The Monday Roundup: Seniors on bike share, making loud cars illegal, driving blind, and more

Welcome to the week.

Here are the most notable items our writers and readers came across in the past seven days…

Corker killed in Portland: A woman was shot and killed and several others were injured during a Black Lives Matter protest Saturday night in northeast Portland. According to several news sources the woman was standing in the street directing traffic around the marchers prior to being shot.

Cars are too loud: As someone who lives near a freeway onramp I am cheering as Paris has turned on their first “noise radar” tool that can identify and cite people whose cars are too loud.

Driving blind: A study in Toronto used eye-scanning technology and found that more than half of drivers don’t check for other road users before turning right — confirming a dangerous behavior that far too many of us are already familiar with.

Good for them: The Washington legislature is moving a bill that would tax Oregonians on the import of fuel refined in their state. The idea is strongly opposed by Governor Kate Brown.

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Just say no to more freeway spending: Elected officials, activists, and regular Oregonians showed up to a special meeting of the Oregon Transportation Commission last week to make one point clear: Oregon should use new federal infrastructure funds on more projects that improve biking, walking, and transit — instead of the freeway expansion status quo.

Bike share for seniors: A nonprofit in Raleigh, North Carolina used social rides and financial incentives to help boost bike share rides by nearly 200% among riders 55 and older.

Focus on cars, not drivers: “To err is human, but traffic deaths are not inevitable if regulators and automakers protect people from the worst consequences of their mistakes,” writes author Jessie Singer in this excellent piece in The Atlantic about how to curb the rise in pedestrian deaths.

Anti helmet law: Bowing to pressure from advocacy groups who said enforcement of the law unfairly hurt Black and other people of color, King County Washington finally put an end to their all-ages mandatory helmet law. Good riddance! (It’s too bad this didn’t happen while Seattle still had a bike share system.)

Thanks to everyone who sent in links this week!

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Matt
Matt
4 months ago

What a shame that a site that is supposedly championing safer cycling is against one simple piece of equipment that can save a person’s life.

Concordia Cyclist
Concordia Cyclist
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Sorry, but riding a beach cruiser at 3 mph on a sunny day in a greenway without a helmet is much safer than the jogger running the same street at a higher speed.

Are you suggesting all joggers and fast walking pedestrians wear a helmet? They do indeed cross streets (and these days are often in them).

The problem is having a draconian, inflexible law routinely used by police to harass people and it doesn’t make anyone safer. Anyway, voluntary helmet usage is at near 90% in both locations, so its a law looking for a problem to solve.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

The study linked below suggests that helmet laws increase helmet wearing, and thus save lives. Unsurprisingly, the effect is smaller in communities where helmet use is already high. Given that helmet use seems to be correlated to income, it stands to reason that lower income communities derive more benefit from such laws than do higher income communities in terms of prevented injuries and deaths.

I almost always wear a helmet when I ride, regardless of legal obligation. Personally, I’m agnostic about laws; they offer me no protection, and put me in minor legal jeopardy on the rare occasions I don’t use one. I generally support other mandatory safety requirements, such as seatbelt and motorcycle helmet use, though I am a bit more ambivalent about mandatory ski helmet use.

Intellectually, I’m more on the side of legal mandates, but I think in my heart I’m on the side of freedom.

In a recently published Cochrane systematic review, Thompson et al provided evidence that bicycle helmets reduce the risk of head injury between 63% and 88%. The review also revealed that bicycle helmets provide equal protection for crashes involving motor vehicles (69%) and crashes from all other causes (68%).

Overall, helmet legislation increased bicycle helmet use.

Legislation was consistently associated with an increase in helmet prevalence; however, variability is present.

The effect of legislation appears smaller in areas with a higher baseline proportion of helmet use and areas with high socioeconomic status.

