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Updated: Vancouver passes all-ages helmet law

Posted by on February 25th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

[Updated: 2/26, 11:37 am – I’ve added audio from the Councilmembers’ testimony (see below).]

Last night, the Vancouver City Council voted 5-1 in favor of an expanded, all-ages helmet law. More photos here.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Thirty days from now, it will be illegal for anyone to ride a bicycle in Vancouver without a helmet. Last night, after emotional testimony in favor of the law by Mayor Royce Pollard and other councilmembers, an all-ages helmet ordinance passed by a vote of 5 to 1.

“Statistics be damned…I support this.”
–Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard in support of the helmet law.

The sole councilmember opposing the law was Pat Campbell, who said such a law would be “totally unnecessary” and that “what we have now is working.”

Campbell’s opposition to the law was echoed by the public testimony that was heard. Four citizens showed up to speak in opposition to the law, while one was in favor.

But given the emotional positions of a majority of Councilmembers, including Mayor Royce Pollard, it seems no amount of opposition could have derailed this from passing.

Vancouver City Council passes helmet law-7.jpg

Mayor Pollard smashed his helmet
against the table as he told
his story.

Mayor Pollard said that Vancouver used to not need a helmet law, but that the “this is a much larger city now.” He added that, “If we can save one child because of this ordinance, or if we can save adult by this ordinance, than the statistics be damned. I support this.”

Pollard, with his own helmet in front of him as a prop, recounted a bad fall he took while riding in Esther Short Park. He told the crowd how he bruised his hip and scraped his shoulder; but because he was wearing his helmet his head was fine.

He concluded his testimony by saying that, “We will do everything we can to see that every child who can’t afford a helmet will get a helmet, the rest of you are on your own.”

Councilmember Jeanne Harris also had a personal story to share; she hit a man on a bike when she was 21 while pulling out of a fast food restaurant. But, because he was wearing a helmet, “He walked away from it.” She recalled, “I can’t tell you how it affected me that I could have hurt somebody…You can’t plan not to have an accident and that is what this is about. I don’t know if it’s going to help, but I don’t think it can hurt. It’s the responsible thing for the city to do.”

Vancouver City Council passes helmet law-8.jpg

Vancouver City Council passes helmet law-3.jpg

Jim O’Horo spoke in favor of the law.

Councilmember Pat Jollota also told of a “life-changing experience” she had that helped form her opinion on this issue: A visit to a brain injury ward. Her justification for supporting the law is that brain injuries lead to a financial burden on the state. “It’s not that I have the right to go out without a helmet and if I hurt myself it’s my problem, it’s not, it’s society’s problem, because we’re the ones that have to take care of you when it’s over with. It’s not you that you have to worry about, it’s everyone else who has to worry about you.”

A similar sentiment was shared by Councilmembers Larry Smith and Tim Leavitt.

Smith said for him, it comes down to his personal principals and values. “It comes back to who I am, and my value systems and what I believe in…The most important thing I do, is provide safety for the community. If I can save a life or an injury, how much does that cost…to a family?”

He added, “This is the right thing to do, I believe and support helmets for all ages. Why not?”

–Download the official ordinance here (PDF).

Here are audio clips of the testimony given by each member of the City Council:

Mayor Royce Pollard
Download file

Jeanne Harris
Download file

Pat Jollota
Download file

Pat Campbell
Download file

Larry Smith
Download file

Tim Leavitt
Download file

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • RN February 25, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Another mean spirited law.

    How about protecting cyclists from harassment by Vantucky motorists? How about providing places to lock up my bike when I spend money in Vancouver?

    Keep your laws off my (adult)body.

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  • JH February 25, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    *comment deleted due to inappropriate language*

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  • toddistic February 25, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    well i guess i\’ll never been venturing across the river. i wear a helmet but making a law about such is tom foolery and unconstitutional. most disappointing was the some \”bike\” club guy who\’s physical appearance definately shows he hasn\’t spent any meaningful time in the saddle.

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  • John Russell February 25, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    I now feel a bit sadder that I happen to live on the North side of the river. So much for my letter to Mr. Royce Pollard himself. All I can say is that your side of the river will be seeing me a lot more than before.

    And don\’t get me started about harassment. Just today on my short ride to school, I was nearly hit by a guy in a truck who then revved his engine, sped around me, and flipped me off. Luckily we\’ve got a police officer at our school and I promptly gave him the guy\’s license plate. Who knows what will happen, but at least it\’s a start.

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  • SH February 25, 2008 at 10:45 pm

    oh snap

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  • racer x February 25, 2008 at 11:00 pm

    After watching the show on line…

    do not worry about enforcement local bicyclists…several council members said they were supporting it on such a limited budget that enforcement will be secondary – especially if more important police business calls.

    Perhaps the police department was too timid to challenge the mayor – thus their silence in the back row – usually they are pretty upfront when supporting something safety related.

    More troubling about some of the council motivation in supporting this law was personal experience as drivers of crashing into bicyclists.

    (Protect bicyclists not from poor driving or bad facilities but put a helmet on them to survive the crash vs. avoid it.)

    For example, the repressed memory of a young Council member Harrison (?) of running into a bicyclist while leaving a drive thru was her reason for supporting it now vs. 10 years ago when she last voted on it.

    Though please send letters of thanks to new Council member Campbell for asking questions – if there is a better way to achieve the shared objectives of safety and more healthy communities without more underenforced laws.

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  • Chris February 25, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    JM –

    Couldn\’t make the meeting tonight but caught some of it on CVTV. Saw you in the front shootin\’ photos and taking notes. I don\’t agree with the council\’s decision and wish the anti-ordinance had some better representation, but I appreciate you taking the time to venture north of the river to report on bike issues. Thanks much!

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  • Toby February 25, 2008 at 11:19 pm

    I don\’t understand your one word response. Are you saying that you\’re happy about the outcome? Because that is the only definition of the word that could in any way pertain to this thread.

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  • Bjorn February 25, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    I can\’t believe they received as many letters in support as they did in opposition. I ride to work on a street that is 40mph, 4 lanes non of them for bikes, and curbed sidewalks. With a little funding they could remove the median planting strip and add bike lanes, but from attending several of the vancouver bike advisory committee a little funding is something that the council will never dedicate to bike safety. This passed because it cost close to nothing (I think they are going to buy a few kids helmets although I doubt they funded it well enough to buy one for all the kids who need them) It still amazes me how bad facilities are on the other side of the river…


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  • Joe February 25, 2008 at 11:30 pm

    yikes! buckle up..

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 25, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    In light of the link to the stats someone posted previously regarding the extremely adverse impact that such measures have had elsewhere on ridership numbers, this one leaves me wondering, is it just cluelessness, or actual malice that\’s driving these council members (no pun intended)?

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  • a.O February 25, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    Whether they\’re clueless or malicious – as I\’ve said previously about certain members of Portland\’s City government – who cares? Either way, they\’re bad at governance and need replacing. I hope this illustrates to everyone out there the importance of PARTICIPATING in YOUR democracy.

    Although I am a big supporter of helmet laws, this is a truly stupid action given the far greater needs with respect to promoting the safety of bicycling, and road use in general, and the stated desire to do so.

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  • rainperimeter February 26, 2008 at 3:57 am

    i wear a helmet, don\’t live in the \’couve, but do bike over there to hang with my dad from time to time. I\’m with RN, i\’d like to see some kind of biker awareness/courtesy/safety action over there. the hostilities drivers send towards bikers increases dramatically as soon as you cross the river. it really sucks. whether it\’s some d.s. kids shouting at you or hicks trying to intimidate you by buzzing you way too close, there is always something to deal with.

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  • joel February 26, 2008 at 6:29 am

    is the law still directed at *any* person riding non-motorized wheeled vehicle of any type, as it seemed to be before?

    cause enforcement on that is gonna be crazy, and bikes are only going to be the tip of the iceberg. getting every skater, blader, rollerskater, push scooter rider, etc etc in vacouver to wear a helmet, or cite them for not doing so… well, good luck with that.

    i still cant believe the \”car drivers keep hitting bicyclists! lets make them wear helmets.\” angle.

    when does the law go into effect? immediately?

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  • John Reinhold February 26, 2008 at 6:57 am

    In the past we had taken our bikes into Vancouver as a family, and rode around downtown Vancouver and the riverfront. We would eat and shop a bit.

    But I guess that won\’t happen anymore.

    I wear helmets but oppose helmet laws.

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  • Jeff February 26, 2008 at 7:13 am

    The picture explains it all. They look like a bunch of old farts! I doubt they\’ve even been on a bike in 40 years. And they\’re probably a bunch of disciplinarian religious types that think they\’re doing God\’s good work through legislation…. So sad….

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  • true February 26, 2008 at 7:22 am

    I wear a helmet – I don\’t pretend that it will save my life in a serious collision – I think time and energy focused on cyclist safety could be much better spent than passing an adult helmet law.

    Perhaps they could pass a mandatory full-body bubble wrap law. Would that change road safety for cyclists? Would that change motorist attitudes?

    Might this be another homeless/transient/poor folks harassment law? Most fancy bike middle class cyclists wear helmets anyway. Most transient bottle collector types don\’t.

    I will chime in with Toby about post #2. Whether you intend it or not, you are associating homosexuality with a helmet law. I don\’t see the connection, and as I have posted elsewhere, it neither strengthens or weakens your argument (if there is one) to drop such language. Unless you did mean \’happy,\’ which, of course, is still a confusing fragment, but perhaps legit.

    Off to commute I go! Wheeeeeeeeee…..

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  • Matthew February 26, 2008 at 7:26 am

    For crying out loud…
    Why do they hate freedom?
    Why do they hate America?
    The Nazi\’s have won.

    ps: I wear a helmet when I ride…

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  • Dcary February 26, 2008 at 7:35 am

    I think they pass these laws because too many people are too stupid to realize that helmets are a smart idea. They won\’t save you from being hit from behind or being scrunched by a bus, but if a choice between broken bones and a severe concussion is my option, I\’ll take the broken bones. And who pays for my care when my insurance runs out (that includes my 1 million dollar umbrella policy)? It\’s you, the public.

    Last week my nephew skiied and fell with a faceplant into a rock. His broken nose and gashes will heal, but his severe concussion will last a lifetime. But he was too cool to wear a helmet. And we taxpayers will continue paying for his care.

    So if you already wear a helmet, what\’s the big deal? Do you want to take it off as soon as you cross the river into Vancouver? Do you take off the seatbelts in your car when you cross the river? Get over it! Set a good example to your kids by your own actions.

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  • TL February 26, 2008 at 7:39 am

    So….rather than just bitching about how much Vancouver sucks, what can we do about it? I just moved to the N side of the river a couple of months ago. I opposed the law and couldn\’t make the meeting but did write a letter. I\’m trying to use my bike for transit, but I\’m much more worried for my safety up here. We say, \”get involved\” and \”participate in govt\”…but if we do want to but don\’t know how….how?

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  • ChipSeal February 26, 2008 at 8:29 am

    Absolutely fantastic! What we have here is a great opportunity for greater bicycle safety. We need to strike while the iron is hot!

    \”Mayor Pollard said that Vancouver used to not need a helmet law, but that the “this is a much larger city now.” He added that, “If we can save one child because of this ordinance, or if we can save [sic] adult by this ordinance, than the statistics be damned. I support this.” \”

    From his statement, can we expect mayor Pollard to support lower speed limits on city streets in his efforts to \”save (even) one life\”? Perhaps the city council can now do something of substance for the safety of it\’s citizens!

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  • John Reinhold February 26, 2008 at 8:31 am

    So where do we stop? Do we continue to pass laws for our own protection from anything that could hurt us?

    Soon we will all be required to be coated in Nerf(TM).

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  • a.O February 26, 2008 at 8:45 am

    John Reinhold, I want to recommend to you that you (and everyone else) bypass the whole reducto ad absurdium argument and go straight to finding a bike advocacy project to spend your energy on. Want to make some media calls for my citizen-initiated violation proceedings?

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  • Vance February 26, 2008 at 9:00 am

    Dcary, statements like you\’ve just made here make me so sad about the future of this country. Helmet and seat-belt laws do not serve the cause of public safety, they line the pockets of insurance companies, plastics manufacturers, and provide still more probable cause for enforcement-bodies.

    In this instance helmets are being used to harass cyclists in Vancouver. Plain and simple. This on the heels of motorist outcry for licensing, registration, and liability insurance. The timing is beyond suspect. The Vancouver city council just delivered this message to an entire class of people: \”If cyclists are going to whine about their personal safety, then how do they like these apples?!\”

    Dcary, the big-deal is one of principle. While few argue that using personal safety equipment is a bad idea I, for one, am of the opinion that these choices are personal ones; and that they are none of your business, Dcary, let alone the city government of a rinky-dink town like Vancouver, Washington.

    Your argument about public resources does not stand up, either. You are careful to point out that uninsured, injured cyclists are a drain on public monies. As such, you feel entitled to legislate away our personal freedoms in order to prevent public responsibility for this rare occurrence.

    Consider this just a bit further, and you will see that we all pay into the tax system, yet we take from that system at a disproportionate rate. This is the very nature of taxation. For instance, Dcary are you a giant, fat cow? If so, you\’ll likely end up with diabetes. At what point will you need to draw upon public resources in order to survive? And once you do, won\’t I have the right, using your logic, to monitor your eating habits, and your fitness level?

