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Heads Up-why I support a helmet law for bicyclists

I haven’t blogged in a number of months. I will try to correct that for 2016. I want to share the email I sent earlier to California State Senator Carol Liu, who has introduced a bill to require all adult bicyclists in the state to wear a helmet. Current law requires helmets on children riding bicycles. The bicycling community is divided on the issue.

This is my message to Senator Liu.

Dear Senator Carol Liu:

As a bicyclist, I support your bill, SB 192, to require the wearing of helmets. This is a safety issue that is as important as laws requiring car occupants to wear seat belts. I am disappointed that bicycle advocacy groups that I support would oppose a helmet law. I understand the fear that such a law would send the wrong message on the safety of bike riding. I know because people always express concern for my safety when I tell I am a cyclist. They regard bicycling as too dangerous to do themselves. They scoff when I tell them I have had only a few minor accidents and know more people seriously injured in cars than on bikes. A few of those injured in car accidents had previously expressed concern for my safety on a bike.

There are better ways to convince people that bike riding is safe and to encourage more people to ride. While most accidents between cars and bikes are the fault of the driver, too many accidents occur because of reckless bike riding and many can be prevented if riders adopt defensive driving techniques. Better road design and separated bike lanes can make conditions safer for riders, encouraging more people to take to two wheels on our state’s streets.

A half a century ago, car manufacturers were fighting seat belt laws. They did not want to advertise car safety for fear consumers would steer away from their products. They cited the experience of Ford a decade before, which tried to market its cars as being safer and then suffered by low car sales. Ford gave up on that marketing and went back to selling their models as sex and status symbols. Yet, my parents got the message when they had seat-belts installed in their car years before seat belt laws. They valued the importance of keeping their children safe. I adopted those values as I grew into adulthood. One time, I got into a coworker’s car and immediately buckled my seat belt. She expressed how odd it was to drive in a state where you can get a ticket for not wearing your seat belt. She thought my behavior was being guided only by the fear of a ticket.

When I rediscovered bike riding during the first gas shortage in 1973, I learned the importance of wearing a helmet. It has become natural for me to strap on my helmet before starting my ride. Now that I have learned about climate change, I am even more motivated to ride and encourage more people to ride, as well. I want people to ride and feel safe as they ride. I want them to get on bikes to improve their health with regular physical activity. I want them to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. There are laws requiring bicycles to have adequate reflectors and lights at night. We can do more to improve the safety of riding with improvements to bike infrastructure. We can provide better training for riders. I am sure you support those efforts, as well. California bicyclists should support your efforts to improve safety by requiring riders to wear helmets.

Selfie, wearing my Brain Bucket in Berkeley, CA

Selfie, wearing my Brain Bucket in Berkeley, CA

February 26, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment