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I actually wrote to Nancy Floreen, since she represents me, and she, or someone in her office, responded. It was a pleasant response, but she seems to be pretty set on her position. There was a lot of mention of "common sense", assurances that she was pro-cycling, and a vague dismissal of the idea that the bill would have any impact on ridership.

It was a nice brush-off, but still a brush-off.

Ninety-one percent of those killed in biking accidents are not wearing helmets.

Let's say that mandatory helmets becomes the law, and let's say that everyone complies. So after the law takes effect, 100% of people killed in biking accidents will be wearing helmets. What does that prove?

If Councilwoman Floreen is set on her opinion of a helmet law, it may be a lost cause to persuade her otherwise. But if she really is a proponent of cycling, and if she wants to see Montgomery County get a bikeshare system, she should be asking the state legislature to amend this legislation to exclude bikeshare riders.

If enough county residents ask her to do that (I already have), she and others on the Council might take action. But it's doubtful that we can change her mind on the helmet law entirely.

I pointed out that the County was about to invest in BikeShare, and that the available evidence indicates that helmet laws negatively impact BikeShare programs.

Just to put her on notice that if BikeShare fails in Montgomery County, she can't claim no one warned her.

700 cyclist deaths, while tragic, is really not a lot. After some basic googling, I found that in 2003, there were 4,749 pedestrian deaths, mostly caused by head injuries. Seems like pretty compelling evidence to mandate pedestrian helmet use. When can we expect you to draft that law, Ms. Floreen?

http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/vehicle/key_issues_for_vehicle_safety_design/what_are_main_crash_injury_problems.htm

http://www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe/crashstats.cfm

We need to push the magic talisman bill, since I believe it protected me.

Srsly, since Nancy Floreen is so focused on safety, perhaps she will be sponsoring some bills that actually make life safer for cyclists.

Nancy Floreen seems to be think she wouldn't have gotten seriously injured had she been wearing a helmet 15 years ago. Nobody can make that assertion, not even a medical doctor (except in a highly controlled laboratory setting). I could offer up my own set of anecdotes showing how I didn't get seriously injured in several bike crashes (including one hitting a pothole at 37 mph), despite not wearing a helmet, but this wouldn't prove that helmets are useless any more than Ms. Floreen's testimony proves helmets are useful. I can however offer up several reasons why I've never been seriously injured in a bike crash, and why I haven't crashed, period, since 1996. For one I practice defensive cycling. I leave a cushion of space around me to compensate for other people's mistakes. I've avoided many crashes this way. I've learned how to fall just in case defensive cycling fails me (it hasn't yet-every crash I've had I determined was because I did something wrong). Letting your body go loose and stretching your arms forwards prevents probably close to 100% of potential head injuries. Of course, I'll readily admit I can do little to prevent severe head injury in a bike-motor vehicle collision. However, bike helmets are just about totally ineffective in this scenario. More importantly, a cyclist usually sustains severe blunt force trauma to major organs when colliding with a motor vehicle. This is typically the primary way they die or sustain life-changing injuries. Whether or not head injuries also accompany these other injuries is usually moot as far as determining the overall outcome.

Nancy is pro-cycling. Not a champion like some our state legislators (e.g. Al Carr) but she recently wrote to the state to push for more improvements. See http://www.thewashcycle.com/2012/10/montgomery-county-councilwoman-floreen-asks-for-bike-lanes.html
But sometimes our friends work against us :-(

Well, she has been champion at times, but sometimes we get contrarian statements from her like her publicly criticizing the Rock Creek Trail bridge over Veirs Mill Rd. though it's one of the very best projects recently.

1.7 million people in the US sustain a traumatic brain injury annually, according to the CDC. Still, she put language in her bill arbitrarily limiting the helmet mandate to bicycle use, depriving 99.99% of the potential beneficiaries of her bill of any protection whatsoever. That's just heartless! Let's fix this huge loophole, so everyone can benefit from helmets, all the time.

