BTA releases helmet policy, survey results

Posted by on October 28th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Helmets

Helmets on the Hawthorne Bridge
(Photo by Will Vanlue)

Using feedback gleaned from a recent survey, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) board of directors has formally adopted a policy on helmets. Here is the position statement as published on their blog this morning:

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance supports state law that requires those under 16 to wear helmets while on a bicycle. Helmets are safety devices that make bicycling safer by mitigating injury in the event of a fall or crash. Our role as an advocacy organization is to push for safer cycling environments and making our roads more bike-friendly. Therefore, The Bicycle Transportation Alliance encourages the use of helmets by all cyclists.

Rob Sadowsky, the BTA’s executive director, calls this a “slight modification” of their previous policy. “The essence of the policy is that we believe that helmets can and do save lives.”

Further explaining their new stance, Sadowsky says that, “If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.”

In their own survey, 65.9% of respondents said the BTA should oppose mandatory helmet laws.

This neutral stance speaks to the BTA’s attempt to walk the fine line on this very sensitive and hotly debated issue. The organization has members – and board members – on all sides of the debate.

It also marks a shift toward a more pro-helmet stance than they’ve had in the past.

When the city of Vancouver was about to pass a mandatory, all-ages helmet law back in 2008, the BTA sent a letter to the Vancouver mayor and city council stating clear opposition. Among the reasons for their stance was that they were “not confident that passing a mandatory helmet law makes bicyclists, as a group, any safer.” (The law was ultimately passed and is still in existence.)

In his statement today, Sadowsky also made it clear that they will be “diligent about people wearing helmets” in all future communications and photos.

In the end, it seems the BTA wants to take a hands-off approach to this issue, and instead focus on improving bike safety.

“Bike safety in our state should not be reduced to a conversation about bike helmets.”

Below are results from the BTA member survey they used to inform this policy:

1. How often do you wear a helmet while bicycling?
Almost 80% of respondents say they wear a helmet every time they ride.
16% of respondents say they wear a helmet for most trips.
3% say they sometimes wear a helmet.
Just over 1% say they never wear a helmet.

2. How do you think the BTA should be involved in encouraging helmet use and/or supporting a mandatory helmet law? (Respondents chose “agree” or “disagree” for each statement separately.)
“I believe that everyone should be encouraged to wear a helmet, but the choice is ultimately that of the individual. The BTA should oppose a mandatory helmet law.”
Agree: 65.9% (464)
Disagree: 34.1% (240)
“I believe adults should be required by law to wear a helmet. The BTA should support a mandatory helmet law.”
Agree: 37.1% (276)
Disagree: 62.9% (467)
“I believe the best way to change behavior on helmet use is through education and encouragement, not through legislation. The BTA should focus on education and encouragement.”
Agree: 83.5% (644)
Disagree: 16.5% (127)
“I believe that health officials are the best group to decide this issue. The BTA does not need to be involved with legislation of helmet use.”
Agree: 19.7% (130)
Disagree: 80.3% (530)
“I am not concerned with helmet use.”
Agree: 14.7% (96)
Disagree: 85.3% (557)

3. Are you a BTA member?
Yes: 88.5%
No: 8.5%
Not sure: 2.9%

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Alex Reed
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Alex Reed

Wait, so a survey that shows that 62 to 66% of respondents (mostly members) oppose a mandatory helmet law means that the BTA *won’t* oppose a mandatory helmet law? How does that make sense?

Maybe the BTA leadership previously thought that fewer than 34 to 37% of members support a mandatory helmet law, and is taking a neutral stance in respect for those members’ beliefs?

Personally, I hope there’s never a serious effort towards a universal mandatory helmet law.

matt picio
Guest

I’m curious about that myself, and I’m disappointed that the BTA is taking this stance. Most cyclists ride 10 mph or slower most of the time. Those speeds are typical for joggers, yet there’s no push for joggers to wear helmets. I’m not saying that helmets can’t be beneficial, they certainly can – but they’re not an end-all, be-all for bicycle safety.

Though what disturbs me most is that the BTA is adopting a policy at odds with what the membership wants, as detailed in the BTA’s own survey.

Jessica
Guest
Jessica

That’s BTA doesn’t care about what its members want. It’s a wonder anyone still thinks the BTA matters.

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

I am the 1% ! I may not be a billionaire, but I can ride my bicycle sans helmet if I wish. Maybe one of my favorite freedoms left . I know this will not bode well with you 80%er’s and the other miscellaneous 19, but I still love it!

BURR
Guest
BURR

Neither Roger Geller, PBOT bike coordinator, nor Rex Burkholder, BTA founder, wear helmets.

Just sayin’…

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

I think Rex had a spill that caused brain damage. He is now one of the lone politicians who will speak in favor of the $5 billion CRC freeway project. He’s emotionally attached to it.

I wonder if Jefferson Smith wears a helmet? In his bid for mayor he’s got the sanity to say we need to kill the CRC and look at better alternatives.

Elliot
Guest
Elliot

Well apparently, at least in this survey… they are the 1 %. Ha.

Marid
Guest
Marid

I wear a helmet every time I ride and I want the CRC built now. So what’s this have to do with the BTA long overdue turn towards helmet safety?

Jeff TB
Guest
Jeff TB

I have a hard time understanding how this helps people who ride bikes.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Sadowsky would do well to take greater care in his choice of language:

“The essence of the policy is that we believe that helmets can and do save lives.” Sadowsky

It might be advisable for him to specifically say ‘…helmets can help to prevent head injury andsave lives.’, because it’s almost certain people will be jumping on his case for claiming simply that bike helmets save lives.

