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Updated: Eugene senator will look to expand Oregon’s bike helmet law

Posted by on July 22nd, 2008 at 11:58 am

[Updated 7/24, 5:40pm: *See below]

Sen. Floyd Prozanski wants
to expand Oregon’s helmet law.
(Photo © J. Maus)

State senator Floyd Prozanski (D-South Lane and North Douglas Counties) plans to introduce an expansion of Oregon’s bicycle helmet law in the 2009 legislative session.

Prozanski told me via telephone this morning that he plans to make Oregon’s current helmet law — ORS 815.485, which only applies to people under 16 years old — apply to everyone who rides a bike.

Pointing out his strong record of support for bike-related legislation, Prozanski says “a combination of things” have led him to this decision.

The man involved in Eugene’s most recent bicycle fatality did not have a helmet on, although Prozanski says “it’s questionable” if the helmet would have made a difference. Prozanski also said he’s read and heard about fatal crashes in Portland where the rider was not wearing a helmet.

Reflecting on his desire for this law, Prozanski said, “I guess maybe as I get older, I feel there are certain things we can do that enhance safety but at the same time not be over-burdening.” He also said that he expects broad public support for the law, much like Oregonians supported a mandatory helmet law (as a citizen initiative) for motorcycle riders back in the ’80s.

“Based on that,” he said, “I’d be surprised if the general public would disagree with that same concept for all cyclists.”

Prozanski said his idea has the support of Cycle Oregon and that he’d also consider expanding programs that would help distribute helmets to people unable to acquire one and/or approaching helmet manufacturers for assistance.

This effort by Prozanski will set up an interesting conversation with Oregon’s largest bicycle advocacy group, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

The BTA has worked closely with Prozanski to pass bike-friendly legislation (most recently a rural safe passing law), but they do not favor mandatory helmet laws. In February, they drafted a letter advising Vancouver lawmakers to re-think their positions on the issue saying, “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.”

Oregon’s current helmet law requires all persons under the age of 16 to wear a helmet while riding on public right-of-ways. The fine for riding without a helmet is $25.

Back in February, the City of Vancouver Washington passed an all-ages helmet law by a nearly unanimous vote.

[*UPDATE: The Cycle Oregon Board of Directors does not support this law proposal. I initially wrote that they supported it because I heard that from Sen. Prozanski. However, I did not take the time to double-check that position and I have since learned they do not support an all-ages helmet law. Sorry for any confusion and I regret the error.]

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Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member

This is hopefully a well-meaning effort on Senator Prozanski\’s part, but he\’s badly underinformed. Senator, with all due respect, this initiative will do nothing to promote bike safety.

An all ages helmet law would not by any means address the biggest threats to bicycle safety (the big threats are cars, dangerous driving behavior, lack of bike infrastructure, and lack of other bikes on the road) — and it would give the few folks out there who genuinely do want to make life hard for cyclists, and have the power to do so, a great new tool for their vendetta.

For more background on why adult helmet laws are counterproductive, check out this interesting article by Peter Jacobsen (who presented on this research at the Towards Carfree Cities conference here last month), discussing a correlation with the all ages helmet law in Australia and an increase in bicycle fatalities. This link is for the pdf:

http://www.tsc.berkeley.edu/newsletter/Spring04/JacobsenPaper.pdf

jacque
Guest
jacque

Oh, can I be the first of maybe 500 posts?
Has Prozanski had his head in a bucket the last few years? I can\’t believe he\’s so unaware of the firestorm he\’ll cause if he follows through on this.

Chad
Guest
Chad

Let the pro-helmet/anti-helmet games begin!

(can we talk about fixie brakes too?)

Roma
Guest
Roma

Most people are scared of real freedom and like the government telling them what to do, so I wouldn\’t be surprised either if the general public supported this.

If we want to stop bicycle fatalities, we should just ban bikes from riding on the streets, or better yet, ban cars! Helmets will not save your life in most cases if you are struck by a car.

Remember the sad story of the bicycle racer at PIR who slammed head first into a pole and died? He was wearing a helmet. Maybe we should ban racing to make people safer.

It\’s just another thing for police to waste their time doing: ticketing cyclists for not wearing helmets.

I\’d be curious to know if they are enforcing this law in Vancouver and how many people have actually been cited since the law was passed.

steve
Guest
steve

Breaking news update-

Recent studies have shown that nearly 100 percent of people involved in motor vehicle accidents were not wearing helmets at the time. In addition the study concluded that concussions occurring during the act of sexual intercourse, almost always occurred when the participants were not wearing helmets.

Video at 11.

Who is voting for these idiots?