Limited evidence exists on the role of helmet legislation for children on adult helmet wearing proportions; one study suggested no effect.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2564454

Opus the Poet
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Yeah, bike helmets are basically only designed to keep you from fracturing your skull in a zero-speed fall, with incidental protection against skin abrasion (technically a “head injury” if the skin is on your head). CPSC certified helmets don’t even protect against the most common injury, concussion. Now if the motor vehicle is moving at less than 12.5 MPH it protects in collisions with MV, faster than that is less than that as a ratio of the square of the speed of impact. You might not die if you get hit in the head by a car or truck up to about 20 MPH but TBH motor vehicles are pretty low fatality weapons up to 23 MPH anyway. That’s the crossover speed where guns and cars are equally likely to kill you when they come in contact with random parts of your body, 9% fatal. I have years of experience with bike wrecks November 2008 through March 2016 covering bike issues in my blog.

abomb
abomb
4 months ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

If you switch out a few words in this anti helmet mandate argument it would sound like a lot of the anti vaxxers arguments for something that saves lives.

X
X
4 months ago
Reply to  abomb

Yes people get hurt riding bikes sometimes. However, nobody ever had to bring in a reefer truck for all the bodies. See the difference?

abomb
abomb
4 months ago
Reply to  X

I know and totally agree there is a difference.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Opus the Poet

I always assumed the main benefit of helmets with crash with a motor vehicle was the secondary impact of hitting your head on the ground after being struck and knocked off your bike.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

A significant percentage of that “data” represents sport/recreational cycling which makes up a large fraction of bike trips in the USA and other anglo-colonial regions. In sharp contrast, helmet use is less safe in regions where the majority of trips are utilitarian because most people who wear them are engaging in sport/recreational riding.

Although the Netherlands is probably the safest country in the world for cycling, helmet wearing among Dutch cyclists is rare. It has been estimated that only about 0.5 percent of cyclists in the Netherlands are helmeted.

However, according to Dutch Government data (Rijkswaterstaat, 2008), 13.3 percent of cyclists admitted to hospital were wearing helmets when they were injured.

https://www.cyclehelmets.org/1261.html

Perhaps the desire to legally mandate that people wear styrofoam coolers on their heads when riding to a grocery store is rooted in the perception of cycling as some sort of dangerous sport rather than as a basic means to get from point A to B.

X
X
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Yes. Of the various cyclists of all stripes that I know, the one who most often wears a helmet outside organized races is the one who had the head injury. In the shower.

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

And the helmet laws are often used as a pretext for police stops, which we all know ends in disproportionate harassment of certain socioeconomic groups.

jason walker
jason walker
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Helmet laws are crazy. What’s next, mandatory seat belts or something? And don’t get me started on the covid vax – next thing you know, they’ll be making you get a vax against small pox, measles or whopping cough. Because freedumb isn’t free.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  jason walker

Right on…why is the gubbermint forcing me wear a helment when I go for a walk???

(Freedumb isn’t free but dumb is.)

Matt
Matt
4 months ago
Reply to  Matt

Comment of the week.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago

Focus on cars, not drivers:

I guess this a “yes and”. I don’t see how the government can realistically make design changes that make a collision with the guys driving 50 in a 20 on my street survivable or blowing stop signs not happen.

If we implemented these standards today, it’d take 15+ years to get to a point where the majority of the cars on the road had them. Cities have the ability to prevent pedestrian deaths today, with the vehicles already on the road.

Instead of focusing on cars, advocates should focus on the intentionality of how dangerous road designs are. People aren’t dying on ODOT roads because ODOT didn’t realize they were going to be dangerous. People are dying on ODOT roads because freight access and allowing motorists wide-open stretches to go as fast as possible are ODOTs main priority and they will continue to choose that over what they consider expendable human lives until they are forced to change. Just look at the St. Johns Bridge. ODOT has more than enough space to build safe access for non-motorized users, and bridge capacity itself rarely causes congestion, but it’s still incredibly dangerous and uncomfortable to walk across an iconic bridge and access the thousands of acres of nature on the other side. What’s a dead cyclist or pedestrian every now and then as long as we have as much room as possible for cut through traffic from Washington I guess.

