Time travelling in Yorkshire – biking back to 1998

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The working part of my short trip to the UK this week has been based around the East Yorkshire town of Beverley where a European Project has been holding meetings and workshops. The work part has been great, lots of … Continue reading

#WorldBicycleDay – celebrating cycling through my years

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Celebrating World Bicycle Day Destination: the Butte de Lion, memorial on the site of the Battle of Waterloo – 1815 Connection? Invention of the bicycle – just 2 years later – 1817 Ensemble: Shorts of the Cyclists’ Touring Club – … Continue reading

A trip down memory lane: The start of a special journey – Riding the Baltic Sea Cycle Route in Lithuania

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Recently my colleagues who manage the wonderful international EuroVelo cycle route network asked us all in the ECF office if we had some EuroVelo memories or trips we could share as part of an occasional series on their web site. … Continue reading

A president said it and 19 Ministers agreed “nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride”

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This gallery contains 8 photos.

Those of my readers who also follow cycling politics in Europe should know by now that this was a huge week for the organisation I work for. On Wednesday we were in Luxembourg for the first ever EU Cycling Summit, … Continue reading

British Tour de France winner? Time to wear the yellow again!

When Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France in 2012 I rode round the UK countryside like I had won the race myself. And it inspired one of my personal favourite posts on idonotdespair.com “On Sunday I shall wear yellow”.

Kevin mayne

It is one of favourites because I had so much fun writing it and I was on a euphoric high of fandom. Back in the summer of 2012 not so many people read my blog, but it did get a link in the weekly CTC newsletter so it was probably my record number of views at the time, therefore I was even more chuffed. And any excuse to listen to the wonderful Jenny Joseph poem I plagiarised is a good one.

I may even have gone a bit over the top around the same time when I took on the mad Norwegian football commentator challenge.

Then in 2013 Chris Froome became the second British winner so I could don the yellow again, this time to ride out with my new Belgian cycling club which caused some smiles.

It is almost inconceivable that since 2012 there have been 3 British winners of the tour after 100 years of occasional flurries and few stage wins.

So on Sunday I feel I have no choice – it is out with the faded CTC yellow top again to celebrate Froome’s victory. A bit smug perhaps in the land of Eddie Merckx, the poor old Belgians haven’t had too much joy in the tour of late although Greg van Avermaet and Serge Pauwels gave them some good moments and the Belgian teams Lotto and Etixx have won a lot of stages.

But Sunday will be our day. On Sunday I shall wear yellow. Now I wonder if Cavendish can do something special on the Champs?

“Roads were not built for cars” – Book review. Essential reading for cycle campaigners and a chance to unravel some myths and legends

I have written this review in two parts. The first is what you might call the “official review” which I have given to the ECF web site for our cycle campaigning community. It should appear on ECF.com shortly. But reading it I discovered some interesting content relating to my past role at CTC, the UK cyclists’ charity which prompted me to add some additional reflections which I have added here in my personal blog.

The “official review”

Anyone wanting a comprehensive review of how our roads entered what we might call the “modern era” should look no further than this highly enjoyable read from British cycling journalist Carlton Reid. He has taken an investigation of the role cycling played in road modernisation in the late 19th and early 20th century and extended it to cover the origins of road construction, the engineering of cars and how this period of change was influenced by politics, business and social class.

This is also very much a book for campaigners. It is the most thorough examination I have read of how the battles for influence were fought by cyclists and motorists across the Victorian and Edwardian period, particularly in the UK and the USA. From a modern perspective we might assume that these were battles between driving and cycling lobbies but the book is fastidious in showing that for much of this period these were often the same people fighting to improve the roads for both modes of travel.

