as Kuala Lumpur have got special scooter infrastructure where scooter lanes parallel the motorways. But there scooters are much more in use. I think for Australasian conditions building another parallel infrastructure would be be a waste of money and space, considering building the slow speed infrastructure (ie bicycle lanes) is really just in its infancy.

Instead the middle speed P2Ws should be discouraged from sale. The main reason to discourage their use and hence not need infrastructure for them is air quality. Cities that do have large moped, scooter and tuk-tuk use have very bad air quality. They have very bad air quality because of the emissions from 2-stroke engines. In Bangkok I suffered black snot and nose bleeds and after a few days a raspy cough.

I’ve noticed an uptake in 2-stoke scooters in Wellington and Palmerston North, the places where I hang out the most. When I am a pedestrian or cyclist I hate having a 2-stroke motorcycle or moped go past. I hear them, and yes the sound is annoying (very annoying to me, but some people claim to like it, so to each their own) but then I know I am going to be tasting the smoke, and it’s not only smoke, but a suspension of unburnt oil and petrol. The number and amount of carcinogens I’ll be unwillingly ingesting is quite high.

I do find normal motorcycles annoying as well. Trail bikes, because they’re two-strokes, but also the Harley style. With Harleys it is only the great bloody ruckus that comes out of them, but their engines seem to be cleaner (hint they’re not 2 strokes).

When on occasions 2-stroke engines are encountered on cycle paths they are definitely not welcome. I have been known to be belligerent and block the path to mopeds, telling them to “fuck off of the bike path”. There are a number of petrol powered kick scooters, petrol assisted bicycles out there that are getting used on bike paths, and they do not belong.

So that’s my opinion. If it is quiet, clean and slow enough to be on a bike path then good, and if it’s fast enough to be at highway speeds then good, go on the road. If it is in the middle then it’s no good.

Of course the vehicle emissions of highway users need to be regulated to meet air quality goals too. Diesels need to get cleaner, and 2-strokes need to get banned.

There goes the neighborhood

There goes the neighborhood

Why 2-stroke engines should be banned.

2-stroke engines are notoriously filthy. This is taken from How Stuff Works.

  • Two-stroke engines produce a lot of pollution — so much, in fact, that it is likely that you won’t see them around too much longer. The pollution comes from two sources. The first is the combustion of the oil. The oil makes all two-stroke engines smoky to some extent, and a badly worn two-stroke engine can emit huge clouds of oily smoke. The second reason is less obvious: Each time a new charge of air/fuel is loaded into the combustion chamber, part of it leaks out through the exhaust port. That’s why you see a sheen of oil around any two-stroke boat motor. The leaking hydrocarbons from the fresh fuel combined with the leaking oil is a real mess for the environment.

2-strokeSo what is in the emissions of 2-strokes:

  • unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) – about 30% of the fuel/oil mixture comes out of the exhaust unburnt, the petrol itself being a carcinogen, but also the other nasties found in petrol including benzene, which causes leukaemias
  • Carbon Monoxide  (CO)
  • Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), which react with some of the unburnt hydrocarbons forming ozone (O3)

The volume of pollution is surprisingly quite high. Despite getting way better fuel economy than a car or a gas-guzzling SUV, scooters and motorcycles can pollute 90 times as much as a SUV.  (Think MotorCycles and Scooters are Great for the Environment? Wrong! , Motorcycles, scooters big polluters   , Motorcycles and emissions the surprising facts.)

Hypocrisy is a moped rider with a face mask

Hypocrisy is a moped rider with a face mask

What needs banning

To prevent their uptake and thereby protecting urban air quality I think all 2-stroke engines for transport vehicles should be banned. For petrol driven mopeds 4-stroke technology is cleaner. For dirt bikes and trail bikes (which probably should be controlled anyway and limited in sale to people who have the private land to ride them without annoying the neighbours. as illegal motorcycle riding is a problem in many places) again there are 4 stroke engines. For petrol assisted bicycles there are e-bikes. For petrol assisted skateboards and kick-scooters there are electric versions.

What about other uses of 2-strokes.