It’s not a major deal in Portland because of how built up the city is relatively, but how about not allowing drinking establishments to have parking lots? So many easy things we could do to protect people if our transportation agencies valued human life.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

If we implemented these standards today, it’d take 15+ years to get to a point where the majority of the cars on the road had them. Cities have the ability to prevent pedestrian deaths today, with the vehicles already on the road.

Instead of focusing on cars, advocates should focus on the intentionality of how dangerous road designs are.

Focusing on road design is definitely important, but fixing everything that needs fixing has a much longer time horizon than 15 years.

We probably need to do both, and also enforce existing laws against bad behavior.

PS And no, ODOT did not make their roads “intentionally dangerous”; they made a tradeoff between cost, time, safety, and other values that they felt was appropriate. With different values and in a different era than when most of our legacy infrastructure was designed, most of us (on this forum, at least) probably wish they had weighted factors differently. I’m less confident that drivers in East Portland want their streets to be narrower and slower, even if they’re safer, but I would love for PBOT to narrow mine.

Should my views about safety (which probably mirror yours) take precedence over what other people want in their neighborhood?

Damien
Damien
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

Instead of focusing on cars, advocates should focus on the intentionality of how dangerous road designs are.

I highly recommend listening to the latest episode of the War on Cars (with Jessie Singer on as a guest): https://thewaroncars.org/2022/02/15/there-are-no-accidents-with-jessie-singer/

She argues that this sentiment is exactly what the automakers want us to be focused on, in order to absolve them of any culpability or wrongdoing. That rather than focus on the actual instrument of danger and demand that the manufacturers of such change, the fixes all have to be done on the public dime – fixing our roads/etc. To put it another way, every time we focus on the streets instead of the vehicles, that’s money out of the public coffers instead of the auto industry’s.

That said, I don’t disagree that our roads need to be fixed. But I also think we could enact change even at the local level with some creative and aggressive city-level legislation, like Paris is doing with its noise radar. What if Portland simply started charging large fees for driving big, non-commercial trucks in city limits? Or triple/quadruple/10x the parking fees for these vehicles, particularly in neighborhoods where on street parking is priced (and those trucks take up at least two spaces anyway)? And when I say “what if”, I’m really asking – is there anything legally preventing the city of Portland from doing so?

Of course, political will is another question altogether. You might say any of these ideas are unlikely to see the light of day, and I wouldn’t disagree. But so goes any uphill political fight.

Damien
Damien
4 months ago
Reply to  Damien

But I also think we could encourage vehicle changes even at the local level…

Missed my edit window. Naturally, fixing roads would be a local level change…!

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Damien

She argues that this sentiment is exactly what the automakers want us to be focused on, in order to absolve them of any culpability or wrongdoing. That rather than focus on the actual instrument of danger and demand that the manufacturers of such change, the fixes all have to be done on the public dime – fixing our roads/etc. To put it another way, every time we focus on the streets instead of the vehicles, that’s money out of the public coffers instead of the auto industry’s.

I’d argue that by focusing on the cars themselves, we are doing exactly what they want. Our roads, as designed, are just massive public subsidies for auto infrastructure. They couldn’t sell their products without the public having spent the money to build the roads. By focusing on car design, we are saying that we will continue to design roads to be deadly and its their job to mitigate that through technology.

What do you think the auto companies would rather have? Mandates that force them all to adopt the same technologies and standards but otherwise our streets are business as usual or a street revolution where cities move to complete streets that exclude huge amounts of subsidized parking, have slower speeds, make walking and rolling convenient, and have public transit on them.

Damien
Damien
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I’d go back to one of your original points:

I don’t see how the government can realistically make design changes that make a collision with the guys driving 50 in a 20 on my street survivable or blowing stop signs not happen.

