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Mandatory helmets for adults in Vancouver?

Posted by on January 28th, 2008 at 1:27 pm

[Updated: 3:27pm]

Roll On Columbia! ride

Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard
sets a good example.
(Photo © Jonathan Maus)

The majority of Vancouver (WA) City Council members are reportedly in favor of expanding a youth helmet ordinance to include adults.

The ordinance was first heard by City Council earlier this month and based on recent comments by four of the seven councilmembers, there is some momentum to amend the ordinance to make it apply to adults as well as kids.

*The Vancouver Bicycle Club is also supportive of an all-ages law. Former club President Joe Toscano told me today that the club wrote a letter of recommendation to Council asking them to expand the ordinance to adults. Toscano said that, “We just think it makes sense that if you have the law for kids, you should have adults setting the example.”

In addition to safety concerns, one of the reasons cited for expanding the ordinance is to make it easier for the Vancouver Police Department to enforce.

“If you have the law for kids, you should have adults setting the example.”
-Former Vancouver Bicycle Club President Joe Toscano

Currently, many cities and counties in Washington have an “all ages” helmet ordinance (see full list here), but in Portland, the helmet law applies only to riders aged 15 and under.

When asked about mandatory helmets for adults, the BTA’s Karl Rohde says they would oppose such a law in Portland. “We think reducing behaviors that lead to crashes is a better use of police resources than ticketing people for not wearing a helmet,” said Rohde. He also cited studies that he says make the case that mandatory helmet laws actually make biking less safe.

“Studies prove that when you have a helmet law, less people ride…and studies also prove that as more people ride, safety goes up.”

Vancouver’s youth helmet ordinance is set for a vote and public hearing tonight, but according to City Manager Jan Bader, the vote could be postponed. “I think there’s a majority of council members who favor expanding it to adults,” she said, “and if they do, that would be a significant enough change that we would have to re-announce the public hearing and postpone the vote.”

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76 Comments
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    Joe January 28, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    sorry one good reason to wear a helmet below, really think it should be a persons choice not a law.. ( thats just me )
    http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/space/01/26/dead.satellite.ap/index.html

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    Jeff January 28, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    Commence \”sky is falling\” posts now….

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    Cøyøte January 28, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    If you want to reduce the number of Vancouver cyclists, this is a great idea.

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    burning shame January 28, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Boy, they are really taking that Tornado seriously.

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    Tasha January 28, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    I\’m really all for personal responsibility. Call me a libertarian if you will, but there are already so many laws – banning trans fat, requiring helmets, seatbelts, putting kids in the back seat until they\’re 15, etc. What ever happened to personal choice and responsibility? Why is it the government\’s job to make each and every one of us immune to the inherent dangers of living our lives?

    Having said that, I wear a helmet 99% of the time (there are those cases when I\’m just biking to get a donut and it\’s very freeing to just pop down without helmet, bag, etc, – light as air!) and think they are a smart choice. But I agree that if you MAKE people do something, rebellion happens and makes people not want to bike.

    Just my humble 2 cents.

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    Jason January 28, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    As the League of American Bicyclists points out, how can you expect your *children* to wear a helmet if *you* don\’t?

    And yeah, I\’m for personal responsibility too, but when *organ donors* volunteer to remove themselves from the gene pool, it gives *all* of bicycling a bad name. It\’s a disproportionate amount of bad press for an activity that is *safer* than operating a motor vehicle.

    Since the Washington County BTC is trying to *promote* bicycling, my response is that this is a *great* idea.

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    Keith January 28, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I think we should have some kind of law against donuts that will help Tasha not feel compelled to ride un-helmeted for her
    for her dangerous, frosted..possibly sprinkly tasty fried treat.

    Donut is only 1 letter away from don\’t!

    hmmmmm..donots….

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    Jeff January 28, 2008 at 2:36 pm

    Keith,

    While the logic of your argument is powerful, you clearly haven\’t worshiped at the donut shrine of Moody\’s on Belmont. Sunday only, 9-2. You will then be a true believer…

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    Stripes January 28, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    If it\’s the right of the individual to choose, then why do we have seatbelt laws for motorists?