Many inland waterways regulation ban 2-stroke engines because of pollution concerns in freshwater. 4-stroke engines are a viable alternative.

For garden and power tools, such as lawn mowers then 4-strokes are viable alternatives, although lithium ion technology has grown up and is practical for many uses.

Firstly on lawn mowers. Choice Australia will no longer recommend 2-stroke lawnmowers because of the pollution and says “A four-stroke motor typically emits half the carbon monoxide and one-tenth the hydrocarbons that a two-stroke produces.” There is no need to sell 2-stroke lawn mowers at all.

Personally I maintain over an acre of gardens and have been progressively spending my pocket money on a certain brand of 18V Lithium Ion power tools. Ryobi, Makita, Bosch and Hitachi are some brands that have such systems of interchangeable batteries and tools.

Depending on the system there are 18V and 36V batteries of sizes generally in the 1.5 to 4 Amp hour range, and then there are power tools and gardening tools available. Makita does make a small bicycle that can use its batteries, but that is an exception. E-bike batteries tend to need to be a bit gruntier than these kinds of batteries.

I’ve been replacing some of my wood working tools and some of my garden tools with one of the systems. I had a petrol Line Trimmer/Whipper Snipper which was noisy and smelly and I have replaced it with an 18V line trimmer. It is so much quieter, not smelly, and also lighter to use. My wife couldn’t use the petrol one, and I couldn’t use it for too long without feeling tired, but the electric one is light and easy. I also replaced my hedge trimmer (ok I cut through the cord), and got  a reciprocating saw which is great for pruning, and for me has replaced a chainsaw. I also got a blower vac. I gave away another battery blower which had a lead acid battery which was heavy and had a 10 minute battery life. The new one with lithium ion batteries goes for half an hour. I find with 3 batteries I can have a session in the garden swapping them between the tools and recharging them as needed and I never have run out of battery power. The batteries charge in less than 90 minutes.

blowerkit

There are some tools I’ll never use outside my workshop, such as a mitre saw, so there are some tools where it still makes sense to buy with an electric cord, but I think of all the tools I have used in the garden there is nothing I would ever buy a petrol model of again (and certainly not a two-stroke). There is a chainsaw that Ryobi sells in Australia for it’s 18V ONE+ batteries, but it isn’t sold in New Zealand (slightly different safety laws I think). I do wish that the battery design was standardised between the manufacturers to give more choice amongst the tools. (Imagine how annoying it’d be if there weren’t standard AAA, AA, C, D and 9V battery sizes). I also do wish that there was a household vacuum cleaner that used the batteries as I could vacuum the whole house on one charge easily, and it’d get rid of the hassle of the cord.

Of all the power garden tools only perhaps chainsaws and lawnmowers still might be a legitimate use of a petrol engine. Then for light chainsawing battery chainsaws will be ok. (and if you want to whinge about cutting up the firewood, wood burners should be banned due to pollution concerns anyway). Chainsaws might be the one legitimate use of a 2-stroke engine, as they need to be wielded at many different angles, which 4-strokes aren’t really designed to do. Blower vacs (or lazy man’s brooms) definitely should be things other than 2-strokes. As I said my Li-Ion one works brilliantly.

Lawn-mowers as I have said above need not be 2-strokes, and going on my experience of the rest of my Li-Ion battery tools, when my 4-stroke one finally gives up (or I get sick of the noise and the fumes, 4-strokes pollute as well) then I am going to look at replacing it with a Li-Ion battery one. Then my 1 acre garden is going to have zero petrol inputs at all.

Apart from some very small niche markets, it is very feasible and very desirable to prohibit the sale (and soon after the use) of 2-stroke engines entirely. Prevention is the best cure, and good policy would be to make sure there isn’t a break out of 2-stroke engine sales that will reduce urban air quality and ruin cycle path amenity for the rest of us who don’t make such bad decisions.





Government needs to step up to the plate on cycle infrastructure funding

13 02 2013

Recent news stories, these last few days, in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch all show that there is a significant push in each city to improve cycle infrastructure.

