The Best Reasons Not to Support the Helmet Bill #SB192

This bill will criminalize people who ride. See more here.

BikeSD adamantly opposes the bill (Senate Bill 192) put forward by State Senator Carol Liu, D-La Cañada, requiring all bicycle riders to wear a helmet and don reflective clothing at night, in addition to required lights. The debate has already reproduced familiar frames that present bicycle riding as abnormal, and driving a motor vehicle as the default mode of travel. There are many reasons to oppose this bill – and there are simple arguments that can help shape the debate at the State Capitol and at the dinner table:

1. Helmet laws discourage bicycle riding.

In California, we are at the vanguard of economic and environmental sustainability. If we are to equip our cities and towns for the future, we should do everything we can to treat bicycle riding as normal and safe. The only things you need to ride a bike to the store, to work, or around the block is a good attitude, a working bike, and cities and towns forward-thinking enough to create safe passage through infrastructure.

2. Helmet laws and the debate they engender distract the public and policy-makers

from the real matter at hand, which is to make bicycle riding more fun, accessible, and safe through infrastructure: bike lanes, protected bike lanes, bicycle traffic signals, and right-of-way indicators. When we facilitate safe and fun bicycle travel for people of all ages, everyone is safer, including motor vehicle drivers and pedestrians.

3. Helmet laws treat dangerous motor vehicle traffic as normal.

A bicycle helmet is tested for a slow-speed fall off the bike. They are not tested to protect a user from a collision with motor vehicles at traffic speeds. The problem for bicycle riders and pedestrians is the high speed of vehicle traffic, and the way our cities and towns facilitate fast motor vehicle movement through our neighborhoods at great cost for other road users and for sense of community. Let’s focus on the real problem: slow vehicle traffic to more human-scale speeds.

4. Energy should be spent transforming our towns and cities.

Our energy should not be spent requiring safety equipment for hostile and unsustainable environments. We believe that slowing down motor vehicle traffic, creating bicycle infrastructure, and better pedestrian facilitation will make California economically competitive. We believe that this will bring more children playing outside and older people can walk to the market with more confidence. We believe that small businesses can roll out their storefronts to create places and destinations. We believe design at a human scale increases social intercourse and  deliberation. And that is what we should all be aiming to attain.


Update: the mandatory helmet bill is gone!