Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Greenlick child biking bill reaction roundup

Posted by on January 13th, 2011 at 10:01 am

Tour of Tomorrow

Oregon House Rep. Ben Cannon
has weighed in, urging people to
keep reactions civil.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Oregon House Representative Mitch Greenlick’s idea to start a discussion about child bike safety by proposing a new law (HB 2228) that would make transporting kids six and younger by bike illegal has resulted in a massive response. The media and hundreds of people in our community have weighed in. I want to share some of that reaction…

The Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance Rob Sadowsky responded short and sweet via Twitter by saying, “We’ll fight it. It won’t pass.” BTA Advocacy Manager Gerik Kransky has posted an official response on their blog.

Oregon House Representative Ben Cannon (D-SE Portland) left a must-read comment on this site last night. Cannon rides regularly with his three year-old daughter and is a colleague of Rep. Greenlick. Here are excerpts from his comment:

“I take Mitch at his word that he introduced the bill in order to “start a conversation” about bicycle safety… The conversation here is good, and I suspect it’s exactly what Mitch intended… Maybe this is simply inevitable, but I’m not sure that it’s a better world when legislators are hesitant to propose an idea because it might expose them to vitriol through email or online… Fortunately, I haven’t seen much of that in this conversation… Keep it civil.”

That’s very good perspective from Cannon. Read his entire comment here.

Many BikePortland readers have sent letters to Greenlick’s office expressing their concerns about the bill. Reader Scott Batchelar lives in Greenlick’s district (Northwest Portland) and had this to say:

“In my apartment building I know of 5-10 families who regularly ride bikes with their children and if this bill were to pass it would affect these families in a way that would not be healthy or good… My dismay was from the categorical nature of an outright ban. Have you stopped to consider what a car-less family is expected to do should your proposal pass? What do you tell a family that has decided to spend more of their budget on housing to live close-in to the city center with the trade-off that they have chosen not to own a car?… As one of your constituents this is a bill I can not and will not support, I understand your reasons for proposing this and I applaud your wanting to open debate on this issue but I wonder if this is the right way to go about this.”

Read Scott’s full email to Greenlick here.

Reader Jessica Roberts wrote Greenlick to say,

“I was shocked and upset today to hear that you plan to introduce HB 2228, that would prohibit using bicycles to carry children under the age of six. My husband and I have a 1.5 year old son, and we don’t own a car. We get around as a family by bus, walking, and by bicycle… We believe that choosing the bicycle instead of the car is good for our health, improves air quality, and makes the streets safer for everyone. Your bill would force us to purchase and drive a car – something we cannot afford to do, and something we don’t believe is the best choice for our community… This bill is not in the best interest of children, families, or Oregon. Please don’t introduce HB 2228.”

Read Jessica’s full email here.

The local media have also shown interest in this bill.

KATU’s story included an interview with an owner of local family biking shop Clever Cycles. Todd Fahrner told them, “We have an 8-year-old boy who’s traveled at least 10 times as far by bikes as all other methods combined… He’s never been injured. It’s what we do as a business as well.” The story was also covered by KPTV (Fox), the Portland Mercury blog, and in The Oregonian.

In past legislative sessions, people in our community have been blamed for sullying cycling’s reputation in Salem by being too harsh on lawmakers who propose unpopular legislation. I must say, I am very proud of how thoughtful the reactions have been this time around. I have deleted a few comments, but 99% of them have been respectful and civil. Thank you all for that.

This bill has no chance of passing, but I think the larger issue is how Greenlick came up with his concerns in the first place, and why he decided that a prohibition of child carrying on bicycles would be an appropriate solution.

Stay tuned for more coverage.

— See our “HB 2228” story tag for full coverage.

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. Thank you.

  • Marc January 13, 2011 at 10:36 am

    I have also e-mailed Rep Greenlick last night with my concern regarding HB 2228. I look forward to this not passing. But, I also know that we – the bike community – surround ourselves with like-minded people. Once we leave this bubble, there many varying opinions. I am also confident that this won’t pass. However, to think that a bill is introduced to “start discussion” is somewhat frightening. I think the discussions should probably be had before any possibly terrible choices are made.