In Wellington and Christchurch this will be from rates and in Auckland, embarassingly, but fitting the sad ideological zeitgeist, it will be a private public partnership funded by tolls. Cars will be able to drive over the Harbour Bridge for nothing, but cyclists and pedestrians will be paying tolls. Imagine stinging tourists $5.00 for the pleasure of walking over the bridge and back. They’ll be telling their friends when they get home that New Zealand ripped them off.

The reality is that at the moment government funding for cycle infrastructure is miniscule. The summary of the NZTA’s National Land Transport Planning for 2012-2015 doesn’t even mention bicycles. It is budgeted to have $53m of funding for the years from 2012-2015 for all footpaths and cycle funding. That is less than $18m a year, or about $4 per person per year. That $53m out of a total budgeted $4,449m budgeted on roads. That is 1% of funding going to active transport, ie walking and cycling. Currently more than 1% or people get around on foot and by bicycle

There are about 1.27 million cyclists in NZ – about 31% of the population (by comparison, there are about 3 million people with car licences). There are about 750,000 regular cyclists (cycling at least once a month) in NZ – about 18% of the population. About 144,000 or 3.5% cycle nearly every day. Yet these people get less than 1.2% of the road transport funding.

There’s no other way to interpret it, but presently cyclists and pedestrians are being ripped off by the government.

Government needs to step up to the plate on cycle infrastructure funding. Cities all over the country are crying out for more funding. They are resorting to raising rates, or unbelievably, tolls.  Extra funding needs to be forthcoming.

Investments in cycle infrastructure typically have benefit to cost ratios much greater than road projects. Improving urban transport infrastructure improves cities. It reduces congestion on the roads, and enables people to get around by public transport. Cycling and walking improve air quality by taking cars off the road. It fights the obesity epidemic. This should be a no-brainer. Cycle infrastructure is a common good, benefiting everyone, even the people who don’t use it.

The amount of money available from the NLTF for local councils to implement cycle projects should be increased, even up to an amount of $50m or $100m a year. Cities and towns should still match the funding, maybe not at 50%, but at 20%. Each city should be able to plan and build their networks without fear that it won’t be funded.

Of course the projects should still stack up, but not to the NZTA’s extremely narrow conditions that seem to only want cycle infrastructure if it decongests a highway. Cycle infrastucture projects should be done for their own sake, e.g. for extending the network of safe cycle ways into a useful grid, or for adding extra cycle parking in strategic spots or for other valid reasons.

The demand is there, the pent up demand, waiting for safe cycle infrastructure, is there and the induced demand from people who don’t yet know that they will want to cycle is there too.

A thousand people cycled into Wellington City for a free breakfast this morning for Bike to Work day. They got free bananas and bagels. They didn’t get their fare share of road transport funding.





On Yer Bike New Zealand

26 01 2013

As I get older one of life’s disappointments is how society and governments continually fail us in many different ways. It is especially galling when there is a body of knowledge about how to do things right, cheaply, and sustainably, and yet that body of knowledge keeps on getting ignored and ignored.

Yep, I am talking about the lack of cycling infrastructure in New Zealand.

There is currently an all party parliamentary inquiry in the UK that is addressing what it can do to lift cycling rates in Britain. The Guardian’s coverage of what should be said and what was said at the inquiry make for interesting reading. The report comes out in April, but we can see what it is likely to say.

I’ll write a big sentence here : What is needed is government support from all parties recognising that cycling is a legitimate form of transport and showing long-term and committed leadership at the very highest level to strategic, non-partisan planning as seen on other major transport infrastructure projects where the commitment that is needed should be like that made in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands several decades ago.

I’ll translate – What is needed is separated, safe cycle infrastructure. A whole parallel network of safe bike paths that are simply not lines painted on roads.

What works for the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, would work for the UK and it would work for New Zealand too.

Every politician in New Zealand should understand what a commitment to cycling as transport means, and they and their parties should make that commitment. We should have a target, say 40% of all journeys made by biking or walking by 2020.

Now let’s see what all this means. That body of knowledge of what constitutes good bicycle infrastructure is available on the internet. Start here, and go here. Of course there is more than just those two sites, but start there. The current synthesis of knowledge based on the northern European experience is what I call Bicycle 2.0. New Zealand needs to embrace Bicycle 2.0.