    Where are the cries that being forced by law to wear a seatbelt infringes ones civil liberties?

    Just a thought 🙂

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    Mike January 28, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    While they are at it- They should make a law for all of Vancouver\’s joggers, boaters, hikers, and maybe even people in wheel chairs or those motorized scooters for the handicap.
    What a joke, not only is this another personal freedom being taken away from adults who are free to think for themselves and hurting no one, its another good reason to NOT live in Vancouver if your a cyclist.

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    mle January 28, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I\’m confused – is the city in the following sentence supposed to be Vancouver and not Portland?

    \”Currently, many cities and counties in Washington have an “all ages” helmet ordinance (see full list here), but in Portland, the helmet law applies only to riders aged 15 and under.\”

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    joeb January 28, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    “the cries that being forced by law to wear a seatbelt infringes ones civil liberties” are there. I do feel infringed upon and would be furious about paying a $92 ticket for choosing to not wearing a seat belt in my car. Of course it is a good idea to wear a seatbelt and I almost always do as I almost always wear a helmet. It has become enough of a habit that I almost feel naked without a seatbelt and nowadays also feel naked in a car without my bike helmet.

    I started wearing a helmet to silence the zealots about not wearing one. So it became a habit and I now images of broken skulls and faces through windshields haunt me enough to continue. So I guess the seatbelt laws and zealots accomplished the goal huh. Fine, but you won’t catch me getting on somebody else about their personal choice to use or not use seatbelts/helmets. I don\’t like these laws.

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    gus January 28, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    I\’m with Tasha and Joeb on this one. Laws like this are unnecessary and unproductive and are just another intrusion of the \”nanny\” state. I too wear a helmet and seatbelt, but it should be my business to do so or not.

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    Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 28, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    mle (comment #11),

    sorry that sentence confuses you. it is technically right the way it is written, although maybe it\’s not clear.

    Vancouver currently has no mandatory helmet ordinance.

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    Scott January 28, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    Stripes:

    If it\’s the right of the individual to choose, then why do we have seatbelt laws for motorists?

    Where are the cries that being forced by law to wear a seatbelt infringes ones civil liberties?

    There WERE cries that being forced by law to wear a seatbelt infringes on one\’s civil liberties. I remember hearing those cries when I was a kid.

    REQUIRING all people to wear helmets when engaging in a possibly dangerous activity is simply a knee-jerk reaction and not a good solution to the problem. This should be a personal choice.

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    Anonymous January 28, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Being a Libertarian does not mean you can do what you want all the time. You get to to what you want up to the point it infringes on other peoples rights.

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    kg January 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Does banning trans fats really impede ones personal freedom? It is poison added to your food so that corporations can make more money.

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    Jeff January 28, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    “Studies prove that when you have a helmet law, less people ride…and studies also prove that as more people ride, safety goes up.”

    I\’d like to see some references to these studies… Proof is a pretty high bar to set and it\’s being applied in the general case here, so it falls under a higher level of scrutiny.

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    Jeff January 28, 2008 at 3:52 pm

    BTW, I much graver threat to your personal freedoms and liberties is the rise of fundamentalist Christian groups in this country that advocate for the installation of a strict Christian-based government.

    Do a Google search… You\’ll get scared fast.

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    conquistador January 28, 2008 at 3:53 pm

    How about if you don\’t wear a helmet while biking and then are admitted to the emergency room, you don\’t get treated?

    Don\’t tell me you aren\’t hurting someone else by choosing not to wear a helmet – the rest of us will have to pay for someone to hose your brains off the street.

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    Stripes January 28, 2008 at 4:01 pm

    I must say I wholly agree with conquistador (#18).

    Folks who believe not wearing a bike helmet only affects them need only trot on over to Legacy Emmanuel, and talk to the trauma nurses who deal with fatal head injuries every day of their lives.

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    SH January 28, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Just this Saturday I was only going a block or two, but decided to put my helmet on. my bike went out from under me on a random patch of ice and my helmet did some damage to a fence post, I\’m glad my head didn\’t. I decided I\’ll alwaysbe wearing one from now on. Eye opening.

