(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?
Not sure: 2.9%