This Mum is downright dangerous! Ban her!

A big tip of the hat to ibikelondon reader Nik who figured that - being on your bikes - most of you wouldn't have seen this incredible photograph in free pubic transport newspaper Metro, last week.

Seven people on one bike is certainly impressive (and I imagine a lot of fun for the kids involved) and must keep Mum super fit.  Some might scorn her parenting choice in terms of exposing her brood to road danger, but surely this is a better option than six slowly fattening children in the back of a (presumably very large) car, adding to the road danger for those outside on foot or on bikes? 

Certainly someone should show this picture to Australian TV show A Current Affair who recently tail-gated a Mum on her bike with a child trailer and filmed her for over twenty minutes without permission through the streets of central Sydney.  Mum was worried she and her daughter might be being pursued by a paedophile as the driver of the car tail-gated her, pulled alongside and then filmed from in front without identifying themselves, merely shouting she was "acting illegally", presumably to illicit some kind of response.   A few days later, the Mum in question, Melea, was even more horrified when she discovered the footage was in fact taken for the national television show A Current Affair and used to slander her and accuse her of purposefully endangering her own child's life.  The programme describes her actions as "crazy, irresponsible and downright dangerous" before going on to create a "crash test" situation to show just how dangerous child trailers are when people drive over them at 60kmph!  Here's just some of the words from the show, which you can watch on Nine MSN's A Current Affair website if you've got the guts for it.
"Road safety experts say it is irresponsible and downright dangerous...""It's a mother taking a risk on our roads that leaves us gobsmacked... that young child is fully exposed to the full impact of a motor vehicle... I can't believe what I'm seeing.
There are cars are buses coming from all directions... come from behind, mother and child are in the middle of mayhem.
The law has to be changed, that child is at risk.
This is George Street in the middle of Sydney.  The worry when you're down low is that you'll go under the 4x4 or under a bus."

"These little carts are down below the sight-line of a vehicle, and the baby is going to be prone to more of an accident... ..they're downright dangerous and shouldn't be on the road."

It's worth pointing out that A Current Affair is about as comprehensively balanced as the Jeremy Kyle Show here in the UK, or a Petronella Wyatt editorial, but the case is an interesting one all the same.

Firstly, it is - of course - disgraceful that this mother was filmed without her permission for a national broadcast and offered no right of reply.  Secondly, the occupants of the car were willfully endangering the mother and her child by distracting her when she was cycling, and by not focusing on the road ahead.

But most importantly, this kind of thinking is pure victim blaming at its very worst.  Instead of asking why a Mum might be towing a child in a trailer (perhaps she can't afford to drive and park in Sydney, or use the creaking public transport system) on the busiest roads in central Sydney (perhaps, due to a lack of bike lanes and safe infrastructure, she doesn't have a choice.)  The "crash test" which purports to show just how dangerous bike trailers are seems to me show nothing of the sort.  This not-so-scientific experiment simply demonstrates that any bicycle or indeed child-sized object that happens to be in the path of a tonne of metal being driven at inappropriate speeds in a busy urban environment will always come off worse.  Much worse.  (And it is worth remembering that a child who runs out in to the street isn't likely to be decked out in high-vis, Balinese flags and a cycle helmet - are they too to blame if an irresponsibly driven car ploughs in to them?)  Perhaps we haven't gone far enough with our road safety arms race?  Perhaps we should build metal railings at the side of every city road, and keep all children indoors so that we don't have to face the agony of encouraging all road users to take responsibility for their own actions?

We might bend over backwards to accommodate cars in our cities, but that's not to say this should be to the exclusion of all others.  The shock jock 'reporters' at A Current Affair might not like it, but streets are for everybody; people on foot, people in buses, people on bikes, people on horses - whatever - it is down to those who are in control of the most dangerous vehicles on the road to ensure that they take the greatest care of those around them who may be more vulnerable.

Tabloid reports like this one are "downright dangerous and shouldn't be on the road".

Incidentally, and to finish, the Metro story about the Mum on the cargo bike built for 7 people had an interesting sidebar about transport poverty and lack of safe choices on the roads.  I'll leave you to read it for yourself, below, so you can make up your own minds about who is wrong and who is right here.

 Click on the article to enlarge.

For more information on the Australian story see this reposte from politics website Crikey! and this update from the cyclist in question, Melea, herself on the Sydney Cyclist forum.

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Mark S said...

Small correction, it's 6 kids, not 7, however once you account for the engine (mum) that makes 7 people in total.
It's a rather interesting way of doing it and would just about fit all mine on :-D

ibikelondon said...

Oops! You're quite right Mark, 6 kids + 1 Mum. And what an engine! Will we see you riding a similar bike on CS& sometime soon?! :o)

Nico said...

Wow that kid at the back is clearly having a blast! Following the logic of that Australian program we should all go to work in an armoured Humvee...

Anonymous said...

Explains why Australian carbon per capita is in the top ten of the anti-social countries.

I wouldn't regard George Street in Sydney CBD being dangerous either, give the woman a break she gets it!

Mike said...

I travel every day with three children on my bike (not that we intended to have three, but twins second time around were an "interesting" suprise)

That Australian link has left me speechless. I occasionally get the people shouting at me (all, apart from one, in cars whilst driving alongside me too close so they can make their point) but if I'd had someone buzzing around me filming I'm not sure I'd have acted rationally.

That said, then general reaction is overwhelmingly positive and courteous. I quite often have to wave on people desperate to let me out from side roads, purely because I'm going across more than one lane and the others aren't clear.

ibikelondon said...

@Mike I'm so glad you're given a positive reception on the roads - I bet your kids have a blast. You're right, the Australian TV show is disgraceful.

@Nico is right, the kids look like they are having a great time and what a positive, sociable way of getting about.

I'm so glad the general reception to these stories has either been "these Mums are heroes" or "even if I wouldn't do this myself, those that do have every right to do so and to do so safely". There's hope for the world yet!

Karl said...

I can't believe their reaction to the mum on a bike. So glad I don't live in Australia. Gobsmacked.. seriously. Words fail to convey how I feel about those idiots saying it should be banned.

Gary Mac said...

How can anyone on a Brompton be considered irresponsible? Australia is by far the most anti-cycling nation on the planet, which comes as no surprise when you realise that the 2 best selling cars in Oz for many years both have almost a 4 litre engine as standard (Ford Falcon & Holden Commodore).

Simon K said...

Wow! That is some shocking 'journalism'. My five-year old daughter and I enjoy rides through the CBD of Wellington, NZ (her on a tag-along bike). No problem, imho (and I've been a Road Safety Coordinator for the local council for over three years).

Karen @ Cycle Sprog said...

It's been great to see the reaction in the British press to Emily Finch - her story has been covered by a few papers, with The Sun calling her "Super Mum". However, if all towns in the UK had the cycling infrastructure of Portland, then this wouldn't need to be a news story.

I am very concerned about the Australian film. We've taken the decision not to cover this story on our website, (which is aimed at parents with young children) as it is the sort of cheap, trashy journalism that fuels fear and paranoia.
With more parents than ever thinking about cycling as a cheap and healthy alternative to driving, let's hope we see much more of the celebration of family cycling, rather than such horrible bullying and scaremongering.

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