For example, mishaps near a bathtub, shower, toilet or sink caused an estimated 234,094 nonfatal injuries in the U.S. in 2008. How many of these people would have benefitted from a mandatory helmet law?

She questioned using transportation funds for the the bridge. The Matthew Henson trail was also funded by the same means.

Pro bike share, but wants a helmet law that will kill bike share? Pro bike trails but against transporation funds being used to fund the trails?

This is immensely confusing and frustrating.

So is everyone here against mandatory seatbelt laws too?

What about mandatory helmets for children? What's the difference there?

Just want to get a better analogy than sunscreen.

Why do you need a better one?

We draw lines with laws. I have no strong view on the helmet law for kids, but I think we would say that while adults are capable of making a valid risk assessment of helmet use in a particular context, children are not. We impose other restrictions on kids for that same reason.

WIth seatbelts, I think the idea is that the car itself can be made safer with little inconvenience to the driver. The seatbelt is integrated into the car--you can't forget it. Also, seatbelts reduce or prevent injury in the vast majority of high-speed crashes. Helmets had a much lower protective value--they are inadequate protection in many high speed impacts, and they protect the head in a limited way. I've had some crashes where they seemed to protect my head, and others where my skull impacted the pavement without the helmet preventing that at all.

@me As mentioned on another thread, I personally find the WABA statement kind of muddled. IMO, these are the key points:

- What is being considered is a mandatory helmet law (not a helmet). What is at issue is the effect of a mandatory helmet law, not of helmets.

- Numerous studies show that there are significant public benefits to bicycling and that mandatory helmet laws discourage bicycling (reductions of up to 30 percent have been seen).

- Numerous studies show that the heath benefits of bicycling outweigh the dangers by 10 to one or more. This is a solution in search of a problem.

- Most importantly, many, many studies show a "safety in numbers effect" (more bicycling = safe bicycling = fewer fatalities per rider and, in some cases, fewer fatalities overall) with the following counter-intuitive result: Mandatory helmet laws increase fatalities per rider (less riders and less fatalities, but more fatalities per rider).

To summarize: Mandatory. Helmet. Laws. Increase. Fatalities. Per. Rider.

A seat belt is not an inconvenience at it is always in the car and does not restrict what a person wears or in what they plan to do at the end of their trip.

Shopping with a helmet causes issues. Do you keep it on your head? Do you carry it? Do you have room to carry everything else in the store and your helmet?

If a person want to use bike share and does not have a helmet, then they will not use bike share or will have to risk a really obvious ticket.

My wife leaves her helmet hanging on the bike. It hasn't been stolen... yet. I try not to give her a hard time about it but sooner or later we will have to buy her a new one becuase it is stolen and she will have to ride the return trip without a helmet.

Has any kid ever been ticketed for not wearing a helmet? Not to my knowledge, therefore it's a worthless law that sends the message that laws really don't mean anything since they are never inforced. That's a really bad message to send kids.

Most kids in my neighborhood who ride don't even own helments. So if that law is inforce there will be less kids riding bicycles.

Seat belt laws and helmet laws are no where near the same as having to carry a helmet all the time becuase it gets in the way.

@me

Comparing bike helmet laws to seatbelt laws (or motorcycle helmet laws) isn't really relevant...types of accidents, speeds involved, nature of injuries, etc, are all so vastly different as to make comparison impossible.

A)data are conclusive for seat belts, but not helmets

B)seatbelts offer protection that is entirely unique to the operation of a car. Anyone can hit their head at any time on just about anything and I don't think the data show cyclists suffer head injuries at rates higher than any other segment of the population. In addition, seatbelts protect against the primary cause of passenger injury (coming to a stop very quickly), but helmets only protect against a small portion of cycling-related injuries.

