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August 25, 2006

Proposed Mandatory Helmet Law Protested in Austin

Over the years I've written about cycling safety, and how one aspect of that is wearing a helmet.

I have links in my sidebar to research for, and against, helmet use, and there have been comments to my stories from folks who can marshal statistics, and stories, for the opposing view.

When I was 8 years old I was knocked off my bike by a bully with a jump rope, and nearly got a severe concussion.

I was in no condition to enjoy the ride to the hospital in the back of the police car that showed up seconds after the incident, darn it!

I have worn a helmet since then, and have no doubt wearing one has saved me from injury several times.

This story has led me to add 2 new links, in my Helmet Issue List, including 1 from a group, in Austin, TX., that intelligently presents the "Against Helmet Use" view on this hot topic as they fight the "Good Fight", as they see it, in their city:

The League of Bicycling Voters was established, in the 1990's, to promote safe bicycling in the greater Austin area.

Fritz, of Cyclicious, yesterday put together a report on the latest news from Austin:

The Austin City Council will hold a hearing tonight in a few moments to once again discuss mandatory helmets for all ages. Austin passed similar legislation in 1996, modifying the law a year and half later so that it now applies only to cyclists ages 17 and younger.

The League of Bicycling Voters in Austin has been campaigning hard to fight this legislation. According to the LOBV, helmet laws discourage cycling, distract attention from real bike safety initiatives, unfairly targets cyclists, give motorists who injure cyclists anonther excuse to escape liability, and give police another way to harass minorities on bicycles.

Read the full piece here.

***UPDATE -- 930AM***

The Proposal was defeated at an intense City Council meeting covered by Seth Johnson of Austin City Skates.

His capsule guides to what 18 speakers for each side of the issue had to say captures the 2 sides eloquently, and made me cringe at the way the Pro-Law Speakers presented their case:

The proponents of the helmet law basically described a littany of horrors associated with bicycle accidents and drew the conclusion that if everyone were required to wear helmets, then the health care burden would be reduced for the city supporting brain-injured citizens. Truly, the picture they painted made it sound like bicycling was the worst and most deadly form of transportation available. These people included Bruce Todd talking about the $300,000 in hospital bills he racked up from his recent cycling accident. He was followed by Scot Simmons, the brother of Gay Simmons, who was run over by two cars and killed while riding the shoulder on 360.

When the anti-helmet law people took the podium, it quickly became clear that they were almost unanimously in support of wearing helmets while bicycling, but opposed to a regulation requiring their use. The other distinction that seemed to seperate them from the helmet law supporters was that these were the hardcores. These folks are really putting into practice bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation while the previous speakers were of the weekend recreational riding ilk. Some of these riders are involved in the Yellow Bike Project and many said their bicycles are their only forms of transportation.

Full, picture filled report, by Austin Skate Notes.

Look, I support wearing a helmet because, to me, it is common sense, but I will not support forcing Adults to wear them for their own good, and the publics good, because community do gooders, and fellow cyclists who sadly suffered injuries that may have traumatically affected their thinking, and/or cyclists who do not, or have not, used their bikes for more than the occasional recreational jaunt, and may not even be versed in the ways of safe cycling, especially on city streets, say everyone MUST BE MADE TO DO SO by law.

Unlike Smoking in enclosed public places the only people hurt by not wearing a helmet are those who choose not to wear one, so if they don't, and something happens... it is on their head ( pun intended. ).

While the risk of injury, I believe, increases when you don't wear a helmet, if you are an adult who has cycling experience, know the ways of safe cycling, and understand the risks, then I say have at it, and just stay safe.

I commute to work 10+ miles ( 20+ when I do the round trip.) every day, and have used my bike to travel all my life.

Bicycling is NOT "the worst and most deadly form of transportation available".

Bicycling is dangerous if you don't ride responsibly.

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE CYCLIST TO ADEQUATLEY INFORM HIM, OR HERSELF, ABOUT NOT JUST THE CONTRAPTION THEY HAVE TAKEN UP RIDING, BUT THE SAFE WAYS TO DO SO, THE LAWS IN THEIR COMMUNITY, AND MUCH MORE.

Doing this makes you a better cyclist, whether you wear a helmet or not, and making sure your children learn what you have learned IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY AS A PARENT, and will make them better cyclists, and turn them into life long, INFORMED, cyclists as well.

The reason I began this blog, 3 1/2 years ago, was to collect as many of the most important, and informative, resources I could find on Bicycling.

It is hard for many to find these sites on their own, and most ordinary cyclists, and many "Hardcore" types, have no clue that these resources are available.

The variety of the resources is astonishing, as you can see, and it is my hope that more, and more people discover them, use them, and learn from them.

Cycling, Cyclists, and the world at large, will benefit.

( Thanks, FRITZ, for the e-mail heads up!! )

***END UPDATE***

***UPDATE 2 -- 8/26***

Megan Ann, of Chainsaw Panda Rides A Bike, wrote an eloquent letter to the council, and reports that "42 spoke against the proposed law. 2 spoke as neutral. 19 spoke for."

She writes a great post, and it's from her that I present the following 2 links, if you are interested, and have the time, as she describes them:

" it will be re-broadcast. and/or you can read the transcript. Cuz I know all u guys need something to do over the weekend. ha. You have to see the woman that sang 2 songs during her time at the podium. Superbly austin."  :-)

***END UPDATE***

Resources:

Bicycle Helmet Institute

Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation: An International Resource

Brandon's Champions

NoHelmetLaw.org ( Added to sidebar today. )

Avery Burdett's Helmets FAQ ( Anti - Helmet Use Dissertation by The Vehicular Cyclist: Site Added to sidebar today. )

August 25, 2006 in Life on the Street: Local, and state Laws, and other topics | Permalink

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Comments

I never used to wear a helmet before but I will in the future. I was lucky and did not bang my head. The trouble is, until you're injured, you never take safety too seriously. Then it becomes your no. 1 priority. For some people it will be too late.

regards

Tom

Posted by: Tom Amos | Aug 26, 2006 5:59:25 PM

Thanks for stopping by Tom.

Your story will, I hope, give people on both sides of the helmet debate some food for thought.

I know I speak for all cyclists when I say I hope you are someday able to return to riding.

Posted by: Kiril, The Cycling Dude | Aug 26, 2006 6:11:36 PM

thank you very much for this well written and linked up post. thank you for visiting my site and i apprecite your comments and input. i love the bike community - and as it has grown larger for me than just Austin Texas....i feel grateful and happy to be a part of it all. take care. megan

Posted by: megan | Aug 29, 2006 10:33:52 AM

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