mandatory helmet laws “if
a bill does not advance cycling
(Photo © J. Maus)
In an email to members this morning, Bicycle Transportation Alliance Board President Stephen Gomez wrote a letter offering, “Clarity on the BTA’s helmet stance.”
The letter comes in response to a new helmet policy released by the BTA back in October. That policy, which came after tallying results from a member survey on the issue, rubbed many in the community the wrong way.
The key part of the policy some people expressed disappoint in was this: “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.” While subtle, the new policy marked a shift toward a more pro-helmet stance than they’d had in the past. The BTA had previously been opposed — both philosophically and in practice — to laws that would make helmets mandatory for adults.
“It is unlikely that a mandatory helmet law would advance this mission. But we promise to actually read a mandatory helmet bill before opposing it. If a bill does not advance cycling in Oregon, then we will fight against it.”
— Stephen Gomez, BTA Board Chair
In his letter this morning, Gomez wrote, “It is unlikely that a mandatory helmet law would advance this mission. But we promise to actually read a mandatory helmet bill before opposing it. If a bill does not advance cycling in Oregon, then we will fight against it.”
Here is the full text of Gomez’s letter:
To our members:
There are few topics in bike advocacy that elicit such an emotional response as helmets. We all know someone who managed to avoid serious injury by wearing a helmet. And we all know someone who reserves the right to ride helmet-free.
Just reevaluating our helmet policy forces us test our assumptions, reaffirm our core beliefs, and confront some of the hardest issues head on. This is a good thing for an organization to do, and it is important to consider input from all sides.
From the feedback that we received from our restated helmet policy, it’s clear that you feel the same way. And with your input, we would like to clarify and modify our policy.
We believe in safer streets.
The BTA exists to push for safer streets and to make our roads more bike-friendly. Cycling is fun. Cycling is safe. Cycling builds community. We believe that you should be able to bike anywhere in Oregon with the same confidence that you do down your own street. This is what we work for, not just because we are people who ride bikes, but because of the countless benefits that increased cycling brings to our cities and communities.
We think you should wear a helmet.
Cycling is safe, but not without risk. Helmets are safety devices that make bicycling safer by mitigating injury in the event of a fall or crash. We believe that helmets can and do save lives. We believe that if you are under 16 that it should be required.
We will keep growing the movement.
Our mission is clear – we work to create healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, convenient and accessible. It is unlikely that a mandatory helmet law would advance this mission. But we promise to actually read a mandatory helmet bill before opposing it. If a bill does not advance cycling in Oregon, then we will fight against it.
We love helmets because they can help in certain situations. Our larger focus remains on making our roads more bicycle friendly through infrastructure improvements, reducing auto speeds, and fighting distracted driving.
Oregon is a great place to ride a bike. But we feel there is a lot of work ahead of us to make it truly world-class. This is the hard work we do as an organization every day, and of course we invite you to join us.
Gomez’s letter supersedes the BTA’s previous helmet law and usage policy. It’s almost a given that the legislature or other regional government agency will propose a mandatory helmet law in the future. When they do, it will be interesting to see how the BTA responds.