I can’t quite figure Sadowsky’s thinking making the following statement:

“If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.”

How can the BTA take a stand against a law proposal that hasn’t even yet been conceived, let alone specified?

I hope Sadowsky and the BTA can in future be more clear about their position on mandatory bike helmet laws, and the question of individual adult choice in wearing bike helmets while riding bikes, given the very wide range of types of bike riding that exist.

9watts
Guest
9watts

As a bike helmet wearer for twenty-five years I’m finding language found here: http://www.vtpi.org/irresistible.pdf very interesting. The paper is titled: Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.

“The Netherlands has the lowest non-fatal injury rate [for cyclists] as well as the lowest fatality rate, while the USA has the highest non-fatal injury rate as well as the highest fatality rate.
… The cyclist injury rate for the USA seems extremely high relative to the other countries.

Thus, it is important to emphasize that the much safer cycling in northern Europe is definitely not due to widespread use of safety helmets. On the contrary, in the Netherlands, with the safest cycling of any country, less than 1% of adult cyclists wear helmets, and even among children, only 3–5% wear helmets (Dutch Bicycling Council, 2006; Netherlands Ministry of Transport, 2006).”

I wonder if safety is to be found somewhere else?

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

9… Thanks for the info you bring. This is an awesome point that generally gets pushed aside during discussions on this topic.

john
Guest
john

Check me if I’m wrong, but if I am recalling correctly, a big part of that is due to the fact that traffic laws place much more onus on automobile drivers than traffic laws do in the US.

ME 2
Guest
ME 2

My take on that study is that establishing a safe infrastructure such as the separated bikeways prevalent in the Netherlands play a major role in reducing cycling injuries. As such, it kind of makes sense that the BTA not waste precious resources fighting mandatory helmet laws when those resources are best deployed promoting the development of bike infrastructure like that in the Netherlands.

Ted
Guest
Ted

Let’s become little amsterdam where people ride, cause it’s fun, safe, and quiet! Adopt infrastructure from the netherlands period!!!

We could do it!

Netherlands adopted the bike infrastructure they use in the ’70s, we can do it! There’s still plenty of time!

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Infrastructure alone won’t cut it. Any street-level infrastructure must necessarily involve crossings of roads and conflicting turns, etc. Drivers must still pay attention, regardless of any infrastructure improvements–and therein lies the rub. U.S. Drivers want to be able to barrel along, drinking their lattes and checking (and responding to) their text messages while driving. This means they want to be able to pay as little attention to the road as possible. The “I don’t need to pay attention because everybody will get out of my way” attitude is what we need to correct FIRST. The only way to do that, it seems, is to pass very unpopular laws that would make drivers actually responsible for their actions on the roadway. IMO, one of the first steps toward that end would be automatic seizure of cell phones (or at least an automatic warrant for phone records) to determine whether one was in use at the time of any collision. This could serve a dual purpose: a) to collect data to show that hands-free phone conversations are just as likely to cause crashes as hands-full phone conversations; b) to provide proof of violation of existing laws against hand-held phone operation while driving. Again, this would only be the babiest of baby-steps toward making drivers responsible for not paying attention; there would need to be many other legal sanctions imposed before drivers would take their responsibilities seriously.

Then, if folks are still afraid to ride because it “feels” too dangerous, we can build some infrastructure that makes biking irresistibly safe, but aggravatingly slow.

Marid
Guest
Marid

Are we to confiscate a person’s bike after an accident to prove that it had all of the proper safety equipment? How many cyclists ride with improper lighting or poorly functioning brakes? Furthermore, should we install cameras everywhere like the UK does so we can see who was at fault? Most accidents are most certainly caused by human failings such as inattentiveness, impatience, and a nonchalant attitude towards traffic laws.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Most accidents are most certainly caused by human failings such as inattentiveness, impatience, and a nonchalant attitude towards traffic laws.”

Marid,
you know this, how?

jonesey
Guest
jonesey

Yes!

I was disappointed that the survey did not contain any options that said something like “I think the helmet issue is a distraction from the real dangers to bicyclists. People in Amsterdam don’t wear helmets, and they bike in huge numbers and very safely. I want the BTA to advocate whatever makes that happen.”

Duncan Idaho-Stop
Guest
Duncan Idaho-Stop

Exactly. The survey basically pre-supposed this result.

Marid
Guest
Marid

This is not the Netherlands. For starters, we have hills.

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Hey! I was the one that linked that paper for you originally, jerk! 🙂

This was essentially my point as well: while a helmet might protect you if you are in an accident, helmets (and helmet laws) do absolutely nothing whatsoever to prevent accidents.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“Hey! I was the one that linked that paper for you originally, jerk! :)”

And I gave you credit in another discussion here, several times over. Not claiming anything for myself. But what’s with the angry tone?

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

There was a smiley! A smileeeeyyyyy!

de Lijster
Guest
de Lijster

As a Dutch person living in Portland – and wearing a helmet most times here – (but not in my home country of course:), I wanted to suggest this: one of the reasons I wear a helmet here is that I speed down hills – which we obviously do not have in the Netherlands…. Besides that, even in the Netherlands there is a discussion going on about encouraging people to wear helmets, especially childeren, which you see happening more and more.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

the poor choice of working makes him a liar…

Our role as an advocacy organization is to push for safer cycling environments and making our roads more bike-friendly. Therefore, The Bicycle Transportation Alliance encourages the use of helmets by all cyclists.

the use of a helmet does NOT make the cycling environment safer or more bike-friendly …

what it (sometimes) does is make crashes safer, for the cyclist…

dmc
Guest
dmc

well said

was carless
Guest
was carless

Thats why I wear a helmet – when I ride faster, I have a higher risk of having a crash, by my own fault – ie, skidding out of control on a slippery street, traveling faster than I can stop in case an obstacle (car, pedestrian, pigeon, road debris) is in my path.