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    a.O January 28, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    The only civil liberties you have are enumerated in the Oregon Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I\’ve read those documents, and they don\’t mention helmets anywhere.

    If you\’re really concerned about civil liberties, you might want to first educate yourself about what they are (and aren\’t). As Jeff suggests, you might want to focus your efforts more productively.

    Take the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution, for example. President Bush is violating it every day, right now in fact, with respect to many, many Americans. Maybe even you.

    Once you know what civil liberties are, I\’m sure you will agree that the right to be free from warrantless government surveillance is slightly more important than the (non-existent) right to be free of a helmet.

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    michael downes January 28, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    If there is a strong argument for cyclists to wear helmets then there is an equally strong argument for pedestrians and motorists to wear them as well. The problem with mandatory helmet laws (apart from discouraging people from cycling) is it puts the entire burden of \’bicycle safety\’ on the shoulders of cyclists. Law makers pass helmets laws and then congratulate themselves that they have \’solved\’ the bicycle safety issue. You can achieve safe cycling without mandatory helmet laws. Just look at Holland where over ninety five per cent of cyclists ride without helmets and yet car/cyclist fatalities are extremely low. Why is that? Because they have engineered a road system that emphasizes safety over speed and education of mutual responsibilities of both cyclists and car drivers. The sad fact is that helmet laws are a cheap and easy way for politicians to appear like they are doing something useful

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    Scott January 28, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    Well said, Michael Downes. Well Said…

    Perhaps we need to mandate helmets for all downhill skiers and snowboarders. What about the skateboarders and in-line skaters… and pedestrians and motorists…

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    Jessica Roberts January 28, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    Most helmet studies focus on whether serious injuries decrease after enactment of helmet legislation (usually measured by percentage of hospital admissions reporting a head injury suffered in a bicycle-related crash). They find, indeed, a reduction in number and severity of injury after laws are passed. This study specifically addresses the fact that most helmet studies do not attempt to measure whether a reduction in injuries is related to a decrease in ridership (as opposed to an increase in helmet wearing). This seems like an egregious omission to me.

    One study that did look at ridership numbers is study summarized here on the Center for Disease Control website. It is a before and after study of a mandatory helmet law in Victoria, Australia. The study shows large increases in percentage of bicyclists wearing helmets, as well as declines in number and severity of injuries (both of which I think we\’d all agree are a good thing). Here\’s what makes me concerned, though:

    \”Observational surveys of bicycle use in Melbourne indicated a 36% decrease in bicycle use by children in May-June 1991 compared with May-June 1990. The largest decrease (44%) occurred among 12- 17-year-olds, compared with the decrease among 5-to-11-year-olds (15%).\”

    We know from Peter Jacobsen\’s very well-respected Safety in Numbers study that the number of people biking and walking is inversely proportional to the number of crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians. So, any measure that, no matter how well-intentioned, substantially decreases the number of people riding is a major concern for advocates who want safer roads.

    If mandatory helmet laws do decrease ridership, then they also decrease safety…and even if the remaining cyclists are all wearing helmets, their crash risk is higher than it was before the mandatory helmet law.

    I wish we would see more researchers studying this. It shows a real bias in our medical and public health fields that we are narrowly focused on helmet use without considering the bigger health and societal benefits of encouraging bicycling and lowering the barriers to bicycle use.

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    Torfinn January 28, 2008 at 5:07 pm

    While I agree with a.O on sentiment, all of us feel well outside of having even the slightest control over how much they watch us.

    They\’ve been at it since the 70\’s. Not just Bush, but Clinton, and Bush senior and many before him.

    Still have to agree that helmets are a bandaid fix for traffic law completely centered around collecting dollars and not saving lives.

    I think from my knowledge of living in Vancouver however, they just want to discourage people from riding bikes at all.

    Helmets = less riders.

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    Mike January 28, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    #26 \”Still have to agree that helmets are a bandaid fix for traffic law completely centered around collecting dollars and not saving lives.\”

    #25 \”Perhaps we need to mandate helmets for all downhill skiers and snowboarders. What about the skateboarders and in-line skaters… and pedestrians and motorists…\”

    I agree on both accounts.