    I\’ll give this cycling-community kudos for some things. One of them being a better than average ability to organize. I hope I see the entire, \”cycling community\”, riding all over Vancouver, sans helmet of course, in protest of the B.S. law. Lastly, Dcary mind your own business, instead of everyone else\’s. That is a two-way street, and I bet you wouldn\’t like to have your lifestyle under a micro-scope.

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  • Grimm February 26, 2008 at 9:04 am

    There is a larger underlying issue. That cycling sucks in Vancouver. Every time I have had to ride up there for something I cross my fingers I don\’t have to return. Or maybe there is some magical roads that aren\’t marked up there where cars are flying by at 50 while on their cell phones right as the bike lane disappears. A corner stone for bicycle safety should start with urban planning, which to me is one of Vancouver\’s greatest weaknesses.

    Oh yes, and I\’m a helmet advocate but I still respect peoples right to choose even if I dont agree with it.

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  • Vance February 26, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Oh, and a.O., the day is coming when you and I are gonna\’ meet. I\’m counting the seconds.

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  • dano February 26, 2008 at 9:25 am

    I\’m with chipseal #21.

    instead of everyone complaining about the erosion of personal freedoms (which is important, granted), now is a good time to hold the council to their words and try to push their hand with regards to safer roads.
    It\’s not so easy as saying \’we\’ll wear helmets, now you make bike lanes\’, but there\’s an opportunity now that wasn\’t there yesterday. However misguided, the council has been discussing cyclist safety. Should folks complain about it, or try to guide it?

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  • bahueh February 26, 2008 at 9:26 am

    the choice is pretty easy now…don\’t like the law, don\’t go to Vancouver.
    period. that\’s now the personal choice for Oregonians..and really, why would anyone want to ride up there to begin with? the road terrain is terrible, hostile, and hardly accessible…

    I highly doubt the Vancouver City Council really cares what Oregonians think, really..

    Vance, your ramblings won\’t change a single thing….and I hope A.O. saves your last message as it has threatening tones..

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  • Paul S February 26, 2008 at 9:50 am

    What a waste of effort and energy all around. I wear a helmet because I\’m grownup enough to know I need to. I don\’t need Johnny Law telling me to eat my veggies or wipe my ass front to back either.

    Well I\’ve gone 10 years in Portland without ever once setting foot in Vancouver so it\’s not like they\’re gonna miss my business.

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  • wsbob February 26, 2008 at 9:52 am

    \”Four citizens showed up to speak in opposition to the law, while one was in favor.\” J Maus/editor bikeportland

    Just four citizens? Well that says a lot doesn\’t it? I wonder if they were all from Vancouver. Also, how many letters in opposition city council received in regards to the proposed, now official law.

    There\’s six people on the Van City Council. Four people speaking out in opposition to a six panel city council\’s mostly emotionally motivated action is not an effective way to bring a decision to a more realistic turn.

    It isn\’t that city council members sentiments and concerns about bike related injuries aren\’t well advised and appreciated, but simply that at this time, despite Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard\’s observation that “this is a much larger city now.”(whatever that means…larger, relative to what?)circumstances in Vancouver do not seem to call for such a law in that city.

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  • todd February 26, 2008 at 9:55 am

    whew, at last some relief from the difficult moral ambiguity of drivers injuring or killing bikers! now such incidents will fall neatly into the easy categories either of \”scofflaw biker had it coming\” or \”act of god,\” neither of which will impel real safety improvements in the physical and mental environment of our roads.

    this is not change; this is at once a washing of hands and a legislative reinforcement of the status quo.

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  • Moo February 26, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Wouldn\’t ride there before, now won\’t even consider it…Though I might set up a helmet stand at the State line of the I-5 bridge.

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  • Todd Boulanger February 26, 2008 at 10:02 am

    For bicyclists interested in taking Mayor Pollard and our council up on their strong interest in improving bicyclist safety in Vancouver…please contact the BTA about organizing a BTA chapter for Vancouver.

    There has been support at the BTA in doing this but no cadre of active transportation activists in Vancouver to kick this off.

    BTA Staff for Metro Vancouver contact:
    Emily Gardner
    503.226.0676 x11

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  • Val February 26, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Yep, same old, same old for the sate of Washington, with a few lovely conceptual highlights:
    – Councilmember Harris hits a man on his bike with her car, but he\’s fine because he was wearing his helmet, which protected…what? His legs? His ribs? His spine? Man, if I had one of those full body helmets, I might just wear it all the time.
    – Mayor Pollard falls, bruises hip and shoulder, and takes the fact that his head was fine as proof that the helmet is essential to preserving life. So if I go around endlessly recounting the myriad instances that I have fallen and scraped my knees, bruised my hip, banged my elbow, or even broken my collarbone while not wearing a helmet, can I use these instances as proof that a snap brim fedora saved my skull?
    – One more time, we have the unassailable argument that \”if even one life can be saved by this law, it should be passed.\” I quite agree. This is why we need laws banning cars completely from all streets in the country, as well as laws that require anyone walking in the presence of any hard surface to wear helmets, laws that ban swimming without flotation devices, laws banning any poisonous substances, etc. Think how many lives could be saved! Now think about whether that is truly a good thing.
    – \”This is the right thing to do. I believe in and support helmets for all ages, so why not?\” Sounds good. All citizens of Vancouver should be provided with helmets by the city, to be worn at all thims. It\’ll be the safest city in the world, and just think of all the lives that will be saved!

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  • a.O February 26, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Oh, and a.O., the day is coming when you and I are gonna\’ meet. I\’m counting the seconds.

    What the hell is this supposed to mean?

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  • Vance February 26, 2008 at 10:51 am

    a.O, bahueh #28 – What? Are we dating? Is this some silly little child drama? It\’s droll, fools. Imagine that I said it behind a yawn. Get over yourselves. I may be pretty hard on the messenger, granted. But your ad-homninem attackes are so tiresome. Which I was merely pointing out, by the way. But you go ahead with whatever paranoid delusion you are stirring up.

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  • Zaphod February 26, 2008 at 11:10 am

    The helmet law was based upon emotion versus data and that isn\’t the right way to come to a decision but that\’s not the point of my post.

    My concern is the ridership impact and its effects. If infrastructure expenditure is calculated by ridership and this suppresses it what do you think is going to happen to Vancouver infrastructure?

    The core problem lies within that answer. That\’s the irony of what appears to be heartfelt reasons for their decision. There\’s another aspect of this: the helmet law bears no budgetary cost. Meanwhile building infrastructure impacts tax dollars.

    It does seem like a good idea to call council members to initiate other safety related cycling programs as they have stated their desire to save lives. We might want to leverage that.

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  • a.O February 26, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Yeah, that\’s what I thought.

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  • Opus the Poet February 26, 2008 at 11:12 am

    I\’m not comparing the Vancouver City Council with nazis, because fascists don\’t care about either individual freedom or safety. However unless CoV is going to drasticly drop their speed limits and up enforcement their rationale for passing this law is highly suspect. What this law is is a cosmetic for the behinds of the city council members i.e. a CYA. It won\’t do anything to reduce the number of cars running into cyclists, nor will it have any real influence on the number of fatalities for those who do get hit. Head trauma is such a small part of the overall fatal injuries that even the fabled 85% reduction of head injuries given for helmet usage will only make a blip in the statistics.

    And as I counted the support there was a 4-1 ratio against the proposal, with the council ignoring those opposed to listen to the one in favor.

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  • Todd Boulanger February 26, 2008 at 11:22 am

    BikePortland scoops another transportation news topic.

    Additionally, there was local news coverage of this in the Columbian newspaper this AM:

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  • Torfinn February 26, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Nanny state ftl

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  • Todd Boulanger February 26, 2008 at 11:27 am

    BikePortland readers you may also view the public and council discussion of this topic on CVTV web link:

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  • Dabby February 26, 2008 at 11:54 am


    Todd B, where were you in preventing this from happening?

    I thought you were the City of Vancouver Cycling man?

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  • bahueh February 26, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Vance..remember your medication in the morning…its easier on all of us.

    what you post makes little to no sense..

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  • wsbob February 26, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    \”And as I counted the support there was a 4-1 ratio against the proposal, with the council ignoring those opposed to listen to the one in favor.\” Opus #39

    Opus, I\’m not disagreeing with you, but rephrasing my earlier post, that 4-1 ratio you mention represents merely 5 people. Only 4 people out of an entire city showed up before their city council to oppose this decision. That would seem to indicate that the citizens of Vancouver Washington do not generally oppose this law.

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  • Bill Stites February 26, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    I SUPPORT THE HELMET LAW. And I feel like I\’m alone. I had to write this \’cause I can\’t believe the overwhelming opposition.
    For everyone complaining about not doing other safety actions in Vancouver, having a helmet law doesn\’t exclude any other safety initiatives.

    Life is a percentage game, with risks in everything we do – wearing a helmet protects the brain, which is super-serious when it is even slightly injured.

    There\’s the analogy of seat belt laws – do folks really believe that we should have \’freedom of choice\’ regarding wearing a seat belt?

    The problem is that many people underestimate their risks, and would not wear either without a law.

    And since this is the usual helmet-law arguing that has been shown to never end, I\’m stepping out right here.

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  • Toby February 26, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    #45, or that not enough people actually knew of it in time.

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  • Paul S February 26, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Bill Stiles (#46) wrote: \”There\’s the analogy of seat belt laws – do folks really believe that we should have \’freedom of choice\’ regarding wearing a seat belt?\”

    Yes. I do.

    More grownups please.

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  • Dabby February 26, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I must tell you that as a cyclist, and long term Vancouver/Hockinson resident, (albeit off and on) and being known as a serious rider, I hear about cycling concerns from a wide variety of residents. Young, old, etc. Standing on a corner, or sitting at a bar, I hear it all the time.

    The majority of them, (I really should say all of them) speak out against the same problem.

    It is the group rides, especially out here in Hockinson, riding three and four wide, on the shoulderless country roads.
    Many of these are regular VBC rides, it would appear. It is also the same type of group rides, in town, riding three and four wide, even spilling out of the bike lanes.

    It is a general concern for the safety of the cyclist for one.

    And the apparent actions of the groups of cyclists, that give the idea they have the right to ride three and four wide, and do not even attempt much of the time to move over and
    allow cars to pass.

    And these people have the right idea, as it is the responsibility of the cyclist to narrow it down to no more than two wide, if not single file, to allow traffic to pass.

    It is the holier than though attitude that gets people irked. Not the fact that they are on the road, the fact that they appear to think that they own the road.

    MY point is that most residents are encountering cyclists, and having problems with cyclists, that are already wearing helmets.

    And the Vancouver Bicycle Club, the one possible ally we had in shutting this ordinance change down, was sadly and solidly behind it.

    This would point, and is echoed through sentiment when I have recently asked random people, to residents not having a problem at all with a helmet requirement. It is really not going to affect them, they already generally wear helmets if they ride, and make their kids wear helmets. (the families I deal with anyway)

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) February 26, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    RE: comparing helmet laws to seatbelt laws.

    Main difference I see is that cars are very easily proven to be dangerous by numerous statistics and research papers.

    On the other hand, no such conclusive research (that everyone can agree on) exists for bicycle use.

    And by the way, aren\’t helmets not mandatory for motorcycles in Washington?

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  • Bjorn February 26, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    The BTA referenced a study showing that helmet laws lead to fewer people using bicycles for transportation, I know of no such study on seat belt laws showing a reduction in motor vehicle use. I also know of no study that shows that having a higher percentage of mode share makes driving a car safer. My point being that studies show that for cyclists who currently wear their helmets and ride in Vancouver this law makes us less safe, there is no parallel to the seat belt law.


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  • jamie February 26, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    double gay!

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  • jamie February 26, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    sorry, I meant:

    Double Homosexuality!

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  • wsbob February 26, 2008 at 2:24 pm

    Toby #47, it\’s interesting that you say Vancouver residents might not have known that the Van City Council was deciding to enact this law. I seem to recall that the Vancouver newspaper wrote an article about the proposed helmet law. It\’s been discussed on this weblog for several weeks now, but maybe there aren\’t many Couv residents checking in here.

    I find it odd that the Van Bike Club would support this kind of blanket law when no real demonstrated need for it exists. It\’s one thing to say \’alright, everybody riding with the club has to wear a helmet on club rides\’. To effectively say, \’adults in the City of Vancouver generally do not have sufficient good judgment to wear a bike helmet when circumstances call for it\’, is an entirely different thing.

    I\’m just wondering if the Portland City Council is going to try mimic Vancouver\’s action in regard to mandatory adult bike helmet use if Sho Dozono becomes mayor in the next election.

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  • Cøyøte February 26, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    A mandatory helmet law certainly is an excellent way marginalize cyclists, by reducing their numbers, and making it appear that cycling more dangerous than it was just few years ago. It also provides the illusion that government has done something positive about safety when they have not done anything to improve the cyclists lot.

    And all of this was accomplished with all of the costs externalized among a fringe user group. Bravo, straight out of Authoritarianism 101.

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  • Jordan February 26, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    I agree with Bill Stites as well. Seatbelt laws have proven their effectiveness in people using seatbelts. Washington state was one of the 1st states to pass seatbelt laws and now leads the nation in seat belt useage. Also, in Washington they already have a helmet laws for those under the age 18. I don\’t see a problem of expanding that law to adults.