But Carlton is happy to call himself a revisionist. He does have a clear mission in this story. This book wants to reclaim a piece of history on behalf of cycling, correcting the way that the motoring lobby subsequently grabbed the road space and made it a “space for cars”, especially Henry Ford’s later claim that it was the motorists that created modern roads. This makes the book essential reading for modern campaigners who are challenging some of the attitudes and values from that period almost 100 years later. For many ECF members and supporters we can trace our roots back to those early campaigners in the Cyclists’ Touring Club (today’s CTC) and the League of American Wheelmen.

The great pleasure of the book is that the reader can almost sense Carlton digging away in libraries and on line and uncovering gems that he just had to share. The role of cycling in the design and manufacture of early cars. The business tactics of the early cycling and motoring companies. He is particularly good at discussing the personalities of the period and their influences from pioneer roads campaigners like Rees Jeffreys to businessman Henry Lawson. There is a whole chapter on ten of the key names where one can sense the journalist in Carlton almost interviewing them to find out their cycling origins and how it influenced their careers.

This book must be regarded as essential reading for anyone with an interest in cycling advocacy even if it is mainly focussed on the UK and the USA.  Perhaps it leaves the door open for new chapters from contributors in other countries to add their story in later editions.

To buy an electronic copy of “Roads Were Not Built for Cars” go to the book’s website.

Some extra personal thoughts

A few weeks ago I reflected on this people who came before me in my role as Chief Executive of CTC, the UK’s cyclists’ charity. On that occasion I was considering how I would have reacted if I was at the Club during the First World War when cyclists were being encouraged to join the Cyclists’ Regiments.

A few days later I read Carlton’s book which triggered other thoughts about how CTC’s leaders reacted at various times in the history of cycling, and how we see them with the benefit of hindsight. The Club was a key player for most of the period of the book and its Council members and staff populated many of the campaigns and activities, something that still makes me enormously proud.

This meant I paid special attention to the CTC figures in the book, especially two who filled the same post as me, Secretary, the position which became Director and then Chief Executive. When people want to critique anything CTC is doing their names are dragged out as examples of what the current generation might be doing wrong. What was really interesting to me was how Carlton’s neutral eye balanced some of the myths we have built up around these two inside and outside CTC.

Ernest Shipton was Secretary from 1883 to 1907. As “Roads Were Not Built for Cars” points out it was very common for our leaders of that period to be as passionate about cycling as motoring and Shipton was no exception. He was a founder of the Automobile Club, later to become the Royal Automobile Club.

He is largely remembered by cyclists as the man who engineered a vote at the 1906 CTC AGM to allow the Club to admit motorists. This decision was overturned at the high court despite Shipton’s evidence that cars had made cycling no longer attractive and the Club needed to change. Within months of the court decision he had left his post and his 24 year career is only remembered in one line – the man who tried to turn CTC into a motoring organisation.

In the other camp during that debate was George Herbert Stancer.  He was already an influential figure as editor of Cycling, one of the biggest magazines of the time (and still around today as Cycling Weekly). Several years later he became Secretary of CTC, taking on a position he would hold for over 30 years, then continuing as President until 1964. To many in the Club (including me) GHS is the man who probably did more than anyone else to reform cycle campaigning as a defence against the encroachment and danger of cars. His predecessors fought for road improvement as equals, but by Stancer’s time as Secretary motorists dominated the politics of transport.

George Herbert Stancer GHSThe classic Stancer photo is an elderly GHS on his beloved tricycle, but the younger Stancer was altogether something more formidable. He is almost our Churchill, fighting back with his speeches, thunderous editorials and fierce letter writing. And like Churchill such strong opinions made him a divisive figure.

I have been told numerous times by people outside CTC that the Club in the 1930s sold UK cycling down the proverbial river, in particular by its opposition to cycle paths. Within days of becoming CTC CEO in 1998 I was told by one of the most influential figures in UK cycling that if it wasn’t for Stancer and his colleagues the UK today would have a network of cycle lanes as good as any in the Netherlands. “CTC has a lot to answer for” I was told.

“Roads Were Not Meant for Cars” does a lot to balance those myths and legends about Shipton and Stancer.