Here is a quick distillation of what cyclists want:

Separated cycle paths – Cyclists shouldn’t get just a painted line, which offers very little space and very little protection from passing vehicles, and as roads are signposted faster than 30 km/hr  this rule has to hold more and more. On busy roads separated cycle paths are just safer. Separate them with nature strips, or kerbs or with planters. Yes there are a faction of cyclists (who I point out have not yet been killed on their bikes) who want to mix it up with traffic and hate using cycle paths, but they are generally young, fit and male. With that kind of attitude children, women, the old and the less confident are excluded and cycling rates are never going to be more than a few percent. Separated cycle paths mean less noise, less pollution, and less chance to get hit by a car, a truck or a bus. If the only room to make a separated cycle path means that on-street parking has to be restricted then that is what should be done. Parked cars are often a waste of space, and it is of more economic value to have that space used for quality cycle infrastructure. Separated cycle paths mean that at intersections extra signalling for the cycle paths if required should be provided. Underpasses and overpasses as used in the Netherlands should also be considered.

VancouverinAutumn

A coherent network without gaps – One look at a map of the cycling paths in Auckland or Wellington will show that there is no linked up system of paths. There is no point providing quality safe paths for 90% of a cyclists journey if for the other 10% of the journey they have to share the road with trucks and cars going 80km/hr just over their shoulders as that is going to put most people off. The network needs to be extensive, coherent, well signposted and well mapped on paper, and nowadays electronically. The network shouldn’t have gaps. It doesn’t have to parallel the road network entirely, and it can go into places the road network just doesn’t go, like parks and along the seafront. For particularly horrible sections of road then a parallel route on side streets if it doesn’t affect directness could be used.

An extensive network  – Every possible journey should be possible only using safe infrastructure, which means a density of routes roughly equivalent to the arterial road network.

Use direct routes – There are places where recreational routes go where it isn’t the most direct route, such as along the coast, but urban routes should be reasonably direct like the road network is.

On backstreets slow the traffic down – on backstreets where it is necessary to share the road with local traffic make the maximum speed limit 30 km/hr. It makes the places safer for everybody; kids playing, the elderly on their mobility scooters, pedestrians and cyclists.

Don’t have to share bus lanes – Cyclists shouldn’t be forced into bus lanes, as bus lanes are for buses and buses are bigger than bikes and generally squash them.

More than a minimum width – Minimum widths need to be worked out.  For unidirectional paths it needs to be the width for 2 riders to ride abreast (because cycling can be a social activity), with room for a 3rd one to pass. This also allows for tricycles, wheelchairs, and velomobiles. Bidirectional paths need only be a little wider than that.

Minimum giveways  – When a private driveway has to cross a cycle path the pedestrians and cycle path on that path should get priority. i.e. cars have to stop for all traffic when crossing a cycle path. It is important to keep up the momentum of cyclists as much as possible and they have to be able to assume and get priority. When a cycle path has to cross a side street then having a marked cycle path on the road where the side road traffic then has to stop for cyclists is a great idea. Like this one on the Pioneer Highway in Palmerston North.

palmerston-north-bike-ride-8

No bollards, or gates – Not only does this slow cyclists down, but an old man on a ped-elec tricycle, or a kid in a wheelchair has every right to use the bike path, but if there is some artificial choke point designed to keep motorbikes or cars off a bike path then it excludes legitimate users. Noise activated cameras, and active policing, can be used to catch illegal motorcycles and 2-stroke scooters (and then their machines should be turned into artificial reefs). A particular bugbear of mine is having to lift my bike over a gate.

No door zones. Cyclists should never be put in door zones, where an opening driver or passenger car door is opened in front of a bike. Door zones are fatalities waiting to happen.

Quality Surface – Skinny tyres are a legitimate choice. It’s all very well being chic and riding sit-ups and being stylish on balloon tyres, or riding a fat-tyred mountain bike, but road bikes, even with those awful drop handlebars, are also legitimate. Skinny tyres need good surfaces, and a good surface helps fat tyres too. Both types of tyres go faster on an asphalted surface, and skinny tyres just go faster. Loose gravel, or fine gravel may be ok on a recreational route, but for a piece of transport infrastructure the surfaces needs to be asphalt or concrete. I’ve had arguments before about a potential route through Queen Elizabeth Park in Kapiti or what passes for a cycle path on the side of the Waikanae River. Upgrade them to a standard road bikes can ride them, then it is a cycle path.

