June 17, 2013
Over the week at the Rathaus, we heard some fabulous plenary speakers with lots to share and lots to cause inspiration.
...from Mikael, we heard that design can outgun price and performance and that 80% of Copenhageners cycle all year round in all weathers (think I got that right - that 80% figure sounds enormous!). Basically good design can improve behaviours and good design is a way forward.
I caught up with Mikael on a one to one just prior to his Vienna Cycle Chic Street Photography Workshop and asked him my one question that I had for all my inteviewees - the Helmet Question!!!!!
I had hoped to get the audio up earlier onto this blog but internet connections have been hit and miss to put it mildly and to compound things even further, I have no idea how to transfer the interview audio from my iphone onto my laptop. Somewhat reassuringly I'm not the first person to encounter such iphone glitches as evidenced by my google search "how the fuck do you transfer fucking italk files to fucking laptop" which was actually already a google search term!!!!!!
Anyhoo, all that aside I'm hoping once BN3 joins us all in Europe all that will be rectified, but in the meantime, here's the rough transcript of interview audio with Mikael in Vienna late one morning in one amazing take:
"The Helmet Question from Sue Abbott" (answered by Mikael)
"We’re getting to the point where it’s really tedious this whole debate - we’re getting to the point where it’s a stalemate; the science, anybody who actually cares about it knows that the science is 50:50; if you don’t have any conclusive scientific proof for something you don’t legislate for it - it’s that simple - the clarity is right there in front of you.
You hear a lot of people talking about this subject and fortunately you can see when there’s some article online or in online newspapers, you can see in the comments that the people are realising that there are two side to the coin. They’re pulling the wool off their eyes, and it’s really encouraging to see there is a debate and an informed debate from people.
But the fact that we’re even having to talk about this shit is incredibly dull.
Basically the people doing the talking - doctors for example, they know how to be a doctor, that’s what they’re trained for. Learning to be a doctor is a lot of memorisation so you just learn a lot of stuff and then you practice it. You know these people just repeat stuff that they’ve heard ad nauseum without really getting into the subject matter about actual industrial design of helmets and all the different studies.
They just repeat stuff because when you’re trained to be a doctor, you’re incredibly specialised and probably and hopefully incredibly good at what you do because you’ve just learned and memorised things but you don’t actually have a tradition in the medical profession of thinking freely of thinking for yourself. So doctors tell you to wear a helmet because of the stuff they’ve seen.
I don’t give a dam what they’ve seen - you look at the science...boom.
And these doctors who talk in the press all round the world I often invite them to go down the other wards of the hospital which they rarely do because they’re so specialised they just sit in the same office all the time. And they ought to go down to the lifestyle dieseases ward and see all the people suffering from obesity and diabetes and heart disease because of inactivity in our societies.
It’s not as sexy as "ooh it’s your head, you only have one head" and all that emotional propaganda they spit out, but still people are dying from inactivity.
There’s a lot of the people who do the talking, the safety nannies, the worried mothers, the doctors, these people are completely uninteresting to listen to now. They sound more and more wacky for every day that passes, and it’s just getting really boring.
For me the core of it is, if these people promote bicycle helmets but they do not at the same time promote motorist helmets then they shouldn’t be taken seriously; we should completely ignore them because if you promote bicycle helmets you have to promote all the rational helmets as well; motoring helmets.
Somebody who says wear a bike helmet and doesn’t say to wear a motoring helmet, get out of my face you’re not interesting, you should be removed from the debate forcibly, taken out the back and having your nipples twisted or I don’t know what we can find to deal with these people.
Seriously you can’t just promote bicycle helmets - if you’re into that thing, that’s your funky thing and you don’t promote the other forms of head protection equipment, then get out of the debate, nobody wants to listen to you.
In our Copenhagenize index of bicycle friendly cities around the world, one of the parameters was perception of safety. It was a very academic index we made, but one interesting point is perception of safety. What are the helmet wearing rates in these cities? A city with a high helmet-wearing rate, you score low, if you have a low helmet-wearing rate you score high.
This is not to be controversial but it’s because I believe that the only perception of safety that is applicable in our world is that personal perception of that person riding a bicycle. If you see a city where people are not wearing a helmet it’s simply because those individuals make a choice themselves, hopefully they were given the opportunity to make a balanced decision by presenting them with both sides of the coin. But that personal choice, that personal perception is the only thing that matters. All the safety nannies are completely irrelevant because it’s that individual that matters.
So it’s up to the individual...present them with both sides of the coin and they’ll make the decision that fits them and off they go. I always say, if wearing a helmet keeps you on a bike, great; if not wearing a helmet keeps you on bike, great, I don’t give a shit...as long as you’re on a bike.
But the whole emotional propaganda from all these safety freaks and people who know nothing about it, the fascinating thing is that the people doing all the talking about helmets know nothing about helmets - they repeat ad nauseum statistics that they read in a brochure or from lobby groups that are funded by the bicycle helmet industry - I mean c’mon it’s not wikileaks but it’s pretty basic money tactics of the entire industry...so you know, shut up."
- pure 100% Mikael, and if Australian governments just listened to him, maybe we too could have a slice of his Copenhaginising paradise and perhaps one day for once feature positively on his liveable cities index...maybe...