    Wear a Helmet. It is that simple.

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  • Donna February 26, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Jordan, there is no bicycle helmet law for those under 18 statewide in Washington. There is one on Oregon for those under 16. Perhaps you have confused the 2 states.

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  • Todd B February 26, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Sadly a lot of Vancouverites look to the Oregonian for their news (live on the eastside or commute into Oregon)…and missed the Columbian coverage of this issue (1 article and 1 editorial).

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  • Todd B February 26, 2008 at 5:35 pm


    Sadly in that the Oregonian has drastically cut back the staff time and ink on Vancouver news (and other metro markets). – That is unless the news bleeds…guns, goons, gold.

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  • Jordan February 26, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    My confusion, many local jurisdictions in WA have under 18 helmet laws.

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  • Todd B February 26, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Hi Dabby…yes…give me a call … we can chat about helmet politics up here in the \’Couv.

    I will be at Sam\’s event tonight (Wonder ball room).

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  • Mychael February 26, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    I live in vancouver, and ride casual and bmx. When I saw this on KGW i was instantly filled with rage… wtf, is royce pollard thinking? its hard for me to say good bye to the city i was born and raised in, but people died for freedom, and if he can\’t respect that, f* him and his scabnet crew. I moving across river to freedom… props to Campbell for sticking up against the new-nazi regime!

    i love the government telling me how to live life! f* mayor royce pollard.

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  • Toby February 26, 2008 at 5:58 pm

    wsbob #54, I was referring specifically to people knowing when the final vote was. I have no idea if that is the case, just offering a possible explanation for the dismal turn out:) Sometimes these things are kind of whispered at the last minute, but I haven\’t been following close enough to really know.

    Jonathan #50 I\’d have to double check, but I\’d wager all the money in my pocket ($.65) on Washington having a helmet law for motorcycles.

    I don\’t remember the legal terminology for it so bare with me…Does anyone know if it is a primary or secondary (whatever) offense? You know, can they pull you over for not wearing one, or do they have to have a more serious reason to initiate the lashings? Aren\’t seat belts that way? They can\’t pull you over just for not wearing one, but they can write you up if you were pulled over for speeding…that sort of thing.

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  • Toby February 26, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    OK, I just saved myself $.65 (whew!!) Here\’s a link with helmet laws by state:

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  • Evan February 26, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    Last I heard, British Columbia has a helmet law for all riders. They also have national health insurance (I mean health care, sorry to confuse the two). I suppose that they figure if they are going to take care of people, it is in their interest to try to minimize the amount of care needed.
    We don\’t have such a system. We don\’t have a lot of cyclists out there hurting other people because they are not wearing helmets. We do have a lot of careless drivers protected by 2+ tons of steel. This law does a little to protect the safety of cyclists, but it does a lot to continue the auto-centric bias of our elected \”leaders\” and push the blame on cyclists for an unsafe transportation system.

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  • Meg February 26, 2008 at 7:03 pm

    I seem to remember reading some stats showing that it would make about as much sense to mandate bicycle helmets as it would to mandate helmets for walking around, etc… the biggest safety gain of course coming from mandating helmets while driving. Somehow I\’m not seeing that one passing… @_@

    – Another helmet user, still glad not to live in the \’couv

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  • Dabby February 26, 2008 at 7:39 pm


    That would be great, as I am as enthusiastic about Vancouver cycling goings-ons as I am Portland, as I consider myself a resident of both towns.

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  • G.A.R. February 26, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Note re Toby #63\’s concept. My wife was pulled over and the cop said, \”I\’m not talking to you ma\’am, I\’m talking to your passenger,\” and proceeded to issue a $90-odd citation to a middle-aged female passenger for no seatbelt. This was in inner SE Portland on Water Ave. No other reason for the stop. It probably didn\’t help that the woman exploded in rage at the policeman, but there you are. Secondary Schmeckendary. I don\’t know how things turned out. There was some idle talk of her \”getting off on a technicality\” because it is supposed to be secondary and the cop was not following orders. Our time is almost up. I can only take one more question. No, I also don\’t know if this can affect her insurance rates.

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  • Dread Pirate Roberts February 26, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    -As a cyclist who is only 12 years of age I am still undecided about the helmet ordinance. Although I do believe that there should be some sort of ride in protest of the ordinance. I think this should happen because of what some other people have said, VAL #34 said \”Councilmember Harris hits a man on his bike with her car, but he\’s fine because he was wearing his helmet, which protected…what? His legs? His ribs? His spine? Man, if I had one of those full body helmets, I might just wear it all the time.\”. Also True #17 \”Perhaps they could pass a mandatory full-body bubble wrap law. Would that change road safety for cyclists? Would that change motorist attitudes?\”. These statements have encouraged me to post now and in the future. It would be wonderful if the cycling community got together in protest. The ride could be called the \”Last Day of Freedom\”. A good day for the ride might be March 10th (my birthday).
    -I constantly am annoyed by drivers who ignore cyclists and drive too fast around bikes. In one case a driver told me to \”get off the road you stupid cyclist!\” and continued to flip me off. Other times it seems as though the motorists want to hit you and are annoyed that you get the road too. All I\’m really saying is come over to the couv on the 10th and put in your 2 cents worth-or put your spirit where your mouth is.

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  • Dabby February 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm

    I applaud Dread Pirate Robert\’s post above.

    I have spent a few days back and forth on the issue myself, and still have not quite decided whether the City of Vancouver has done the right thing. As much as I would like to say I am fully against it, I can also say, as my brother pointed out tonight, I mainly do not like to be told what to do. I am trying not to let this fact cloud my judgment on the issue of safety.

    Also, while I would like to be able to say we can all learn from the innocence of youth, this very apparently would not be the case in dealing with the Dread Pirate Robert\’s, who really seems to understand what he is talking about. (And has a scary moniker to boot!)

    I hope to attend, and ride right beside him, when said ride occurs. As the rest of you should as well.

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  • Mychael February 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm

    i would be down for a \”freedom\” ride! name the time and place! esther short park maybe??? march 10… what time?

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  • n8m February 26, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    way to kill bicycle transportation vancouver. congratulations.

    power to the \’freedom\’ riders.

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  • Paul February 27, 2008 at 12:35 am

    What a waste of time. Protest this law. It\’s your right to choose, not a bunch of old fat, lazy schmucks who may own a bike, but haven\’t a bloody clue.

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  • Racer X February 27, 2008 at 12:54 am

    As we now have 30 days of freedom left…are there any prelaw or lawyers out there who can check into the legal standing that a city in WA state can do to enact an ordinance for health and safety or traffic law?

    Should we submit a suit to stop this?

    As an example…could a WA city government require motorcycle helmets, seat belts, pedestrian airbags on cars before the state or county enacts a similar law or a law more restrictive? Usually these health and safety police roles are left to the County on the local level. (That is why the Clark County Youth Commission started this ball rolling but the Clark County Commissioners have pulled back on this…)

    I think the model for the state was a law initially enacted by a county health board (responsible for health and safety) in King County vs. say Seattle. But as this will be a traffic law dealing with a regulated vehicle (bicycles vs. say skateboards) should not the WAC deal with this like in OR vs. city by city?

    Ray Thomas et al… any suggestions? Or BTA or Bike Alliance?

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  • Racer X February 27, 2008 at 1:04 am

    Speaking of hope and change in 08…for those of you BikePortland readers who are angry about this…how about finding several pro-bike candidates for Vancouver City Council (and other cities in Clark County)?

    For example, there are 4 of 7 members up for election this fall:
    – Pollard (has mentioned he will retire himself for health reasons)

    Contact Jonathan as a point of contact for now.
    – Harris
    – Jollota (health reasons too)
    – Stewart

    It would take a lot less money and effort to get a bike candidate into the Vancouver council than what was shown tonight at Sam Adam\’s run for PDX mayor.

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  • wsbob February 27, 2008 at 1:09 am

    I wonder if it\’s possible to refer decision to enact this law to a vote of the people. This is what happened to Portland city government\’s proposal to pass a fee initiative to pay for street improvement and maintenance(Safe, Sound, and Green Streets Initiative.

    Essentially, one coalition led by a single lobbyist has delayed and possibly killed this from being implemented into law. Concerned Vancouver citizens might check into whether they\’re constitution allows a similar means of redress.

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  • David Feldman February 27, 2008 at 7:19 am

    I\’m not stupid enough to ride without a helmet, but requiring helmets without trying to break the misbehavior of drivers is like requiring bulletproof vests be worn on the streets in areas with a high murder rate.

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  • Dread Pirate Roberts February 27, 2008 at 7:22 am

    How about 5:30 esther short park:)

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  • Dread Pirate Roberts February 27, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Oops I forgot to say that during the ride you do not have wear a helmet but you can if you like. Thats what freedom means.

    Also I would like to respond to Paul #72, All sorts of people parade and protest about wars, rights and a whole lot more stuff that other people tell them they can\’t change.

    one more thing my mom will bring birthday treats for the ride. cause its my birthday!!!

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  • Bjorn February 27, 2008 at 11:24 am

    A referendum is possible. Here is the relevant part of the city charter:

    Section 10.02 Referendum: The registered voters of the city shall have power to approve or disapprove at the polls any ordinance passed by the city council, or submitted by the city council to a vote of the registered voters of the city, except such ordinances as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or for the support of the city government and its existing public institutions, or providing for the approval of local improvement assessment rolls, or for the issuance of local improvement bonds or on any subject where such action is contrary to the general laws of the state of Washington. Within thirty days after the enactment by the city council of any ordinance which is subject to a referendum, a petition signed by registered voters of the city equal in number to at least ten per centum of the number of votes cast at the last preceding municipal general election may be filed with the city clerk requesting that any such ordinance be either repealed or submitted to a vote of the registered voters of the city. (As amended by vote of the people on November 4, 1986 and November 2, 2004.)

    There are only 30 days to collect signatures though, and I don\’t know how to determine how many people voted in the last election.

    If other people are interested in collecting signatures I think we might be able to do it. However I live in Portland so I am also not sure if I am allowed to collect signatures etc.


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  • Antonio Gramsci February 27, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    It is truly the essence of authoritarianism: Trying to impose one-size-fits-all standards. It is also a proven biking-as-transportation killer.

    Someone previously posted the findings for Australia on this subject. They are supported by voluminous facts and figures, and can be found here:

    It turns out that one of the worst impacts of such laws is on women, who are already underrepresented among commuting cyclists.

    The findings were that women are more likely to find being forced to wear a helmet an inconvenience. This could be because women on average are more self-conscious of their personal appearance and spend more time on grooming. They often wear longer hair, etc. And they are sensitive to the stigma of \”helmet-head\” (ie, wearing a helmet tends to mess up one\’s coiffure, especially if you have long hair).

    Now the authoritarian (read, \”petty fascist\”) responds to that with: \”How vain of them! Well tough! We\’ll force them to do it for their own good!\” But the result is that fewer women ride bikes, in fact, drastically fewer. That then has very negative knock-on effects on total ridership numbers.

    The fewer women who rides bikes also means that fewer men will ride bikes as well. And fewer people in general riding bikes reduces the visibility and respectability of cycling as a transportation mode. That in turn DIMINISHES safety. How ironic…

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  • Bjorn February 27, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    It appears that about 27000 people voted in the last city election if I am reading this right. That means that we would need to get 2700 signatures plus some margin in less than a month. Is anyone really interested in the referendum, this seems doable.


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  • SkidMark February 27, 2008 at 8:47 pm

    Nice to know that the indegent and working poor are \”on their own\”.

    Enacting laws like this are never about the safety of the rider. They are all about making revenue from violations and reducing liablity of the motorists that hit them.

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  • Agent lekker February 27, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I am inspired to finally blog because of the support shown by Bjorn. Vancouver residents often ride to Portland to show support during cycling events and memorials. I and other Vancouver cyclists understand that when we stand up for Portland cycling rights we help every cyclist.

    It has been sad to me the number of posts that say \”well I just won\’t go to Vancouver\”. How does this help? Don\’t we want more cyclists everywhere? Doesn\’t that create momentum?

    Thank you every one that rides to this side of the river. I wish I could buy you all a beer.

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  • wsbob February 27, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    I\’m not a Vancouver resident either, but if there\’s an interest among Vancouver citizens, and an ability to do so, I\’d never the less encourage them to refer the enactment of this law to a vote of Vancouver citizens.

    The fundamental question raised by the Vancouver City Council\’s action is fairly simple: \’Should adults riding bikes within the city limits of Vancouver be allowed to determine whether a bike helmet is necessary for their personal safety, and have the right to choose whether or not to wear a bike helmet, based on that determination?\’.

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  • Matt Picio February 28, 2008 at 12:35 am

    I\’m also not a Vancouver resident, and I wear a helmet most of the time, but I totally support the Dread Pirate Roberts and the Freedom Ride – I will be there on the 10th with as many people as I can persuade to make the trek up with me. Along the way, maybe we can introduce a few more people to the suckage that is the I-5 bike/ped bridge facilities!

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 9:04 am

    How to do a referendum:

    I\’ve worked on referendum campaigns before. Collecting 3000 signatures in a month is a very tall order. Realistically, you would need half a dozen people to drop everything and go absolute gangbusters to get this done. It might happen, but a more feasible approach than volunteers would be paid signature gatherers — especially on such short notice.

