Yet another bicycle helmet law heads our way

Sen. Bill 192 takes away personal choice.

Sen. Bill 192 takes away personal choice.


California Senate Bill 192, submitted on Feb. 10 by Carol Liu (D, 25th District Southern California), amends the California vehicle code to make it mandatory that everyone riding a bicycle wear a helmet, as well as reflective clothing when riding at night.

As it stands now, anyone under age 18 must wear a helmet when riding a bike on public roads. So this bill extends the law to include adults. There is currently no law about wearing reflective clothing while riding a bike at night.

Require helmets while driving
The senator, who happens to be the wife of Michael Peevey, recently retired president of the Public Utilities Commission, mentions safety as the main reason for the law in her press release.

If she’s so concerned about bicycle safety, why not ban cars? In the U.S. they kill more than 30,000 people annually, about 3.5 million people in total.

While we’re at it, let’s have a law requiring drivers wear helmets, as NASCAR racers do. Consider the facts: Among all age groups, motor vehicle crashes were the third overall leading cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI) (14%). When looking at just TBI-related deaths, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of TBI-related deaths (26%) for 2006–2010. CDC

Of course we won’t see any such laws. Why? Because it would inconvenience millions of people who drive to get around.

Bicycles. That’s a different story. They’re toys and they can be regulated with little opposition. The bike lobby, after all, has almost no visibility. How much does the bike industry donate to political coffers? Don’t forget: We have the best government money can buy.

Meanwhile, Sen. Liu comes across as a politician who’s only concerned about the public safety. “Motherhood and apple pie” is hard to oppose.

The inconvenience of wearing a helmet is not an issue for most well-to-do cyclists, who only ride for sport.

It’s a different story for minimum-wage workers who only ride a bike because it’s all they can afford. Reflective jackets? How about a jacket that doesn’t have holes in it.

I for one look forward to the day when we legislate private car ownership out of existence. Believe me that day is coming. The autonomous car will change our lives, for the better.

Sign the petition opposing Sen. Bill 192.

Note: Today I rode in “God is my helmet” mode, and will continue to do so until the bill is withdrawn.

One Response to “Yet another bicycle helmet law heads our way”

  1. Dan Connelly Says:

    Excellent post. Even more important, it won’t improve public health or safety. The reason is that the difference in safety between a helmet or no helmet has been shown to be small in comparison to the health benefits of riding. The question is asked “given someone is going to ride, should they wear a helmet?” Perhaps. But another question which needs to be asked is “given someone doesn’t have a helmet should they ride or drive?” This law says the latter. And that is clearly against the health of the person in question and the health and safety of everyone else.

    This isn’t just conjecture — it’s been shown in statistics where helmet laws are implemented. The laws reduce head injuries, a success? But then they also reduce non-head injuries. The obvious explanation is people are riding less.

    Especially problematic is the high-visibility clothing requirement. Suppose I ride somewhere planning to return via daylight. However, I am delayed. Not having planned for riding at night, I didn’t bring high-visibility clothing. I’m forced, therefore, to find motorized transportation for my return. Is this the decision we want people to make? Sometimes high visibility clothing may be very important, for example on high-speed roads. But in other cases, on quiet suburban streets, the risk may be very small.

    So in the end what this bill would do is to discourage cycling, encourage driving. And that’s obviously not to the public benefit.

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