look who else rides a bike and doesn’t wear a helmet…

Posted on June 27th, 2012

How rad. David Byrne from Talking Heads is a big bike banger-on-erer. And he makes a good point. The New York Times just ran a video interview with him.

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I’m a non-helmet wearer (I wear one on big rides or dangerous roads)…ditto Byrne for the same reason. Oh, people get arked up about it…for reasons that make no sense. For my take on why it’s safer and better not to wear a helmet, click here.

A few other things:

  • Talking Heads take seven bikes on tour with them. So they can explore while there. I tell you, it’s the best way to see a city.
  • He’s just written a book – Bicycle Dairies –  which chronicles riding in bike-friendly cities in the world…surprisingly he reckons northern Italian towns are the best.
  • He advocates putting highways underground so bikes have more room and clean air. Friggen good point.

I truly hope more people get enthused about bike riding…not for fitness, not for making a point…just because it makes sense. That’s why I post these posts, in the hope it inspires more people to get on ya bike. And to not be scared of wearing a white pant on a bike.

Which city have you cycled in? I’m always on the hunt for new places in the world to explore…

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  • seeker

    Den Haag …. gorgeous.

    This bicycle riding is all well and good as a means for commuting, and seeing the localities etc..
    But when will they put a stop to these big groups of cyclists who are taking up full lanes and slowing down traffic on roads where drivers are also trying to commute to work etc?

    Really gives me the pips.


    stephen Reply:

    Those large groups are a little inconsiderate at times but keep in mind the most bike users especially commuters do not behave like that.
    Unfortunately bike helmet laws have had a negative effect on use of commuter transport cycling.
    End the bike helmet laws you would have less motor vehicle traffic to contend with and the bike users you would encounter would not be these large groups taking up the roads like that – worse is that many of these large groups are just doing a circuit and ending up right back where they started then getting in their cars and driving to work as well. !


  • Chloe

    You inspired me to start riding a bike in Sydney and I just love it! And I’ve inspired my boyfriend who now rides everywhere with me. I can also see I’ve planted the seed for many of my friends. It does make sense and it’s just so much fun :)


  • michael

    I’ve cycled a lot in Scandinavia .. flat, pleasant !

    p.s. When David Byrne refers to the band he went out on tour with (who take the bikes) he is NOT referring to Talking Heads.


  • Lauren

    I’ve only just started bike riding and only stick to the bike path along the beach…for now! The Police here really crack down on fining people without a helmet. As an adult I’d prefer to be able to decide for myself.


  • Jac

    Sarah, why were you then wearing a helmet in your 60 mins interview?


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    It’s law here…


    Jac Reply:

    ummm, so why then doesn’t she wear one all the time???


    seeker Reply:

    did ya ever cross the road within 20 metres of a pedestrian crossing but not on the pedestrian crossing?

    read the ‘click here’ link and maybe that will help you learn why …?

    Jac Reply:

    Sheesh….clearly Sarah does not believe in helmets. Fair enough. But my point is why then wear one on 60 mins when she is clearly riding safely around the back streets with the interviewer. Just Hypocrisy.

    seeker Reply:

    i think we got your point
    i sometimes wonder why some people waste their time reading what hypocrites blog about … ?????? (rhetorical question)
    maybe you’d get more from just sticking with 60 minutes
    on yer bike jac!
    i’m off for a helmetless swirl

    erin Reply:

    I don’t think its hypocritical to state that you do not believe in helmets, but in reality you do wear them on occasion. I don’t think she has said anywhere on her blog that she never wears a helmet.
    I’m not sure what your point is Jac? It looks like you are having a go at her about nothing.


    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Personally I see a big difference between respectfully disagreeing with a law, and breaking that law on public television. It would have been disrespectful to A Current Affair, for one. Even though I think they are scumbags there is something to be said for holding yourself with decorum.

    It’s a bit like being a nudist, but respecting that the rest of the world (and law) isn’t in line with your beliefs, and putting some pants on when you go to the shops. Nobody would call you a hypocrite for that, unless they were quite stupid, or just spoiling for a rumble cos they had nothing better to do with their time than police the rest of the world.


    Laura Reply:

    Don’t worry Mia, Sarah was on 60 Mins, not A Current Affair. Not such scumbags! x

    Mia Bluegirl Reply:

    Thanks Laura, I’m very out of date with my tv info :)

  • http://www.whydoyouride.tumblr.com Carrie

    Hi Sarah,

    As a cyclist yourself, I hope you can help realize this project. I’m not affilated with the project, I just think it’s a worthy project and it would be a shame if was not realized.