    I too am interested in his reasoning behind this proposal.

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  • karl d January 13, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Why 6 years old? why not 5 or 7? What is the science/reason behind that number

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  • Marc January 13, 2011 at 10:46 am

    The KPTV segment was an interesting choice of bicycling demographic. While showing footage of avid commuters, the interviewees were novice riders, at best. Their response was in defense of the earbuds and against the children in tow. I think that is a backwards view. I don’t understand KPTV’s choice of not interviewing any of the other cyclists, as well. It seems they knew what opinion was going to be made from whom and decided to push that little editorial through to the nightly news.

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  • Stacy January 13, 2011 at 10:57 am

    This feels like a solution in search of a problem. I’m not aware of a disproportionate number of children injured in bike accidents per mile traveled vs. car accidents.
    There is a certain amount of risk inherent in getting out of bed in the morning.

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    • A foolish hero January 19, 2011 at 11:38 am

      I completely agree. It sounds like Greenlick has too much time on his hands. Why is it that some people insist on making things difficult by trying to help. No thank you.

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  • Jack January 13, 2011 at 10:59 am

    I don’t understand KPTV’s choice of not interviewing any of the other cyclists, as well.
    It seems they knew what opinion was going to be made from whom and decided to push that little editorial through to the nightly news.

    I think you understand just fine.

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  • Zoomzit January 13, 2011 at 11:25 am

    I just sent Mr. Greenlick a email as well and focused on two points:

    1. Starting a conversation should begin by talking to constituents, gathering empirical data and conversing with parties who would be affected by the proposed legislation. From this information, thoughtful legislation can be proposed.

    On the other hand proposing legislation first to “start a conversation” seems to be code for proposing legislation from a perspective of ignorance.

    2. Defeating HB 2228 is not enough. Greenlick’s “conversation starter” 1. makes the massive assumption that children under 6 on a bike is unduly dangerous and 2. the best solution to this assumption is to punish vulnerable.

    For the fact that Greenlick’s an elected official proposing legislation, people will give him some credence. This means that we can no longer begin the bicycling discussion with “This is why biking is good” but rather we have to negate a negative by starting with “this is why Greenlick is misguided and ill informed.”

    Greenlick has already done the damage. It is time for him to undo it by making a public mea culpa and taking steps to have a true conversation with his constituents and family bicyclists.

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    • Matt January 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

      Well said. Greenlick seems to have done himself a big disservice in his poor approach to “starting a conversation”.

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  • q`Tzal January 13, 2011 at 11:27 am

    It’s nice to see O comments more calm than here.
    Also it will be nice to have big business on our side for this argument.

    Funny O comment:
    ChronicIllness January 13, 2011 at 11:23AM

    This isn’t a safety issue. It’s a civil rights issue. It’s about protecting a vulnerable class of people. This statute strikes a blow for the silent thousands of children who are forced to stare at their parent’s fat behinds every day and be involuntarily towed through a cloud of flatulence 50 times daily. You call it absurd; I call it justice.

    Stop the daily two-wheeled fruit cup!

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  • tony January 13, 2011 at 11:38 am

    814.460. (1) A person commits the offense of unlawful
    passengers on a bicycle if the person operates a bicycle and
    carries :
    (a) More persons on the bicycle than the number for which
    it is designed or safely equipped ; or
    (b) A child under six years of age on the bicycle or in a
    bicycle trailer { + while travelling in excess of 30 miles per hour + }.

    Fixed that for you Dr. Greenlick.

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  • 3-speeder January 13, 2011 at 11:41 am

    All transportation choices come with risk.

    All parental decisions about their child come with risk.

    All such risk is managed to minimize the likelihood or consequences of a bad outcome.

    In the original post, Rep. Greelick justified introducing this bill because he felt this was “a law would save one child’s life”. This reasoning is in denial of the reality I state above that all competent citizens would agree with.

    This is a classic case of the tyrrany of the majority. A member of the majority culture acts to try to restrict the rights of a minority culture. Justification in this case is under the guise of safety, yet no effort is made to look in the mirror to see that the same justification could be applied to the majority culture.