    Again, on this short notice, expect to spend about $3000, or approximately $1 per signature. You could raise the money by making an emergency appeal to civic groups around Vancouver, painting the apocalyptic portrait of \”deathknell of cycling in Vancouver\” and consequently \”mortal blow to quality of life in Vancouver\” aptly supported by the facts and figures at

    Hell, you might be able to raise the money from right around here in Portland. I\’d pledge $50.

    Anyone want to bite the bullet and organize this thing?

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Quick show of hands:

    Assume we need $3000 to pay for this breakneck one month campaign (~$1/signature). We would hire a pro firm to get the job done collecting the sigs.

    Who here would be willing to donate to finance it, and how much?

    I will start: I pledge $50

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 9:21 am

    While forcing people to take measures for their own safety might infringe on personal liberties, there are far too many real travesties in this world for me to get worked up over mandatory seat belt laws, mandatory helmet laws, or mandatory steel-toed boot-on the-job laws.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 9:34 am

    Same here. I wouldn\’t give the matter another thought except for the TRULY DIRE findings at — apparently, the resulting impacts on ridership numbers of measures like this have been horrendous. Horrifying. The knock-on effects of drastically diminished ridership include DIMINISHED SAFETY, irony of ironies.

    While I only actually head over to Vancouver once in a blue moon, it bothers me to think that my range of freedom is potentially diminishing, that I\’m becoming more and more isolated in this little cocoon of bikefriendly Portland, while meanwhile the rest of the country becomes more and more hostile to my values and priorities in life. Does this ever bother you?

    The power of a victory on this issue would be both real and symbolic. The fact that it would be \”those nosy Portlander outsiders\” being instrumental to it would tickle me. We could become those fearsome Portland Young Turks, riding in to battle. \”Watch out for those Portlanders! They\’ll run right into your town and take over!\” they\’ll say, trembling.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 9:46 am

    I take the conclusions of that study with an enormous grain of salt.

    By way of example, how many posting here would stop riding if they were required to wear a helmet? My guess is every single one of you who hate this law would still continue to ride. And if something as trivial as a helmet law made you sell the bike and move on to another past-time, then I\’d say you didn\’t care for cycling all that much to begin with.

    It\’s one thing to say that ridership numbers are down in Australia; it\’s another thing entirely to say that it\’s because helmets are required. I don\’t buy it. As my grandfather used to say, when he was on this side of the grass, \”Figures don\’t lie, but liars can figure.\”

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 9:55 am

    I think your own argument could easily be turned on its head: the folks here are also hardcore riders, totally atypical of the average rider in Vancouver (or even Portland, for that matter) who is probably a lot more like those women in Australia who are plenty put off at the prospect of being forced to acquire and wear a helmet.

    For such casual riders, the helmet requirement could easily be the factor that pushes them over the tipping point towards largely shunning riding. Afterall, the more regulations, rules, and restrictions you impose on an activity, the greater the barriers to adoption. And having to wear an uncomfortable thing over your head that messes up your hair is far from a trivial one at that, at least for the very occasional rider.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 10:11 am

    Well, let\’s use that argument then.

    In Portland, the largest impediment to increasing ridership is the perceived lack of safety of riding in traffic (and as a personal anecdote, I was told just two weeks ago by a young woman who had just bought a bike that she won\’t ride in traffic because it\’s not safe.). The perceived solution to the safety issue is to increase bike facilities (read: bike lanes, bike boxes etc.), so that people feel safer riding in traffic. When bike facilities are increased, people who don\’t feel safe now will feel safe, and begin to ride.

    These are the casual riders; they want to ride, but only if it\’s safe to do so. And the anti-helmet crowd wants me to believe that even though safety is the number one concern of these casual riders, they will refuse to ride if they are required to wear a safety device. Again, I don\’t buy it. It just doesn\’t wash.

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  • wsbob February 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

    Just imagine if a great number of Vancouver residents somehow happened to turn out for a big rally out of objection to the imposition of mandatory adult bicycle use. How hard is it to get the required signatures in that situation? This entirely depends upon whether Vancouver residents really do object to this soon to be implemented law. That to me, is a very interesting question.

    I generally consider that website, \’cycle-helmet. com\’ to be bogus, and, the Australian survey rapidly becoming outdated as gas prices spiral upwards. Still, I can understand where the hair-do issue could put a lot of people off cycling if they were required to wear a helmet. That would be another reason that I think mandatory adult bike helmet use is generally excessive. The inherent traffic danger in some parts of some cities might be able to justify mandatory adult bike helmet use, but, Vancouver, Washington?

    This just sounds like grandstanding to me, as if the city is win some kind of \’safest city\’ award, or get a break on their insurance bonds.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 10:18 am

    And on the subject of \”helmet hair,\” I used to commute by bike, without a helmet, back in the days before the push to get cyclists to wear helmets ever began. Even without a helmet, I would arrive at work with my hair sweat-drenched and wind-blown, every single day.

    Anybody who thinks they won\’t have to muss their perfect hair when they get on a bike clearly hasn\’t been on a bike to begin with.

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  • wsbob February 28, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Correction: \”….as if the city is(trying to) win…\”

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I\’m pretty sure that your argument here, \”rational\” as it might sound superficially, is in fact absolutely bunk. Why? Because I can recall when I myself was a casual rider, in SoCal, many years ago.

    Never wore a helmet. Always thought it might be a good idea, but didn\’t want to look \”geeky,\” didn\’t think I had a big enough investment in cycling to bother, etc. Wsa also terrified of riding very much in traffic, if ever, and sought out the lowest traffic streets possible. I\’m pretty sure that I wasn\’t a freak case, and that such a collection of superficially \”contradictory\” tendencies is not unusual in the least.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 10:28 am

    I\’ve got experience with initiative campaigns. I\’ve collected thousands of signatures in places similar to Vancouver. And the answer to your question is: \”It won\’t happen.\”

    People might sign a petition and vote against an ordinance to force adults to wear helmets, particularly if they have a libertarian streak, as many Americans actually do. But no one who isn\’t personally engaged in bikes and cycling issues is going to be exorcised enough to show up at a rally in advance of the vote on the issue.

    For the same reasons you will never see a \”grassroots\” movement against anti-smoking ordinances, and tobacco companies always have to pay for such things out of their own pockets — even though there are plenty of people who will sign initiatives against smoking restrictions.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I can buy that people don\’t want to look geeky. Absolutely. I have two helmets now, my old one, and my new one. The old one makes me look so geeky I shudder, no doubt about it. The new one doesn\’t– it makes me look like quite the bike stud. Or so I like to believe. 😉

    But I think that for people who want to bike, but are concerned about their personal safety, that potential \”geek factor\” is the least of their concerns. First and foremost, they want to be safe, and I don\’t think a law mandating safety equipment is going to be a factor in keeping them from riding.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 10:38 am

    Again, think \”barriers to entry.\”

    No single factor is enough to nix it, but pile up enough of them, and you have very effectively barred the way to new adoption. And it\’s not like there\’s a shortage of them as it stands.

    Why couldn\’t a helmet law be that final straw — for many trips, and many people?

    Naturally, it would all depend on enforcement.

    But I can easily picture myself when I was a casual rider, shunning any even slightly busy streets like death, but once in a while tooling around the neighborhood, to the corner store, or around campus when I was in college.

    Had I thought there was a good chance of receiving citations on those occasions for not having a helmet, would that have been enough to change many of those trips into other modes — by foot, by car, or not at all? I think it\’s entirely likely.

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  • Jay February 28, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Reading anti-helmet ordinance posts here, I can only think that none of those posters have either sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or known somebody\’s who\’s life (and those of their family members) has been turned completely upside down by one.

    This whole debate is remarkably similar to the one the country had back in the 1970\’s when New York State passed the first seat belt law. I bet the majority of posters don\’t give buckling up a second thought.

    Whether you\’re a serious or casual rider is besides the point. It\’s a matter of physics: steel hitting bike and (unprotected) head hitting ground is all that matters.

    I applaud Councilmember Harris. A former bike racer (and agile cyclist), I was on my way to work five years ago – a routine, casual ride – and I was hit by a truck going 40 mph after running a red. The only possible thing that saved my life was the helmet. Even so, I sustained a TBI, which would have been far worse without one if I survived.

    A TBI changes everything – your intuition and your cognitive \”pilot\” – which you use for every decision, big & small- are shattered. That means you\’re likely to lose your job and any relationships (partner/husband/wife) become horribly difficult to maintain. This is the injury that thousands of American soldiers have sustained in Iraq – it\’s just now beginning to hit home here in the US.

    Beyond badly impacting your ability to think, TBI cause some of the folling: lifelong insomnia, constant debilitating fatigue, inability to smell, taste, see, hear, sexual function, etc. Those of us with TBI have at least a few of these. It affects you physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually.

    On the economic note, why wouldn\’t you want to support a law (and personal action) that helps lower health care costs for us all. My year of hospital and rehab was $500,000 or so. I was insured, but WE ALL pay for those that aren\’t as since any hospital just passes the cost of treating the uninsured (required by law to do do) on to YOU…health care costs aren\’t high enough for you?

    Please, law or not, wear a helmet every time you go out on a bike…

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 10:47 am

    Antonio, I think we\’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I do agree with you on your post for the suggested legislation for the 2009 Oregon legislative session, but on this one, We\’ll have to disagree. I really think that if the Australian study were to be subjected to some rigorous peer review, it would die a quiet death amongst the anti-helmet crowd.

    And as I said, I recognize the infringement of personal liberties, but in a world filled with real travesties, mandated safety equipment (seat belts, bike helmets, steel-toed boots) just doesn\’t register on my outrage meter.

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  • wsbob February 28, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Gramsci, it\’s hard to speak against a voice of first hand experience. I think that\’s right that Vancouver residents will never successfully come out against this law by way of referral petitions, but it\’s something to consider none the less.

    Rixter, there are still a lot of people out there that are concerned about their safety on bikes, but will neatly set aside their realization of the value in wearing a bike helmet. They\’ll do this for various reasons; pure excitement, vanity, a sense of invulnerability. Adults, not so much as younger people though.

    Men tend to have shorter, less complicated hairdo\’s these days, but I\’ll be there\’s a lot of women that wouldn\’t appreciate having to plop a helmet over their hair.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 11:06 am

    Well, the more I think about my own experiences, the more inclined I am to believe the Australia study and disagree with you.

    Look at it this way: Most people who are still only very casually committed to cycling — or any other activity — don\’t go out on a big spree and outfit themselves with lots of elaborate equipment. They don\’t invest in lots of safety gear, lighting, clothes, etc.

    They buy a new bike, if that. More likely, they dust off an old one that\’s sitting around. Or get a used one.

    Just because they\’re afraid to ride on safety grounds doesn\’t mean that most people, starting from the point of being very casual riders, will go out suddenly one day and diligently follow a whole array of rational measures to increase their safety. Which could include buying a helmet. Surely you are not so foolish as to believe that!

    Usually, it is just the opposite: People start from the point of being very casual about an activity, with minimal investment in it. They become more enthusiastic about it while still only very slightly invested in it, as they warm to it through greater practice. Eventually, they decide to escalate their commitment and investment.

    So if you impose — and actually enforce — more restrictions on that activity, requiring more initiative and actions on their part before they can undertake that activity, then, for casual participants, their participation in that activity will go down. Guaranteed. Every single time.

    They may in fact never reach the point of becoming committed to it, and the enforcement of a just one additional restriction on their casual participation could easily be enough to prevent that commitment from ever emerging.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 11:15 am

    wsbob, my hair was shoulder length when I was commuting by bike, helmetless. I always arrived at work with wind-blown, sweat-and diesel-drenched hair.

    When trauma nurses and doctors started pushing for helmet use, I bought a helmet. My hair was still shoulder length, and I still arrived at work with sweat-drenched and wind-blown hair.

    Of course, my hair is shorter now– that, and half of it fell out 😉 — so I don\’t have to worry about helmet hair anymore.

    Regardless, it\’s only possible to believe that one\’s hair won\’t get mussed while riding if one hasn\’t actually been on a bike. I don\’t think that somebody who thinks \”I\’d like to ride a bike, but only as long as I don\’t muss my hair\” is the type of person who is going to increase ridership numbers.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Mr. Gramsci, my casual understanding of the Australia study is that they attributed the decline in ridership to the helmet law, which went into effect around the time that ridership began declining, but failed to take other factors into account. Was the helmet law the cause of the decline in ridership, or just coincidental? The study concludes it was the cause, but my casualunderstanding of it is that it hasn\’t shown that it was anything more than coincidental.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Jesus, rixtir. People are not stone Buddhas, unchanging, constant fixtures.

    \”The type of person who likes to ride a bike, so long as my hair doesn\’t get mussed\” can most assuredly evolve into \”the type of person who loves to ride no matter how mussed my hair gets\”! They simply have to do the activity enough to develop a liking for it. Something they might never arrive at if enough barriers are imposed on their participation up front.

    The idea that someone who is \”too vain\” to want their hair to get messed up could not develop a fondness for cycling is bizarre, silly even. I can\’t see any necessary correlation between such things.