Shipton may be damaged goods inside CTC but the book makes it clear that his views were mainstream at the time, nearly all the leading motoring figures had cycling roots and this golden period of “Road Improvement” they represented both modes on committees and campaigning bodies. CTC members voting 5:1 in favour of admitting motorists suggests he was in touch with the feelings of his constituency inside CTC too. In that context his actions look a lot more rational.

Stancer too benefits from a detailed look at the situation faced by CTC in the 1930s. In particular the book has a detailed account of the now notorious Alness Report, published in 1939. This committee of Lords was stuffed with pro-motoring figures which made it impossible for the cycling witnesses to make any progress. However for many a belief that Stancer’s statements to the committee that cyclists didn’t want cycle lanes is a damning critique that undermines his place in history.

The story looks very different in this book. Seeing the wider content of that report I realise now just how much the concern of the day for the cyclists was whether they should be removed from the roads entirely to allow speedier passage of cars.

“In evidence given to the Alness committee, CTC officials had stressed that the main objection was to the quality of cycle paths and not just the principle of being able to continue riding on the carriageway, the hard-won right of cyclists since 1888. The CTC feared that legislation would be brought in that would make it compulsory to use cycle paths even before a useable network had been built, and that, going by the poor provision of paths in the previous five years, there was little likelihood that the paths of the future would be of decent quality.”

“witness after witness – from surveyors to arch motorists – attested to the dire nature of England’s experimental cycle paths but, apart from cyclist witnesses, most wanted cyclists to be forced to use the paths.”

At the end of this section of the book is an exchange from the report which should probably be printed out and stuck to the wall over the desk of every construction engineer, cycling official and cycle advocate in the world.

Earl of Iddesleigh:

“If we could enable you to avoid the great motor roads and provide for you really satisfactory roads on which you would not have to compete with a great deal of fast moving traffic, there would be a gain in enjoyment?”

Stancer:

If it were possible to provide facilities that are equal to those that we enjoy now, with the additional advantage that they would not be shared by motorists, I think that cyclists would have no objection …

Earl of Iddesleigh:

Are the two grounds upon which you are against cycle tracks these? First, because the cyclist insists on his abstract right to the use of the highway, and secondly, because it is less pleasant to use a cycle track than a highway?

Stancer:

The second one you have mentioned is far more important. Cyclists would never insist upon their abstract rights if it were not that they are losing the chief pleasure of cycling by being forced on to the paths. If the paths are by any miracle to be made of such width and quality as to be equal to our present road system, it would not be necessary to pass any laws to compel cyclists to use them; the cyclists would use them.

I have to say that even today it is very hard to disagree with GHS. Nearly 80 years later I am living in a country that has cycle lanes such “width and quality” in parts of Flanders that it is indeed unimaginable that we wouldn’t use them. Sadly we also have some parts of the country where the lanes are so bad they are almost unrideable for most of the year. The use of both is compulsory.

But most of all I thank “Roads Were Not Meant for Cars” for bringing a thoroughly researched narrative and a clear context to those debates. Shipton and Stancer may have been made decisions that are not judged well by some in cycling today. But this well balanced narrative suggests that they were doing what they thought was right in the norms, the knowledge and the resources of the time.

I am sure things we campaigned for and against in my time at CTC will look very different in the year 2114. I can only hope that we have a narrator like Carlton Reid to disentangle myth from legend when the time comes.

Mystery cycling photo combines with favourite cycling memories to bring a smile

Now here’s a mystery.

Just how has one of my absolute favourite places in the world to cycle been combined with one a much loved photo of a past ride despite them having apparently nothing in common?

The story so far.

About a week ago I was speaking to a former colleague at CTC, the national cyclists’ charity in the UK. “Oh” she said, “we were just talking about you”.

They had just seen a leaflet that was about to be inserted in this month’s CTC magazine, advertising Mid Wales Cycling Adventures. Apparently on the cover there was a photo which they were sure was my son Ben and I on our mountain bikes.