Roma
Guest
Roma

@Elly #1 –

Is that the correct link? That article mentions nothing about helmets…

Arem
Guest
Arem

I see plenty of kids, everyday, in Beaverton not wearing helmets. (Not to mention riding down the wrong side of the road). Good luck enforcing that, you\’ll need plenty.

Paul Vincent
Guest
Paul Vincent

Wow. A legislator who has no idea WHY we need a law, but he\’s going make sure we have one. I\’m shocked.

Can somebody get this guy to do a little research on the subject? Its hard to fathom why we want to do anything to decrease the number of cyclists (plenty of evidence that this is the biggest impact of helmet laws) and motorst familiarity with cyclists.

Paul Vincent
Guest
Paul Vincent

If you do a search at the British Medical Journal site for helmet laws you\’ll find several peer-reviewed studies that support the conclusion that helmet laws have the perverse effect of increasing societal health costs (by discouraging cycling they increase sedentary lifestyles and lead to motorist unfamiliarity with cyclists).

Icarus Falling
Guest

It appears that Oregon is the new Vancouver.

Prozanski,

Keep your ideals off of my head.

Dave
Guest
Dave

Horseshit! This is the same as requiring chastity belts to lower the rape rate. There\’s too much more to do in regulating the behavior of drivers to waste time and resources on a helmet law.

Snowflake Seven
Guest
Snowflake Seven

How about a state funded campaign to encourage ridership and use of a helmet funded by an increase in the gas tax.

MojoMark
Guest

\”I\’m with the Government and I\’m here to help\”.

Anyone hear of the concept of \”personal responsibility\”?

Less government is better government.

Klixi
Guest
Klixi

Will pedestrians and drivers be required to wear helmets too?

People like to believe helmets are way more protective than they actually are: http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/health/story/0,,1610264,00.html

Why does everyone think they know what\’s good for everyone else? This entire notion is terrible.

steve
Guest
steve

Ya\’ll are writing him letters right?

sen.floydprozanski@state.or.us

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

if this becomes law, i\’ll stop wearing a helmet on priceple alone.

Tomascosauce
Guest

Don\’t do it man…

Keep the government off my scalp.

However, rather than everyone get into a heated debate how about we all write to the MAN himself and let him know our feelings?

John Peterson
Guest
John Peterson

How about mandatory helmets while using ladders? or maybe walking helmets?

jami
Guest

i wear a helmet and i think everyone should, but anything, like this law, that might keep a person from getting on a bike and riding is a bad thing.

jami
Guest

and i\’m with toddistic. i might stop wearing my helmet in protest.

Icarus Falling
Guest

I actually discontinued wearing my helmet in protest when the Vancouver helmet law was passed. And I haven\’t worn one in the \’Couv since…

But they won\’t pull me over for it!

Patrick
Guest
Patrick

I can see how this could easily pass. Most people don’t ride bikes for transport. All road users remember other travelers that break laws, are inconsiderate and/or are dangerous, and I imagine that most of the non-biking public would see requiring helmets as being beneficial. It’s going to be difficult to stop this from passing if it gets written. Contact the BTA and Sen. Floyd Prozanski to try to stop it from moving forward.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Sigh.

And this poor soul thinks he is helping make the world safer.

Wonder how many injury accidents are caused by people talking on the cell phone will driving, vs how may injuries would be avoided if everybody wore helmet.

Or maybe a 3 foot passing rule?

Or a stiff vehicular homicide law.

Or increased enforcement of existing laws.

Please do something about safety, not pass more stupid laws.

JeffW
Guest
JeffW

To quote Yehuda Moon, \”It\’s a car problem, [Prozanski]. Why make bicyclists try and fix it with a styrofoam hat?\”

http://www.yehudamoon.com/index.php?date=2008-07-09

JP
Guest
JP

This is going to pass. Think about the number of people commenting on this sight every time there\’s a chance to say, \”See, I told you so. They should have been wearing a helmet.\”

jami
Guest

Here\’s the letter I\’m sending to Prozanski.
sen.floydprozanski@state.or.us

Feel free to modify it or use it as is and send one yourself:

Hello Senator Prozanski;
I\’m writing to ask you not to promote a helmet law for adult cyclists. I agree with you that helmets are important and I certainly do wear one, but a law fining cyclists for riding their bikes is a terrible idea. Some people can\’t afford helmets. And sometimes even the most committed cyclist has things on her mind and she forgets.

More bikes on the road means fewer cars, and that makes everyone less likely to get hit by 2000 pounds of steel. This law will discourage cycling and result in more cars on the road.

