Here’s a blurb from an email sent to members about the survey:
“The board of directors of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance will be discussing the role of helmets and the organization’s policy in the broader context of our work to make bicycling safe and accessible. To help inform the board’s discussion, we are asking our members to respond..”
Curious about why the BTA is wading in these waters, I contacted executive director Rob Sadowsky to learn more.
“We’ve got members to opposed to anything having to do with helmet laws and then some who are the complete opposite…”
— Rob Sadowsky, BTA
Sadowsky said the survey is an effort to clarify the BTA’s official position on helmet use. When he came to the BTA Sadowsky looked up policy statements on a variety of issues and says he didn’t find one on helmet use. Instead of guessing what the BTA’s position was, Sadowsky wanted to speak from a solid policy position, so he asked the board to clarify the organization’s stance.
Sadowsky says he’s fully aware that this is a sensitive issue and that they have members at each end of the debate’s spectrum.
“We’ve got members to opposed to anything having to do with helmet laws and then some who are the complete opposite and feel we should be actively pursuing helmet laws and that people should have helmet on in every picture we publish.”
Personally, Sadowsky says he’s on the side that wants bicycling to be seen as fun and safe and that the more we talk about mandatory laws, the more it seems like an unsafe activity. “But” he adds, “I also want to represent our members.”
The 3-questions survey asks people to share when/if they wear helmets. The key question asks: “How do you think the BTA should be involved in encouraging helmet use and/or supporting a mandatory helmet law?”
Sadowsky says he doesn’t expect they’ll get a consensus in the responses and that the survey will likely only give his board a general sense of how their members feel. He also shared that the BTA board itself is “all over the place” on the helmet debate.
Once the survey responses come in, Sadowsky says he foresees three possible outcomes:
- there will be no clear decision and the BTA will maintain their current position, which is to not support mandatory helmet laws but to encourage their use,
- the BTA will start to actively oppose mandatory helmet laws (which is different than simply not supporting them) or begin to encourage legislators to start supporting them,
- or they’ll decide that the entire debate and decision is better left to health care professionals. “We’d encourage helmet use, but stay out of the political battles.”
In the end, Sadowsky says he hopes his organization doesn’t spend a lot of time on this issue. He also acknowledges the risk in even discussing it. “If we do come out on one of the more solid lines, there’s a group of members that won’t be happy.”
The survey closes on Monday night.