Swept of debris – One chief complaint, used by cyclists still on the road when there is a parallel bike lane or path they are not using is that it is full of debris. This is really true for the cycle path south of Petone on the SH2. Debris, glass and puddles make paths less desirable to use. Roads get swept. Footpaths in the CBDs get swept. Cycle paths should get swept. Every council should have one or more small, ride-on, electric powered street sweepers that can sweep the width of a bike path. Please no diesel powered ones, as diesel fumes irritate the lungs, especially when you’re riding hard and breathing deeply.

Bikes integrated into public transport with parking facilities – Everything possible to make it possible to mix public transport and bikes should be done. We need extensive secure parking for bikes at train stations, and at some bus stops that doesn’t require prebooking. It doesn’t have to be free (and neither does the car-parking) but it should be easy to use and widely available.

Bikes integrated into public transport by having provisions for carrying bikes –The average bike is 1.8 metres long, and Wellington’s Matangi carriages have an internal width of 2.53 metres, yet presently a Matangi train can carry a maximum of 3 bikes and then only not in peak hour. Every train should have one carriage which is for bikes, including in peak hour, and it should be able to take 20 or 30 bikes and their riders. It really is too far to ride from Waikanae Beach to Newtown, but it should be possible to do it by train and bike.  Of all transport projects the one that consistently has the most return on investment is bike carriers on buses. All buses should have bike racks for 2 or preferably 3 bikes. Where trams are built they should do what they do in Stuttgart and have bike trailers.

light-rail-bike-platform

Clean air is best to cycle in – Having bad air to breathe when exercising is a huge turnoff. It’s not only vehicular traffic which pollutes, but a bigger problem is woodsmoke.  Wood smoke is toxic. We need to take what the scientists are saying about woodsmoke seriously and ban the bloody stuff.  Could you ride in the shit that passes for air in midwinter in Masterton?

masterton

Don’t forget other forms of human powered transport – skateboards, kick scooters, roller blades, roller skates are all great ways to get around and should consider the safe cycle network their own. Wheelchair users, whether human powered or battery assisted, hand cranked cycles, recumbent bikes, and trikes and velomobiles are also welcome to use the system. For disabled people a safe separated system could be liberating for them to get around town, especially if they have trouble getting on buses and trains.

Reject all internal combustion engines – the noise and pollution from petrol and diesel engines, and especially 2-strokes is something that as a cyclist should never have to put up with. Petrol-assisted bikes and scooters should be banned. Mopeds should not be allowed on any part of the cycle network. Those stupid things belong on the road.

Don’t forget e-bikes – e-bikes are a great way to get more people riding. People like them because they are old, unfit, injured or it makes their journey quicker or more enjoyable. They’re not necessarily quicker than a normal bike (if you want quick, get thin tyres or a recumbent). I like mine, and I am only a little old and a little unfit. They use as much energy to make them the equivalent to 1000 mpg.

Don’t forget the elderly – Old people, who have trouble lifting their legs can get a bike with a step through frame, and some electric assist and keep on riding long after they thought they would have to give it up. There should be pilot projects to get people in retirement homes onto electric assist step through bikes and tricycles to give them mobility to go shopping and get about town, and they can ride safely long after they have to give up driving. Of course they need safe places to ride, but that is what all the points I’ve been making are all about. Being active old people are going to live longer and have improved lives.

Don’t forget the school children – One of the great failings of modern New Zealand is that kids don’t ride their bikes to school anymore, and with the traffic on the roads estimated to be 30% school runs really this is one area where we have to go back to like it was in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Firstly build the safe routes for them to get to school. Then, do as they do in Japan, and ban parking and dropping of the kids near school entrances. There are too many fatty boombahs in New Zealand and we need to get them on bikes. Most kids these days can’t even ride bikes. It is a generation of little scooter riders. They need to get on their bikes, and get riding, or it will be a lost generation.