I appreciate your interest in cyclist safety, but I think your effort would be better directed at making helmets more readily available to people who can\’t spare $15 to get one. Young adults in particular often have more debt than spending money when they\’re first starting out, and in the calculus between buying a helmet and being $15 short on rent, there\’s no contest.

Additionally, any laws aimed at making car drivers more responsible for their actions behind the wheel of 2000 pounds of metal would result in better safety for cyclists, pedestrians, and even other drivers.

Thank you for your time.

Snowflake Seven
Guest
Snowflake Seven

Patrick (Comment #22) got me thinking.

Who is it that promotes the stereotype of bicycle helmets saving lives?

Is it actually promoted by any scientific studies? Do manufacturers of helmets or bikes (often one and the same) promote helmet mythology?

I recall when we bought our bicycles from Bike Gallery, having talked with a staff member for a good 30-minutes about our biking goals (basically replace our car for errands, commuting), he helped us decide on a bike and then transitioned straight into recommending helmets like it was the law or the wisest thing in the world.

I know that novice riders report feeling safer in a helmet and probably more likely to ride as a result. But if it is of no real value—medically, scientifically—way do the manufacturers and sellers promote it?

There is a lot of advocacy going on right now, thankfully, but part of the package is photos of helmeted riders. Only hooligan bike messengers in 80\’s movies starring Kevin Bacon don\’t wear helmets… right?

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I\’m with the \”afraid of freedom\” comment (Roma). Why must everything be controlled? Let people make the judgement for themselves.

I am a ritual helmet wearer, and daily bike commuter. I\’ve even been in a bike accident where the helmet saved me, yet I love to ride to the grocery store, occasionally, without a helmet. Isn\’t this like wearing a lifejacket in a swimming pool?? It *could* save a life.

It\’s a shame to see a community\’s rights and privilages peeled away because of a handful of incidents and some narrow thinking by some powerful people.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

To think this type of legislation is a good thing just proves that Floyd Prozanski is a weak spined politician.

Prozanski, start off by banning cell phones in cars, fast food drive throughs. Pass a vehicular homicide law, then we can talk about helmets.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member
GLV
Guest
GLV

Hey Steve (#5) –

Were they wearing seatbelts? Because that is the relevant analogy.

GLV
Guest
GLV

\”I\’ll stop wearing a helmet if they pass this law, in protest.\”

A couple of nominees, it seems…

http://www.darwinawards.com/

gus
Guest
gus

Anyone interested in having a No Helmet Day…?

Mr. Guy
Guest
Mr. Guy

This comes down to a simple question.

How much govt interference in your life is acceptable?

They can make a lot of things safer (or not) by passing laws. They can use \”studies\” to prove their point. And somebody can use the same data to disprove it.

At some point the nanny work needs to stop and people need to make up their own minds.

If you want to wear a seat belt – then do. If you don\’t want to wear a helmet – then don\’t.

Last time I checked – this was still the USA and we are given the rights to act as free men and women. I think it is in something called the constitution.

Unfortunately (or fortunately) being free means having the right to splatter myself over a windshield if I feel like it.

Jeff TB
Guest
Jeff TB

Too bad if this passes. My three year old daughter loves to call out un-helmeted cyclists. Luckily none have become violent (yet).

I estimate that 100% of bike haters support this legilsation…but most would fight a no-cellphone-while-driving law.

jami
Guest

yes, glv, not wearing a bike helmet is equivalent to attaching rocket fuel to your car and setting it alight.

i was building an actually convincing case for wearing helmets, but eff it. i don\’t want to be on your side.

Roma
Guest
Roma

Driving in your car is WAY more dangerous than riding without a helmet. When did people get so paranoid?

When I was a kid nobody wore a helmet, and we were launching our bikes off three foot high jumps. I crashed more times than I can count – never once did I get any sort of head injury.

Like one of the articles posted above pointed out: you are more likely to sustain a head injury in a car or as a pedestrian.

doug
Guest
doug

I\’m pro-helmet but I don\’t feel too strongly about a law enforcing it either way. Though strangely I totally agree with seatbelt laws.

I\’ve said this before (in jest, mainly) and incurred wrath as a result, but again: if you\’re in an accident where a helmet would have protected you and you weren\’t wearing one, you should forfeit the right to a speedy ambulance ride.

Red Hippie
Guest
Red Hippie

My wife has a really bad habit. She yells at cyclists without helmets to \”put on a helemet\”. She thinks herself entitled since she is an avid commuter (125 mi/wk in the winter) and has worked in emergency rooms for a few ears.

Forget the battle of the statistics, she has seen numerous head injuries, both with helmets and without, and thinks that not wearing a helmet is about as smart as not wearing your seatbelt.

