About Bike Art
Here's the story of how I came to do bicycle art.
The Film maker
I'd spent my life making documentary films . Then, 18 years ago I moved to Avoca Beach, NSW, with my wife, Katerina and daughter, Ellen.
I became the village painter, hanging portraits of the locals in the butcher shop, painting banners for demonstrations and walking the beach with my folding sandwich board in support of our world famous single screen cinema.
One day, having seen a shocking documentary called , Who killed the Electric Car? I decided that my car had to be electric, clean and green.
When that proved too expensive, I bought an electric bicycle. I had no particular interest in bikes, hadn't ridden one for years, and did not think of them as practical transport.
The new Cyclist.
Well, I loved my new bike and used it to go everywhere, the small motor providing a sort of tail wind on the hills which are very steep where I live.
Friends thought this transport was reckless. And yet I felt safe enough and soon worked out that this was because my bike was the stately sit-up variety. Being upright, I could see better and be seen better. I felt pretty safe despite there being little bike infrastructure around here
I became eager to persuade friends that they too should ride a bike, that they too would feel great, lose weight. etc. So, I started a blog called, situp-cycle.com on which I posted short films, singing the praises of sit-up bikes.
As I pumped out my propaganda, I began to wonder who'd killed the sit-up type of bike in Australia?. Mid 20th. century photos showed many people, especially women, riding such bikes.
Why was it that all over Europe, the sit-up bike was the bike of choice for getting around, whereas here cycling was all about speed and Lycra? Those using bikes for transport were mostly in lycra too.
The bike Theorist
Much research later, I came to the conclusion that it was our compulsory helmet law, introduced in 1991, which deserved much of the blame.
Many observers have noted that this law reduced cycling by about about 30%. The numbers later recovered, or so it was claimed by those who thought the trade off was worth it.
But what no one had noticed was that the law acted like a selective herbicide.
It killed off the sit-up riders, the shoppers, the school kids who had never felt in danger, whilst encouraging the sports cyclists who saw the helmet as part of their uniform .
My blog began to suggest that the way to develop a European bike culture was to change the law and allow helmet choice for adults. Many others were now beginning to say the same thing for various reasons.
This argument took on more force when I realized that the helmet law was crippling public bike schemes here. These schemes, there is one in Melbourne and another in Brisbane, are not able to dispense a helmet along with the bike. They've expected riders to supply their own helmets, or buy one, which is quite unrealistic, and so the bikes are woefully underused
Such self help bike hire schemes are transforming cities around the world, and are up and running in over 140 cities. We need them working effectively here. They are the turbo chargers of utility cycling.
My several concerns came together as my blog proposed that there be a targeted helmet exemption for these local public bikes.
If this could save bike share in Melbourne and Brisbane, if this paid off without a safety cost, then that could be the first step to a wider exemption.
Besides, Bike share always uses sit -up bikes which is one reason why they're safer, and a key reason for my enthusiasm.
But how to reach opinion leaders and nervous politicians? I decided to use art as propaganda. Art confers cachet and status on an activity.
By making art on the sit-up bikes of the world, including these public bikes, perhaps this art could bring people to see them through new eyes as not only beautiful, but practical and safe as well.
And thus came about the art you see here.
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