…and argue that said collision with a Ford F-one-five-million at 50 MPH could have very different outcomes to, say, one of those little smart cars (never minding that the latter, all other things being equal, is less likely to have that collision simply due to a smaller surface area).

In any event, we obviously need both. But policy-wise, we’re really only ever looking at streets, not the cause of harm on said streets (not in the way that increases safety for those outside of them, anyway).

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Damien

I wouldn’t hold my breath for the US government to restrict one of its largest automakers from making its best selling vehicle.

Damien
Damien
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

I wouldn’t hold my breath for the US government to restrict one of its largest automakers from making its best selling vehicle.

Considering Canada just lurched toward fascism on a phone call from the US after Canadian protests started hurting US automakers’ bottom lines, I do not disagree with your sentiment here at all.

My point above is that we don’t need federal action:

What if Portland simply started charging large fees for driving big, non-commercial trucks in city limits? Or triple/quadruple/10x the parking fees for these vehicles, particularly in neighborhoods where on street parking is priced (and those trucks take up at least two spaces anyway)? And when I say “what if”, I’m really asking – is there anything legally preventing the city of Portland from doing so?

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Damien

Considering Canada just lurched toward fascism on a phone call from the US after Canadian protests started hurting US automakers’ bottom lines, I do not disagree with your sentiment here at all.

Odd characterization of fascism. Moving people committing crimes after giving them days of warning is fascism now?

The City of Portland can’t even provide basic services to the people who live here. Watching them fall on their face trying to implement a scaled fees for parking in the city for large vehicles would be on the next level of comical failure. Like, that would make their handling of the housing crisis look professional.

Damien
Damien
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

Odd characterization of fascism. Moving people committing crimes after giving them days of warning is fascism now?

For someone who professes a political science background, this is a surprisingly shallow/uninformed take on what’s happening up there. But ultimately an aside I don’t want to get into (it was meant to illustrate a point of agreement, but you seem to like picking fights for fights’ sake).

The City of Portland can’t even provide basic services to the people who live here. Watching them fall on their face trying to implement a scaled fees for parking in the city for large vehicles would be on the next level of comical failure. Like, that would make their handling of the housing crisis look professional.

While ultimately true, the “government is too inept to do this” take isn’t useful or interesting. We could simply end every thread on BikePortland with it, including most of your own suggestions. It should go without saying that every proposition start with an unwritten “With a proper functioning government, we could/should…” because without that there is little point to posting here at all.

Anyway – I’d highly recommend “Politics is for Power” by Eitan Hersh. I think you’d derive a lot of value from it, as I have, even if I forget some of its lessons (as I’ve done here).

David S.
David S.
4 months ago

Cars are too loud: As someone who lives near a freeway onramp I am cheering as Paris has turned on their first “noise radar” tool that can identify and cite people whose cars are too loud.

Except that would require citing someone. We have a tough time doing that in Portland.

David S.
David S.
4 months ago

Emergency room physicians have also expressed concern about the law’s repeal. Dr. Steven Mitchell, medical director of the emergency department at Harborview Medical Center, said his opposition to the repeal is rooted in his daily experiences with people who’ve suffered a head injury.

Medical professionals are against the removal of the helmet law but the advocacy groups win the day because helmet laws discriminate against POC? Is this real or imagined? Seems like all brains would benefit from a helmet in case of a crash.

Nice Things
Nice Things
4 months ago
Reply to  David S.

Helmets are an impediment to biking. All brains benefit from more biking. No brains benefit from police harassment.

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
4 months ago
Reply to  Nice Things

Interesting how folks call for repealing this law or that law because of how police “harass” folks.
Why hasn’t the discussion involved teaching police to “not-harass” folks? Seems like a better more productive thing to do that just taking all the inconvienent laws off the books.

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

Good luck with that.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

I understand it is a challenge, but not trying is even worse. We can’t reasonably repeal every abusable law, unless you relish our new high-fatality transportation system and new high-shooting city. The victims of these societal shifts are highly inequitably distributed.