Mid-Wales is just one of the most brilliant places to cycle. I wrote about in last year in the post “Mid-Wales – The antidote to almost everything”, not just for cycling but for walking and chilling or whatever takes your fancy. If you haven’t been – just go. Go cycle touring or mountain bike, whichever takes your fancy. Good on Mid Wales Cycling Adventures if they are adding to the range of small businesses that are gradually building up in the area to support sustainable tourism. Great scenery winter or summer, this was from a hotel room in Rhayader.

Rhayader 2010

But I was bemused. Despite Ben and I having ridden together at places like Coed-y-Brenin and Nant-y-Arian mountain bike centres I just could not recall a photo of us together. Maybe a photographer had been snapping while we were there. But if we were in a shot to promote cycling in Mid Wales then I am happy to be a model.

Mid Wales Cycling Adventures leafletThen yesterday my copy of the magazine arrived and even before I got home to pick up my copy Mrs Idonotdespair had spotted the leaflet dropping out and waved it curiously under my nose. Because it was very clearly us!

The plot thickens.

Of course the CTC staff recognised the photo. It was on the noticeboard by my desk for nearly eight years, a souvenir of a fantastic day out with Ben back in 2005. It was spring and we had a brilliant day out with the local CTC group after the 2005 CTC AGM, just one of those days when everything works. Good route, good company and the countryside at its very best.

So as soon as I saw it I just smiled. Here’s the original beauty spot.

Warwickshire

Except…….

We were nowhere near Wales. That photo was taken by a ride leader from CTC Coventry and Warwickshire somewhere south of Warwick. 80 miles from the nearest bit of Wales at my guess.

How has it come to be associated with Mid Wales? I don’t know. It wasn’t as far as I know a commercial shot so maybe that ride leader had given it to a friend in Wales, or even moved there himself. Maybe old fashioned mixed labelling. I expect I’ll find out soon.

But if a great memory can help promote a wonderful place to ride then I don’t mind. So I won’t tell if you don’t. Ok?

If you are going to make tracks impassable for cyclists, this Belgian farmer sets the standard

Blocked fields

Thanks to brilliant campaigning organisations in many countries, not least CTC and the Ramblers in the UK the idea that farmers can randomly block or destroy rights of way is declining.

We have a fantastic local charity here called Lasne Nature who have waymarked over 250km of routes even in our small commune which are a great community resource and should draw people to the area.

Clearly this guy never got the memo, this is the most impressive ploughing I have ever come across. Straight across one of our routes. Beautiful lines of course. But even poor Murphy the dog stopped after the third dip which was half his height.

Time to go the long way round!

Mountain biking Belgium

30 days of biking: days 8-13 @30daysofbiking (with added @1dayalmostbiking)

Failed the challenge, but a really pretty dreadful start to the cycling week did get better and better.

Day 10 consisted of an hour of pretty unsuccessful bike fixing in the morning and much more disastrous hour sitting in an immobile car in the evening. Time when I should have been riding. So @30daysofbiking is going to be @29daysofbiking even if I have many days when there has been more than ride. Do you think the hour spent working on the bikes counts? I did sit on one and wiggle the handlebars?

Broken crank

For the state of dignity I will continue to the month end – here is the rest of this week’s diary which did have an excellent end. Day 7 was already covered – not the best start here

Day 8 – the “ouch that could have hurt” ride.

Snapped crank as I left the station. One of those incidents which could have pitched me onto the ground, but it was only a wobble.

Forced to catch a ride home. 10 minutes.

Day 9 “Who ploughed up the path” ride Belgium

Out for an hour on the mountain bike with the dog, only to discover that one of our local farmers has ploughed up the path I chose creating a surface almost unrideably lumpy and I fell off once. Murphy liked it, with his 4 wheel drive he was looking back and laughing.