    There could indeed be good discussions to be had to improve the safety of children who find themselves within our transportation system. Rep. Greenlick could have served this discussion in a much more effective manner by doing more research, including outreach to different types of transportation users, and then crafting a more reasonable proposal.

    Unfortunately, he did not. As a result, we are not really benefitting from constructive debate. Instead, those who minimize or eliminate the use of a personal motor vehicle for their transportation needs much again spend part of their limited energy to fend off an attack of their rights.

    Shame on you, Rep. Greenlick. I expect a reaction from you that indicates your poor judgment in introducing this bill.

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  • Chris January 13, 2011 at 11:42 am

    So my son learned to ride his own bike at 6, but I know of many kids who learned much earlier, say 2 or 3 even. My four year old daughter rides a bike with training wheels in a way that would make a motocross racer cringe.

    (I’m “conversing” here) So if a child could propel a bike under their own power would that be illegal under the proposed bill? I’ve not read it and live in another state so it really doesn’t affect me directly but I’m curious.

    I live on a goes-nowhere street and my kids ride in the street in front of my house. If a similar bill were passed in my state would that mean my kids couldn’t ride their bikes down to the neighbor kids’ house, or only that I couldn’t take them on my own bike via seat or trailer?

    I agree with those that say the discussion should occur before the proposal. Despite the unlikelihood that it would be passed, you get enough crazy moto-fascists voting against bikes for our own good and bad things start to happen.

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    • Kt January 14, 2011 at 9:27 am

      Chris, I believe the law would allow your 3 year-old to ride his own bike. But you wouldn’t be able to tow him in a trailer or put him on a trail-a-bike or in a bike seat, fore or aft mounted.

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  • coyote January 13, 2011 at 11:56 am

    You really should decide whether it is the content or the form of this proposal that you object to. The content of the law is radical, the form of the law has become common. The anarchist in me wants to look at this as application of reductio ad absurdum being played out in the legislature instead of a thought experiment.

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  • Nature Boy January 13, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I think that Greenlick’s bill proposal is on the right track, except that he may possibly have spelled the word “bicycle” when the word he was really looking for is “automobile”. According to the Center for Disease Control, the number one cause of children’s death in the united states is automoblie related injury. to quote from the CDC’s website

    “In the United States during 2005, 1,335 children ages 14 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes, and approximately 184,000 were injured. That’s an average of 4 deaths and 504 injuries each day.”

    I can only begin to imagine how many times in my adolescent years that me and my sister have driven one or both of our parents to the brink of insanity from the back seat wanting to know “Are we there yet?” that could have ended in tragedy. My mother was pulled over once for inadvertently driving down light rail tracks for over a quarter mile.

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  • Jim F January 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Proposing an extreme, bizarre and non-sensical law is sloppy, lazy and ignorant. I don’t think it is appropriate to justify it as “starting a conversation.”

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  • Joe January 13, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    News almost always interviews the wrong fokes I feel.

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    • John Reinhold January 13, 2011 at 12:34 pm

      News interviews everyone. They just only report on or show those who’s interviews might make the best ratings.


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    • Sean G January 13, 2011 at 2:55 pm

      I wonder how many opponents of the bill were interviewed by KPTV and left on the cutting-room floor so they could get the three people they talked to to promote their anti-bicycle agenda.

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    • CaptainKarma January 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm

      Seriosly. Stop watching TV. It in no way reflects reality.

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  • kww January 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    A quick statistic would help, how many children have perished in automobiles vs. bicycles in the last 10 years in Oregon?

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    • Jackattak January 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm

      Comparing the two wouldn’t do any good. There are far more children riding in automobiles than there are on bicycles, even in Portland.

      It would suffice to simply gather the statistic for children on bicycles, as this is not a car vs. bike issue. Let’s please not turn it into one. We have enough of that going on “in the community” all ready.

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  • Jackattak January 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I can’t add much more than most of the reasonable posters have put forth all ready. The portion of this bill regarding children 6 or younger is a baseless farce and I feel as though Rep. Greenlick made a huge mistake by going with legislation first to “start a discussion”. That is simply horrible politics.