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    John January 28, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    I\’m really interested in hearing a certain straw hat wearing Vancouver cyclist\’s story about what\’s going on with this.

    On a side note, concerning the picture of our Esteemed Mayor, the Avid Cyclist, setting a good example… That\’s on the Mayor\’s Bicycle Ride. Shortly before he led the group down the sidewalk, on the left hand side of Columbia Way. Oops.

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    a.O January 28, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Can someone please share the evidence supporting the notion that helmet laws *cause* lower riding rates?

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    BURR January 28, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    I believe that study was done in australia

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    Jessica Roberts January 28, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    I just wrote a really long comment that seems not to have taken. I don\’t have time to rewrite now. The gist was that most studies demonstrate that bike-related head injuries go down after mandatory helmet laws are enacted, but they do not look at whether the decrease in injuries is caused by a decrease in ridership or by helmet use. One specific study from Australia that does look at ridership showed a significant decrease in bicycle ridership after a helmet law was enacted. The \”safety in numbers\” principle means that fewer cyclists lead to an increased crash risk for each remaining cyclist on the road.

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    BURR January 28, 2008 at 5:34 pm
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    michael downes January 28, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    To add to my earlier comment about putting the onus on cyclist for bicycle safety. A few years ago in Texas a motorist ran a red light and fatally collided with a cyclist. In both the police report and in various news media it was claimed that the primary cause for that riders death was the fact that \’he was not wearing a helmet\’. No one bothered to mention the motorist\’s reckless disregard for the rules of the road and they were neither cited or fined and no criminal charges were bought against them. This is what kills cyclists not whether we are mandated to put a plastic bucket on our head. A lightweight polystyrene helmet will prevent some injuries in some circumstances but they didn\’t save Brett or Stacy. Intelligent road design, education and, most importantly, more cyclists is what will make it safer to ride.

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    a.O January 28, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    Yea, that was weird Jessica. Your post wasn\’t up when I wrote my last one.

    Anyway, I have seen the research you link to, but thanks for sharing it. Everyone who makes the claim about helmet laws decreasing ridership cite the Australian study.

    But the reason more researchers are not studying this topic is very simple. This hypothesis cannot be definitively disproven or even strongly supported using an observational research methodology. Simply put, it is impossible to isolate the enactment of a law as a causal factor in a change in ridership rate.

    To do so, you need an experimental research design, and that is currently impossible or very impracticable outside the laboratory.

    There are many other factors that could have caused the ridership decrease. For example, what if the study coincided with a seasonal weather change? Although weather can be controlled for, many other factors cannot, such as prominent media stories regarding traffic fatalities.

    I find that me riding home each evening coincides with it getting dark outside, but that doesn\’t mean that my riding causes the sun to go down…

    If you cannot demonstrate that helmet laws decrease riding using research, you can use logic.

    Why would a helmet law decrease ridership?

    Is it because people want to go for a quick ride but don\’t want to be bothered with a helmet and fear getting a ticket? If that were the case, why wouldn\’t all those stop sign-running cyclists stop riding for fear of getting a ticket?

    Even arbitrary police targeting of cyclists for traffic infractions hasn\’t decreased ridership in PDX.

    Is it because they\’re expensive? You can get them here for as little as $5, and most people here can easily afford a basic helmet.

    Is it because they make you look like a dork? That might be a real concern in PDX, given all the fashion conscious hipsters out there. I suspect this is the real reason most people don\’t want helmet laws in Portland.

    Can somebody offer a better explanation for why a helmet law should decrease ridership?

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    Shane January 28, 2008 at 6:42 pm

    I did a quick skim and didn\’t notice anyone give the link to the counter-point website about helmet laws:

    http://www.cyclehelmets.org/

    As an LCI I teach helmet use for personal safety. However I do NOT think it should be mandatory! Riding a bike should stay fun, easy, and adaptable. There are many ways to ride safely including without a helmet.

    Do it safe and do it with a smile.

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    G.A.R. January 28, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    An attorney friend in WA says that under Washington\’s drunk cycling law you are not to be cited but are to be given a mandatory free ride home by the arresting officer. It would be nicer if they implemented helmets this way.

