Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Bicing Story from Barcelona

The Melbourne bike sharing scheme has many equivalents around the world.  One of them is in Barcelona and is known as "bicing". Below is a short film about the success of the bicing scheme.

Some interesting questions come out of the film.  Namely, why is the Barcelona scheme successful?  And how can we improve the bike sharing scheme in Melbourne?

If you ask most Australians about mandatory helmet laws, they will argue it is a no-brainer.
Similarly, ask a European about the same laws, and they too will argue it is a no-brainer.

The thing is, they won't be arguing the same thing.

Here in Australia, we have lived with mandatory helmet laws for nearly two decades and people seem pretty used to the situation.  The value of helmets seems obvious; if you fall off and knock your head, a helmet will help.  Case closed.

In Europe, they tend to think differently.  There, they've lived without mandatory helmet laws since the year dot and they tend to be happy with things the way they are.  Why?  Well, the reasons vary, but they're not necessarily to be scoffed at:

  • freedom of choice (those pesky Europeans with their crazy ideas about freedom).
  • mandatory helmet laws decrease the number of cyclists (when laws were enacted in Australia in the early 90s, the number of people who regularly cycled decreased by over a third, with similar outcomes in other parts of the world).
  • less cyclists on the roads makes it more dangerous for the remaining cyclists; it is argued that the more cyclists there are, the more car drivers are aware.
  • the reduction in the number of cyclists will harm the overall health of the population more than any protection from injury.
  • there is a risk compensation theory that says helmet-wearing cyclists ride more carelessly and similarly drivers are less careful around helmeted cyclists.

There are many other arguments and lots of evidence that says lots of different things.  It seems a very emotional issue with both sides standing staunchly by their beliefs, propped up by evidence, surveys, research, data and whatnot.

Personally, I will always wear a helmet.  But should they be mandatory?  In my opinion, no...

I plan to talk a lot more about this issue in the future.  It's quite timely; Northern Ireland are thinking about bringing them in and Mexico has recently repealed their mandatory laws.  Since the relative failure of the bike share scheme in Melbourne, there is talk of following Mexico's lead.

Now, sit back and enjoy the film...

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