Fixing policing and addressing the root causes of antisocial behavior is the only way forward.

Caleb
Caleb
4 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

I have a close friend who over a decade ago went to jail. According to the police report, the probable cause that led to his arrest was him seeing a police officer drive by his house and then turning off his light. What the police report didn’t contain is that he intended to turn off the light before knowing the officer was there. Police entered his home, and because he had household plants, they detained him, searched the place, and arrested him for trace amounts of marijuana in a pipe.

After I described the body-cam footage of police killing Amir Locke, he spent some time venting about how people commonly defend police by saying not all police are corrupt, racist, murderous, etc. His venting essentially boiled down to the fact that for so long the public has been pointing out problematic policing only to find the justice system mostly covers for the problematic police, so go figure public trust will wane and make work harder for police.

So SolarEclipse, how do you recommend we train the police to stop abusing law against citizens? People have tried for a long time, and the police (not all, obviously) keep murdering and more. Maybe focusing on changing law isn’t as unproductive as you suggest. I’d suggest we could think of law as infrastructure for police behavior: much like we can craft physical infrastructure that prevents collision, we can craft law that gives no refuge to abusive police. I’d also suggest the people who pushed to abolish the helmet mandate didn’t simply see the helmet law as inconvenient, and instead put much more thought into the matter.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  Caleb

It may be impossible to design laws that are both useful and unabusable. For example, I’m not sure how you stop drunk drivers without making a wholly subjective assessment about whether their driving “looks off”. Did they swerve, or just avoid a pothole? Are they going unusually slow, or just being cautious?

And if you do pull someone over, and see a gun or a bundle of cash tucked under the passenger seat, is it unreasonable to ask about it? If the explanation sounded fishy, would it then be unreasonable to ask to look in the trunk?

We do have standards, such as “probable cause” that independent bodies can use to assess whether a particular police decision was reasonable after the fact, but, like any complex system interacting with the messiness of reality, it’s imperfect. It always will be.

I lean pretty heavily towards the civil rights end of the spectrum, and have been concerned about abuse by police for many years. But while I want the police to behave well, I also want to live in a society where the police provide protection against lawlessness. We’re currently getting just a tiny taste of what it looks like when the system breaks down, and, frankly, I don’t like it.

To answer your question (which is much broader than the question of helmet laws), I don’t know how we craft laws that both afford protection and provide no refuge for abusive behavior. It may be impossible. But I think the vast, vast majority of people want to live in a society where we can rely on the state to provide protection from predatory elements.

And the alternative to effective policing, i.e. people enforcing their conception of the law themselves, would be far, far worse.

Caleb
Caleb
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Well put, Watts. I’m a little too tired and drunk to give a substantive return, but hope to in time.

soren
soren
4 months ago
Reply to  Nice Things

Unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether brains benefit from biking in polluted cities like Portland.

[Vigorous physical activity] may exacerbate associations of [air pollution] with white matter hyperintensity lesions, and [air pollution] may attenuate the beneficial associations of physical activity with these lesions

https://n.neurology.org/content/98/4/e416

PS: Human beings are evolutionarily prone to terrible risk assessment and tend to normalize things that cause them (and their families) grave harm.

PPS: The overuse of acronyms in manuscripts is very bad form.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  David S.

It’s not about whether or helmets are better than no helmets. Dr. Steven Mitchell is looking at this from the lens of someone who treats people with TBIs. Of course his POV is going to be mandate helmets. Thats going to be his area of expertise and concern. He’s not going to consider the other health and social benefits of cycling that are lost when people don’t ride. Other people are looking at it through other lens. We know helmet laws depress the amount of people riding bikes and we know the enforcement is arbitrary, leading to what amounts to a pretextual stop mechanism for police to arbitrarily question people.

Public policy is all about balancing risk and reward. Getting more people on bikes has a greater positive benefit than having less people on bikes but they are all wearing helmets.