C)the frequency of vehicle crashes and insurance coverage requirements probably has dictated seatbelt laws, as insurance companies potentially face much higher payouts for unbelted drivers. Cyclist injuries of this nature are rare, so insurance companies probably don't care all that much.

I'm sure others can address this issue much more eloquently and persuasively than I can though...

You guys crack me up. You're all for regulation of things you don't understand, but the most minor regulation of bicycling and you are all up in arms.

we are all for sensible regulation of biking - we are against this, because it does not make sense.

What regulations of things we dont understanda are "We" all in agreement on - I suspect you would find on almost any political issue there are cyclists on both sides.

me, I think everyone here has addressed the mandatory helmet for children law pretty well. I'm of a mixed mind on it personally, but I think Crikey makes a good point.

As for seatbelts there are several distinctions that are relevant. For me, a safety tool mandate should pass all three rules below

1. Efficacy - Seat belts are much more effective than helmets. We could draw a line somewhere on that scale, but then that opens you up to sunscreen mandates. At the very least, experts should agree that the feature is effective. [Seatbelts pass this better than helmets, but helmets probably pass too]

2. Cost-benefit of mandate - if there is an argument that a mandatory seatbelt law makes people LESS safe, I haven't heard it. I'm not sure, from a policy goal standpoint, what the downsides of the law are and thus what the costs of the law are - but we can easily see the benefits and so it is likely that the costs exceed the benefits; but for a mandatory helmet law there is strong evidence that it reduces cycling and so that is a pretty strong indication that their will be a high cost in form of policy goals not being met and it's unclear that the benefits outweigh the cost. [So seatbelts almost surely pass, helmets likely do not. This is what WABA is arguing].

3. Liberty - Should the government require you to do something that, in the end, is to your benefit and your benefit only? If your answer is no, then helmet laws are a bad idea. If your answer is yes, then sunscreen laws are a good idea. Seatbelts are different, because they can allow a driver to retake control of the car and mitigate the impact of a crash; and keep motorists from becoming projectiles that will kill other passengers or even make the crash worse by interfering with the driver. So a seatbelt mandate protects the wearer, but more importantly, everyone around them. [Seatbelts pass this test, but helmets do not]

So for me, that is the three-test rule for safety items. I support laws requiring lights, reflectors, bikes that can stop etc... for all these reasons. But helmets don't pass all three tests.

I've walked through grocery stores and drug stores while wearing my helmet. If you don't like the way I look - tough.

If I left my dirty, sweaty, stinky helmet on my bike and you steal it - you obviously need it more than I. Have it. I'll get another one. A cleaner one.

Although I always wear a helmet (okay - except when maybe testing out an adjustment up and down my street), I recognize that a helmet will not make me "safe." It will protect my head from certain types of injuries - but it will not protect me from more injuries (road rash, broken collar bone, dislocated shoulder, broken hip, wrenched back, torn knee ligaments, or even massive head injuries - just a few injuries I know of that have happened to me or friends). For these, a helmet does not good whatsoever - yet those injuries disrupt lives, put people in the hospital, cause lost work and productivity. Some of those injuries even kill - with or without a helmet. If a drunk driver plows into you from behind, your body is going to suffer the consequences.

And yes - I do believe that a helmet law will keep folks from starting to ride. It may not make folks stop riding - but it will stop folks from joining the ranks.

I think the biggest issue is the contributory negligence issue and I haven't heard folks like Nancy Floreen discuss it.

My $0.02

Crikey7:

If mandatory helmet laws make it MORE likely a cyclist will die, that settles it. But I'd like to see that study.

MM:

The "a helmet is inconvenient" argument is just completely bogus. And you can pretty easily lock one on your bike, you know.

I still haven't seen anyone explain why they think helmets should be mandated for kids, yet not adults. What's the difference?

washcycle,

Your #1 is really part of #2. #3 is for the most part subservient to #2, since a helmet is hardly a big burden. So let's stick with #2. That's where you might have a point.