    In a nutshell:

    “Cycle Space is an exciting new book about the way we can make our cities safer, healthier and more fun to live in. Australian author Steven Fleming explores how to do this by connecting cycling, architecture, design and urban planning. By helping sponsor this book you are helping the efforts of Steven to create better cities for cyclists, and in that way, better cities for all!”


    Many thanks!


  • Tan tan

    Hiya! i love riding my bike. Before I had kids I rode around Ulura & Kata Tjuta in the pouring rain on my old steel treadly. So beautiful. And it was great landing back in Sydney to just ride my pushie out of the airport and home to Maroubra. Another time I rode from Byron to the Gold Coast before flying home to Sydney (and riding past everyone in the taxi que). When my friends drove north for a wedding I set out the day before from Sydney, caught the ferry from Palm Beach to Ettalong (central coast) & met them in Swansea (Newcastle) at nightfall. Sometimes I would ride from Sydney to Wollongong through the national park to see an old friend. Now I have kids it’s not so easy, but I have a little bike trailer for the 4 year old and baby to sit in which is good for kindy drop offs. Beats driving a stupid giant 4 wheel drive. Hey, by the way loving your smoothies from your sugar free cookbook!! xxx – Tan


  • http://www.donnaandtora.com Tora

    I used to be an avid cyclist, but sold my bike a few years ago. Living in Sydney is no place to ride a bike in my opinion – I found no joy in it whatsoever as there’s too much traffic and too few people who drive consciously enough to notice cyclists. My days of London cycling were way more fun (and, ironically, must safer).


    62shelby Reply:

    Tora, I agree with you. Sydney is not a fun place to ride. I lived in London for a couple of years and rode my bike around sans helmet. I loved the riding it was fun, but I didnt wear a helmet and retrospect that was dumb. I then rode around europe for six months only wearing a helmut on mountain pass descents. Also dumb. I live in the mid west now and stick to mostly track cycling on a velodrome (where a helmet is mandatory). My greatest fear about road riding now is being taken out by an absent minded motorist texting. An ER nurse once told me that those wearing a helmet usually survive, whereas those that didnt wear one more often dont. If I ride my fixed gear on the road now around town I always always ALWAYS wear a helmet. Even the very best cyclists have NO control over what others are doing around them.

    ” For my take on why it’s safer and better not to wear a helmet, click here.” Sarah, I love your work (having just found your site) but that statement is just down right irresponsible. NOT wearing a helmet is NOT a safer practice !! Not via ANY criteria.


  • Kes

    Mountain bike down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia…You might want to wear your helmet for that one!


  • sami

    Fremantle (WA) has just introduced a trial “no helmet law” which I think will go for two years. I think we will see a lot more cyclists there and I presume it’s a move to reduce vehicular traffic there. Which is great, because it’s bloody congested sometimes.

    Meanwhile I am not a bike fan AT ALL. I can ride them fine, on a flat surface. Throw kerbs, sand, traffic etc into the mix and I’m useless, plus I’m the laziest person on earth so I am sticking with 4 wheels.

    I generally don’t mind cyclists as a lot of streets in my suburb have little cycle lanes marked out and they’re great. The bad thing is when cyclists ride side by side and take up the road so that I can’t get past. This will forever annoy me… common courtesy is not as common these days!


    amyer Reply:

    Wow, I didn’t know Freo had brought that in. Good to know – thanks!


    sami Reply:

    You’re welcome! 😀 I think it’s a good experiment.


  • Beth

    Japan! I lived there for a year and rode my bicycle every day, just like all the locals. I think I saw someone wearing a helmet maybe ten times. It’s not law there, and although I don’t know the stats about their rate of accidents, i’d doubt its very high, none of my japanese friends were ever concerned about it! I loved riding in Japan- there are more bicycles on the streets than cars, and the pavements are fitted accordingly- much wider. Oh and its nice to be able to leave your bike unlocked with your laptop in basket whilst you duck into the supermarket-also one of the lowest crime rates in the world! Ahh Japan, I miss it! Was definitely a shock coming back to Melbourne to ride, and I can’t say in three months of casual riding I yet feel comfortable on the roads.


