Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Bike Helmets In The County

There's an article about the county considering adopting a bike helmet law in today's Review.

Commissioners plan to draft an ordinance and schedule a public hearing after receiving more information from the Spokane Regional Health District and the city of Spokane, which adopted a helmet law in 2004.

Among other things, commissioners want to know how well city officials believe their ordinance has worked and whether they would recommend any changes.

I'm a bit ambivalent towards a bike helmet law. I ride a lot and I rarely go without a helmet, but that's because I ride a lot and I try to go at a good speed. I feel a need for wearing a helmet.

On the other hand I see lots of people riding around town without a helmet and I've yet to see the city helmet law enforced on anyone. The police have far more important crimes to deal with so even an emphasis effort, like they have for errant pedestrians downtown once a year, would highlight it for a moment and then it would pass. (As a pedestrian I cross against red lights downtown all the time but only if there's no traffic.) I'm aware of several instances where people riding at night without a helmet have been stopped and "checked out" by the police using the helmet law as the reason for the stop. Once nothing was found the individuals were let off with a warning.

Do we need a law that law enforcement generally doesn't have time to enforce? While head injuries can be serious, is passing a law intended to prevent those injuries going to make a difference if the law is rarely enforced?

May I suggest adding cycling to the driver's license regimen and having cycling classes at elementary schools instead?


Anonymous said...

The county does not need a one-size fits all helmet law.

It gets very hot and sunny out there on those vacant roads, and collision is far less likely than heatstroke or skin cancer. They maybe should pass a wide-brimmed hat law. (Kidding, kidding.) And yes, I'm aware that some helmets are "airy and light"--I have two of 'em. It's still a styrofoam cup on your head beneath the baking sun.

You know that a government isn't serious about bicycle safety when all they can come up with is a helmet law or a registration law. These are just harrassment tools.

I wear a helmet about 99% of the time when I commute, and about 80% of the time out in the country. It's my default headgear. But, I refuse to wear a helmet when it's stupid to wear a helmet!

I've never been stopped by a cop, anywhere, for not wearing a helmet.

I'd rather see them coordinate helmet distribution at the schools. Though maybe after they coordinate bike distribution. Right after they make sure all schools have safe pedestrian and bicycle access.

The major safety problem bicyclists of all ages face is not lack of helmets in case of accident--its road design and enforcement so the risk of accident decreases.

Notice not a word in the article about comparative risk, or the causes of bicycle-car collisions.

Bicycle helmets provide a modest decrease in head injury risk while helmet laws cause injury by directing attention away from substantive risks faced by bicyclists.

It's mostly just feel-good do-nothing silliness on the part of the county commissioners--who often OK developments without sidewalks or bike lanes.

Unknown said...

"May I suggest adding cycling to the driver's license regimen and having cycling classes at elementary schools instead?"

I strongly second this!

Phil said...

I always wear a helmet. My commute totals about 1.5 hours a day from the valley to downtown. Once, I got to test the value of having a helmet while my body tumbled up and over a car (in Seattle). But strangely, I'm not a big fan of helmet laws for cyclists. At the same time, I'm not completely against them.

Stronger penalties for people who drive dangerously, or cause accidents with ped's and cyclists would go a long way. Public opinion needs to be moved in a positive direction on cyclists in general.
The cyclists need to encourage more education for people who ride, too. I like the schoolhouse suggestion. We need to obey traffic laws and set a good example. Every time a cyclists blows through a traffic light in front of motorists, cycling becomes more dangerous for all of us.