Helmet Laws Deny Me The Freedom I Need

Background Reading

Summary

Would it be ridiculous to mandate helmets for pedestrians? Well, why not? After all, you are twice as likely to suffer head injury when walking as you are when riding a bike. Wouldn’t we all be healthier, happier, and safer if we just stayed inside and gave up such dangerous activities as walking or jogging? Of course, the truth is just the opposite: more walking yields better health, the occasional stumble notwithstanding.

Obviously, every healthy activity carries some risk. But, as with walking, the benefits so vastly outweigh the potential harm that we are much better off getting out there and enjoying life. This is the main reason why California’s new mandatory bicycle helmet bill is such a bad idea. California prides itself on leading with bold precedents and also with its vibrantly diverse culture of outdoor fun from snowy mountains to shining seas. For our health, our economy, and our environment, this is one precedent that should be quickly tossed out.

The recently introduced bill, SB-192, could probably win a world record for legislative brevity. Most of its language is devoted to parcelling out where proceeds from your fines will go. However, the meat of the bill is a mere two sentences. First, “A person shall not operate a bicycle … upon a street, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path, or trail unless wearing a helmet.” And then: you may not ride a bike “in darkness unless wearing high-visibility safety material … that is retroreflective.” That’s it. You must wear a helmet, you must wear reflective clothing. This is very bad policy and I’ll tell you why.


TakeAways

When people are ‘dressing‘ for  the Wiccan-inspired World Naked Bike Ride what do they choose?

What happens when we ban lycra. File image. Source: News Limited

What happens when we ban lycra. File image. Source: News Limited

Shoes and you guessed it, helmets. Why? Why put on something to protect your noggin when you are intending to ride ‘naked‘? It seems logical to me that ‘naked‘ is well ‘naked‘. Shoes and helmets should be forbidden (I say this in jest).

Do You Know What Kills Most Pedestrians In Bicycle Crashes?

Would it be ridiculous to mandate helmets for pedestrians? Well, why not? After all, you are twice as likely to suffer head injury when walking as you are when riding a bike.

I am glad that the follower of the Pope of Bicycle Heaven who wrote this drivel made mention of helmets for pedestrians. Why?

Because when a bicyclist choose to run you down in the crosswalk because he is either not looking or cannot be bothered to slow down, you are most likely to die from brain injury a few days later.

In fact when you are a jogger like the lady on the Chicago Lakefront Trail who is run down from behind by a cyclist who flees the scene, you usually suffer brain injury along with facial damage.

So the author is correct, it probably makes more sense for our victims to wear the headgear than any of us.

Oh No! Not The Reflective Stuff Too?

First, “A person shall not operate a bicycle … upon a street, bikeway, or any other public bicycle path, or trail unless wearing a helmet.” And then: you may not ride a bike “in darkness unless wearing high-visibility safety material … that is retroreflective.” That’s it. You must wear a helmet, you must wear reflective clothing. This is very bad policy and I’ll tell you why.

There are times when the inane logic of this tinfoil hat crowd that is supposed to represent the mainstream thinking in the Urban Cycling Movement makes me ill.

Apart from a white or yellow front light and a red back light, these bicycle reflectors are mandatory under Dutch law. Since 1979: a yellow pedal reflector and a red rectangular back reflector. Since 1987: circular wheel reflectors on rim or tyre. So that a bicycle is instantly recognizable as such.

Apart from a white or yellow front light and a red back light, these bicycle reflectors are mandatory under Dutch law. Since 1979: a yellow pedal reflector and a red rectangular back reflector. Since 1987: circular wheel reflectors on rim or tyre. So that a bicycle is instantly recognizable as such.

I guess however that many of the proponents of the anti-helmet law religious sect of the Church of Urban Cycling have been dropped on their heads as infants so most of what they propose as adults is a bit suspect.

Just this week one of our club members decided to take a tumble because he hit a rather large rock in the middle of the road. He broke several bones and did some damage to the rest of the body. Now I guess because he was riding an upright two-wheeler I should ask in mock derision,

‘Why since you ride staring at the pavement (rather than in a more erect seated position like you might on a LWB Easy Racers Tour Easy) did you not see what was right in front of you?’

Well like the motorist who claims that the pedestrian or the cyclist came out of nowhere, you cannot always see what is right in front of you. I am certain that the scientists who study these things understand the problem better than most. In fact they do a great deal of work with pilots, especially those in fighter jets.

But frankly moving at speed whether on a bike, or in a car or running means that you are subject to colliding with something that is right in front of you and you are often the one who gets surprised.

We Should Be Rejoicing That Someone Asks That We Protect Ourselves

Riding at night means that things are even dicier for cyclists. You are not only less visible to others, but your vision is impaired by the lack of light.

urban-cycling-ninjas

urban-cycling-ninjas

But in true rebellious fashion these same knuckleheads ride without lights. These ninjas as they like to call themselves are part of yet another wing of the Church of Urban Cycling. And yes, many claim to either feel safer when riding along darkened urban streets dressed in black and using no lights.

There is some sense of logic to this if you let your mind run to what it must feel like to ride in Chicago (gun violence capital of the US). For folks who are trying to avoid being a well-lit target of a gang-banger it does have a ‘ring of truth‘.

But despite the fact that riding with lights in our fair city is mandated by law, there are those who reject the efficacy of being visible for any reason, any place.

So please do not let the logic of this writer confuse you when he tries to make the case that riding without a helmet, no lights or reflective gear is in your best interest.

It is not! But if you are new to cycling or just easily convinced of something that makes no sense at all think about this.

When you local bicycle advocacy group puts on its annual fundraising ride, what one item of bicycle wear do they require? Why, helmet of course!

They cannot get the insurance they need or deflect the lawsuits they would encounter if you injured yourself and suffered brain trauma without that request. Why is it that the threat of lawsuits seems to sober up these brash members of the Urban Cycling Movement?

New Sharrows place riders in 'Door Zone'

New Sharrows place riders in ‘Door Zone’

But when you think about the fact that rather than avoiding the Door Zone they ride at speed right up its  gut, you realize that nothing about this so-called ‘safety‘ group makes much sense.

Vision Zero will never be reached simply because as a class of users of the roadway we cyclists are far too silly to do something that makes perfectly good sense. We instead like to always be contrarians.

Here Is A Tip To The Politicians

If you want to get us cyclists to ‘do the right thing‘ understand our motivations. We do not want licensing because that would mean having to be easily identified as the users of a bicycle by things like ‘red light cameras‘. Now it is true that we clamor for these things because it puts the onus on drivers to protect us. To make us feel safer. But we would never bow to any regulations being place upon ourselves as ‘Sovereign Citizens‘.

So why not attempt to enact a law forbidding us to use helmets or reflective clothing while riding at night or during daylight hours? Also forbid us to use lights front or rear. We must ride as ninjas.

Finally make it a very sweet day by forbidding us to call out ‘on your left‘ or to ride our bicycles more than 6-inches away from parked cars. And it would be wonderful if you could forbid us to ever come to a halt in front of a stop sign or to ever wait for a traffic light to change to green before proceeding.

After you have done all this end up the legislative session by decreeing that you are not allowed to ride a bicycle with less than a 0.08 blood alcohol level. Now that is how I would get this knucklehead crowd to ‘do the right thing‘.

Tell them they must always ride on sidewalks and must never use a Divvy bike and wait to see what happens.

Until the next outbreak of hysteria amongst the Urban Cycling Crowd. Be safe. Ride Naked while wearing a helmet. Oh and ‘let your junk hang out‘, it’s the law!