    The earbuds portion of the bill I can somewhat get behind. It’s illegal to do it while driving…it’s illegal to do it while operating any vehicle (bicycles are vehicles). I really have no problem with that part of it.

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    • Nathan January 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm

      A couple items. The earphones bill is a separate piece of legislation introduced by a different representative. And I’ve understood that there is no Oregon law against driving while wearing earphones. It’s certainly legal to drive with the single earphone known as a hands-free device or bluetooth.

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      • Andrew Plambeck January 13, 2011 at 2:00 pm

        Right. And by extension, the new generation of iPhone hands-free headsets, which are essentially earbuds with a built-in microphone. Our cell phone law actually ENCOURAGES the use of such devices while driving a two-ton chunk of metal, yet we want to ban wearing earbuds while on a bicycle?

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      • Jackattak January 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm

        Thanks for the clarification. 🙂

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  • Jessica Roberts January 13, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I just found out about searchable CDC injury database from Greg Raisman. If I am using it correctly, it looks like the number of children age 0-6 killed in automobile crashes in Oregon between 2000 and 2007 (they don’t have newer data available) was 84. There are 3 reported deaths to children age 0-6 on bicycle.

    It is important to keep in mind, though, that far more children are transported by car than by bike, so you really aren’t looking at numbers that can be used to compare risk. You’d have to figure out how to look at risk per trip or risk per mile in order to really compare the numbers.

    Nevertheless, it’s clear that if we are serious about saving “even one child,” we should be talking about getting kids out of cars. (And may I go off on a tangent here about how much it annoys me that, any time you see an article about how automobiles are the #1 killer of kids, the advice is always to use seat belts and car seats and never to DRIVE LESS or DRIVE MORE SLOWLY?!?!)

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  • Dan Kaufman January 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    I really don’t have for this debate but here is my family’s open (video) letter to Rep Greenlick

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    • Joe Rowe January 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm

      awesome video Dan and sons! Very nice and respectful tone. “read the paper” is the kind of honesty we need for bullies like Greenlick . me.

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  • Allan Folz January 13, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Ops, posted this on the Mia thread, but realized it really belonged on this one…

    Here’s the response I received from my letter (http://bikeportland.org/2011/01/12/rep-greenlick-says-safety-concerns-prompted-child-biking-bill-45890#comment-1703185) to Rep. Greenlick’s office. My answer is below. If he wants to converse about bicycle safety, let us discuss elderly drivers!

    On Thu, 13 Jan 2011 12:15:33 -0800, “Rep Greenlick” wrote:
    > Mr. Folz,
    > Thank you for writing to express your concerns about HB 2228. Our
    > goal in introducing this legislation was to start a conversation about
    > the safety of children when riding as passengers on bicycles and we
    > welcome and encourage any input from the community that furthers that
    > conversation. Attached is a statement from Rep. Greenlick that will
    > hopefully address some of your concerns.
    > Regards,
    > Justin Freeman, Legislative Assistant
    > State Representative Mitch Greenlick

    Mr. Freeman,

    With all due respect, Representative Greenlick picked a rather insulting way to start a conversation.

    What would be his reaction if in response to the elderly driver that killed a toddler in North Portland a couple months ago (see http://northportland.katu.com/content/toddler-struck-car-dies-his-injuries) someone proposed all people over the age of 70 be banned from driving?

    However, in the interest of conversation let me be clear the risks to children are from _motor vehicle operators_. Any serious safety proposal needs to address the actions of motor vehicle operators first and foremost. As I suggested in my original email, one such proposal would be regular and rigorous health, cognition, and reflex testing of elderly drivers. As Rep. Greenlick himself could qualify an elderly driver, depending on the definitions, I look forward to hearing his feelings on the issue.

    Allan Folz
    Portland, OR

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    • Zoomzit January 13, 2011 at 3:04 pm


      I got the same canned reply, here’s a part of my response to the Legislative Assistant:

      “Rep. Greenlick’s pleas for the bicycle community to “calm down” is comical. If a calm debate is truly the goal of Rep. Greenlick, then he
      should have started by talking to the community of bicyclists in his district. Promoting controversial, ill-conceived and damaging legislation should get the cycling community riled up, for if the
      legislation is passed, there would be dire consequences as to how parents can interact in their communities. The fact is, when legislation of this nature is introduced, the bicyclists affected should be riled up, they should fight this legislation and they should (as I have) write to their legislatures to voice their deep displeasure as this is the hallmark of a functioning democracy.