60 minutes.

Day 10 – bummer. “Sit on saddle in shed” not ride

10 seconds?

Wet saddleDay 11. “Forgot my saddle cover” wet bum ride,

This isn’t a good week. Just from the station 25 minutes.

Day 12. “Paris – oh Paris”

Thank goodness, I needed a lift. See the full post here

paris cycling 2

Day 13. “The eccentrics of Ceroux” ride

Today I had two rides. I spent an hour with my wife and the dog gently taking in our local lanes. We went over to the village of Ceroux which I have photographed several times before.

However this time because we were going slower we noticed a street of houses that seem to be eccentrics corner. A giant stainless steel windmill that seemed to be made out of car wing mirrors, a dragon chimney pot and close proximity social housing for birds.Ceroux BelgiumBrabant Wallon BelgiumBrabant Wallon Belgium

Genesis EquilibriumAfter we got back I gave myself a special treat and got out my new road bike for a thrash on dry, clean roads. I have hardly ridden it since I was given it as a leaving present by my colleagues at CTC, now I really was able to enjoy it. No photos, sorry – too busy enjoying myself.

It is a Genesis Equilibrium compact road by the way, steel all the way.

150 minutes and a great way to end the week.

Cyclingclubaphobia – fear of riding with a cycling club

Chippenham Wheelers, Dave Duffield RideIt is with enormous trepidation that I announce I am going to go for a bike ride with a local cycling club tomorrow.

It is one of the greatest failings of cycling as a social activity that jumping this barrier is a nerve-wracking experience even for someone like me who has been riding in clubs all my life. I have had some of the best cycling experiences ever and great friendship from my long term clubs Godric Cycling Club, Durham University CC, Cardiff Ajax and Reading Cycling Club but each time the first ride was a big step.

If I feel like this today then I know why people can own a sports road or mountain bike for their whole lives and never hook up with a club. Both they and the clubs miss out so often.

A quick examination of my symptoms please doctor:

Will I be able to keep up?

Will my bike fall apart?

If they leave me will I have a clue where I am?

I don’t climb too badly for a bigger lad, but my descending is pretty rusty at the moment – that could be embarrassing.

Amer Mountain Bike club, Girona I’ve never really had a bad first ride on any of these counts, but I have a deeply repressed memory of something odd happening on one of my first club rides in Cardiff. Can’t even remember the details but one of my creative repairs revealed itself during a ride and as I did a patch up by the roadside I could see the eye rolling going on in the background. “We’ve got a right one here” they hinted to each other. I could easily have become one of so many one-timers who never returned instead of enjoying many more years of riding and club life because many do have a really unwelcoming first experience.

Rugby was my other sport for years and despite being a complicated, physical sport it handles this sort of thing so much better. It has the advantage of taking place at a fixed location but the most important welcome to new starters used to be “the fourth team”. (Replace with 5th, 6th, 7th team as appropriate). Can’t run, can’t catch, don’t know the rules and have a long distance relationship with anything called fitness? We’ll give you a run out in the 4ths and see how you get on under the avuncular support of an almost retired older player with a gammy leg and a deaf ear. Everyone plays because a proper 4th team has any number of players between 9 and 17, except the required 15. A proper 4th team is like the boxes of reject broken biscuits we used to love as kids. All shapes and sizes and only occasionally you turn up a complete custard crème, but its the mix that counts. And when you return to the clubhouse the 4th team creates its own legends of the bar. In short, a place for everyone.

FIAB VeronaThis is the biggest argument out for entry level cycling groups in every town in the world.

Back to the matter in hand.

Tomorrow I am going out with the local Belgian cycling club.

This throws up a whole new set of challenges. At least in the UK I know the stock formula for most clubs is a Sunday ride – 60 miles with a coffee stop for most road clubs and maybe shorter distances with elevenses and lunch for the CTC groups.