You’d be safer if you wear a helmet and a 5-point harness in your car. Should the government mandate that you do so? You’d be safer wearing a helmet and knee pads when you walk down the street. Should the government mandate you do so?

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

we know the enforcement is arbitrary

Do we know that? The data described in the article did not consider rates of compliance, without which it is hard to know if enforcement is in fact disproportionate.

Getting more people on bikes has a greater positive benefit than having less people on bikes but they are all wearing helmets.

I am sympathetic to this line of reasoning, but have never seen data to substantiate it. If such data exists, it would make this argument much more compelling to people who aren’t already committed to riding.

You’d be safer wearing a helmet and knee pads when you walk down the street. Should the government mandate you do so?

I’m curious if you also support repeal of seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws; if not, where do you draw the line between where individual freedom stops and collective responsibility starts?

SolarEclipse
SolarEclipse
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

where do you draw the line between where individual freedom stops and collective responsibility starts?

Sounds like many here draw the line where it becomes them who has to wear the helmet or use the safety device. Afterall just too hard to put something on ones head.
Maybe there should be a disclaimer, if a person isn’t using a helmet or seatbelt or whatever, then if they have an accident then they bear all costs associated with their medical care resulting from not using a safety device. You know, personal responsibility.
When I used to bike, I didn’t like my helmet at first, but it just became normal to wear.
My sibling has been in 3 bike accidents. A couple where he landed on his head and was greatful to have had been wearing his helmet.

Chris I
Chris I
4 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

I wear a helmet every ride, and I don’t support helmet laws. This isn’t about personal choice; it’s larger than that.

Caleb
Caleb
4 months ago
Reply to  Chris I

Thank you for saying that, Chris I. I never complained when my state mandated wearing seat belts, nor did I ever complain when skateparks required I wear a helmet, but I generally don’t wear a helmet because I don’t like their restriction of air flow and how they distract my mind.

Even so, I have always opposed laws mandating helmet use for a variety of other reasons: not everyone can afford or has access to a helmet, not all rides carry inherent massive potential for injury or death, nobody is threatening anyone else by not wearing a helmet, police can exploit helmet laws by using them as probable cause, etc.

My opposition to helmet laws has absolutely nothing to do with anything regarding personal responsibility. I can take responsibility for my actions and still oppose laws mandating helmet use for bicyclists.

At 14 I hit my face on pavement when my chain broke as I stood pedaling on my BMX (and initially got very scared thinking an oil stain was my blood). At 15 I suffered a concussion jumping off a high platform on an unfamiliar bike, and asked friends to pray for me because I thought I was dying. At 16 I went over the bars jumping a concrete skatepark hip and hit my chin on the concrete. At 20, I dropped into a quarterpipe in my “opposite” direction, turned the front wheel too far, went over the bars upon landing, and smacked my left cheek bone on the concrete floor (the only time I hit my head while wearing a helmet, and that one left me feeling sick all day). Finally, at 31, drunkenly cycling between towns on a rural highway while clipped into the pedals, I caught my front tire on a lane raised above the shoulder and hit my head…twice within a mile or two.

I accept that I’d have likely been better off wearing a helmet in some of those cases. I blame nobody but myself for my own stupidity. I accept I’ll likely die broke if I ever need to be hospitalized again. I don’t expect anybody to cover my costs. I still think laws mandating cyclists wear helmets are stupid, and would argue they are more in the service of maintaining status quo than they are in the service of safety. Please, SolarEclipese, quit assuming any particular portion of people don’t believe in being responsible for themselves.

qqq
qqq
4 months ago
Reply to  SolarEclipse

“Sounds like many here draw the line where it becomes them who has to wear the helmet or use the safety device. Afterall just too hard to put something on ones head.”

That’s a gratuitous slam at people who oppose helmet laws. Since so many who oppose helmet laws wear helmets, it’s clearly not because they think it’s too hard to put one on.

