I am lucky to have survived my bike accident 15 years ago, so I feel strongly about the proposed Maryland law to require all bicyclists, not just children, to wear a helmet. I just delivered this testimony to the Maryland House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee in Annapolis:
Good afternoon, Ms. McIntosh and members of the committee. My name is Nancy Floreen, and I am an at-large member of the Montgomery County Council; however, I am testifying as an individual today.
Fifteen years ago I took a leisurely bike ride on the Capital Crescent Trail and wound up in the intensive care unit of the Georgetown University Hospital neurology department. I spent five days there, and while I eventually recovered, I never regained any memories of the accident. I don’t really know what happened, but I do know that I was not wearing a helmet.
That’s why I’m here to ask you to vote for HB339, requiring all bicyclists to wear a helmet.
I understand that there is significant opposition to this bill, and I appreciate the arguments made by bicycle advocates that this bill could discourage people from bicycling, particularly in the emerging bikeshare program. These are valid points.
Still, I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing a helmet. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a half a million people in the US are treated in emergency rooms annually--and more than 700 people die--as a result of bicycle-related injuries. Ninety-one percent of those killed in biking accidents are not wearing helmets. We can change these statistics. We must change these statistics.
While I am here in support of HB339, I want to note that a helmet law is only one of many actions we must take to make bicycling safe and accessible. We must also create a complete bicycle network with bike lanes connecting to each other as well as to major destinations like schools, transit stations and job centers.
These networks require roadway improvements like buffered and non-buffered bike lanes, shared use markings and conflict zone markings. Specifically, I encourage the State to look at placing bike lanes on Georgia Avenue from Spring Street to 13th Street and on the east side of Colesville Road from East-West Highway north to Georgia Avenue. These improvements will do as much as (if not more than) a helmet law to ensure bicycle safety for current riders in addition to those who may use bikeshare.
In 1884, Mark Twain said, “Get a bicycle. You will certainly not regret it…if you live.” It’s 2013, and I look forward to continuing to work together to make bicycling safe and enjoyable for everyone. Thank you for your time and attention to this matter today, and remember…governing is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance you must keep moving forward.
She acknowledges that opponents have valid points, but then never addresses them. She only says that wearing helmets can improve outcomes* - which the opposition has not denied. Does she really think this is the only standard for such a law? If so - sunscreen legislation should also be pursued.
*she does pull out some questionable "facts".