Here club cycling seems to follows the French model. A racing club is just that, a club focussed on competition with a supporting network of ex-riders and officials. A cycle touring club looks to all intents and purposes exactly the same – club colours, quality road bikes, helmets and a calendar of events but the purpose is to ride together as groups and not to compete. So I reckon they fill the gap that I am looking for – strong-ish riders but not going to rip my legs off, like a club run or a faster CTC group in the UK.

Connection to my most local club has already failed because they are mainly interested in touring events – this weekend they are driving out to events both days. Sounds great, 100km including the legendary Mur de Gammont today but I actually want to learn about this area first and I certainly don’t want to give up 2 hours cycling time to sit in a car. So I’ll save that for another day, tomorrow I’ll try plan B with another club.

Checklist:

  • I have found where they start
  • My bike is scruffy but unlikely to be a laughing stock
  • I can do the distance
  • I have a domestic pass out

So it is time to get a grip Mayne ……. But they are Belgian, born to be hard cyclists. But my conversational French is awful. And what if I fall off on the cobbles, and what if they ……..

Club Italy

When I see a postie on a bike I do not despair for the future of the human race

Just over two years ago I was involved in a series of protests about the UK’s Royal Mail deciding to give up on its 14,000 cycling posties and go over to cars and foot trolleys.

I always believed that the arguments they put up at the time about security, capacity, speed and safety were complete rubbish, but rather they (and unfortunately some of their union leadership) had a deep seated prejudice that bikes were part of a backwards postal service.

So it always gives me the greatest of pleasure to see a proper, efficient, modern postal service that really understands the potential of the bike.

Take a bow Deutsche Post.Deutsche Post Berlin

Is this the most soul destroying debate in cycling?

I haven’t tweeted or blogged since last Wednesday despite having  a whole stack of photos and reflections from the Olympic road cycling races and the amazing performance of the British. I have felt dragged down and fed up by what I regard as the most depressing subject in cycling. For me it’s the subject that almost puts “despair” into “I do not despair”.

As a cyclist interested in sport I have lived through endless drug scandals that dragged the sport into the gutter – and the idiots that still think this is the way forward despite all the evidence that the net is closing. And I can sadly live with the need of some of our advocates to rubbish anyone who doesn’t agree with their approach.

But the discussion of cycle helmets is the cycling subject that drags me down like no other.

I feel the need to put some of this down somewhere – and perhaps to share one small ray of light I discovered in British Columbia – a place with a compulsory helmet law. So back to the blog – and of course the views here are entirely my own.

I was all fired up to blog on Thursday morning but on Wednesday evening the news broke that a cyclist had been killed by an Olympic bus, then in an interview Brad Wiggins was asked about the incident and said that cyclists should look after themselves, including wearing helmets.

It’s the evening after he has achieved something remarkable. It’s not his subject road safety. But of course the BBC has to go major on “Bradley Wiggins calls for compulsory helmets” because they have umpteen hours of news channels to fill.

By Thursday morning London Cycling Campaign and CTC are in full defence mode and even the President of British Cycling has to tackle it when he is speaking about the fantastic system for developing talent that BC has put in place. To be fair, they all did a great job. (More here)

The twittersphere, bloggers, discussion boards were full of fire and fury swamping any pleasure that could be taken from Wiggins and Froomes’s feats and the later victories of the track team. Wiggins was slagged off by the community that just hours before worshipped him.

Somehow I lost interest in the on line cycling world for a few days, I have just treated myself to enjoyment of the sport on TV and the pure pleasure of riding.

It’s not just the UK. Campaigning groups in Spain have been stunned by an out of the blue announcement by a minister to say he wanted to introduce a compulsory helmet bill causing them to have to mobilise both national and international support against the proposal.

And at Velo-city Global 2012 in Vancouver the existence of a compulsory helmet law in British Columbia and the presence of so many advocates from helmet free Europe was just the combination needed to stir the debate endlessly.

