At WABA, we encourage and teach safe and responsible cycling practices, including helmet use. But we do not believe that mandatory helmet laws are the proper approach. While their impact on safety is debatable, their impact on cycling rates (especially in jurisdictions implementing or seriously studying bikesharing) is clearly negative.
Please CLICK HERE to let the Environmental Matters Committee know that you are a responsible cyclist and a responsible adult capable of making your own decision regarding safety equipment, and that you OPPOSE HB 339 and its imposition of a mandatory helmet requirement.
Now it should be noted that the penalty for violating this law is "the issuance of a warning that informs the offender of the requirements of this section and provides educational materials about bicycle helmet use."
Nonetheless as Jim points out, this is a law that is likely to be counterproductive.
“Pushing helmets really kills cycling and bike-sharing in particular because it promotes a sense of danger that just isn’t justified — in fact, cycling has many health benefits,” says Piet de Jong, a professor in the department of applied finance and actuarial studies at Macquarie University in Sydney. He studied the issue with mathematical modeling, and concludes that the benefits may outweigh the risks by 20 to 1.
He adds: “Statistically, if we wear helmets for cycling, maybe we should wear helmets when we climb ladders or get into a bath, because there are lots more injuries during those activities.” The European Cyclists’ Federation says that bicyclists in its domain have the same risk of serious injury as pedestrians per mile traveled.
So, by discouraging cycling, helmets actually reduce public health (as well as the other benefits of cycling like pollution reduction, mobility, congestion relief etc...). And if we're going to start requiring helmets for cycling than really we should require them for a whole host of other activities, but we don't because requiring people to wear every bit of safety equipment that has some benefit isn't something we generally do.
Wearing a helmet is probably a good idea, but that isn't - nor should it be - our standard for mandating someting.Wearing sunscreen is a very good idea and we don't mandate it's use. Or motoring helmets. Or shower helmets. Or flossing. Not to make this into a libertarian thing, but freedom is really the right to do things that others might think is stupid (like be a Unitarian, or vote Green Party, or go to the University of Arkansas) - so long as it doesn't hurt other people. And not wearing a helmet isn't going to hurt anyone but the person making that decision. That's different from seatbelts, since seatbelts keep the driver in front of the stearing wheel where they can regain control of the car and keep passengers from becoming projectiles. So yeah, this is also wrong because it impinges on people's personal freedom without good reason. I don't think I'm a nutcase for opposing that.
More of my thoughts on helmets here.