      If you promise to stop promoting ill-conceived legislation that limits my freedom and inhibits me from living a green, sustainable and active
      lifestyle, then I promise to “engage in the process calmly.” Let’s engage in conversation, but let’s do it in a fashion that allows us to “increase the light” on the conversation before controversial legislation is proposed. Proposing legislation that drastically alters
      my life and then asking me to be calm about it is akin to putting a gun to my head and asking me to have a reasoned discussion as to whether you should pull the trigger. Your legislation is threating to bicyclists and their lifestyle. Proposing this legislation and then
      asking for reasoned debate is disingenuous. If reasoned debate is your intent, start the conversation before you threaten to curtail people’s freedom.”

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      • Allan Folz January 13, 2011 at 3:20 pm

        Did you open the attached word doc? I couldn’t believe that one. Really, a proprietary file format notorious for spreading viruses, from a member of the Oregon congress? I won’t open it.

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    • craig January 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Hear, hear. THAT is the response we should all cry in unison. BTA, please take this up with this angle!

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  • Tanya January 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    One thing I thought was that:
    even if there were no active bike community to police this kind of “conversation starter”;
    even if this made it past committee;
    even if it passed;
    even if the police managed to catch me once in the act every other week for a year and ticket me $90 each time;
    even if I paid every fine.

    It’d still be cheaper than owning a car! So if this is supposed to be a disincentive for “unsafe” biking practices it’d be better to give a $90 fine every time a parent transporting a child at night did not have adequate lighting for themselves and the bike.

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    • Tanya January 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

      That is to say that effective fines are supposed to incentivize or disincentivize certain types of behavior. People do the math in their head. It’d be cheaper to pay for $20 in lights than pay a $90 fine but it would not be cheaper to buy a car than haul your kid around in a trailer and pay a ticket.

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  • esther c January 14, 2011 at 1:11 am

    If cars and trucks make our streets that unsafe that a child in an approved bike seat or buggy isn’t safe maybe we ought to do away with cars and trucks.

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  • Lenny Anderson January 14, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Our legislature should be figuring out how to pay for our schools, not wasting its time harassing bicyclists and their families.

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  • q`Tzal January 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Hb. 2228

    Here is a good non car vs bike analogy of the inainity of this bill proposal: Everyone should be required, not just senators and congressmen, to wear bullet proof vests and kevlar helmets. You never know when some gunman with an axe to grind or someone simply insane will show up and shoot at you. If it saves just one person…

    Yet again we put the onus of responsibility for being attacked, injured or killed on the victim and not the cause or perpetrator.

    When we as a society excuse the behavior of rapists because of the style of dress of the victim we have seen more rapes.
    When police and SWAT teams started wearing heavy body armor all the time criminals escaled to armor piercing ammuntion.
    When we as a society excuse the poor driving skills of an elderly driver who was found at fault for the death of a small child we can easily see that there will be no punishment for hazardous … no … lethal driving habits of others that harm the fabric of society. Should we not also expect the institutionalized disrespect for vulnerable road users?

    HB proposal 2228 provides no proven improvement in safety for cyclists or their children. In its move to remove more vulnerable road users from the road it will encourage more hazardous driving.

    Commonly, people that have commited vehicular manslaughter have honestly dedicated themselves to much safer driving than those who have caused only non fatal injuries. Because a child less than 6 years of age is more likely to die than an older cyclist in identical crashes the removal of more vulnerable users unintentionally encourages drivers to continue driving in a harmful way.

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  • esther c January 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    I wonder if they’re going to make it illegal to push kids in strollers on marked pedestrian crosswalks. Its pretty dangerous in my neighborhood.

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  • ambrown January 18, 2011 at 10:03 pm

    As an actual constituent of Mitch Greenlick, who has happily voted for him since I reached voting age, I’m particularly frustrated I haven’t received a response yet. My letter is here.


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