    Washington State does not allow headphones when riding, which I think is sort of the opposite of mandating helmets. The big problem with helmets for me (I wear one all the time, but I am aware of this problem) is the noise they make in the wind. I feel that without my helmet I would hear motor vehicles better.

    This would suggest that we should look for the number of accidents of all kinds (not just head injuries) to go up when helmets are used, but for the head injuries from those accidents to be somewhat lessened. Asking a trauma nurse about the severity of individual injuries is useful if the incidence of injuries stays constant, but I would expect to see more miles cycled per incident.

    As usual the cars are the real problem, notwithstanding the occasional fencepost. The big huge danger is having a car hit your head. They\’re going fast. They\’re made of metal. They weigh a ton. They\’re not safe. In a bike/ped collision, I am sure the ped would much prefer that the cyclist NOT have a helmet.

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    John Russell January 28, 2008 at 7:04 pm

    While I agree that it\’s a good idea to wear a helmet, I think forcing this on people is a bad idea.
    Why not just take the money that would go to enforcing these laws and instead use it to teach people how to bike safely in the first place?

    Also, as a resident of Vancouver, what can I do to voice my opinion on this matter?

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    Cøyøte January 28, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    a.O #35

    You are using skepticism as a weapon. Skepticism is not critical thinking, it is really just a poor cousin of sophistry. It is used to doubt anything without ever venturing a hypothosis.

    Would a mandatory helmet law increase ridership? There only three outcomes of the law. +, -, or -, pick one.

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    Garry Busey January 28, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    I think anti helmet laws ar……….
    ………………………………
    I Lost my train of thought.

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    Huggy Bear January 28, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    As a 60 year old cyclist in Vancouver I always wear a helmet when I ride but that is my choice made by me and not someone else. To Mike #10 Vancouver is not a bad place to be a cyclist.

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    Tom Miller January 28, 2008 at 8:17 pm

    Personally, I would turn to The Netherlands for guidance. The Dutch have focused on design to remove as many barriers to bicycling as possible.

    In my (limited) experience there, the key is the cycle track. Bicyclists enjoy dedicated right-of-way without fear of a collision with a car. They engineered away that possibility (as much as possible). Where collisions could occur, e.g. intersections, you have separate traffic lights for bikes and cars, with bikes prioritized. Unlike Portland, I think you\’d have to be riding in an illegal manner to get hit.

    In the week we were there, we may have seen five helmets among untold thousands of cyclists. This is rational behavior, as 40% daily modal share in the nation\’s largest city attests.

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    Opus the Poet January 28, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    In my wreck my helmet saved my life, but I had severe facial trauma that required much plastic surgery, so now I wear a full-face bicycle helmet, which is basically the same as a Moto-X helmet with vents. Now you would probably think that I\’m for mandatory helmets, but I\’m not. Even a full-face helmet will only protect the head in any wreck, and does nothing to prevent a wreck. I also had a broken hip, femur, fibula, cruciate ligaments and meniscus in my knees, and massive soft tissue damage and nerve damage. And wearing a helmet did nothing to prevent those injuries, as it didn\’t extend to those parts of the body. How often is head trauma involved in a bike wreck?

    Opus

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    a.O January 28, 2008 at 8:46 pm

    Coyote, I\’m using the scientific method. My hypothesis is the null hypothesis. You\’re the one asserting a cause-effect relationship between two variables – @#3. Can\’t you give me any good logic why a helmet law should decrease ridership? I\’m skeptical, but open-minded.

    You\’re just against more laws in principle, right? That\’s the same argument that was made against seatbelts. 30 years later, they\’re a social norm and have saved countless lives and dollars.

    Saying you don\’t think something should be mandated … even though it will save lives and lower everybody\’s health care costs seems, frankly, kinda callous and misanthropic to me…especially when it\’s only because it would inconvenience you a little.

    And seriously … really seriously … if you\’re worried about some sort of creeping infringement on civil liberties, you are going after an ant while avoiding the 800 pound gorilla. There are very real threats to civil society, and helmet laws are the least of our worries.

    Anyway, good on ya, mate. I\’m gonna go do something else, cause I don\’t ride in the \’Couve.