    Furthermore, the fact is, your hair might get tousled if you are cycling fast, but some people also like to ride slow. It is most assuredly possible to ride slow and in a way that doesn\’t mess up your hair much or cause you to sweat very much. Thousands of elegantly coiffed Amsterdam and Copenhagen women manage it, so I\’m sure Americans can do it too.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Mr. Gramsci, I agree that in Amsterdam elegantly coiffed women and elegantly dressed men ride bikes to get around. And as you pointed out, the key to that is riding slow, and I might add, riding short distances. I would argue that in the U.S., those distances are longer, and often punctuated by hills, so comparisons with Amsterdam cycling habits are often not applicable. However, for short distances on flat terrain, and at slow speeds, it is possible to arrive at one\’s destination with perfect hair.

    I also agree with you that people can change, so that even someone who is too vain to want to muss their hair might nevertheless eventually develop a fondness for cycling. Would a helmet law act as a barrier to these people getting on a bike? Possibly. You may be right there.

    Would it act as a barrier to those people who currently want to ride, but are afraid to ride because of safety concerns? I have my doubts about that.

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  • Todd Boulanger February 28, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Reply to Rixter et al #108 –

    During the recent public testimony on helmets at the City of Vancouver council session…a local business woman and bicyclist mentioned that she wanted the ability to choose routes and the level of protection required (helmet or no helmet) based on the quality of the route and traffic threats.

    Her compromise to the council was to develop a helmet and infrastructure policy where bike helmets would be required on busier arterials (and bike lanes) and bike helmets optional on residential routes (bike blvds, bikeways/ green streets, shared streets).

    Her arguement was an attempt to bridge the real gap between our downtowns/ prewar neighborhoods where sharing the road is both possible and safe (Amsterdam model of slow speed riding – 10 mph) vs. the need for more protection out in the newer suburbs with bike lanes and higher speed traffic/ volumes often on very narrow (old county rural roads) or very wide new streets and the larger land use footprints/ sprawl – which necessitate faster bicycling (15 mph+).

    The Vancouver Bicycling Club\’s support of the helmet law for adults fits their model of bicycling as a fast paced recreational pursuit along high threat rural roads/ ex-urban county arterials vs. short distance slow upright Dutch style riding in mixed use districts.

    (To be fair…from what I hear there is not uniformity of opinion in the VBC about their public support for this ordinance and their influence on council to expand its reach to include adults.)

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  • Opus the Poet February 28, 2008 at 12:27 pm

    Jay #101

    I am a survivor of an assault by motor vehicle that resulted in brain damage, among other injuries. You can\’t tell from my postings here, because I can take the time to work around my aphasia, but when I\’m trying to speak it shows up in varying degrees depending on my emotional state. I used to be a spoken word poet, and a much sought after performer for both public exhibitions and private parties (\”It isn\’t really a party without Opus the Poet\”). Now I can\’t even get through a job interview without sounding like I\’m retarded, as both my vocabulary and diction have suffered as a result of the brain damage I suffered. I was wearing a helmet that saved my life, there were 4 separate impact sites on the helmet any one of which would have been fatal on a bare head. So I know about helmets and TBI. I also know that having one cost my family my SS death benefits that could have helped my wife keep our house. After the wreck I lost my job and haven\’t been able to hold on to another for more than a couple of months.

    Mandatory helmet wear laws have no place in the United States of America. Period, full stop, no need for further discussion. Helmets can save you life, but you have to want to wear them, it can\’t be forced on you like you were a child.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    For an activity that people only marginally participate in, here is a formula that works, just about 100% of the time, for those marginal participants, averaged over statistically significant numbers of said marginal participants:

    increased restrictions + increased requirements for participation = less participation

    all other things being equal

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  • Todd Boulanger February 28, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    BTA took an opposite track to fulfill the objectives of the proposed ordinance (now passed).

    They contacted the VBC about this but there was not time to craft a compromise ordinance that would have brought both groups together given their shared objectives (safer streets with more bicyclists) and gotten council support.

    I am posting their comment to the CoV council as it was not read publically into the record nor directly mentioned at the meeting…only posted on the BTA blog site for a few days, as many may not know about it and the missed opportunity:


    Bicycle Transportation Alliance
    233 NW 5th Ave
    Portland, OR 97207
    February 22, 2008
    Vancouver City Council
    210 E 13th St.
    Vancouver, WA

    Dear Mayor Royce Pollard and Council Members:

    Last month you considered a proposed mandatory helmet law for children riding bicycles. On Monday night, you will hear an updated version of this proposed ordinance, which will extend the law to apply to adults as well. We respectfully submit these comments on the proposed ordinance, for your consideration.

    We know how concerned the Clark County Youth Commission, the Vancouver Bicycle Club, the Vancouver Police and leaders such as yourselves are for the safety of kids and adults riding bikes, and the importance of adults wearing helmets to set a good example for their kids, and we share that concern. Yet, while we respect the intentions of this proposal, and share their frustration at the unacceptably high number of kids and adults who are hurt riding bicycles every year, the BTA is very worried about the possible secondary effects of a helmet law.

    In 2005, the League of American Bicyclists honored Vancouver with a “Bronze” Bicycle Friendly Community designation. We fear that unforeseen consequences of this law could break the city’s momentum, make Vancouver bicyclists less safe, and undo the hard work already done by the city to help Vancouverites bike safely for transportation and for fun. Alternatively, a major bike safety and encouragement program, and an evaluation process, could be a landmark change for Vancouver, and an example to the nation.

    The BTA strongly encourages all cyclists to wear helmets and we can say with confidence that putting on a helmet makes you safer – however, we are not confident that passing a mandatory helmet law makes bicyclists, as a group, any safer.

    We fear this law will reduce the number of adults and children riding bikes in Vancouver. Around the world, bicyclists’ safety correlates with rates of bicycling – in other words, we have “safety in numbers.” The BTA’s position on any policy that reduces bicycling is that it must have a large positive effect that overpowers the detrimental effects of having fewer bicyclists on the roads.

    A mandatory helmet ordinance in Vancouver may reduce rates of bicycling. Studies of helmet laws passed in the US only examine changes in the number of bike-related head injuries seen by hospitals after passage of a helmet law; none have looked at concurrent changes in the number of people riding bicycles. Head injuries almost always decrease after passage of a helmet law, which is initially encouraging, but because researchers have not tracked changes in the total number of bicyclists, we can’t know whether the rate of head injury decreased among bicyclists, or whether the number of head injuries decreased because of an overall decline in bike riding (see this article:

    One study of a 1990 helmet law passed in Australia (a review is available at did address this question – with disheartening results. The increase in helmet-wearing after passage of the law was significant, but was smaller than the decrease in the number of people riding bikes; in other words, more people were discouraged from cycling than were encouraged to wear helmets. Bike-related head injuries declined after passage of the law, but non-head injuries fell a similar amount.

    Pedestrian and bicyclist safety generally follow similar trends on a given road system, so the Australian researchers looked at changes in pedestrian injury at the time of the law. They found that while deaths and serious injuries to bicyclists fell by 1.7% over four years, in the same period the rate for pedestrians fell by 2.5%, calling into question whether the helmet law could be credited with this change in bicyclists’ safety.

    Would the same thing happen in the United States? There are no localized studies to enlighten us, but a national study of head injuries and helmet wearing by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission found that head injuries per cyclist increased by 51% from 1991 to 2001, even as helmet wearing became widespread over the same period (read the New York Times article here:

    We are concerned about the reallocation of police resources away from other priorities. Laws aren’t free, and enforcing this law will take police. Unless new money is made available to the Vancouver Police, the department will need to reallocate resources away from other priorities to enforce the helmet law. If the police move away from enforcement against non-traffic infractions, perhaps the effect on road safety will be minimal; but if time currently spent ticketing crash-causing bicyclist behaviors (like red-light running and riding at night without lights) or crash-causing motorist behaviors (like speeding and not yielding to bicyclists in bike lanes) is now spent ticketing cyclists for not wearing helmets, will that improve or degrade bicyclists’ safety on the roads?

    There is no question that wearing a helmet protects one’s head in the case of a crash – but there are many crashes in which a helmet doesn’t save a life, a limb, or a terrible injury. Preventing those crashes from happening in the first place will likely have a bigger safety impact on all bicyclists than a helmet law and would have the added positive effect of making bicycling attractive to more people.

    If the Council does not expect the police to allocate time to enforcing this law, but wants to make a strong statement about the importance of helmets, we believe an ordinance to that effect that also designates funds for getting that message out to bicyclists (and their parents) would be a big step towards increasing helmet use in Vancouver.

    This law should only be passed as part of a bike safety and encouragement package for Vancouver. We are coming to grips with the reality of climate change; oil is more expensive every year; car crashes are the leading cause of death in the United States for everyone aged 3 to 33; Clark County and the Portland region are choked by traffic; children are suffering more than ever before from obesity and asthma due to inactivity and air pollution. This is not a good time to risk discouraging bicycling.

    If the Council is determined to pass a mandatory helmet law, we hope it will be part of a citywide movement to make bicyclists safer, more comfortable, well respected and more numerous every year. In fact, we think that a comprehensive bicycle program that included a helmet law could set a great example for other US communities. Such an effort should include:

    • An increase in funding for new and improved bicycle routes in Vancouver, particularly those routes that will allow people to ride bicycles separate from dangerous car traffic.
    • Programs that making biking and walking to Vancouver schools safer, more practical, and more attractive.
    • An extensive education campaign aimed at motorists focused on driving safely around bicyclists.
    • An extensive education campaign aimed at bicyclists on how to bike legally and defensively.
    • Enhanced police enforcement against high-risk motorist and bicyclist behaviors.
    • Distribution and fitting of free bicycle helmets to all low-income children under 18 in Vancouver schools.
    • Bike light discount and give-away programs.
    • A world-class bicycling facility on any future bridge developed by the Columbia River Crossing.
    • An evaluation program that tracks bicycling, helmet-wearing and head injuries before and after the implementation of a helmet law and other bike safety changes.

    We have no doubt that this mandatory helmet law is proposed and supported with all of the best intentions and a great deal of caring and concern for our most vulnerable roadway users. We know the Vancouver City Council wants to encourage bicycle safety as well as helmet wearing, and that the Mayor, in particular, is an enthusiastic cyclist who wants to take Vancouver from “Bronze” to “Silver,” and maybe, one day, to “Gold.” We want that too – so we’re asking the Council to take this proposal and turn it into an inspiring bike safety package we can all get behind.

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this proposal.

    Scott Bricker
    Executive Director

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    Anybody who thinks that riding a bike is cost-free is deluded.

    Unless you buy a lock, there\’s a very high probability that your bike will be stolen. Is buying a lock a barrier to entry? From an expense standpoint, sure. But so is having your bike stolen.

    The law requires you to have a light if you ride at night. Is buying a light a barrier to entry? From an expense standpoint, sure. So should we make lights optional for night-riding?

    Hey, don\’t require reflectors, somebody might decide not to ride!

    How far should we lower that bar then, in the fear that somebody somewhere might not get on a bike?

    And Scott Bricker, you might cast a little more critical eye on that Australian study before you cite its results. Just sayin\’

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  • Marcus Griffith February 28, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    In resposne to post #69,I am impressed. You successfully waded through the quagmire and got to the heart of the issue: it is not that the helmet was passed, but rather the justifications for passing it. Passing the all ages helmet law is a reasonable and lawful action of the city in very much the same manner as passing the seat-belt law years ago. In both cases there is room to argue individual freedom and so forth; however, the benefits of both seat belt and helmet laws are well documented and permit the city to enact reasonable laws for the safety and well being of the public. However, the testimony provided by council members was that an helmet law is needed to protect cyclist from negligent, and thus criminal, drivers. Which, is true. But why is the City of Vancouver not addressing the issue of negligent drivers directly with awareness campaigns, tougher fines or police enforcement?

    In addition, you are displaying a very respectable activism attitude. Problems are resolve through actions, not mere complaints March 10th is a Monday. Is there a proposed or set route/time?

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    I think you already know the answer to your rhetorical question: \”How far should we lower the bar?\” Optimally far. For example, far enough that more people ride bikes and that the resulting \”safety in numbers\” outweighs detrimental effects of people not all being optimally outfitted for the activity.

    For example, we need not tolerate shoddily engineered bikes out on the roads on the grounds that they\’ll be \”cheaper\” and that this would \”lower the bsr.\” Afterall, most of \”the bar\” is not constituted by cost — millions of people drive cars, even though they cost far more than bikes typically — but by inconvenience.

    As a matter of fact, we could probably considerably escalate the safety requirements imposed on bike MANUFACTURERS while having far less impact on CONSUMERS (ie, riders) than would a mandatory helmet law. The problems with helmets have very little to do with costs. The factors at issue are convenience and personal comfort.

    Those two factors will have a much more profound effect on ridership than cost could ever have, given what I\’ve already said. And there\’s hardly any other bar to be lowered or raised that\’s at issue here. Remind me again who is pushing for anything else that would really be likely to raise the costs of bikes so high as to impose a barrier to new adoption comparable to helmet laws?

    I think you\’re raising a red herring here, rixtir.

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  • a.O February 28, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Yeah, it\’s pretty embarrassing to have the BTA publicly citing to such a poor study. Somebody needs a course in experimental research design and in controlling covariates.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 1:10 pm

    I think the bar shouldn\’t be so high that riding a bike is an elite activity. But I also don\’t think the bar should be so low that cyclist safety is compromised.