When I bike more leisurely, like 10 blocks to the store, I never wear a helmet. And if a car hits me at speed, someone is probably going to be scooping me off the street into a plastic bag, where a helmet won’t do a whole lot (I’m still dead).

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

9watt… Thanks for the link. This information sheds much light on the topic. awesome!

Jason
Guest
Jason

Why are there no conversations about pedestrians and motorists wearing helmets? Thousands of each group die every year of head injuries that could be prevented by helmet use.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Deaths per “passenger mile traveled” is the only fair way to evaluate this.

NF
Guest
NF

I prefer comparing the data ‘per trip’ rather than per mile. Per mile countIng automatically gives autos the upper hand due to their longer distances travelled.

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Exceptionally so, as well, especially due to auto freight. 24% of miles traveled by autos are on the freeway, but only 8% of fatalities occur there.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

Agree: injuries per trip is really the “fair” way to gauge relative safety of travel modes.

Frank Krygowski
Guest
Frank Krygowski

Pucher’s paper at
http://www.ta.org.br/site/Banco/7manuais/VTPIpuchertq.pdf
shows cycling in the U.S. is over three times safer per km than walking. See page 6. Pedestrian fatalities and injuries also tremendously outnumber those of cyclists on an annual basis. And of course, on an annual basis, the greatest cost to society comes from injuries and deaths of those inside cars – roughly 35,000 motorist fatalities vs. only 700 cyclists.

Bicycling is NOT very dangerous. And widespread use of helmets hasn’t made any improvement anyway. Cyclist fatalities have dropped slightly over the years, but not as much as unhelmeted pedestrian fatalities.

Helmet laws are an unthinking and unnecessary “blame the victim” move, and Sadowsky should be ashamed.

Marid
Guest
Marid

Pedestrians are not cyclists. Bicycle helmets help you when you hit the ground after a collision or fall not when you get body-slammed by a car.

Frank Krygowski
Guest
Frank Krygowski

Helmets wouldn’t help pedestrians??

Harruff et. al., “Analysis of Circumstances and Injuries in 217 Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities”, Accident Analysis & Prevention V. 30, no.1 pp. 11-20, 1998 found 73% of the dead pedestrians suffered fatal head injuries.

Why do you think helmets wouldn’t help them, but would help cyclists? If anything, the impact speeds would be lower for pedestrians, i.e. easier for a helmet to handle.

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

If you want to do this, walking is one of the most dangerous ways you can travel.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Weird. Their position is less clear to me now than when they essentially had no position.

And the survey is useless, statistically speaking. If they had randomly called and polled members, it would have been more accurate, rather than depending on word of mouth to visit their website and complete the survey. A phone survey is still weak, but better than this deal.

Schrauf
Guest
Schrauf

Joseph Rose on OregonJive is reporting the survey was emailed to all members. I never received an email, and I check my spam folder for such items regularly.

Regardless, it appears the survey was just for show, since they ended up taking a “position” two-thirds of their members oppose, according to the survey. WTF?

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

OregonJive! I love it! heehee.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

I am a paid member and I never got the survey. I called the BTA and they said oooops.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Are we going to start seeing some “I am the 1%” signs from our staunch anti-helmet activists?

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Few people are actually “anti-helmet.” Did you mean “anti-helmet law?”

Mike B.
Guest
Mike B.

What’s the difference? I’m assuming you have to be anti-helmet in order to have a position on helmet laws. Are you pro vegetarian yet consumes massive amounts of meat? They somewhat go hand in hand.

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

Incorrect. Being against a law requiring people to do something and being against doing that same something are distinct positions.

I wear a helmet (almost always) and I oppose helmet laws because they don’t make the cycling environment safer. I expect the BTA to oppose them (even if they don’t want to spend a lot of effort on it) for the same reason.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“I’m assuming you have to be anti-helmet in order to have a position on helmet laws.”

That’s a faulty assumption. There are people who are pro-appropriate-use-of-helmets, but not pro-force-everyone-to-wear-a-helmet-every-time-they-get-on-a-bike. As several people have noted, the number of pedestrian injuries every year far outweighs the number of cyclist injuries–am I anti-helmet if I don’t propose forcing all pedestrians to wear helmets? In fact, it seems a little irrational to espouse mandating helmet use for cycling, yet not for the statistically more dangerous activity of walking. And if we filter out cyclists who are involved in crashes while violating known safety principles, cycling becomes even safer. Again, paraphrasing other commenters, if my intention is to go for a training ride where I know I will have 40+mph descents and such, or to go mountain biking on rocky trails, I would be more likely to wear a helmet than if I were going to toodle down to the movie theater at 5mph on sidewalks (where it is legal, of course–and I don’t condone wanton sidewalk-riding). See the difference? Many people don’t see the difference between bicycles and other vehicles–if I am on a motorized vehicle, I don’t have the option to toodle along the sidewalk or other off-street paths, therefore seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws make at least a little more sense. Again, if we want to compel helmet use for bicycling, it makes as much sense to compel general helmet use for all, regardless of activity.