I don't think one could design a study that could answer that question. Here's what we have: (1) studies in areas without helmet laws that show that riding a bicycle actually reduces your risk of death overall versus other modes of transport, even taking accidents into account, and (2) studies that show that helmet laws reduce ridership significantly (though we do need more rigorous and more recent studies done on that). It is a logical conclusion from (1) and (2) that mandatory helmet laws result in higher incidence of death. Dynamics like the safety in numbers effect would only strengthen that conclusion.

me,

1 is largely part of 2, but I could foresee something with no benefit, but negative cost. Like if the state mandated federally subsidized talismans. But, it doesn't really matter.

How is 3 subservient to 2? Even if it is, that isn't the same as saying it doesn't matter. The law has to pass both tests. It doesn't. Who cares which one it fails?

The helmet is inconvenient argument is not bogus, because it adds cost - which flows into test 2.

As for why mandate helmets for kids, I think Crikey made a good case, why don't you find that compelling. Disagreeing is not the same as not hearing a position. If you're not going to listen to people, I'm not going to waste my time.

@me

I don't think I said anything about convenience. Well, I guess requiring cyclists to wear helmets, but not anyone else who is equally at risk of a head injury is inconvenient...so sure, whatever.

Inconvenience isn't a good basis for opposing the law, in and of itself. But that inconvenience has a more far-reaching effect, namely by causing cycling rates to go down, which has been shown to be a greater public health risk than not wearing helmets. The negative consequences of a helmet law outweigh the public benefits of increasing cycling rates, plain and simple. Helmet laws decrease cycling rates, therefore helmet laws are bad for public health.

Regarding the child helmet laws, I'm sort of at a loss to figure out why that's so hard to grasp. Why do we not let children drive? Why do we not let children operate heavy equipment? Why do we not let children stay in hotel rooms by themselves? Because their coordination is not fully developed, their judgment/cognitive abilities have not matured, and they don't have the same legal standing as adults...hence, we take a few more precautions with them and apply laws to them that we don't necessarily apply to adults.

"I still haven't seen anyone explain why they think helmets should be mandated for kids, yet not adults. What's the difference?"

kids can't use bikeshare, which requires a credit card. requiring kids to wear helmets will not effect bikeshare, the loss of which would bother me.

Thats not the only distinction, but its pretty straightforward, doesnt involve a lot of political philosophy talk about liberty, and doesnt require a lot of studies about how kids fall or how their skulls work.

and by 'bother me' i mean the loss of bikeshare would stop a system that is expanding biking, and helping transform how people live, in very positive ways.

Question related to posting:

I just tried posting a fairly long comment on this topic twice, only to have it disappear both times when I refreshed the page. Is there a word limit or some other reason my post didn't appear. And this happened also to two other posts in different threads.

It might have used a prohibited word. There aren't many of them, but they sometimes get people. If you have what you wrote, send it to me and I can check it.

Jeff,

Thank you for your e-mail. HB 339 was recently heard in my committee. During the hearing, testimony was provided that substantiated my concerns with the legislation. Unless there are drastic edits or amendments to the bill, I will not support it.

Please feel free to contact me with any additional comments or questions.

Delegate Cathy Vitale
Anne Arundel County, District 33A
Lowe House Office Building
6 Bladen Street, Room 154
Annapolis, MD 21401
O-410- 841-3510
F -410- 841-3180

An additional reservation I have about a helmet law is that the state contains many roads with widely varied traffic conditions. I personally wouldn't ride in a busy area without a helmet, but I know backroads where a slow rider like me is unlikely to encounter anything more hazardous than a box turtle. For this reason, I am also opposed to helmet laws for kids.

me: kids have bigger heads, less developed reflexes, and are more likely to be injured.

Kids are more likely to suffer low-speed single-person accidents (read: fall over) which happen to be the exact type of accidents helmets are really good at providing protection for.