Cards on the table. I am 100% against compulsory helmets. I despise the victim blaming that characterises so much reporting about cyclists’ deaths. I have despaired with families because a defence lawyer tries to suggest that not wearing a helmet was a form of negligence by the victim.

But I also wear a helmet – for mountain biking and when I used to race.

When I came to work in cycling back in 1998 I had no idea that this would be one of the discussions that would claim far too big a chunk of my life for the next 15 years – and no doubt will be around for the next 15. And that’s the problem – it just isn’t a subject that anybody outside a very narrow community can understand or engage with, least of all the cycle racing and MTB communities because the helmets are actually made for them – so why would people in lycra understand the issues of helmets for daily cycling?

And as a result it pits cyclist against cyclist, cycling advocate against road safety advocate, it gives free reign to the online trolls who attack cyclists and it heaps guilt on to people who have the most to give to cycling. The UK’s BBC are absolutely awful – they put all of their presenters at every level into helmets for any cycling story because they are so keen to “do the right thing” and they are part of the mindset that bullies politicians into helmets for the same reason.

http://cyberboris.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/woo-hooboris-brings-cycling-revolution-to-outer-london/

Boris in helmet – Image from CYBERBORISJohnson

Even Boris Johnson was dragged into it for a brief time when he became Mayor of London, but Boris is self-confident enough to say “no” – unlike most others. I remember doing an interview on BBC Radio London at the London Cycle Show with the otherwise estimable Sandy Toksvig. Being the BBC they had to have “balance” so they got a senior industry manager from a major multi-national bike company whose company sell a lot of helmets to make the case for lids. When he totally agreed with me that compulsory helmets was a bad thing for cycling the presenters decided that this wasn’t on and started to argue with us themselves.

And perhaps worse of all is the pressure on parents and cycling supporters who feel they cannot let children cycle without the dreaded plastic lid unless they become labelled “bad parents” or “negligent”.

But I am just deeply saddened by the debate itself, the resources it consumes and the time and energy we have lost as a community on a debate we just are not winning and can hardly win without risking damage to ourselves during the fight. Because if society was based on intellect and analysis nobody would speed, everyone would ride bikes, climate change would be resolved and nobody would smoke. And despite the efforts of some researchers who are bashing away some poor studies from years ago offers the pro campaigners their academic fig leaf, along with the comparisons they make with other undoubted road safety successes like seat belts.

www.Cyclehelmets.org is an amazing resource and I am in deep admiration for the team of volunteers and professionals that contribute to it, it would be foolish of me to try and replicate any of those resources here.

But I did amazingly discover one small antidote in Canada, despite the compulsory helmets. Whistler is an interesting case study for all sorts of cycling issues and I will be blogging about it more.

But this community of hardened mountain bikers showed how life really could and should be in relation to helmets. Riders who actually understand cycling risk better than anyone behave in ways that just make sense.

Downhilling?

High speeds, high risk of falling? Big impact if you get it wrong? Then it is full face helmets and even body armour. Even the designs take their lead from skiing and snowboarding as can occasionally be seen when the two take place together.

What to wear for downhillYoung cyclists at bike park

Whistler Bike ParkOffroad cross country – roots and rocks creating a falling hazard?

Kevin MayneWithout the high speeds and the jumps of the downhill tracks the risk is lower and the impact speed is within the spec of the usual cycle helmet. The modern cycle helmet evolved from this world and it is entirely reasonable that it was designed for exactly this use.

The ride to town, or to and from the slopes?

Despite the compulsory helmet law this community knows that the good network of cycling facilities, traffic free town centre and the general understanding that motorists know cyclists are around means that the helmets are irrelevant to their safety.

And no sign that the local police feel any need to do anything about to enforce a law that was dreamed up by remote politicos in Vancouver, they recognise that cycling visitors are an engine of the local economy – so why should they hassle them?Whistler Village

Whistler – common sense helmet use. If only the rest of the debate was this easy.