    As that applies to helmets, I really don\’t think the cost of a helmet is a barrier to cycling. The bike costs significantly more than a helmet, and the helmet is certainly no more expensive than a light, or a lock. You can even see that trauma nurses are giving free helmets away to those who need them, right here on BP\’s front page. 😉

    Cumulatively, buying a bike, a lock, and yes, lights and a helmet can add up. But take out the cost of that helmet, and the cost savings achieved isn\’t significant enough to be concerned about it acting as a \”barrier.\”

    But I see that you don\’t appear to be making an argument that the cost of a helmet is a barrier to cycling. And yet you are arguing that it is a barrier, which brings it back to the vanity issue.

    So should the bar for cyclist safety be lowered such that one person\’s interest in vanity is where we set the bar?

    Maybe. But I don\’t agree.

    I do agree that the more people we get riding, the safer all cyclists will be. But I don\’t agree that helmet laws are an impediment to getting more people on bikes. If you\’re looking for red herrings, the argument that helmet laws keep people off bikes is a good place to start looking.

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  • Marcus Griffith February 28, 2008 at 1:22 pm

    Passing the all ages helmet law is a reasonable and lawful action of the City of Vancouver in very much the same manner as passing the seat-belt law years ago. In both cases there is room to argue individual freedom and so forth; however, the benefits of both seat belt and helmet laws are well documented and permit the city to enact reasonable laws for the safety and well being of the public. However, the testimony provided by council members was that an helmet law is needed to protect cyclist from negligent, and thus criminal, drivers. Which, is true. But why is the City of Vancouver not addressing the issue of negligent drivers directly with awareness campaigns, tougher fines or police enforcement?

    Marcus Griffith
    1900 Fort Vancouver Way, apt 311
    Vancouver wa 98663
    (Vancouver WA-Central Park Neighborhood)

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Requiring mandatory safety courses of the caliber of LAB\’s Road 1 plus licensing would do more for safety of individual riders than helmets ever will. But would you REQUIRE those?? Since people would be safer, you would be free to argue that not requiring them is even more \”compromising\” of individuals\’ safety than not requiring helmets.

    Surely, however, you are not so daft as to fail to realize that such requirements would CERTAINLY depress ridership.

    But why don\’t you think that ANY new requirements which, taken by themselves, represent a significant inconvenience to a significant fraction of the general public would not ALSO depress ridership??

    The same goes, by the way, for more stringent enforcement of existing requirements, naturally.

    Why else have we cyclists been arguing for years against such things as mandatory licensing, or stop sign stings in places like Ladd\’s Addition?

    And if this were not the case, and there were not significant numbers of people put out by the prospect of being forced to wear helments, how did this thread get to be so long and with so many contributors?

    This is coming from someone who wears a helmet every day. Who has worn helmets for hours on end on hundred plus mile bike rides. Numerous times.

    The outcome of this issue will have no direct impact on me personally. But WILL it depress ridership, particularly if it is actually enforced with any degree of rigor, in the absence of a larger package to incentivize and promote cycling that Scott Bricker admirably argued for?


    Does that upset me, when it\’s happening in the city right across the river from me?


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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Antonio, first let me say that I\’ve always understood you to be advocating on principle, and that you do in fact wear a helmet.

    I think requiring LAB certification is an example of setting the bar too high. While it might be beneficial for the individual rider, I think most would probably not bother.

    I\’ll haver to disagree with you about enforcement, however. I think that enforcement is an essential part of making cycling safer for everybody on the road– especially if one envisions a society where bicycles are the most commonly used personal vehicle.

    I can tell you why cyclists argue against enforcement– because like every other member of society, they want the law applied to other people, but not to them. It\’s selfish interest, excuses and rationalization, and nothing more.

    I also get that some people are just as passionate about NOT wearing a helmet, or about NOT being visible on the road, or about NOT obeying any of the traffic laws, as other people are passionate about wearing helmets, or being visible on the road, or about obeying the traffic laws.

    The fact that some people are passionate about it doesn\’t persuade me that I should get worked up about a helmet law. Notice that I didn\’t advocate FOR passage of the law, before it was adopted. Similarly, I\’m not going to get worked up about it now, after it was passed.

    I think if anything, instead of trying to lower the bar, we could look at this as an opportunity to engage Vancouver and other cities in a discussion about a comprehensive approach to safety, as Scott Bricker has suggested. One doesn\’t have to oppose the helmet law in order to support a more comprehensive approach to road safety for all.

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  • Antonio Gramsci February 28, 2008 at 2:46 pm

    It\’s only an opportunity BEFORE passage. Once they\’ve passed it, why should they care what you have to say? Unless, of course, you wield a credible threat of going over their heads with a public referendum. Which still argues strongly for the referendum I\’m advocating. Thanks for your help!

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I don\’t think there\’s any evidence that Vancouver or other cities would be opposed to a more comprehensive safety measure, even after passage of a helmet law.

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  • wsbob February 28, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    You two…rixter and Gramsci, can sure go at it. For the moment, I suppose this decision by the Van city council may not matter that much. Whether it does or not depends almost entirely upon the Vancouver residents response to it. About that, we\’ll have to wait and see. So far, residents response has been modest to to say the least. If they like this law, they should certainly be entitled to live by it.

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  • rixtir February 28, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Let me reiterate that I\’m in complete agreement with Gramsci on this post:

    And we both love cycling, and we both agree on the need to increase ridership. Why, we both even wear helmets.

    We just happen to disagree on whether this particular law will harm cycling. Just a minor disagreement among reasonable people, nothing more.

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  • Dread Pirate Roberts February 28, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    In response to Marcus\’s post #114 I am working on a route. The time is 5:30 at the clock tower of Esther short park.

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  • a.O February 28, 2008 at 8:11 pm

    Excellent point, rixter. Way to get to the heart of the matter. Reasonable people can disagree and must do so sometimes.

    I\’m somewhat conflicted about this, which is highly unusual for me. I think rixter is clearly correct, but I question the value of this action if the goal is roadway safety. A question of priorities perhaps?

    There are many better ways to make bicycling safe for people who do so around others driving motor vehicles, which is why I wish you two would just show up for the We Are All Traffic meeting on Tuesday.

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  • Cøyøte February 29, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Not to recognize the creeping authoritarianism of a law like this is a serious error. To codify a circumstance where public space is too dangerous to use without PPE is also an error. Is this our vision of the future typified by the cover of this report?

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  • John February 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    From my own experience, widespread enforcement won\’t be an issue in Vancouver. What I\’d expect would be more attention focused on \”homeless\” or otherwise undesirable cyclists, and a big happy dance from auto insurance companies who now have a foot in the door to deny any claim involving a no-helmet citation. Other than that, we have around one officer on duty per 3,000 Vancouver residents on average, so they just don\’t have the time to do much more than react to emergencies or cruise the freeway.

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  • Racer X March 1, 2008 at 5:30 am

    I guess the City of Vancouver or the Vancouver Bike Club will now install a coat tree with bike helmets on the state line for adults just visiting by bike.

    I guess there is still the option of riding through Vancouver and staying on the Interstate (off of city streets – on 205 this is possible) to avoid this law.

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  • Jim O'Horo March 1, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    Racer X #129:

    \”I guess there is still the option of riding through Vancouver and staying on the Interstate (off of city streets – on 205 this is possible) to avoid this law.\”

    Hate to rain on your parade, but you can\’t get from the I-205 bikepath to I-205 northbound without travelling a short distance on city streets. Also, the Mill Plain exit, just north of SR-14 is 2-lane with heavy, very high speed exit traffic. Unless you want to chance crossing the 2 lanes of 60+ mph traffic(not recommended), you will have to get off, detour through city streets & reenter. Once back on I-205, exit at Gehr Rd. and you\’ll be outside city limits. You could get off your bike & walk along the sidewalk for the detours, but that may still not be OK. The ordinance applies to \”any public area within the city\”, and VPD frequently uses the interstates & state highways to move from one location to another within the city. If they\’re cruising by & see you they may be able to stop you – don\’t think they would, but it\’s possible.

    Or you could stop fighting City Hall & wear your helmet.


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  • wsbob March 1, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    And the force of authority speaks…..

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  • Opus the Poet March 1, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    I just thought of something PDX cyclists can do for Vancouver cyclists, since you are in adjoining cities but in separate states, you have cyclists engaged in crossing from one state to another, i.e. interstate commerce. And the constitution states that only the Federal gov\’t has the authority to regulate interstate commerce. A law that bars law-abiding pregon cyclists from travelling unimpeded to Washington state, that makes them violating a criminal law with the same mode of transport and comportment that was legal in Oregon, would be impeding interstate commerce.

    Just a thought. a.O. would probably have a better take on this as I\’m just an ex-computer geek and bicycle builder, not a Constitutional scholar.


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  • wsbob March 1, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    L-o-o-ord Vancouver! Can it dictate!? L-o-o-ord Vancouver! Yes it can!!

    Anybody ever see the children\’s show, Bob the Builder? Maybe the Vancouver City Council\’s mandatory adult bike helmet law was conceived with the loving spirit of that show in mind. At any rate, the tune fits the above couplet.

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  • Opus the Poet March 1, 2008 at 9:59 pm

    I just read my previous post and I have to correct a typo: pregon should read Oregon. My fingers haven\’t been talking well lately, and I missed it in the proofreading.

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  • Jim O'Horo March 1, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Opus #32:

    \”A law that bars law-abiding pregon cyclists from travelling unimpeded to Washington state, that makes them violating a criminal law with the same mode of transport and comportment that was legal in Oregon, would be impeding interstate commerce.

    Just a thought. a.O. would probably have a better take on this…\”

    Thanks Opus. That\’s the first original thought I\’ve seen here in quite a while. I\’m not a lawyer either, and I too would love to hear from a.O. on this. If I were a lawyer arguing against your suggestion, I\’d respond that a requirement to follow local traffic law does not impede commerce, and there\’s ample precedent. The closest example I can think of is motorcycle helmet law. Both WA & OR have motorcycle helmet laws. As far as I know ID does not. Yet a motorcyclist crossing the border from ID to either WA or OR, even when commuting to work is immediately subject to the state helmet law.

    What do you think a.O.?

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  • wsbob March 1, 2008 at 11:35 pm

    Haven\’t we been hearing that for cyclists, the I-5 bridge is bad to say the least? How many cyclists are even crossing that bridge by bike? This is not the kind of situation where most adults would be inclined to choose not to wear a bike helmet when riding a bike.

    A situation where adults may have opted not to wear a helmet, is for example, cruising slowly by the waterfront or through quiet neighborhoods. For the immediate future, the choice to legally do this sort of thing is what the Vancouver City Council has taken from all adults that chance to enter the Vancouver city limits.

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  • Todd Boulanger March 2, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Hi wsbob…the CRC counts show that there are at least 300 bike trips and about 50 walking trips per day across the Interstate 5 Bridge in 07. The bike trips are growing much faster rate than walking trips and cars trips across the bridge each year.

    The best thing the bike community can do is take a friend or two across the bridge each month to show them that it is very possible (once the convoluted route in understood). And with a helmet in 20+ days.

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  • Racer X March 2, 2008 at 10:47 am

    to Jim Ohoro…

    Thanks for the route clarifications…

    It might make for an interesting court case if VPD were to pull over a bicyclist on a state route for not following a city ordinance or walking a bike without a helmet on city property. (Watch out Mayor Pollard…I guess you will need to wear your helmet in City Hall now when parking your bike.) 😉

    And Jim please post your statistical crash data that you referred to at the last council meeting, so we can see that Vancouver is 5x more dangerous than…

    I guess we will be seeing you at a lot of city events now fitting helmets and writing grants…the VPD is going to need a lot of help to make the very very poor budget priority this effort has under Mayor Pollard\’s administration to be a policy success.

    You know their $5000 budget is very low and not up to meeting the need (and yet you accepted it by supporting the law and the mayor\’s initiative).

    (Their helmet budget is $5000 for 2008 vs. how City Hall gives away $20,000 a clip with each new parking structure space built at City expense in the new downtown, as an example of their true measure of their priorities).

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  • 2GOAT March 2, 2008 at 10:55 am

    I wear a helmet because the reality of life is, I don\’t want to become a vegetable. I find it mind-boggling and
    I can’t even review the list of comments against legislature to require helmets in cyclists of all ages.
    Maybe someone already commented that it’s too bad that there has to be a law but it is really for your own good.
    As a cyclist, wearing your helmet is a simple solution that will potentially protect you from becoming an organ donor, it may even save your life in any kind of incident that causes you and your bike to hit the ground.
    A helmet is not a magical shield that will save your life if you are actually runover by a vehicle…
    Wise up, wear a helmet, unless you prefer to be a brain damaged burden or organ donor gift to society.

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  • wsbob March 2, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for the stats Todd. That\’s impressive, and it will be great if those numbers continue to rise. I\’m still inclined to think that the bridge, a commute route ( and a challenging one according to comments other people have made on this weblog) rather than one where a cyclist might leisurely ride and perhaps pause to take in the view, is a place where enough adults on bikes would opt for the use of a bike helmet.

    Enough at least, to throw serious question about the need expressed by the Vancouver City Council, to mandate adult bike helmet use while biking.