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    Duncan January 28, 2008 at 9:12 pm

    so will there be \”helmet stings at the I-5 bridge?

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    Todd B January 28, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Ideally the manditory helmet is the last tool in the tool box to use – not the first or second for success in reducing fatalities.

    Well funded education, traffic law enforcement, and engineering of great bikeways and bike friendly intersections leads to lower injuries (TBI, etc.) and more riders…this is the successful Dutch model.

    Why do our leaders and [some] advocates lead the call to adopt strategies of communities with lower levels of bike ridership and higher injury rates? Perhaps they have not bicycled in well designed bike communities.

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    couv January 28, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    To John (and others) who wish to comment on the pending bike helmet law (for youth and adults) in Vancouver mail your comments to the City Council of Vancouver or give testimony at the next council meeting (Mondays 7PM). If the topic is not on the agenda then pull a yellow card for public comment during \’citizen communications\’.

    http://www.cityofvancouver.us/government.asp?menuID=10462&submenuid=10474&itemid=45227

    vancmo@ci.vancouver.wa.us

    letters@columbian.com

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    Disco D January 28, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    I wear a helmet 98% of the time but it does seem a little silly to be forced to wear them. I support seatbelts and motorcycle helmets (I wear both 100% of the time) but I feel like bikes are a little different. True, if you are mixing it up with traffic you would be dumb not to wear one, but to think you could get ticketed for not wearing a helmet while tooling around the esplanade?

    I guess as long as rollerbladers, skateboarders, joggers, etc have to wear them too it\’s ok. Furthermore it was pretty icey today…I could easily see someone losing their footing and maybe landing on the back of their head. Hopefully someone will mandate helmets on bad weather days.

    Of course the last time I went to Vancouver was, uhm, oh yea never. Guess I can chalk it up as yet another reason to be proud to be from Portland.

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    P Finn January 28, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Jessica is right on.

    Thanks, sistah!

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    couv January 28, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Jan 7
    Vancouver Council Discussion (not a public hearing)
    http://www.cityofvancouver.us/cvtv/cvtvindex.asp?section=25437&folderID=1663

    Jan 28
    Vancouver Council Discussion (public hearing)
    http://www.cityofvancouver.us/cvtv/cvtvindex.asp?section=25437&folderID=1688
    (not ready yet)

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    Huh? January 28, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    Wow, all of the liberals arguing for less government because, GASP!, it affects them.

    These are usually the first people in line clamoring for laws on other people……

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    wsbob January 28, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    I wouldn\’t support mandatory wearing of bike helmets by adults while riding bikes, even though many more adults than do, should probably be wearing them. Bikes..pedal bikes that is, generally do not have the speed or mass that motor vehicles do. In this respect, that makes them inherently safer transportation than most motor vehicles.

    It\’s better to take the risk that some adults, declining to use wise judgment, will refuse to wear them and consequently cause themselves injury, then it is to take away the importance of them learning the skill of exercising good judgment that\’s associated with determining when and adult should wear a bike helmet. Kids, by virtue of not having the development and judgment adults, for their safety, have to do things that adults in the same situation don\’t necessarily need to do. That\’s just a simple fact of life.

    I\’ve read the study Jessica Roberts mentions in comment #26..the one conducted in the Australian town. The realization I came away with from reading that study was that it\’s possible to conduct a study that will tell you anything you want to hear. That\’s what the people conducting that study did, in my opinion.

    If you want results from basic, straight forward research related to safety performance capabilities of bicycle helmets, i.e., the realistic limitations of a bike helmet\’s ability to protect you, go to….. helmets.org.

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    Mike January 28, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    well I guess Ill have to dawn my leather hairnet helmet if I find myself crossing state lines….

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    Adam January 28, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I think that everyone should wear a helmet but making it a law may not be the best way to make safety a reality. The majority of people that I see riding without a helmet are riding against traffic, at night without lights, and other unsafe ways of riding. Basically what I\’m saying is that in the case of those people not wearing a helmet won\’t cure their stupidity anyways. If they want to get hit and seriously injured or killed then that\’s their choice.

