Helmet unpleasantness and cycling marvellousness

I got called a d*ckhead by a fellow cyclist tonight. It’s only the second time this has ever happened (the first time was some years ago, so it’s hardly a common occurrence), and as always with these things I start reflecting on how it came about, and whether I should care.

The incident that triggered it tonight came about as I rode through North Sydney at about 8pm. I was lumbering uphill on the Radish, heading to a rehearsal with my viola and various other musical accoutrements onboard. I heard the gentle swish of a cyclist coming up behind me, and I turned, ready to exchange a cheerful ‘hello’.

It was a woman bowling along on a smart road bike, looking quite marvellous. Before I could say anything at all, she shouted out, ‘Where’s your helmet?’, and sped past.

Oh dear. How tiresome. Still, it happened that I was picking up speed anyway as we’d reached a downhill section, and I caught up with her. OK, to be honest I probably sped up a bit in order to do so.

As I pulled alongside, I said hello, and I attempted to explain a little about my reasons for riding bareheaded, but she didn’t seem interested in chatting. Mind you, the pace we were going wasn’t really conducive to conversation, especially when riding a 35kg cargo bike so I was probably gasping and wheezing a bit.

She pulled away again after telling me I was ‘giving us all a bad name’. This is a line of logic I am particularly interested in, and as it happened I pulled up next to her at the next set of lights. However, my next attempt at conversation was met with something that ended ‘…d*ckheads like you’, although I missed the beginning as she was pulling away down the hill, and I in any case was turning off.

So now I’m torn. I’m sure she’s a lovely person, and a cyclist too. Hurrah. But did I do something very wrong, I wonder?

I guess one interpretation is that she called out a comment that self-evidently did not need a reply, and then I pursued her through North Sydney, my attempts at friendly conversation coming out in a series of gasps that was perhaps unpleasant and even threatening. If you’re reading this, and that’s how you felt, then I’m sorry, cycling woman.

An alternative is that she felt it was quite OK to shout abuse at a someone else on the road, confident that she was going to be so much faster than me that there would be no further interactions – which as it turned out was not the case.

Or perhaps normally she would have been happy to have a conversation, but the darkness, lonely streets and my out-of-breath demeanour spooked her. I don’t know.

All kind of sad, really, on lots of levels. Sad that we have these divisive laws that create stupid arguments. Sad that we make value judgements about each other. Sad that there was a moment of unpleasantness that could have been avoided by either party so easily. But, there is a flipslide. We were both riding bicycles. And that is quite marvellous.

Views: 788

Comment by herzog on July 15, 2014 at 8:59am

There's only one dickhead in that story and it isn't you.

Comment by Robflyte on July 15, 2014 at 9:23am

giving us all a bad name indeed

Comment by markysharky on July 15, 2014 at 10:59am

Nicely told story...........thanks

Comment by Ma Dame Vélo on July 15, 2014 at 11:35am

The quote on my desk calendar today is:

"All truth passes through three stages.

First, it is ridiculed.  Second, it is violently opposed.  Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

Arthur Schopenhauer.

Unfortunately, I think the female cyclist's attitude makes it difficult for bodies such as BNSW to oppose MHL's in the face of such vehement opposition from cyclists.  We need to keep plugging away to get the explanation out there about utility cycling as opposed to sports cycling when it comes to MHLs.  I mostly hear her views expressed among cyclists I ride with because they are riding for recreation not transport.

Comment by St Etienne on July 15, 2014 at 4:35pm

If there's something I loathe more than helmet laws it's the "giving us all a bad name" argument.

Comment by Martyn P on July 15, 2014 at 4:48pm

I've copped more abuse recently, for riding without a helmet, from other cyclists than I have from motorists by quite a large margin. Sad indication of where and what cycling in Australia is.

Comment by John Knight on July 15, 2014 at 11:27pm
Unfortunately, I see this as a consequence of the anti-cycling media blitz.
All cyclists have to behave and not run red lights.
All cyclists must be courteous at all times.
We all have to be nice and not upset the motorists. Etc etc.
Your non conformance stressed her out.
She could do with a nice relaxing ride around Manly.
Comment by Scientia et Labore on July 16, 2014 at 4:31am

I am glad that you got to her.

Comment by Bill Parker on July 16, 2014 at 8:58am
You got to admit, a viola packing Radish riding bare headed gentleman transport cyclist must be deeply offensive to a lot of people ? Maybe it was the color of the bike.
Comment by Robflyte on July 16, 2014 at 11:26am

the positive slide of this is we know she stops at every stop sign and amber/red light, indicates every turn intention, never rides on a footpath, gets off her bike at every dismount sign, rings here bell passing any pedestrian on a shared path, etc.

She is everything right (or is that correct?) about cycling, she aint no dickhead.

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