Also, it is possible to be a vegetarian, but not support laws that force everyone to be.

Charlie Burr
Guest

This actually looks pretty clear to me. They aren’t going to direct time or energy working for or against mandatory helmet policies. I also like that they polled their members and what we care about. I’d much rather see them focus on making things safer for cyclists than getting bogged down in this issue one way or the other.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

As pointed out in its statement, BTA already supports a mandatory bike helmet law, which is Oregon’s existing mandatory 16 years and younger bike helmet law. I suppose though, supporting something isn’t necessarily the same as working for or against something.

The distinction to be noted here, is that BTA apparently chooses not to weigh in on or work for or against an all ages mandatory bike helmet law for Oregon or some of its cities, should one ever be proposed.

Maybe it’s a good idea the BTA has decided not to spend energy getting on one or the other side of an all ages mandatory helmet law proposal, but if there ever were a chance that such a law had a chance of being passed in the legislature, it might be disadvantageous for the BTA not to take a formal stand against it, if members were opposed to such a proposal.

The legislature doesn’t meet again for another year. I’m wondering if BTA’s action on this question is in response to efforts in the woodwork to put together an all ages helmet law for the next legislative session.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

From the Oregonian: “The Bicycle Transportation Alliance announced Friday that it will no longer actively oppose mandatory bike helmet laws after a poll of members showed nearly 80 percent wear protective headgear every time they ride.”

This makes no sense. We have high helmet usage already therefore they would no longer oppose a law? Is the intrusion of government into our lives, not to mention an excuse for cops to further harass cyclists, really worth getting that last 20% to wear a helmet?

I wear a helmet most of the time, but get out of my business.

One more reason to NOT join the BTA.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

I should have written, “From Oregonlive”

Jerko
Guest
Jerko

Wear em if you want. Don’t wear em if don’t want.

Jared C
Guest
Jared C

It seems like the lead sentence is erroneous. “Using feedback gleaned from a recent survey…”

More accurate: “Despite feedback gleaned from a recent survey…”

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

Is the BTA trying to kill bike share in Portland before it even begins???

NF
Guest
NF

Good point! Melbourne Australia has had what might be called the least successful modern bike share system, and many blame the mandatory helmet laws.

John Landolfe
Guest

I love me a good strong opinion but I must confess I really take no issue at all with the BTA’s stance. If I have any concern at all, it’s that the political stance is derived from members’ general perceptions and not the scientific consensus. Fortunately, the BTA members’ general perception lines up perfectly with the science. Helmets work. For young people, they save lives. For adults, they’re a smart choice that (like eating your vegetables) is proven to save lives but should stop short of legal mandate.

9watts
Guest
9watts

funny thing, though, the lives in need of saving by helmets don’t seem to register as such in, say, the Netherlands.

I admit to being perplexed about this myself, but I can no longer make statements about the life-saving benefits of helmets without qualifying the peculiars of the US context in which bicyclists find themselves.

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

Hearhear, my good man!!

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

your argument is akin to: I don’t get shot at here so I shouldn’t need a flack vest in Iraq.

Randall S.
Guest
Randall S.

Your argument is akin to saying “Let’s not bother to make Iraq safer, and instead focus on requiring everyone to wear flak vests.”

Marid
Guest
Marid

Ok, well, we can level Portland like we did to Iraq, or we can wear helmets. This is not Iraq and it is not the Netherlands.

Arnold
Guest
Arnold

In the end only YOU can be responsible for your own safety. If you are not interested in looking out for your own best interests, there is no law on earth that will protect you from yourself. More law is not the answer. More personal responsibility may be a small part of the answer. Not the “be all end all,” but a starting place. Just my 2 cents.

Marid
Guest
Marid

No, ever person you encounter in your travels is also responsible for your safety. ODOT is responsible for maintaining the roads for your safety. Auto and bicycle companies are responsible for building safe vehicles. The bars are responsible for making sure their patrons don’t drink too much. And so on. That is why we all (should) carry insurance.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

it would probably be more beneficial to nail cell phone users.

Kevin
Guest
Kevin

I was just reading on katu’s site about how there’s no anti texting law for non-motor vehicles in Oregon. so when you see the cyclist weaving around while texting, rest assured its legal.

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

Having to repeatedly yell “ON YOUR LEFT” to someone on a cellphone while riding their bike is pretty annoying. Seems to be happening more and more lately.

Joshua
Guest
Joshua

Nothing better than getting looked down upon for not wearing a helmet by people who ride hands free while texting or talking on their phones. I can assure you that being aware and alert while on a bicycle will do you far more good than wearing a helmet as far as accident prevention goes.

Otto
Guest
Otto

BTA: “We’ve basically kept our policy the same… well not really, but sort of.”

Chris
Guest

I feel naked without a helmet.

joeb
Guest
joeb

I feel naked pushing a shopping cart without a helmet. It’s weird.

joeb
Guest
joeb

Those numbers show a self regulated group that should communicate to legislators. Experience and personal choice may increase helmet use. Mandatory laws aren’t going to change those numbers.

Kristi Finney
Guest
Kristi Finney

I support the right of each person to choose whether to wear a helmet or not. On August 12th, two cyclists were struck in the bike lane on Division. Dustin Finney was killed and the other cyclist, Kevin, suffered minor physical injuries. There was inference by some media and online commentators that perhaps Dustin would have survived had he been wearing a helmet as Kevin was. Although both were struck by the same vehicle, their individual circumstances are not comparable: Dustin was struck directly from behind by an SUV exceeding the 35 mile speed limit and was launched about 185 feet, while the helmeted cyclist was “clipped and just knocked down” (his words) after the SUV driver had slammed on the brakes.