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  • Jim O'Horo March 2, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I\’m right with Todd in #137 on that one. In fact, the CRC numbers showed either a max. or avg. (I can\’t remember which) of 500 bike trips/day. This in spite of the fact that many cyclists, even highly experienced ones, refuse to use the I-5 crossing because they feel it\’s so hazardous. I occasionally go miles out of my way & climb up the I-205 bridge to avoid I-5 myself.

    I\’ll make a prediction: On the day a new CRC bike facility opens the bike trips across the river will jump 50-75% per day. We may even see a temporary decline or lull in trips across the I-205 bridge as riders switch to the new I-5 crossing.

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  • Racer X March 2, 2008 at 11:22 am

    To Jim…

    I do wear my helmet when riding with the VBC and city rides and on other rides…I am not against the choice of their use…I just choose to not wear it when going downtown a few blocks at low speed to get a cup of coffee. My long hair is happy in or out of a helmet.

    yes – riding at high speed in the county and in parts of Vancouver one does need a helmet now due to bad or missing bike path facilities, long distances (higher exposure rates), and such.

    Helmets and the lycra technology look keep a lot of commuters and shoppers from joining the movement to bicycle in cities for short trips (

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  • Jim O'Horo March 2, 2008 at 11:23 am

    Let me clarify my prediction. I\’m talking about a completely NEW facility, not the retrofitted abortion proposed as a salvage of the existing spans. That would be even worse for cyclists than the existing facilities.


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  • wsbob March 2, 2008 at 11:37 am

    2GOAT, I\’m not sure if anyone here said there \”had\” to be a law mandating adult bike helmet use in Vancouver, Washington. Why would anyone say this? The Vancouver City Council drafted an all sweeping law. Thanks to city council, a person can not legally ride a bike anywhere within the city limits without wearing a bike helmet.

    Of course the city council members are right to wish that no adult cyclist would have a head injury while riding a bike, but was this law really necessary to accomplish that goal?

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  • Racer X March 2, 2008 at 11:40 am

    message cut off…


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  • wsbob March 2, 2008 at 11:45 am

    The new CRC bike facility that Jim O\’Horo mentions…would that be the planned I-5 CRC motor vehicle bridge with bike pedestrian amenities? Or, a simpler and more affordable bike/pedestrian exclusive CRC?

    Someone was telling me the other day that, if a design proposal for a new CRC all vehicle bridge had already been agreed upon, the completion of the actual, physical bridge would still be 20 years down the road. 20 years. Sounds like people on bikes better get used to crossing the river on the clunky old structure that exists there now, for a long time to come.

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  • Dabby March 2, 2008 at 11:49 am


    There is a way to get from the I205 bike path to north bound I205. (without crossing 14, or leaving I205)
    This routing may well be a federal crime though.
    It can shave 15 minutes or more off of your commute, and rattle your sole…

    I have done it when running late.

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  • Jim O'Horo March 2, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Dabby #147

    If you\’re talking about hopping the fence & riding backwards on the shoulder to get to the N.B. on-ramp, I\’m aware of that, but it\’s illegal because it\’s dangerous. Also, if you get caught doing it, the fine\’s a lot higher than for not wearing a helmet and the points go on your driver\’s record, raising your insurance rates even higher than the already opscene #\’s you\’re seeing now.

    Incidently, it\’s not federal, it\’s state law, and it doesn\’t rise to the level of a crime, it\’s a traffic infraction.

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  • Racer X March 2, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    …I will complete my earlier thoughts in #142 & 145 as they did not upload…

    …the whole helmet issue plays into how they ride…fast, far and with high technology (lycra, carbon, Goretex etc.)…they should look into the mirror and see what future vision of bicycling they are promoting to the larger community…one that fears the road and must be wrapped in armor or one with more social responsibility and slower pace.

    Groups like the VBC (and many others around the nation) as such are slow growing (or stagnant) and best described as the 3 Rs (retired-recreational-riders) and demographically limited – even though 60% of the non bicycling adult population in PDX wants to try to ride a bike to work.

    Their advocacy tools are stuck in the 1980s/ 1990s and thus the focus on helmets and allowing the rest of the driving public to support it – thus freeing the drivers and leaders from having to support more pervasive changes in traffic safety.

    Changes that would directly address the car headed mentality (protect cyclists not from bad drivers but from poor driving by wrapping them up in armor and helmets) voiced in the public opinions of council members Jollata, Pollard, and Harris last week. (Click on the links aboce provided by Jonathan and hear for your self.)

    Harris\’s comments about driving into a bicyclist in the street were amazing for her ability to say that it was \’no one\’s fault\’…just that the rider appeared out of \’no where\’ … was invisible until he was on her hood as she exiting from a drive through driveway onto a street. The helmet he wore was more important than her driving skills.

    I guess the new city policy is for bicyclists to put on a helmet and the driver to pass the buck…

    Now that Jim and the VBC have vocally supported the underfunded helmet ordinance and requested that it must be ALL ages…they must now follow through and publicly announce in 20 days on their web site their plan of action to accomplish implementing this City ordinance with the $5000 city budget allocated by the Pollard administration. (They will be more efficient with this nest egg than city staff can be in making this little money reach more than a few hundred kids or 1 PSA.)

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  • Erik Ness March 3, 2008 at 11:14 am

    Oh great, the old \”if it saves one life\” argument.

    Well then, let\’s ban bicycles altogether. Done.

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  • Jim O'Horo March 3, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    wsbob #146:

    “…would that be the planned I-5 CRC motor vehicle bridge with bike pedestrian amenities? Or, a simpler and more affordable bike/pedestrian exclusive CRC?”

    While a bike/ped exclusive CRC might be nice to dream of, realistically NOTHING is going to happen w/o motor vehicle facilities included in the project. To the best of my knowledge a bike/ped exclusive facility isn’t even on the table, but to be sure, ask Todd Boulanger – he’s on the committee. Personally I could live fine w/o anything being done though I’d miss not eventually seeing MAX coming across the river.

    This whole process is really being driven by Federal & State governments. From the Federal perspective they could care less about the concerns of commuters, peds or bikes. Their only concern is freight movement. The primary Federal purpose of the Interstate highway system is movement of military and commercial traffic. They really view the rest of the traffic as a pain in the rear, and they only deal with it because they have to in order to achieve their primary objectives.

    You’re right that it’s going to be many years before we see a new facility, but the latest numbers I’ve heard are less than 20. Again, Todd could give you a better estimate. One thing that is important is to decide what, if anything, we’re going to do and get on with the job. Every day that goes by multiplies the eventual cost and delays completion even more. I’ll be delighted if I live long enough to see it completed and even happier if I still have the physical ability to ride my bike across on Day 1.

    Incidentally, that state legislator from Washington County had to be just grandstanding in claiming they should eliminate the bike/ped facility. I suspect she knew full well that a ped facility MUST be built, because peds are not allowed on the roadway shoulders anywhere on the interstate system (I’ve never understood why, but that’s the way it is). They add bikes because that makes it look like it’s being built for a larger constituency. Bikes would do just fine getting on at the last entrance before the bridge, riding the 8-9 ft. wide right shoulder and getting off at the next exit, especially if they put in rumble strips to reduce run-off-the-road incidents. It would be noisier and much less pleasant, but overall risk would not be much greater than on a separate facility mixed with peds, and not considering the very rare fatalities caused by cyclists being rear-ended by careless motorists, the number of bike crashes might even be less.


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  • wsbob March 3, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Jim, the idea of a bike/pedestrian only bridge seemed to me to be very unlikely, particularly across such a wide expanse as the Columbia River, but sometimes it\’s hard to be sure what people are thinking about related to this highly controversial project.

    I\’d also tend to think that the legislator suggesting the elimination of the bike/ped facility from the project was up to something. Political gamesmanship of some kind. Somewhat like for example, recent developments on the Wyden/Smith Copper Salmon Wilderness Act. I just did a search and discovered it was approved on the first of this month. A couple days prior, it was held up from the required unanimous approval by a single Oklahoma senator.

    A small news item in the Oregonian described the situation. Wyden was quoted as being confused and not knowing why at the time, that the Oklahoma guy would hold it up. I suppose some kind of deal had to be made with the Oklahoma guy to get it to go through.

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  • Todd Boulanger March 3, 2008 at 7:16 pm

    In following up on Jim\’s comments to wsbob\’s questions.

    It will be very difficult to get the CRC Task Force to support an only bike pedestrian bridge …this option with bus or MAX was called the local arterial bridge from Vancouver\’s waterfront to Hayden Island…as this option was discarded and also due to it not having local support of the two cities. (Both cities have spent a lot of effort to keep this bridge tied to the larger regional bridges so that the Feds will pay for much of it and the DOTs to maintain it, etc…vs. local governments having to do it without gas tax revenues…that is why City of Portland does not operate the river bridges anymore and the County does.) Though this might open up more design flexibility and urban design…it is no longer on the CRC table.

    And as for Jim\’s comments about the Feds not being interested in having bike and pedestrian and transit facilities on this bridge…this is the opposite of what I hear staff say…it would be more likely that our local stakeholders (up here) would drop these parts of the bridge if cost rose or the north county political pressure got hot. The Feds may protect it more (especially under the next administration). and the Bush 43 administration\’s strong support of [private sector] tolling too.

    As for timelines…if it passes a political vote up here…then you are looking for many years of construction and may see it all open in 10 years (if Iraq + Home Loan foreclosures and $5 gas does not break the budget).

    Potentially the separate MAX/Bike bridge might be fast tracked and built first as a way of managing construction congestion during building the big bridge.

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  • Jim O'Horo March 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Todd #153:

    Thanks for the clarification Todd. My read on the Feds was based on statements made a few years ago during the I-205 study & planning. At the time they made it very clear what their priorities were. Given past behavior of the present administration, I suspect you may just be getting a bunch of nice words, but if the Dems don\’t shoot themselves in the foot again this year, we may see some different attitudes in a new administration.

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  • D'Amico March 5, 2008 at 10:23 am

    Four people showed up? Pretty pathetic. We beat down a helmet law here in Austin with more than 200 people showing up to speak against it … and something like 11 for it.

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  • Lapis March 10, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    i am pro-helmet myself, but also pro-choice. there\’s the odd moment when i\’ve misplaced my helmet or can\’t find it, should i drive instead?

    and helmets aren\’t some magical piece of equipment that always save a person\’s life and decrease likelihood of a concussion…. why not make body armor and roll cages mandatory too?

    “We will do everything we can to see that every child who can’t afford a helmet will get a helmet, the rest of you are on your own.”

    but something i\’m noticing a lack of on here is making safe helmets available to everyone and showing people how to wear them effectively and know if the helmet they\’re using is safe to depend on.

    what if there were a program available at various bike shops, hospitals and events where people can have their helmets inspected and trade them for a working one for little to no cost? if the police handed out helmets like they do lights (sometimes), i\’d have little objection to this issue.

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  • Richard April 5, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    The idea of having the police protecting me from myself is ridiculous! This sounds like something in the same vein as the seatbelt law; just a new source of revenue. I would feel much better about this if instead of handing out 50 dollar fines, how about 50 dollar helmet vouchers? At least then I could tell they\’re hearts were really in the right place.

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  • Donald May 19, 2008 at 10:36 pm

    The problem with helmets is that no study has ever proven that they reduce brain injuries. The one study that claimed to show such a corelation, also \’proved\’ that helmets reduce leg injuries. Obviously helmets don\’t reduce leg injuries, so that one study cooked it\’s data.

    The problem with helmet laws, is they make a safe activity seem dangerous. (if I don\’t have to wear a helmet, in must not be very dangerous. If they made a helmet law, that must be because it\’s dangerous)

    Someone joked that they should ban cars it they want to save lives. But that IS exactlly what they should do.

    No legal activity or product, kills anywhere near the number of people that private motor vehicles do. 45,000 Americans die every year and hundreds of thousands (if not millions) are injured.
    While less than 500 Americans die in train wrecks each year. (most of these caused by trucks stuck on level crossings) If America\’s rail system were like Japan\’s bullet train (dedicated double track with no level crossings), it\’s fatality rate would be similar (one death in 40 years)

    The Vancouver Helmet Ordinace may very well make cycling more dangerous (as others have described). But even if it did save one life, compared that one life, to the number killed and injued in their automobiles every day.

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  • wsbob May 20, 2008 at 10:29 am

    \”The problem with helmet laws, is they make a safe activity seem dangerous. (if I don\’t have to wear a helmet, in must not be very dangerous. If they made a helmet law, that must be because it\’s dangerous)\” Donald

    Are there any studies that prove that people think this way?

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  • Donald May 20, 2008 at 10:42 am

    \”Are there any studies that prove that people think this way?\”

    I\’d imagine that it would be difficult to \”prove\” how people think.

    But it\’s just common sense.

    Extreme cycling (racing, down-hill off-roading, stunts, ect.) can be dangerous, and shouldn\’t be lumped in with riding your bike to the store, school, or work.

    In BC (canada) they implemented a helmet law, that makes them mandatory for anyone riding a bicycle on a highway (read public road), after a spike in head-injuries caused by the increased populatity of off-road down-hill (mountain really) riding. A law mandating helmets for cross-country skiers (after a spike in down-hill skiing related head-injuries) would make as much sense.

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  • Donald May 20, 2008 at 11:08 am

    For the record, That\’s a different Donald than me…

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  • wsbob May 20, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    \”But it\’s just common sense.\” Donald (or it would seem…Donald 2)

    You\’re saying that it\’s common sense that the presence of a law requiring the use of a helmet while riding a bike, will make that activity…riding a bike, seem to people, dangerous rather than safe?