  • Line Mortensen

    I ride my bike every day. It’s pretty normal here in Denmark and we have good bike lanes.
    We don’t have a car, so we use our bikes a lot. I love riding my bike and I’ve done so since I was about 4! It’s so easy and comfortable (except when it’s pouring rain).

    I never wore a helmet until about two months ago. Another cyclist drove into me as he passed me, I fell off my bike ans smashed my head into a ion railing. Hurt like hell and scared the crap out of me. So now I don’t go anywhere without my helmet.

    I’m a mother of two little boys age 3, and I really don’t want them to loose their mom just because I didn’t wear a helmet.


  • fawn

    No helmets = organ donors in the hospital profession.


  • http://www.shashenjewels.com eilish bouchier

    Amsterdam is the best city to cycle in as everyone else is too. Barcelona is great, Paris, Dublin, London, NYC.


  • Steph

    I have to admit that although I understand the arguments for helmets not saving lives in many cases, I’ve never understood what the big deal is about putting on a helmet. I’ve always worn one, simply because my mom made me wear one as a kid and it became habit. Riding to work a few years ago I had a two separate accidents in which I was a glad to be wearing a helmet – one in which I avoided scraping my face along the pavement because of the helmet, and the other in which I went over the handle bars and my bike came down on the back of my helmet. In each case I do believe the accident would have been worse without the helmet. I guess I just don’t see the big deal for most people – they don’t cost much and they might actually help. Who cares about one’s hairstyle?…And really, I can’t see an argument for a helmet causing harm. I’m amazed that a helmet law might discourage anyone from cycling. It just seems as though our energy could be spent on much more significant problems. Anyhow – my 2 cents.


  • http://timmillerblog.wordpress.com/ Tim

    If a person six feet tall falls over, thier head is going twenty five miles an hour when it hits the ground. Now add the velocity of a bike, and possibly the vehicle that hits you, and you are talking seroius avoidable injury. I HATE helmet laws, but always wear a helmet for the sake of those who love me.


  • http://www.jacintafleur.com jacinta

    ‘a nicely paced perspective’ when cycling through the city. Totally on the money there!



    Hi Sarah!

    I enjoy reading your blog and am happy to learn that you are a cycling enthusiast. I live in Santa Cruz, CA which is touted for being bike friendly. I ride my bike to work and all over town there are bike lanes and bike paths. There are also many beautiful trails in our mountains as well as along the ocean. I used to enjoy riding my bike everywhere and loved the feeling of my hair flowing in the breeze as I rode along. Now I rarely embark without a helmet. This change occurred years ago after becoming an emergency room nurse. I have seen too often the disastrous results of bike accident victims who did not have a helmet on. Not all of these involved automobiles. Seeing so many people with head injuries incurred form no helmet while bike riding convinced me to start wearing a helmet. I’ll be the first to admit that I curse the thing every time I put it on, but I’d rather do that and have an intact coconut than one that is damaged or split open.

    Keep safe & happy riding!


  • http://www.joannaroy.com Jo R

    having grown up in the UK, where there are no laws around helmet wearing, so naturally I never wore one…when I moved here I started wearing one because I had to..and now it feels kind of weird not to wear it! I do love the feeling of freedom though, when I dont wear a helmet! But to be honest, when my kids are old enough to ride a bike they will wear helmets, as do I to set the expectation. Re wearing a helmet or not…It seems a very irrelevant point verses the safety of your brain?!


  • linda

    I prefer walking – even less hassle! I hate wearing helmets too!


  • nadineb

    Berlin! Brilliant for biking, bikes everywhere, courteous drivers, and nice and flat. You can hire bikes all over the place, and nowhere is too far to cycle because you can lug your bike back on the train if you get lazy.
    And, today at least, the weather is glorious!


  • Linda

    Yes not sure what the big deal is about wearing a helmet? Similar to wearing a seatbelt when in a car? Had a family member come off his bike, not wearing a helmet, head injury – he has never been the same person since…


    Lisa Ingram Reply:

    Thank you for sharing what must be a painful story. I agree with your assessment. Lisa


  • Lisa Ingram

    With rights come responsibilities. So, you think you have the right to ride a bike? Sure. Then you have the responsibility to wear a lid or to pay for your own years of rehab without sucking your well earnt Darwin Award out of the hospital system. Fell off got brain damage? Who knew? I don’t think so. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. Lisa


    Gary Reply:

    Hi Lisa, so you are happy to pay hospital costs for those in the criminal justice system (rapists, murderers) & those with obesity related diseases or smoking related diseases but not cyclists? You seriously need to evaluate your values. I suggest taking a vacation to the Netherlands and see what a population would look like that cycle 40 times more than Australia. There are loads of elderly cyclists with no helmets and they look fabulous!