I am so glad that Kevin was wearing his helmet, because I believe his injuries could have been much worse had he not been. If Dustin had been wearing a helmet, would he have survived? No. But if he had, would he have wanted to? I for one am grateful that in this specific situation, my beautiful young son was not wearing a helmet and so, from all reports, was killed instantly and did not suffer (much).

Donna
Guest
Donna

Kristi, thank you very much for sharing your perspective with us, and please accept my condolences for your loss.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

Kristi…hope I don’t seem disrespectful in asking, but I’ve been wondering what the nature of your son’s injuries were as a result of this collision, and how much of them might have been head trauma. Was it the opinion of medical examiners studying his body that concluded he died instantly?

Kristi Finney-Dunn
Guest
Kristi Finney-Dunn

I have thought of your questions ever since you asked them and put off replying because I had not spoken with the ME after the autopsy, just had the opinion of the ME I spoke to the morning of the crash. In the meantime, I had read the autopsy report and had done research to understand the injuries so had concluded a helmet would not have made a difference.

But today I talked to the ME who performed the autopsy. Before giving me her opinion, she said she discussed it “in depth” with a colleague who was “an avid bicyclist” himself. They determined that Dustin would not have survived his injuries even if he had worn a helmet “because of the type of injury.” He died of blunt force head trauma, yes, but his skull was not crushed. He had a “hinge fracture” and a “ring fracture.” Essentially, his head separated from his spinal column. I read this in a study on ‘Helmet Protection Against Basilar Skull Fracture:’ “A complete ring fracture is usually immediately fatal due to associated injuries to the brain stem.”

So today was a day of great relief for me (sad, too!): wearing a helmet wouldn’t have helped AND my son died instantaneously. The ME was very adamant that this was not the typical injury they see and that bike helmets do minimize injuries in the majority of cases.

Donna
Guest
Donna

“Further explaining their new stance, Sadowsky says that, ‘If confronted with a proposed mandatory helmet law, the BTA will not stand in opposition to the law. Neither will we devote resources to passing such a law.’ ”
I sure hope Mr. Sadowsky doesn’t wonder why they will lose donating supporters should they follow through with doing nothing in the face of a proposed mandatory adult helmet law.

dmc
Guest
dmc

I live In Vancouver. I wear my helmet when I feel like it. I believe that anything more is an intrusion on freedom. That being said, individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.

Like Spiffy said, the real issue isn’t preparing for and softening the blow of an accident, but preventing it all together. In the mean time, with the way our (america’s) transportation setup currently is, it might be wise to pad up. Regardless, it should be the choice of the competent adult.

9watts
Guest
9watts

“individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.”
you will perhaps forgive me if I point out that that makes very little sense.
(a) US cyclists suffer head trauma even with a helmet on their noggins–this is not the Netherlands here, remember;
(b) head trauma suffered by US cyclists is not, I don’t think, principally the fault of those cyclists, helmet or no helmet.

dmc
Guest
dmc

A.) Read the first part of the sentence ” individuals that choose not to wear”.
B.) Are you saying that every cyclist with head trauma with or without a helmet is not at fault?

Reread please.

Joshua
Guest
Joshua

Are you saying that every cyclist with head trauma IS at fault?

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

Thankfully it is *not* the Netherlands.

Frank Krygowski
Guest
Frank Krygowski

“individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.”

I’ll consider buying into that ONLY when it applies to ALL victims of head trauma. Keep in mind that cyclists are roughly 2% of head injury victims, and less than 1% of head injury fatalities. Again, pedestrians are at far higher risk than cyclists.

are
Guest

i did not get the survey in my e-mail inbox. i think it might be interesting for someone to look into exactly how the survey was in fact distributed. but be that as it may, the results came back heavily negative, except for a meaningless data point about how many people actually wear helmets.

but here is my real question. why now? what is the purpose of BTA pulling this p.r. stunt at this moment. no one has proposed such a bill. the legislature is not even in session.

seems to me putting this out there could easily serve as a prompt for someone to introduce a mandatory helmet law, which BTA has pledged in advance not to oppose. so then who opposes it? the rest of us ragtag, uncivil, angry cyclists, who have sometimes been known to say unkind things to legislators. and how does that play out in the press? some kind of good cop bad cop thing? the BTA is the sensible big brother to these unruly kids?

i really do not appreciate it.

bsped
Guest
bsped

I am confused on what is the general opinion on this site is about helmets in general. It seems that the general consensus is that Oregon should not have a law that requires one. But I’m not sure how people feel about the law for 16 and under. Currently there is a law for this age group to wear a helmet, but since some people on this site feel that helmets should not be required, do they think this age group should also not be required to wear a helmet? If it is fine for people over the age of 16 to not wear a helmet, then shouldn’t it be safe for the 16 and under age group.

I know this post might come off as if I were trying to be a troll on this site but I’m honestly not. I’m really just curious about how people feel about helemt requirement for all ages.

Personally, I wear a helmet but that is my decision. I’ve see more arguments on why I should wear a helmet (including a guest post by Karl Moritz on this site back in May 31st of this year) to convince me to always wear one. I understand this issue is not two sided and people are not arguing for the reasons for why you shouldn’t wear a helmet but they are arguing that they shouldn’t be required to wear a helmet. And those two arguments are very different from each other.