It's also really hard to have any reasonable political discussion about any topic in this country once someone says "think of the children!" Children are a bit like regular people in that helmets might make sense for them sometimes, and might not make sense at other times. That's too complicated, so you simply end up with a rarely enforced law that becomes a pretext for stopping people who annoy law enforcement for one reason or another.

Half the kids I see with their mandatory helmets on the W&OD have them so loose that they don't need to unstrap them to remove them. The law does not make them wear effective helmets...

The supporters of this bill would seem to think that helmets make sense to cover common potential errors, helmets are not terribly costly ($20 to $30 at a local walmart) and simple protection--it's a throw-away skull. These are the same reasons that cycling groups (WABA, for instance) recommend it, too. Further, since they don't want to make it a ticketed infraction, merely a warning, it indicates the supporters see it as a way to throw weight and might of the state in recommending a course of action for everyone.

I'm inclined to agree with the reason of "liberty" to ride free of a helmet. In part because I wonder "why is this a big deal?" Liberty, sadly, is not a convincing argument as the motorcycle helmet opponents would agree. Motorcyclists have the argument that an accident at 50 MPH isn't likely to result in sustainable injuries. It didn't work out well for them. I don't know the statistics, but since motorcycling helmets are not required in Pennsylvania, it might be of benefit to consult Pennsylvania DOT.

The useful arguments are
1) stigma of illegality
2) enforceability

(1) has been discussed here quite a lot since Montgomery wants to spend some treasure to have Cabi in-county. It remains a question as whether or not the idea of cycling "illegally" will have the stigma associated to prevent people from doing it. If it does, this law risks that money already being spent for cycling infrastructure that wouldn't get used, whether bike-lanes or bike-sharing. I might decide to walk my bike the 8 mile commute home if I forget my helmet, but for others? I doubt it because of (2):

(2) enforceability:
I expect that the number of drivers who have been ticketed twice for the same texting or non-hands-free use of a cell phone is a vanishingly small number. Further, how many have been ticketed for those infractions at all? Is it a very large number? I see people on each commute each day who commit one or the other violation. Now, if these infractions, to which the research seems to show have a significant effect on the accident rate of drivers and each of which have a fine associated, cannot garner significant enforcement, what kind of enforcement could we expect to see for a mandated warning and documentary blurb handout?

This kind of useless law risks state and county money as potential riders decide not to use the projects bought for being labelled a "law breaker"; it adds more to the jobs the state and county police must enforce, without actually having a benefit that a cop or his or her district can say they did at review-time. The kicker is it serves to give the law-makers political points for being "pro-safety".

I doubt Mark Twain's comments had a lot to do with the Safety Bicycle, but I'd need to look up what he wrote that in. He didn't have a lot nice to say about riding on a train, either. Her Twain quotes, while amusing and apropos only insofar as riding a bicycle, aren't relevant if only because the only speed competition in 1884 were a locomotive and a runaway horse! He wasn't talking about one of her 15-mile "avid cyclist" bike rides.

I tend to think a helmet wearing is a good idea, but I'm not decided that I'm doomed without. I'm pretty convinced that helmet prevented some sort of head injury when i wrecked on a badly designed MD-DOT median. With deference to Joe R., stretched out arms, a la Superman, caused a fracture at the shoulder.

100% of NFL players suffering traumatic brain injuries were wearing helmets.

Massive helmets at that. It seems the helmet is designed to protect the outside of the skull. My brain is on the inside.

I got the same emailed response as Greenbelt. Maybe it's an encouraging sign.

Thank you for your e-mail. HB 339 was recently heard in my committee. During the hearing, testimony was provided that substantiated my concerns with the legislation. Unless there are drastic edits or amendments to the bill, I will not support it.

Please feel free to contact me with any additional comments or questions.

Delegate Cathy Vitale
Anne Arundel County, District 33A
Lowe House Office Building
6 Bladen Street, Room 154
Annapolis, MD 21401
O-410- 841-3510
F -410- 841-3180

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