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    n8m January 29, 2008 at 1:43 am

    What about sikhs and rastas who can\’t wear helmets for religious reasons? Man i would be so pissed if i got a ticket for biking down the street w/out a helmet just to pick up some milk. Make motorists and people in the shower wear helmets. Enough police state already. Keep it up Vancouver, all the more reason to avoid that suburban wasteland.

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    BURR January 29, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Can somebody offer a better explanation for why a helmet law should decrease ridership?

    Because many bicycle riders don\’t actually consider themselves cyclists; they just want to get from point A to point B in their normal clothes and detest all the specialized gear it takes to become a \”cyclist\”.

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    ChipSeal January 29, 2008 at 8:56 am

    A mandatory helmet law will end any possibility of Vancouver developing a bicycle sharing program like Paris enjoys. Laws have unintended consequences.

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    a.O January 29, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Let\’s not beat around the bush: A mandatory helmet law will crush the will of the people to ride, destroy the emerging bike economy, and give aide and succor to the Terrorists.

    I have only one remaining question: Why do the helmet law proponents hate freedom so much?

    😛

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    Opus the Poet January 29, 2008 at 10:11 am

    a.O. I realise you are trying to be humorous, but your final sentence is dead-on Truth: Helmet Law proponents do hate freedom.

    And in (both) studies I have seen mandatory adult helmet laws have at least temporarily decreased ridership, and if the pre-law trends were carried forwards they depress ridership permanently as the post- and pre-law trends had nearly the same slope, indicating that ridership never recovered the riders lost due to the mandatory helmet usage law. If the riders that had stopped or never started had been recovered the slope of the post-law graph would have been steeper after recovering from the break in rise at the enactment of the law.

    Now as far as giving aid and succor to the terrorists, if the people that don\’t ride bikes drive cars and consume fossil fuels to do so, then yes, that is also a true statement, as the current crop of terrorists come from oil-rich countries and are supported to some extent by oil moneys. Drive a Hummer, support a terrorist…

    And I also have a strong dislike for the seatbelt laws which were passed under false pretences. The original rationale for seatbelt laws was that if 80% of the ststes passed such laws then we wouldn\’t have to have expensive and potentially carcinogenic airbags (look up sodium azide, the propellant for all \”air\” bags in cars) installed in our cars, because there would be no need for such restraints. Now look what we have. Instead of designing seat belts that work to prevent most injuries as was done in auto racing, we get more and more airbags filled with carcinogenic propellants, that cost thousands of dollars to install and replace when activated instead of decent restraint harnesses that cost less than $200 per seat.

    But I digress. Speaking as a person whose life was saved by wearing a helmet I strongly and forcefully denounce mandatory helmet laws, until and unless we also get universal health care coverage to go with it, and vigorous pursuit and prosecution of drivers that hit cyclists.

    Opus

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    bahueh January 29, 2008 at 11:20 am

    a.o…question…you went to law school, right? you have an expensive degree in law? how much did it cost you?

    now how much did your car cost you? do you insure it? why do you insure it above and beyond liability?
    do you insure your home? what\’s your home worth? why do you insure it?

    see what I\’m getting at?

    I highly doubt helmet law proponents hate freedom….however public health officials may know more about the subject and its impacts than you care to admit.

    if the argument is that ridership will decrease because of helmet requirements…those people are probably riding their bikes for the wrong reasons. If someone truly loves riding and what it provides, they understand the inherent dangers and should respect them…not spit in the face of public officials with their best interest in mind who may actually be better informed in the decision process.

    Opus…universal health coverage? you may not need it if you wear the damn helmet. its referred to as \”prevention\” and it costs a lot less than entering the medical care system.
    this isnt\’ about beign hit by cars…its about whacking your head on the pavement on wet roads (train tracks, paint strips, oil spots)….things many, many inexperienced riders (who I think is most bike commuters, whether they\’ll admit it or not) come across and experience. hit by a car? you\’ve got other problems…but they won\’t involve skull fractures…

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    bahueh January 29, 2008 at 11:23 am

    a.o..nevermind my last post…I see now that your sarcasm got past me.

    stupid terrorists..they\’re ruining everything.