Frank Krygowski
Guest
Frank Krygowski

OK, let’s look at how well helmets have worked. Here’s a link showing head injury counts during the decade helmet use increased most rapidly. There’s no decrease in ER-treated head injuries.
http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1041.html

Here are two links comparing trends in head injury fatalities during the time when helmet use increased. Pedestrians still wear no helmets (despite higher per-km risk) yet the supposedly protected cyclists saw no greater drop in fatalities.
http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/kunich.html
http://www.vehicularcyclist.com/fatals.html

Here are links showing how helmets affected hospitalizations in New Zealand. Helmet use surged, http://tinyurl.com/scuffham-hlm-rate
but of the hospitalized cyclists, there was no decrease in the percentage hospitalized by head injuries. http://tinyurl.com/scuffham-hosp-rate

They are not working. And they are not needed. Serious head injuries from biking are less than 2% of the U.S. total head injuries. Biking head injury fatalities are less than 1% of the U.S. total. Per km, biking is far safer than walking. How safe does it need to be?

Bike helmets are an ineffective solution to an imaginary problem. Let’s stop scaring people away from riding bikes.

Joseph E
Guest

Well, so much for the survey.
I had actually just donated to the BTA for the first time. But I’m going to hold off on making a monthly commitment until they clarify this policy.

I had hope that the BTA would support the ability of anyone to ride a bike. Some people are not going to wear helmets, and they shouldn’t be discouraged from riding, especially when bike share is coming. Is the BTA just another “cycling” organization, aimed at the needs of cycling enthusiasts, rather than the good of the whole population of the state?

Hugh Johnson
Guest
Hugh Johnson

I’ve been cycling in this city for well over 25 years and still trying to figure out why I need to give any money at to the BTA? I still can’t find a reason why.

doug
Guest
doug

What a waste of time and energy. It seems to me that BTA should be using their resources to help provide/ or lobby for streets that do not require the use of a helmet to feel safe.

Kristi Finney
Guest
Kristi Finney

So if I understand dmc correctly, Dustin should accept responsibility for being killed by a drunk hit-and-run driver while riding legally in a bike lane simply because he chose not to wear a helmet that would not have saved his life anyway.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

dmc
I live In Vancouver. I wear my helmet when I feel like it. I believe that anything more is an intrusion on freedom. That being said, individuals that choose not to wear a helmet should understand and accept all medical bills and liability resulting from head trauma.
Like Spiffy said, the real issue isn’t preparing for and softening the blow of an accident, but preventing it all together. In the mean time, with the way our (america’s) transportation setup currently is, it might be wise to pad up. Regardless, it should be the choice of the competent adult.
Recommended 1

There’s a lot of effort made towards encouraging people to choose to wear bike helmets for riding, but apparently not nearly as much directed towards having people understand the practical limits of protection bike helmets can offer in a collision situation.

As a result, it doesn’t seem uncommon for people to be under the impression that bike helmets will protect people’s heads from sustaining every type of head trauma. It’s not true that wearing a bike helmet will prevent people’s heads from sustaining every type of head trauma.

If there ever were to be a situation where the amount of coverage people’s insurance provided for head trauma, factored in whether or not the injured person was or wasn’t wearing a bike helmet, it most likely wouldn’t be realistic or fair for people to have to forgo coverage for every type of head trauma, some of which bike helmets would no way be able to adequately protect against.

Bike helmets can do people a lot of good in a variety of kinds of collisions, but it’s not going to help efforts to encourage people to intelligently decide when to wear them if a lot of unrealistic conclusions about the level of protection bike helmets can offer, is assumed or unthinkingly accepted.

dwainedibbly
Guest
dwainedibbly

I would like to see BTA call for more helmet testing, looking at things like the effects of helmets on rotational injuries, etc. Then we can all make better-informed choices.

PorterStout
Guest
PorterStout

It seems to me the arguments boil down to two issues: 1) do helmets help prevent injury and save lives as a result?; and 2) even if the answer is yes, should the government be involved in mandating their use? I think #2 is the real issue for most of us but the arguments are all over the map. People arguing against #2 sometimes throw arguments in against #1 and vice-versa. Or, “In the Netherlands, they have better bicycle infrastructure and therefore helmets aren’t needed as much because accidents are fewer overall.” That isn’t really addressing either 1 or 2, that’s a third issue, like saying safety systems in our cars wouldn’t be as important if we invested more in better roadway maintenance. Undoubtedly a true statement but insufficient reason to not put seatbelts in cars. And despite the tragedies that occur even though someone is wearing a helmet, that doesn’t mean the answer to #1 isn’t still overwhelmingly yes. Plenty of soldiers and police still get killed when wearing body armor; does that mean they shouldn’t bother with wearing it?

Personally, I come down on the side of making helmet use optional. I don’t think there are any demonstrated reasons not to wear one, even if they just provide a safety margin rather than a 100% guarantee. I know multiple examples of friends who have fallen into that margin, whose being here today may even be directly related to their helmet use. But if others choose to not wear one, it should be their decision AS LONG AS they don’t expect the government to step in and cover their medical expenses or other related consequences should the tragedy occur. You don’t get it both ways in my book. Note that the last two wrecks I know of (one my own), didn’t involve cars or anyone else, they were both due to road conditions. In one case oil on the street and the other a divot in the road surface. Both happened in a split second and their consequences might have been much worse without use of a helmet. I carry both insurance and a helmet, and I believe so should everyone else. But I don’t believe in insisting on either, as long as everyone agrees to bear full responsibility for their decision not to. And the critical time isn’t now, when we’re having a friendly theoretical discussion about it, but when someone’s laying in a hospital bed with a head concussion from a “no fault” accident. Seems kind of heartless at that point but that’s the way it worked in Daniel Boone’s day (or whatever other “freedom” time period we all like to hold up as some ideal).

