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You're generous. A huge bias is showing. He never even mentions the health benefits of cycling. It's nothing less than a deliberate perversion of the argument.

The decrease in ridership is by design. If you have more cyclists, you will have to build more cycling infrastructure eventually. You can't outlaw bikes, but you can pass laws that have been shown repeatedly to decrease cycling, and then you don't have to build more bike lanes, and you keep getting your state gas tax money for roads. People who ride bikes don't pay gas tax, and aren't part of congestion that allows localities to get more federal money for roads. In comparison, bike infrastructure is a drop in the bucket.

It's cynical, but don't kid yourself. Roads are big business.

WABA should ask the distinguished delegate for more information on what else the state is doing to protect cyclists. Things like:

How many mikes of bike lanes have been striped/trails built in the state?

How many bike safety classes for kids and adults are funded by the state?

What programs are in place to train law enforcement officers in the law as it relates to bikes and peds?

How much funding is dedicated to the bike rack install program?

What is the % of total transportation budget devoted to cycling?

What is the current mode share for bikes in the state and how does that compare to the rest of the region?

What is being done about the contributory negligence law?

If she wants to protect cyclists, she should do more to get the policies, procedures, and funding in place to reduce crashes first.

I think if this law passes, CaBi expansion into MD is dead in the water and Baltimore's chances of implementing a bikeshare system drop to zero. From everything I've read, mandatory helmet laws have been one of the biggest obstacles for bikesharing systems in jurisdictions that actually want to implement such systems. Vancouver is dealing with this right now, and it seems likely they're going to dump their helmet law. Melbourne implemented a helmet law after setting up bikesharing and it tanked the entire system.

Seems like the logical extension of this argument is to require seatbelts on public buses. Sure, it probably makes you safer, but you were never in much danger to begin with.

The motorcycle helmet laws may have been derived less from concern about safety than from the large unfunded medical costs from uninsured motorcyclists with massive head injuries. As much about reducing uncompensated health costs to hospitals than concern for safety, in my opinion.

If we were concerned for motorcyclists' safety, we'd probably put restrictions on motorbikes that can go from zero to 120mph in 8 seconds!

“If the only reason you’re riding a bicycle is to feel the wind in your hair, you should take up another sport.”

Coming at this from another angle, this is just one little hint about the attitude of many people in government and those who supports its interminable expansion of power. Hey delegate, free citizens really shouldn't be required to explain why they want to ride a bike without a helmet, of all things. If I support that because I like how the wind feels in my hair, who on earth are you to tell me I need to "find another sport"? If you think you should have that kind of power over me, you should take up another occupation.

I haven't been swayed by a lot of the sort of generically liberal outlooks you find in this blog and in the biking community generally, but the one issue where I've changed my mind, based at the outset by discussions here, is the utility of helmets--it's a much more mixed picture than I initially assumed, even though I virtually always wear one. As for the net outcome of mandatory helmet laws, it really is one of those Freakanomics effects that hurts much more than it helps.

You know, about the only time I don't wear a helmet is when I tool around the neighborhood, especially in the first joy of spring. Lucky for me I bike mainly in Virginia and DC, where wind in your hair is not about to become a controlled substance.

I don't see any subtle plan to suppress biking, however. It's what I think Wash Cycle guy said above--the delegate didn't think it through and is surprised and defensive about the response. Human nature.

More motorists are killed by head injuries than cyclists. If public safety is the goal, mandate helmets for drivers. It works for NASCAR.

"Condoms are a really good idea too - perhaps a better one, but we don't mandate their use."

Well, yeah, but not because we think it would end up causing more STDs and pregnancies rather than less.

Interesting analogy though, and it provokes some humorous images in one's head.

“If the only reason you’re riding a bicycle is to feel the wind in your hair, you should take up another sport.”

The last part of the quote bothers me a bit. I am wondering if the sponsor of this bill simply sees bicycling only as a sport. Many sports have protective gear that is required, so why not bicycling?

A lot of us here, as well as WABA and others, recognize that it can be a sport, but also just basic transportation. Yes you would be wise to wear a helmet in a bike race. A short trip to the post office at the end of the street? Maybe not necessary or worth criminalizing for lack of full set of protective gear. Two completely different levels of risk. If someone only sees this as a sport, they will only see that risk.

Maybe I am reading too much into this?

There is a story on Grist about Seattle trying to figure out how to do bike share with its mandatory helmet laws.


@twk - Not just wise - Most cycling "sporting" events - be they races, charity rides, or even club rides - require helmets be worn. I've yet to sign up for an event where it doesn't say on the entry somewhere "Helmets must be worn."

As for a law stopping cyclists' riding - I think the impact would be greater in that some folks would not *start* riding if required by law to don a helmet. (I have no #'s to back that up - just my humble opinion). It's just one more piece of equipment to buy in a pricey activity anyway.

To note my querying 2010 crash data yields 68% fatal crashes where the cyclists was not wearing a helmet... Maryland it's 33%. If we are better then the national average why impose a law here?

"No bikeshare has ever been successful where there is a strict helmet law"

On Eric's point on contributory negligence, note that motorcyclists get the following while we do not:
§ 21-1306.1.(e) Failure to use required headgear; evidence; civil actions. --
(1) The failure of an individual to wear protective headgear required under subsection (b) of this section may not:

  • (i) Be considered evidence of negligence;

  • (ii) Be considered evidence of contributory negligence;

  • (iii) Limit liability of a party or an insurer; or

  • (iv) Diminish recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, or operation of a moped or motor scooter.

Sadly, helmets are totally useless. The Cochrane study has been debunked. In 1991, Australia made helmets mandatory. Guess what rate the serious injuries and fatalities went down?

Not at all. If you had a series of numbers of all the morbidity you could not determine when the law went into place.

On the other hand, you will see EXACTLY when the law was enacted when looking at modshare because that plummetted.

Helmets are a bottom up solution to problem (dangerous roads) which is created by a top down method (federal government).

According to OSHA standards,the PPE (personal protective equipment) must actually help when used properly in an accident.

A maker of a bullet proof vest shot himself and lived which proved his product worked for its use case. Who's willing to back up their belief in helmets with allowing a high speed car to hit them?

Face it, a helmet is no more useful for cyclist safety than my lucky rabbit's foot. I fell and hit my head, but rabbit's foot broke so that's how I know I was safe...

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