The Baltimore Sun covered the hearing at the House of Delegates on the mandatory helmet law.
A bill in the General Assembly would make Maryland the first state in the country to extend helmet requirements to any person on any bike.
On the bill's sponsor
For the bill's sponsor, Del. Maggie McIntosh, the issue is black and white. The idea dawned on the Baltimore Democrat as she passed by a cyclist during her morning commute. In the bike lane next to her car on St. Paul Street, a popular route for city cyclists, a rider was cruising along with traffic, head uncovered.
"I thought, 'Wow; we're doing all this stuff in the legislature to keep cars away from bicyclists, and we should,'" McIntosh said. "But there are people commuting to work on a busy city street and they do not have a helmet on."
True. And there are people walking to work on a sunny day and they don't have sunscreen on.
She was joined in support of the mandate by Nancy Floreen, a Montgomery County Council member who told lawmakers she spent five days in intensive care after a fall from her bike 15 years ago. Three years ago, she suffered another fall and broke her shoulder — but her head was protected by a helmet, which cracked from the impact.
"We have a moral obligation to help people in this regard," Floreen said.
I don't doubt that. But a helmet mandate is not the way to help people. People should floss, and wear sunscreen and go to the exercise, etc... but we don't mandate that they do.
McIntosh, who said she blows off steam after legislative sessions with long-distance bike rides, said she has two friends whose helmets saved them from injury or death within the past year. She cited statistics showing that a majority of fatal bicycle crashes involved head injuries, and of those, the majority of riders who died weren't wearing helmets.
And those all sound like reasons to wear helmets (reasons that one could argue with, but we don't have to). But what about the evidence showing that helmet laws reduce ridership.
McIntosh acknowledged the criticisms, but said it doesn't change the fact that helmets can save lives.
No it doesn't. And none of the advocates are disputing this. But it does bring in to question whether or not helmet LAWS save lives.
If the cost of helmets is prohibitive for some, perhaps programs could offer free helmets to those with low incomes, she suggested.
Great idea. Let's try that first. Let's try educating people and making helmets available to all who want them.
"This idea of requiring someone to wear a helmet and they're going to stop riding their bicycle? I don't know. That's what the motorcyclists said to us too," she said.
Did they have studies that showed that mandatory motorcycle helmet laws reduced ridership? Did ridership really not change as a result? This paper states that motorcycle ridership in Maryland did drop after the helmet law was passed.
"I don't see it as something that would suddenly make you not like biking."
She once again puts forward a total strawman argument. No one is arguing that it would "suddenly" make anyone not like biking. The argument is that some people - those on the margins - would chose to not bike. That is very different from not liking it anymore.
And what about the studies that SHOW that they reduce cycling. Does she not believe the science? She's just as bad as the climate change deniers. If she has evidence that a helmet law saves lives, she should come forward with that, and explain why a mandatory bike helmet law makes sense and a mandatory sunscreen law does not.