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

“Note that the last two wrecks I know of (one my own), didn’t involve cars or anyone else, they were both due to road conditions. In one case oil on the street and the other a divot in the road surface.”

Oil and divots…probably both due to cars or other motorized machinery.

KiloVoltaire
Guest
KiloVoltaire

The helmet issue neatly divides people into two camps: Those who respect each other as responsible adult citizens, and those who want to manage each other’s lives like domesticated livestock.

sorebore
Guest
sorebore

Amen.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Just like seatbelt laws, automotive safety standards, drug safety standards, food safety standards, etc.

Painting regulators as people that want to boss other people around is not helpful. The argument should be “the science isn’t clear enough to justify a mandate”. Regulations exist for a reason.

Frank Krygowski
Guest
Frank Krygowski

Some regulations exist for good reasons, but many don’t. Mandatory helmet laws are among the ones that exist for bad reasons. They exist because people mistakenly believe all bicycling is extremely dangerous, and because people mistakenly believe that wearing helmets tremendously reduces that danger.

Both beliefs are false, and there’s plenty of data proving their falsehood. But even bike advocates don’t question those beliefs.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…They exist because people mistakenly believe all bicycling is extremely dangerous, and because people mistakenly believe that wearing helmets tremendously reduces that danger.

Both beliefs are false, and there’s plenty of data proving their falsehood. …” Frank Krygowski

You’re contradicting yourself, which is probably just as well.

I don’t believe the public generally considers riding a bike to be an extremely dangerous activity. I also don’t believe the public is under some impression that wearing a bike helmet will tremendously reduce a danger it doesn’t consider to exist in the first place.

Many opponents of bike helmet use seem to commonly generate contrived notions having no basis in truth to support their antipathy towards bike helmet use.

I think it’s in that state of mind that opponents of bike helmet use falsely claim valid data exists supporting their suggestion that most members of the public are not capable of and don’t bother to evaluate and consider the relative safety of riding bikes, and the realistic benefits and limitations of wearing bike helmets to offer themselves protection from impacts to their head in the event of a fall from their bikes.

El Biciclero
Guest
El Biciclero

With the exception of seatbelt laws, the other examples you cite are all regulations/laws designed to stop one entity (usually a corporation) from lying to and thus harming another (usually an individual). I don’t see how a helmet law does that. I’ll give an example: Let’s say drinking water standards are set by some agency so that the water that comes out of your tap at home won’t make you sick or kill you. We could make a law instead that mandates everyone must drink only bottled water, ‘cuz you never know about that tap water. Which makes more sense?

As it is, people are still free to drink their bottled water because they believe every sip of tap water brings them that much closer to an untimely demise, whereas others are free to continue to drink out of fountains and taps because they know that bottled water is a sham anyway. Besides, a bottled water-drinker could be eaten by a bear at any time–then all the bottled water in the world won’t save them.

David Smith
Guest

Maybe it depends on how you’re wearing the helmet.

If you helmet-up and think: I’m safe now! Or, “Got my helmet, don’t need to learn bike handling or traffic skills” then maybe risk compensation and misdirected safety efforts could leave you even worse off.

Why have we never conducted a behavior study to see which bicyclists have the least crashes and highest mobility?

With that information we could encourage bicyclists to move away from unhealthy thoughts and lack of skills and move toward the healthy thoughts and skills of more successful bicyclists.

That might trump the effect of helmet wearing!

Ted
Guest
Ted

Infrastructure over useless studies!

Separated bike paths over white lines on pavement!

Adopt Amsterdam infrastructure entirely and more people will ride for sure!

David Smith
Guest

Ted, you may be right but even they don’t credit facilities with the increase, it’s the cost of gas, congestion mitigation in crowded old cities, and facilities (even though riding in the street is safer).

But it’s the separated (yes, segregated) bicycling that makes me sad. I lived in the segregated drinking fountain era, worked in the apartheid labor system of Alaska salmon canneries and just hated it, especially after friends challenging that system were murdered.

Well, segregation comes in varieties, some necessary for survival but some caused hundreds of years of brutal bigotry, unnecessary and harmful. But…the way of thinking is the same, viewing others as bad and dangerous requiring a justification (excuse) for special treatments.

But I wonder if some future history will credit the bicycle segregationists in part with aiding societies overcoming the MLK/Nelson Mandella effect and returning human society to the more natural thinking of the pre civil rights era?

Given the bicyclists who are willing to learn how to get along with other people sharing the same space, and their excellent record of mobility and safety, and what is at risk for society, wouldn’t it be worth just a peek to see how bicyclists’ ways of thinking and their behaviors affect outcomes?

9watts
Guest
9watts

cars will go the way of Pieter Willem Botha and “Bull” Connor before we’re half way to segregated traffic flows in this country.

jim
Guest
jim

Why would BTA send a letter to out of state? Isn’t BTA oregon?

Jay
Guest
Jay

BTA claims to represent Oregon and SW Washington and has for years accepted dues and donations from Vancouver residents.