Well last week, I got her to agree not to yell at people anymore, since the mutual assault on Mississippi Street last week. I told her, that I did not want to get beat-on protecting her from the consequences of her comments. There are some real \”no-helmet\” zealots out there.

Nick
Guest
Nick

F*** yes I wrote him. This guy\’s willingness to impose the ignorance of the majority on the minority of cyclists who are already healthy and safe is enraging. I also Cc\’d my own state senator and state rep.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

This is absolutely ridiculous! The state has no right whatsoever to treat its citizens as children. This trend is absolutely detrimental for society at large – if you treat people like children they will become less and less responsible and you\’ll have bigger and bigger state. For what????

Babs
Guest
Babs

The existing law that requires those 16 and under to wear helmets is woefully ineffective. The long-term awareness/education campaign and enforcement for the law are essentially nonexistant. When it was first passed several years ago compliance was high, now it isn\’t so good. Seems that we should focus on improving compliance with the existing law before requiring helmets of all bike riders.

G.A.R.
Guest
G.A.R.

I always wear a helmet. Just got back from Paris. Nobody wears helmets there. I find it interesting that in our country, with less socialized medicine, we go to the helmet laws right away, while in France, where the injuries are clearly a public burden, they don\’t. A year or three ago there was an interesting story in the Atlantic on the bike underculture of mostly immigrant workers who cannot afford cars or insurance, or can\’t get licensed, or whatever. These folks don\’t wear helmets, and they are probably the people for whom ER treatment is publicly financed. Well, I predict a law won\’t make \’em wear helmets.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

Dave #11:
\”This is the same as requiring chastity belts to lower the rape rate.\”

That is the perfect analogy.

GLV
Guest
GLV

\”yes, glv, not wearing a bike helmet is equivalent to attaching rocket fuel to your car and setting it alight.\”

What on Earth are you talking about? I made no such comparison. In fact, that\’s just about the most ridiculous thing I\’ve heard…today.

G.A.R.
Guest
G.A.R.

I don\’t think this is a \”freedom\” issue. I think it is a ridership issue. Will it increase ridership? Maybe it will, via voodoo psychology where it elevates the sensibleness of bike riding in the minds of zillions. I doubt it. I don\’t think it will make much of a difference to ridership either way. What would really help with safety, in the line of mandatory changes to bike-and-rider, is to make it unlawful to sell a bike without lighting that conforms to the law for nighttime riding.

Fritz
Guest
Fritz

G.A.R., John Pucher always argues that Denmark and the Netherlands have such high ridership levels _because_ of no helmet laws because then it seems casual instead of serious… that and with better bike, facilities, of course. I recommend helmets for long distance riding but never wear one around town.

http://commutebybike.com/2008/07/21/blond-wigs-keep-you-safe-an-interview-with-dr-ian-walker/
And in that Podcast the guy argued that car drivers stay farther away from people without helmets (and women).

Tbird
Guest
Tbird

HA!
The only way for cycling to truly progress as a viable means of transport is for rider safety to increase. In order for that to happen we need a fundamental shift in how we view cycle transport. First, stop viewing all cyclists as if they\’re engaged in some extreme sports experience. They\’re not.
Second, stop riding as if you\’re engaged in an extreme sports experience. You\’re not ( or rather shouldn\’t be while on the street.) Just ride a bike. Sensibly, casually, safely.

If there is even a perceived need for a helmet then obviously cycling is not safe. The goal should not be socking plastic noggin holders on everyone, but rather curtailing the vectors of endangerment:
Primarily the auto-centric design of our streets and roadway laws.
If we severely limit the ability for those among us to use an automobile in the city and I think the need for helmets would almost evaporate.

Diogo
Guest
Diogo

As I see it, at the center of this proposal is not the helmet or even bicycles; but the age thing.

When you have a law specifically for persons under 16 years old and you decide to apply it to every adult person, the point you are making is that there\’s no valid distinction between a child and an adult for that matter. Its a rejection of the very concetp of capacity.

I think this a very serious issue: politically, here you have the government assuming a paternalistic role, and that runs against the very fundaments of liberal democracies. Culturally, this simply reinforces the trend of infantilization, about which much has been written, being the state of society that prevents the individuals from reaching full maturity by denying them the experience of personal responsibility and self-reliance.

First you scare them to death; then you pretend to offer protection. That\’s the formula of current politics in America.

Nick
Guest
Nick

One of the most liberal places in the country and soon the government is going to tell us to stop smoking in public, now this. Both are crazy in my opinion.

What happened to the government helping people where they cannot help themselves? Why are they bothering with crap like this?

~n