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    a.O January 29, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Opus, thank you for making my point for me better than I ever could. I *do* hate freedom. Very much. So does the Vancouver City Council. Today, bike helmets, tomorrow we socialize everything!!! Muah, ha, ha. Stay tuned for instructions on how to dress tomorrow.

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    Duncan January 29, 2008 at 11:55 am

    \”if the argument is that ridership will decrease because of helmet requirements…those people are probably riding their bikes for the wrong reasons.\”

    and who are you to decide what reasons are valid.

    I dont wear a helmet. I bike because it lowers the traffic load in my hood, to stay healthy and to blow off steam from my job… are those bad reasons?

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    Torfinn January 29, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Isn\’t whether or not wearing helmets makes riding any safer just as debated an issue as whether or not they would decrease ridership?

    Frankly, the only wrecks I\’m getting into that aren\’t my own fault are generally very minor where a helmet would serve no purpose.

    The wrecks where I need a helmet are going to happen much less frequently and be the fault of the driver disobeying traffic laws usually.

    This being the case, why not more of a focus on drivers education than me being legislated into protecting myself from them?

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    bahueh January 29, 2008 at 3:41 pm

    Duncan…explain to me the scientific pricple known as \”traffic load\” ?
    never heard of it..if you\’re referrign to noise, that\’s bunk. helmets do not interfere with surface noise to any measurable degree..

    wearing a helmet has nothing to do with blowing off steam or staying healthy..sorry, invalid arguments. those things are not inhibited by the use of a helmet….

    if you value your brain…insure it. you\’ve only got one…and really, what do you think your loved ones would feel as they feed you through a tube for the rest of your life due to a blown tire or oil spot on the road…? if you\’d like to visit the trauma ward in the hospital where I work, I\’d happily try to set you up a tour…you can meet some TBI patients…but I\’m afraid you\’d be doing most of the talking.

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    Torfinn January 29, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    How many of those are bike riders that weren\’t wearing helmets, in comparison to people operating motor vehicles?

    You can\’t legislate the facts.

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    Drew January 30, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    The question here is why shouldn\’t all road users wear helmets? Head injuries for motorists and car occupants are a leading cause of disability and death. Everyone pile in the car and put on your helmets. The government will make sure you are safe.

    I use a helmet on the bike mostly, but this is just another anti-bicycling law. It would never pass if it was linked to motorists and passengers having to wear them too. Makes using that convertible on a sunny day less fun, doesn\’t it? And why not pedestrians?

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    Torfinn January 30, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    w3rd.

    Also pedestrians.

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    Aaaarrrrgggghhh March 7, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    This is basic common sense. It should be the law everywhere.

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    Donald March 8, 2008 at 8:58 am

    If they make us wear helmets, the next thing you know they\’ll make us mount fenders. Bells by statute. No more toe clips. Lights on during all hours.

    If the nanny state wants control of my bike, they can pry it out of my cold dead thighs.

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    Sarah F March 8, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Riding my dogs around the neighborhood slowly, I\’m tempted to leave my helmet off. What gets me to wear it is the thought that I\’m a poor role model if I ride without it. I can\’t believe parents who ride without helmets while making their kids wear them. I am in favor of mandatory helmets for everyone.

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    Dabby March 8, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    Actually, I believe bell\’s are required in Portland on a bike, aren\’t they?

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    Dabby March 8, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    And I know of tickets being issued by over zealous police officers in Portland for no lights present on a bike, even during the daylight hours.

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    Donald March 8, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    @73

    I think the \”rule\” is that you must give warning on overtaking. I whistle 99 Red Balloons.

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    Joe Rowe September 22, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    I wanted to add a comment to this helmet story one year later to see if anyone was interested in helping me do a story that I would publish on bikeportland.

    The local media continue to blame helmet-less cyclists who are run down by drunk ( and texting ) drivers.

    THe reporters don’t blame a building for not wearing a helmet when a drunk or careless driver plows into their facade.

    Here’s a story from this week, drunk car, cyclist to blame. The reporters always claim no bias because they just print what the cops put down in the report.

    http://preview.tinyurl.com/helmetbias1

    http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2009/09/washington_cyclist_critically.html

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