  • http://feedthedogwhoblogs.blogspot.com carmel

    I second BERLIN. It truly is bike-riding heaven. Bike paths all over this glorious city and motorists really respect cyclists. For me it was 20 years between cycle rides (I know!!). At the end of last year i took my middle-age body to Berlin for 4 months. I knew nobody there, had no plans. I bought a bike, much cheaper than renting and 2nd hand bike shops everywhere.

    Zipping along endless cycle paths, sans helmet, in floral dress and thongs made me feel like a reckless adolescent. Throw in a warm breeze, a path by the canal, as you dip under low hanging trees on the way to the local produce market and you have pure joy.

    Tilda Swinton made two documentaries about her cycling adventures in Berlin. The first was her following the boundaries of the Berlin Wall when it was still standing and then later a retracing of this route after the Wall’s collapse. Would love to get my hands on those docos.

    I miss my two-wheeled Berlin friend. The extraordinary places she took me, the unequalled happiness she gave me.


  • Carissa

    I travelled to Cuba and did a 8 day cycle trip, also in Vietnam too. Amazing and fun way to see a country that’s for sure.


  • CC

    Paris is a buzz on a bike. Rent one from the street vendours or a shop. I recommend midnight when there are fewer cars and all the lights aglow. Ride from the Right to Left bank or vice versa, across bridges and get a full scenic view of Paris under the stars. It’s just such a beautiful time to ride however a sunny day in summer is gorgeous too, just don’t follow the tourist trails.


  • http://www.wahoocr8tv.com Bev Hadgraft

    I’m with you. I only wear a helmet for long or fast rides. I do it the same reason I don’t hug the kerb when I’m riding. Cars give me more room.
    David Byrne is right, no surprises there, he is right about a lot of things. Northern Italy is great for cycling. I took my touring bike and camping gear on the plane to Milan, then cycled all around the Lakes. It was one of the best weeks of my life. Cycled all day, set up my tent on the edge of a lake at night, swam every morning and evening, except in Idro. That was a bit high up and chilly.
    I love the Basque area of France – great mix of road and mountain biking to be done there. Southern Ireland is excellent. And I’ve always found London fab for cycling. I cycled everywhere for years. It’s good it’s been cleaned up and made more cycle friendly now but in a way I thought it was safer back in the day. The traffic moved so slowly before the congestion charge, it was like cycling through a car park. The only problem there is you have to take your front wheel off and lock everything up together and take your saddle with you.


  • http://www.rantanonthemove.com Alex Bruggisser

    I spent a week riding around Paris with my Aunt and Uncle in October last year. It. Was. Fab. Our morning routine was a few laps around the Arc de Triomphe – was a bit hairy at first but it didn’t take long and it was just another big old 5+ lane roundabout circling one of the World’s most famous monuments. Followed by a croissant and a vanilla au lait… Was a rough week! They had hired a barge on the Seine which was also FAB!! We even took our bikes out to Monet’s garden (long time fan) and had lunch in a farmhouse off the beaten track + did a night time bike tour. Possibilities were endless!!!


  • http://Cycolgygear.com Sarina

    Hi Sarah,
    I always wear a helmet, whether cycling, MTBing, skating or skiing. I have fallen on my head so many times and been saved by them. I paint my skater type helmets and they’re pretty cool and people get to know me because of them. I have photos of them on Pinterest under cycolgygear.
    People call out to me constantly ’cause they recognise my helmet. :)
    I race 100km enduro MTB races, 24 hour races etc and ALWaYS ride with a helmet and I’ve seen the consequences when people don’t . I can’t understand how someone can NOT wear one.
    bTW: I’m an artist and have designed 100’s of great cycling, running and sport tees and have my own brand now…cycolgygear.com. Check it out and let me know if you’d like any.
    I try my best to get other girls out there cycling and loving sport.


  • Pauline AV

    I find riding a bike in Paris a bit hairy because of the speed of the traffic. In the French countryside it’s a breeze as French drivers give you plenty of room when overtaking.

    I would recommend Uppsala, Sweden, as a fabulously bike-friendly city: bike hire shops, cycle lanes everywhere, and best of all everyone seems to ride a bike.