    Most people are at least a little smarter than it would take to draw such a simple conclusion about the relative safety of riding a bike.

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  • Donald2 May 20, 2008 at 10:31 pm

    I don\’t understand why this concept is so difficult to understand.

    Bicycling is a safe activity, but maybe you don\’t believe that.

    What if they issued an ordinance requiring people to strap on a helmet while they played a game of chess. Can you see how that would create the false impression that playing chess was dangerous?

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  • a.O May 21, 2008 at 12:13 am

    Hey Donald2, how often does your head move at 20mph, or even 5mph, when you play chess? How many times does it come within inches of moving motor vehicles? Please, get real.

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  • wsbob May 21, 2008 at 12:32 am

    D2, I understand the point you\’re making, but it\’s not all encompassing.

    Bicycling is a safe activity, but its safety is relative to the circumstances in which the bike is being ridden. On a quiet neighborhood street or country lane, biking is a safe activity. In a city, where motor vehicles can hit you and knock you down, biking is not as safe, and its there that wearing a helmet just might represent some good common sense.

    I think most people of average intelligence understand this. The presence of a helmet law is not going to make them reflexively conclude that riding a bike is a dangerous activity.

    Incidentally, I don\’t favor helmet laws for adults. I figure they should be able to judge for themselves whether the use of a bike helmet is worthwhile under the circumstances they\’re riding in.

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  • Donald2 May 21, 2008 at 10:29 am

    \”The presence of a helmet law is not going to make them reflexively conclude that riding a bike is a dangerous activity.\”

    I disagree. These laws never exist in a vacuum. They are always promoted with horror stories. It\’s not just the law itself that creates these impressions, but the stated and implied justifications for them.

    Experienced cyclists that obey the road rules and are well lit at night, are fifty times safer than your average motorists. That is they travel 50 times farther per fatality than motorists.

    So when the message changes from \”ride predictably, obey the rules and turn on your lights at night\” to \”put on a helmet\”, we all lose. Especially when it cannot be proven that soft-shell bicycle-helmets actually prevent head-injuries

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  • wsbob May 21, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    D2, you\’ve certainly got a right to your own opinion. People are a little smarter than you seem to give them credit for…not all of them, but a lot of them.

    It might help to keep in mind that we\’re talking about bicycles here, not the red scare, i.e. Joe McCarthy and his psychotic fear of communism. I am yet to be convinced that a bicycle helmet law will make people fear riding a bike the way good ol\’ Joe was able to instill the fear of communism in otherwise intelligent people with the implementation of various related policies of the time.

    \”Especially when it cannot be proven that soft-shell bicycle-helmets actually prevent head-injuries(.)\” Donald2

    D2, what kind of proof do you need? While you\’re pondering that question, pop over to this thread in the forums:

    bikeportland forums, helmet saves the day….

    I don\’t expect that this guys experience will be proof enough for you that helmets prevent head injuries, but it\’s certainly enough to make me believe it\’s worthwhile to wear a bike helmet.

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  • Donald2 May 21, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    \”what kind of proof do you need?\”

    How about an actual corelation between increased helmet use, and decreased head-injuries?

    Unfortunatly some studies show the opposite. The authors of those studies, therorized that the increase in injuries was caused by risk compensation. (ie. since I\’m wearing a helmet, I can do crazier stunts) Small though that may have been, it was greater than the small amount of protection offered by a helmet.

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  • Pete May 22, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    \”why not make body armor and roll cages mandatory too?\”

    Because there\’s no related industry to protect its own interests. These and other safety features are (increasingly) mandatory in cars because insurance lobbies fight to protect bottom lines. Federal and State governments haven\’t forced us to insure ourselves on a bicycle because there aren\’t enough of us to move significant bottom lines, for one thing.

    When City and County governments see lawsuits in skate parks they typically mandate head, elbow, and knee guards. When sports (including bike) manufacturers get sued they start with warning labels educating consumers. Safety mandates seem to scale according to the size of the population affected and related costs of risk/use/misuse.

    I don\’t know enough about Vancouver to speculate on its impetus, though, but hopefully this answers some \”why\” questions from a broader perspective.

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  • Bill May 22, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Updated: Arrest made in NE Portland hit-and-run
    UPDATE (Monday, 5/12, 10:15am):
    Here’s an updated report on Eric Davidson’s condition and how he needs our help (as left in a comment by a friend):
    “…as of yesterday he had not regained consciousness and has brain swelling–the main concern right now. His extensive injuries include head, back, kidney and knee. They do not know yet if there is brain or spinal damage yet, and are in a wait-and-see mode. Please send your best energy toward his recovery. He will certainly be hospitalized for many months.
    Hit-and-run leads to critical injuries, frustration
    The impact ruptured Osborne’s spleen, cracked three vertebrae, collapsed two of her lungs, and left her with scrapes and bruises all over her body. What this does not say, is that after impacting the windshield she hit the pavement with her head and shoulder. The helmet was cracked and imprinted with the pavement. She was out of the hospital in 23 days instead of “certainly be hospitalized for many months.” The doctors told her that she would have been in the situation of the above rider if she had not been wearing her helmet.
    If you cannot afford a helmet the Legacy Emanuel Hospital will give you one, or sell you one well below cost. They end up with too many of these brain swelling injuries. If you have any doubt about the value of a helmet, I suggest you go there and ask the ICU Docs what they think.

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  • jd May 22, 2008 at 6:59 pm

    I feel very frustrated by these arguments. I do not understand how anyone can claim that this law is unconstitutional. I would, actually like a citation as to where there is any such proof that this law is not sound.

    The undue burden put upon a state by such idiotic action as CHOOSING to bypass your personal safety was enough to lead to seatbelt laws (which do, in fact, have a direct parallel), and motorcycle helmet laws. The ease of stating that these laws are to put coin in the coffers, or to boost insurance rates are all well and good but, I would like to ask how many of you are expecting to see your bike insurance rates go up when you get ticketed? Except that you already wear a helmet!

    If you think that this is an attempt to punish the poor, why don\’t you organize to get cheap helmets that are given out/sold wholesale?

    I agree that a bigger problem is the infrastructure of the city of Vancouver, which is dismal for cyclists, at best. As citizens of the city, which is large enough to not be categorized as \”rinky/dink\”, you have the Constitutional right, under Article XV to vote for the changes you want, as you have been actively discussing. Take part in your democratic process.

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  • jd May 22, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Two more thoughts:

    1. I read several comments talking about the body type of riders, in relation to… what? biker street cred?
    That\’s just plain wrong. I don\’t care if you look good in lycra or not. Anyone who puts foot to peddle deserves a nod. Anyone who puts their helmet on first gets a high five. Don\’t be a jerk.

    2. Historically, studies have been able to prove a whole lot of things. If you want to talk about Nazism, perhaps you should look up some of the things science in Germany during the mid-20th century (and U.S. science a bit earlier) was able to prove. I\’m not exactly attempting to draw a direct comparison… however, i don\’t think one study, one time, is enough to prove that helmets will ultimately lower ridership.

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  • Peter Noordijk May 29, 2008 at 2:59 pm

    This very much like the arguments made about motorcycle helmet laws, or even seat belt laws. Guess what, both save lives and there are dozens of studies to show it.
    The argument about not needing helmets for short rides in neighborhoods is exactly analogous to the arguments folks made about not needing seat belts near home. But that is where most drivers die.

    You cannot know when a dog will run into the street, or you will have a blowout, or some kid will drive into you. If you are on a public right of way, and you expect emergency services to come get you, and our insurance pools to put you back together, then you should wear a helmet. The laws are just to help fools not kill themselves and cost us more money that could be spent elsewhere.. and in N. Portland, I see a lot of fools whipping down the interstate hill every morning.

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  • Laughingwaters May 29, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    Once I was hit by a car, my helmet broke into several pieces and the EMT in the ambulance said he thought it had saved my life. Secondly, I think it is unfortunate when I see bare headed parents taking their helmeted kids out for a ride. Ultimately it may come down to the law of Darwin.

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  • Donald2 June 4, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    So should we wear helmets in the shower? Should we wear them when we walk across the street? What about when there is ice on the sidewalk?

    People do slip and hit their heads in showers and on the street, sometimes they even die because of it.

    Unfortunately no scientific study has ever shown a correlation between increased helmet use and decreased head injury. What do you think the Mayor was talking about when he said \’Damn the statistics this is a good idea\’?

    Sorry Mr Mayor, helmet laws are not a good idea, bicycle safety courses are.

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  • Tabi July 17, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    I am starting high school next year and I am a perfect bicycling distance away, but I won\’t be riding a bike. A helmet can only help you if you get in a minor collision, my cousin died last year because he was hit by a drunk driver who swerved into a bike lane. He was wearing a helmet that had been fitted correctly and everything! What Vancouver needs is better bike awarness and more bike lanes. We need more crackdown on the people who speed or go into the bike lane to get around traffic on McGilivray.

    Another thing, this summer, a ton of my friends and I were going to do big bike trips to the mall, but now none of my friends want to because, A) helmets mess up your hai B)they look stupid and c) they are uncomfortable. Many other kids at my school are saying the same things. So, while we\’re going through an obesity epidemic, Mayor Pollard decided to pass a stupid helmet law that makes it so a lot of kids won\’t be using their bikes for excercise, and in this day and age, most kids hate to run or walk. Have fun dealing with that!

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  • wsbob July 17, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    Tabi, think a little more before you relying on the conclusions you\’ve made about using a helmet that are leading you to decide not to wear one, and therefore not ride a bike in the couv because of its mandatory bike helmet law.

    You can\’t know the exact circumstances of a collisions you could find yourself in that wearing a helmet might protect you from. There are lots of other kinds of collisions besides those in which a drunk driver drives into the bike lane and hits someone on a bike. That your cousin died was tragic, but the fact that he wore a helmet was a smart defensive measure. Had the impact not been a fatal one, the helmet, in offering protection to a critical part of his body, might have indeed been a factor in saving his life.

    I don\’t envy your having to learn to deal with the high school/adolescent peer pressure thing, but hope you\’ll be able to get past it making you feel that a bunch of superficial crap others think and say about how helmets look and how they mess with hair do\’s will keep you wearing one.

    Guarantee: if the pop star or rapper of the moment decided they were \’cool\’, wore one in public and talked them up, every kid in the nation would be scrambling to clean helmets off store shelves to put on their heads because, now, \’they look totally rad!, \’bitchin\’, or \’phat\’, (or whatever is more current lingo for today). Does following that kind of reflexive behavior make sense to you?

    Just consider wearing a helmet, because if and when you ever are in a collision, it may turn out to have been the intelligent thing to have done. Wearing a helmet will give you an extra, legitimate reason to fuss with your hair; last time I noticed this was still something a lot of people seem to like to find excuses to do.

    I think the good Mayor went over the top in mandating helmet use for everyone riding a bike in the city. Here in Oregon, it wouldn\’t have made any difference for you(unless you\’re over the age), since every kid under the age of 16 is legally required to wear one while riding.

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  • wsbob July 17, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    \”….will keep you wearing one.\”

    Should be:

    \”will keep you from wearing one.\”

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  • Val July 17, 2008 at 9:04 pm

    Just for wsbob and Tabi – another thoroughly well considered, deeply researched and tactfully stated perspective on the headgear issue: I do like this fellow\’s tone – respectful, but adamant.
    Also: \”Had the impact not been a fatal one, the helmet, in offering protection to a critical part of his body, might indeed have been a factor in saving his life.\” What? If the impact had not been a fatal one, he wouldn\’t have died. (That\’s a period,there) Are you actually listening to what you are saying? Do you meant that in any case in which the rider suffers an impact and does not die while wearing a helmet, you give the helmet credit for saving their life? This reminds me of the mayor\’s testimony (above) in which he cites injuries to his hip and shoulder, and then insists that a helmet saved his life. As I mentioned before, this means that I can credit a snap brim fedora with saving my life in all the numerous crashes that have resulted in injuries to my hips, shoulders, palms, wrists, elbows, knees, etc., but which did not kill me or leave me with any sort of head injury. You actually do make many good points, but try not to reach so hard, OK?

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  • wsbob July 17, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    \”Do you meant that in any case in which the rider suffers an impact and does not die while wearing a helmet, you give the helmet credit for saving their life?\” Val

    I don\’t mean that. The wearing of a helmet is unlikely to be wholly responsible for saving a person\’s life during a collision. What a helmet can offer is a margin of safety to a person\’s head. In a collision, that margin could be more important than anyone can or wishes to imagine. It could be the one factor amongst many others inevitably part of a collision, that makes the difference between a life recoverable and one not.

    Val, excuse me for not being more clear about what I had in mind.

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  • finamin July 18, 2008 at 9:52 am

    a spring afternoon 2010 on some
    peaceful city street, a bicycle
    is pulled over-

    officer: license and registration.
    bicyclist: i don\’t have any.
    officer: step away from the bicycle.

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  • Phil Lee October 29, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    Oh, If public health is an issue, welcome to world of healthcare swamped by obesogenic diseases, now you’ve discouraged healthy exercise.
    It’s 20 time more dangerous to NOT ride a bike than to ride one – even without a helmet, according to the British Medical Association.

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