People that choose to ride bikes, San Francisco, California. Photo by: Linda Poeng
Regarding: Carol Liu, 25th District D-Glendale California, proposing a law, Senate Bill 192, mandatory reflective clothing, helmets for adults that choose to bike. A bill that would make California the only state in the nation to require bike helmets for adults.
I am a believer in bike helmets and have used regularly since 1975. (Three of them have given up their lives in major crashes, saving me from major concussions and/or brain surgeries.) I am also a League Cycling Instructor with the League of American Bicyclists and an experienced urban and road cyclist who always urges my fellow cyclists to wear properly-fitted cycling helmets on every ride.
I do not support mandatory helmet laws, in large part for the reasons cited below by BJ Toepper: the biggest obstacles to safer cycling are the hazardous nature of car-centric roadways and consistently unsafe driver behavior. When combined with the dearth of universal bike safety education that includes bike-handling skills and collision avoidance training, it is no surprise that car-bike collisions cause most injuries and deaths among cyclists.
I expect better journalistic investigation and wiser editorials from a newspaper than the Contra Costa Times. Unfortunately, the CCT news piece endorses yet another paternalistic and marginal solution.
If genuine risk reduction is the goal of legislators like Senator Carol Liu, they should mandate the redesign of our streets and roads so they are as safe and accessible for all people that walk, ride, skate, wheelchair, and choose alternative methods of transportation. While this strategy would be politically risky, redesigning and reorienting our roadways for use by people instead of motor vehicles would create a safer environment, thus saving lives as is the intent of the bill.
In the absence of prioritizing impactful transportation and roadway designs, Liu’s bill is simply one more manifestation of a patronizing “blame the victim” approach to bike safety that does nothing to reduce the real causes of car-bike collisions. The real causes of injury and death to cyclists are: 1) unsafe roadways that leave no room for cyclists, and 2) motorists who are absolved of responsibility when they ignore, harass, or “don’t see” cyclists. People that cycle remain a politically “invisible” minority on the road–even when we wear yards of reflective gear and use extra-bright lights, as I do.
No matter how many helmets I wear or how many lights and reflectors I use, the roadways I help pay for with my taxes are not safe for people. The solution then is to prevent the cause of injuries and deaths to cyclists by prioritizing the updating of vehicle codes, car-centric cultural norms, and the designs of streets.
– Jon Spangler, February 21, 2015.