Joe Rowe
Guest
Joe Rowe

The BTA survey was poorly done. An issue not mentioned in the survey: a mandatory helmet law will hurt cyclists. I wear a helmet all the time, so let me chime in

1) Cops will use a helmet law to profile and cite people on bikes they don’t like. 28% of Portland is non white. (Census) Compare that with the mostly white BTA (Alice Awards)

2) Insurance companies will screw cyclists who get run down by cars if there is no helmet found. They tried to do this to Mr. Davidson, the guy who was run down by a drunk driver near the Sandy Safeway.

3) As Ted said, this is a distraction from the real problems.

4) The list goes on….

The survey was worded in a way that felt like cheap propaganda. A real survey should have just asked me a few questions.

1) Should the BTA oppose a proposed law to make helmets for adults mandadory?

2) Why or why not?

Dear Rob, Please respond. 65% of your members who found the survey stated that they want you to oppose any helmet law. That’s one percent away from being able to override a filibuster and override a pres veto.. That’s also the number of states needed to propose we Amend the US Constitution. That kind of agreement rarely happens in Democracy. To ignore it feels like contempt. A thread in the BTA.

Jay
Guest
Jay

I think the BTA survey was just an excuse for them to take this “hands off” approach so the 2/3 of their members that oppose mandatory helmet laws were just sold out—something the BTA is very good at doing.

The short turnout from posting the survey results to making a formal policy change reeks to high heaven of a just-for-show comment period.

Portland deserves a better bike advocacy organization than the BTA. I for one will NOT be renewing my membership.

Todd Edelman
Guest

All the bike helmet manufacturers which sell product in Oregon had a big party all weekend, and you were not invited…

***

From the article: “In his statement today, Sadowsky also made it clear that they will be ‘diligent about people wearing helmets’ in all future communications and photos.”

Wow, not showing the reality in photographs which is that some people – even a minority – do not wear helmets? That is totally inexcusable, Orwellian, simply dishonest… and the BTA decision-makers need to be tarred & feathered at Velo-city in Vancouver.

***

Sitting on the fence is certainly more dangerous than cycling.

Deeeebo
Guest
Deeeebo

KiloVoltaire gets a cookie in heaven! I second his statements and follow it up with a request to repeal seat belt laws. Are we adults who make decisions affecting our own lives or should we just give all responsibility over to reactionary politicians? Personally I don’t trust those guys as far as I can throw a bike helmet. Every day we get dumber and lazier if we have accepted that its someone else’s job to make decisions for us.

beth h
Guest

I’m over the helmet wars, personally.

The things that need to be said by large organizations — specifically, that discussions of helmet use distract from the larger discussion about how harmful the auto-centric landscape is to those who do not use automobiles — aren’t being said. I don’t believe they will be said by those large organizations for a variety of reasesons, primarily because those organizations all have some sort of symbiotic relationship with each other and must take care not to rock the boat too hard in any direction.

Perhaps it’s not that deliberate, but the end result is the same. Bike riders will continue to be blamed for their mishaps and injuries by the majority of road-users, and those with the loudest voice will do little to change that perception.

Helmet laws will only heap more blame on bike riders for daring to ride their bikes. If a mandatory helmet law is ever passed for adults in Oregon I will break it.

KiloVoltaire
Guest
KiloVoltaire

Minding someone else’s business is fast becoming our new national passtime. How about a nice hot cup of MYOB for the safety nazis?

Ken Southerland
Guest
Ken Southerland

I just don’t understand why you would ask your members for their opinion and then completely ignore what the majority says. Why ask the question at all then? What the hell was the purpose for that survey?

I’m seriously thinking of dropping my 10 years of support. I’m just baffled.

KiloVoltaire
Guest
KiloVoltaire

Safety isn’t the real issue. We all have the ability to wear one, and nobody can stop us from doing so.

The real issue is control, where you no longer have the option (or for some, responsibility) to think for yourself.

The answer won’t come from debating the issue ad nauseum. BTA may express its opinion, but ultimately it does not make the law. That responsibility falls on our elected officials.

The only way to resist force is to respond with a stronger force. And that means to force out of office those who would curb our right to decide.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

My post on the BTA Blog:

On the face of this statement… it seems that the BTA board of directors (BoD) by making this policy shift/ change has made bike helmets an issue, especially when they took this stand opposite of the feedback from their membership who participated in the survey.

They need to better communicate why they are doing this: Did they throw the survey out on technical merits, or what city or state policy are they are obliquely referring to (and I hope the quid pro quo was worth it)?! I hope that the BTA BoD will announce a membership open house to better communicate the reasons for this policy shift very quickly.

I have to ask…Does the BoD not have enough to do than create an issue that could split its membership and depress its membership dues collections? Many of us long term members were starting to feel comfortable that the BTA was settling down after a lot of self inflicted wounds and thus getting back on track. But now perhaps not.

As a long term professional in both public health and transportation fields, there are a lot better tools and methods to reach the safety outcomes that this policy shift attempts to reach. And we ‘urban bicyclists’ need to be united to collect the political support to continue to reform the design and operations of our urban public roadway network. This change in policy I fear is a lose lose effort[, similar to the outcomes in Vancouver].

David M
Guest
David M

Please take action http://helmetfreedom.org/

Joe
Guest
Joe

whoa this is getting deep, if I don’t wear a helmet please understand its my freedom to choose. 🙂

but you will always have someone yelling at you or shaking the head as you roll by. 🙁

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

It’s Monday afternoon, and there’s still a helmet-free rider in one of the photos on their homepage. Just saying.

Dude
Guest
Dude

I just thought that with bta’s biggest sponsor being ODOT that it was an Oregon thing. I was a little surprised to see them sending letters to Washington.