Don’t forget the smaller cities and towns – it isn’t just Auckland and Wellington and Christchurch this applies to. It applies to everywhere, and it isn’t just in town either, but between towns too. There should be routes as safe as between Motueka and Nelson as what there should be between Pt Chevalier and Ponsonby. This is the great, as yet unfulfilled, promise of the National Cycleway. The National Cycleway should embrace cycling as transport, and not just think of it as recreational riding.

Cycling and walking attract trivial amounts of funding for infrastructure improvements and what little money there is is usually scraped from the bottom of the local council’s rates barrel. There is very little central government support for the active transport modes, which is quite surprising because compared to roads, or even public transport funding, it costs so little and has positive economic dividends well above what is spent.

If more people cycled there would be less air pollution, less noise pollution, less obesity, less traffic congestion and less fuel to import. If the central government does not understand this, and does not actively encourage investment into cycling infrastructure it is failing the people of New Zealand. You might get some dumb arguments about there being no demand for it. They are wrong. There is huge pent up demand for it. Have a look at the Wellington waterfront on a sunny evening where cyclists are free to ride. In an hour hundreds and hundreds of cyclists, and dozens of skateboarders, and now a few kick scooters will pass you. And there are those kinds of numbers with connections to the north and south being largely crap.

Local government should be given money by central government to build local infrastructure. It should initially be hundreds of millions of dollars to kickstart the network into coherence, and then settle down to sustainable levels of funding. The money should be diverted away from the costly and egomaniacal RoNS projecst. It doesn’t matter if the money originally came from fuel taxes or whatever. Transport money should be spent on all transport projects that stack up. There are better ways to cure congestion than building and widening motorways. The best way to cure congestion is to cut down on the number of cars, and the best way to do that is to build a safe cycle network.

These glamour cycle projects should be amongst the first to get funded:

  • The Great Harbour Way from Wellington to the Hutt (and Adelaide Road)
  • The Auckland Harbour Bridge (Stuff the tolls up a motorist’s arse too. It should be free to cyclists. Toll the bridge for motorists instead.)
  • The Caversham Tunnels and the rest of the Port Chalmers to Mosgiel route in Dunedin.
  • And be an integral part of the Christchurch rebuild.

On yer bike New Zealand.





Transport Policy Fail

13 12 2010

I found the photo below on the net just under a story about Dublin’s successful bike scheme. Dublin’s and Melbourne’s schemes presently have a similar number of bikes over a roughly equally sized territory and Dublin is renting out its bikes 12 times as much each day as Melbourne is. Dublin is going to increase their scheme ten-fold. The comments on this post of mine contemplated the reason Melbourne’s scheme is a bit of a dud.

This is the response of the Victorian powers that be, to the failure of the scheme. Really. Not looking back on the relative success or failure of mandatory helmet laws and reassessing whether they actually have worked or not (they haven’t), but by making a helmet tardis. I suppose going by the roof this is Southern Cross Station.

I recommend Mike Rubbo’s latest film about the Mayor of Fremantle. There’s hope yet.

I really didn’t need a bike helmet to ride along the safe riverside paths of Brisbane either.

It’s really frustrating living in Australia and New Zealand with its engrained safety nanny attitudes that seem unshakeable. Ready to provide us with more freeways and tunnels than we ever will need, feeding us shit to keep us stupid and treating us like the morons that we all undoubtedly are. It’s official everyone each side of the Tasman wearing a tie, or a bike helmet is a dick. I blame this lot, this lot and especially this lot.





This man is an utter fool

23 11 2010

I’ll let Eric Thompson, Motorsport reporter, of the NZ Herald talk for himself as he says bikes shouldn’t be on roads.

What an utter fool. I hereby call for Eric Thompson’s drivers license be suspended until he actually understands what the rights and responsibilities of being a motorist actually are.