  • Ari

    I love riding round my local area (quiet country roads) and into town for shopping and would love to see people riding through Melbourne as casually as they’d hop on a tram, like they seem to overseas.
    I disagree with the helmet thing though – I’ve been riding for 32 years and only fallen off three times. When I was 6, no idea if I had a helmet, I only remember the massive gravel rash on my thigh. At 14, lost traction on oil (darn cars!) while turning, landed on my hip and bounced my head off the road, couldn’t walk for a week but my head was fine, the helmet looked fine too. New Years Eve, 2012, no idea what happened, no other vehicle or person involved, we think, just me and a hill I ride on 3-4 times a week. On my way to the post office, every day stuff, as you do. Woke up while being transferred to an air ambulance for a flight to Melbourne, with concussion, bleeding in the brain and a broken collarbone.

    My head is fine now, although there are 3 days missing and a stack of things on the computer that I have clearly read but have no memory of, which is odd but what can you do?
    The helmet on the other hand, was in one piece but compressed to 1/4 it’s thickness on the right hand side. My face had some gravel rash just along the bottom of my jaw. I’d hate to see what condition it would have been in without the helmet – closer to my hand and hip I’m guessing, which were bloody and bruised & still have scars. There were pretty solid scratches and dents on the plastic casing over the foam which correlates to where my face would have met the road. Gravel? Grass? Whatever the heck I landed on. I don’t remember.

    I ride a lot, on quiet, safe roads. I drive on quiet, safe roads. Still wear my seat belt, still see no reason not to wear a helmet. It’s not like you walk around town with it on, right? I don’t bother much with cycling specific gear, just make sure it’s fairly bright colours. The old helmet was black (less obvious over my dark brown hair) but the new one with be red and white to match the bike – which is fine by the way!

    It’s a personal choice, whether you wear one or not, the law doesn’t stop people not wearing seatbelts either, but for me there’s f**k all inconvenience to wearing one – it’s as much habit as putting on my hat when I head outside. You just get used to it.

    If more people rode bikes, everywhere, it would be safer to ride, full stop. That’s generally how it works well overseas. More people, better awareness, less accidents.


  • http://www7.tok2.com/home/ryoji/public_html/cgi-bin/aska/aska.cgi?mod www7.tok2.com

    Hi there, just wanted to tell you, I loved this
    article. It was practical. Keep on posting!


  • eliza

    Hey Sarah, love your bike love! Agree with everything you’ve mentioned, and have been saying the underground highways bit forever. My question is, I’m planning to do a 2-month bike tour in Japan, in spring, and wondering if you have any tips on some durable, comfortable, and stylish pants I could wear (day in, day out). I don’t really want to be in black lycra leggings. I know you keep a minimalist wardrobe, so wondered what you do for your own bike tours? I’ve reduced my new clothes purchases but for the right (sustainable) pants, I would buy new ones.

    Thanks :)


  • disqus_KYplOuMZC2

    exactly you make cool helmut to sell to all the brainwashed misfortunes. Maybe you shouldn’t enter races until you start learning to ride better maybe you’ve spent years carelessly speeding around. Take off the helmut and use more common sense might help the falling part. Also mindfulness helps to judge situations better and costs absolutely nothing. PEACE


  • Katie

    I am 31 years old. I am a public heath professional and I hate helmets. Me and my daughter have never wore helmets in our lives. 1. I like people to see my bare skin. When I see a bike helmet, I think of someone hiding themselves and that is not what you want. That is why I don’t let my 13 year old daughter wear a hat or a helmet. I want to see them not a helmet. 2. The breeze, I love seeing my daughter’s hair blow. With a helmet on can’t see the breeze. I also love the feeling of a breeze. 3. Helmets are not needed, you rarely ever fall off your bike and when you do you fall on your legs. 4. You look dumb, I don’t want my daughter to look dumb and get made fun of so I make sure she doesn’t were one. Or I make sure everyone knows that see bikes a lot so people see she doesn’t. 5. I don’t want my daughters hair to get messed up, I hate when my daughter doesn’t look good so its off her head. 6. It has made so many people not want to bike and thats to bad because biking is a fun, heathy activity. This summer I decided to bike everywhere with my daughter, I went to Seattle, London, Paris, Tokyo, Rio, Dallas, Miami (City and Beach), New York City, Beijing, Moscow, Honolulu, Barcelona, and Indianapolis. I went through all these cities without wearing one helmet. So don’t be afraid. Its O.K your helmet won’t save your life, trust me.


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