Oh yeah he’s so smart and clever, and has all the answers. Look see:

“In that case, I would like to suggest a couple of other solutions:

* All pushbikes must be fitted with rear-vision mirrors – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law;

* All pushbikes must be fitted with indicators, or a similar device – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law;

* They can only ride single-file on a single-lane road unless overtaking – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law;

* Be fitted with headlights that must be on at all times – as other two-wheeled vehicles on the road are required by law;

* All bike riders must pass a road-licence test – as are all other people who venture on to public roads;

* All pushbikes must be registered and pay a road tax – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law (don’t whinge, motorcyclists have to pay for their car and their motorbike).”

Really. I myself would have thought that slowing cars down, and getting rid of drunk drivers, and making it illegal to pass a cyclist within 1.5 metres would be a better way to go about it. Really registration? Where has that old pearler ever worked? It is the Godwin’s law of road transport. What the hell is the Herald doing hiring a monkey like Eric? No wonder it’s not worth buying newspapers anymore.

Why do we spend billions of dollars on roads and motorways to facilitate the movement of idiots like Eric, and we spend peanuts on improving bicycle infrastructure in and between towns?

I also call for the end of motorsport, and Eric could then report on something more exciting like some paint drying somewhere.





Mandatory bike helmet laws are daft

16 08 2010

On the Australian ABC it is reported that Associate Professor Chris Rissel, from Sydney University’s School of Public Health, has said that mandatory helmet laws should be revoked. Read the story.

“What it does is it puts people off cycling and makes people think that cycling’s a dangerous activity, even though it’s a really healthy thing to do and it increases people’s physical activity,” he said.

The amazing thing about the helmet laws is how passionately views are held by some people, always ready to trot out an anecdote in a comments section of a blog or news story, and to hold that anecdote up against all the data that says that mandatory helmet laws are counterproductive. If proof by anecdote was any proof at all we’d all be visiting the homeopath on the way to our blood-lettings and exorcisms.

There are also passionate people for the abolition of mandatory helmet wearing.  Sue Abbott is one passionate lady who knows all about it. I think she is great.

I recommend this link about bike helmets in Western Australia too. And for New Zealand.

Mandatory bike helmet laws are bad policy and seem to be the preserve of certain English speaking countries. The Europeans and the Japanese must think we are stupid for having them. They’d be right.

What can we do to get over this imposition against our liberties, and see sound science based policy? We’re facing a federal election in Australia (although check out the NZ Greens Cycling Policy and see they aren’t 100% aligned with best practice) and local elections soon in NZ. We need to vote for cyclists (well apart from Tony Abbott), and cycling friendly candidates. Do you know what your candidates views are on cycling policy? Ask them.

NZ Green Party Cycling spokesperson Kevin Hague, with an unnecessary helmet. Pinched from the Greens Website





Civil disobedience in Melbourne for the greater good

20 07 2010

Update : It made the local ABC. Cyclists fined during anti-helmet protest. Heroes the lot of them.

Serial film (or is that trouble 🙂 ) maker Mike Rubbo has organised a small protest in Melbourne for this Saturday. His stated aim is to try to help the new Melbourne bike share scheme succeed. His argument is that Australia’s silly compulsory helmet laws are going to get in the way of the scheme’s success. Mexico City repealed their helmet laws and Tel Aviv is about to do the same, so so should Melbourne. He and a few fellow riders are going to be brave and ride those hire bikes without wearing helmets, and by doing so, stand up to the draconian laws and the Victorian Police thereby risking non-trivial fines. (A$165 or so I think)

If you’re in Melbourne this Saturday the 24th of July, even if you’re in V-line distance, get along to Carlton and join in.

I really want the Melbourne and Brisbane bikeshare schemes to succeed, and to grow and expand, to return a bit of civility to those car-choked cities. And I want them to drop the mandatory bike helmet laws in Australia and in New Zealand. I’m not one for believing bikeshare schemes need to be funded by advertising, and I’m a bit suspicious of the RACV’s involvement in the Melbourne one. I think a good scheme with good sturdy bikes can be self funded by the cyclists themselves. Especially when dumb laws aren’t put in the way of their success.

Wellington badly needs a bikeshare scheme as well. The train still stops short of wherever you need to go in Wellington.

To Mike and all his friends – I hope the weather is good and I hope you get more media than police attention.