Also, it’s a bit unfair to criticize helmet law opponents because they “draw the line where it becomes them who has to wear the helmet” while simultaneously feeling fine for supporting a law that doesn’t obligate you–as someone who “used to bike”–to do anything.

It’s great your sibling feels “greatful” to have been wearing a helmet during his crashes–just as many who’ve crashed while wearing helmets also feel. But one thing almost all adult crash-surviving helmet wearers share is that they wore them even though they weren’t required.

So nothing you wrote seems like a compelling argument for requiring helmets.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Do we know that? The data described in the article did not consider rates of compliance, without which it is hard to know if enforcement is in fact disproportionate.

There is a difference between something being arbitrary and something being disproportionate. I’d guess that enforcement is arbitrary AND disproportionate, but because officers have discretion and they are the mechanism for enforcement, it is objectively arbitrary.

I am sympathetic to this line of reasoning, but have never seen data to substantiate it. If such data exists, it would make this argument much more compelling to people who aren’t already committed to riding.

There is data that supports it. Here is a nice piece on when Australia introduced a mandatory bicycle helmet law

https://theconversation.com/ditching-bike-helmets-laws-better-for-health-42

Of course, bicycling itself is pretty safe. It’s getting hit by a motorist that is dangerous

“This article seeks to answer the question whether mandatory bicycle helmet laws deliver a net societal health benefit…In jurisdictions where cycling is safe, a helmet law is likely to have a large unintended negative health impact. In jurisdictions where cycling is relatively unsafe, helmets will do little to make it safer and a helmet law, under relatively extreme assumptions, may make a small positive contribution to net societal health. The model serves to focus the mandatory bicycle helmet law debate on overall health.”

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22462680/

I’m curious if you also support repeal of seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws; if not, where do you draw the line between where individual freedom stops and collective responsibility starts?

I’m somewhat ambivalent to seatbelt and helmet laws. Some points in favor is that moto helmet laws and seatbelt laws unambiguously improve health outcomes. Cyclist dying from a one-party crash is pretty rare. Motorcyclist and motorist dying in a single-vehicle crashes is not.

My opposition to bicycle helmet laws really have nothing to do with individual freedom and more with that they create net negative health outcomes by discouraging bicycle use.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

There is a difference between something being arbitrary and something being disproportionate. I’d guess that enforcement is arbitrary AND disproportionate, but because officers have discretion and they are the mechanism for enforcement, it is objectively arbitrary.

There is also a difference between police using discretion and acting arbitrarily. Any workable system of law enforcement has to involve some degree of human judgement and discretion. Do we really need to give the guy racing to the hospital because his kid is seriously hurt a speeding ticket just to avoid “arbitrary” enforcement?

Discretion is a critical component in any just system of law and enforcement, but it does not in itself provide a guarantee against abuse or injustice.

cmh89
cmh89
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

There is also a difference between police using discretion and acting arbitrarily.

Arbitrary just means arbitrary.

Do we really need to give the guy racing to the hospital because his kid is seriously hurt a speeding ticket just to avoid “arbitrary” enforcement?

I’m not really arguing against enforcement being arbitrary, just stating that it is.

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  cmh89

Arbitrary just means arbitrary.

Well, we agree on that, at least.

X
X
4 months ago
Reply to  David S.

It’s nothing to do with POC. Where did that come from? Helmet laws give the idea that cycling is dangerous for people of any color. When will emergency room staff check in with the news that young people die in cars more than any other way?

Watts
Watts
4 months ago
Reply to  X

Compared to driving, bicycling is more dangerous:

Relative to passenger vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are 58.3, 2.3, and 1.5 times, respectively, more likely to be fatally injured on a given trip. Bus travel is the safest travel mode, followed by passenger vehicle travel.

https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/166/2/212/98784

X
X
4 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Per mile traveled, ok, whatever. The greater problem for society is the sheer number of individuals being injured or killed by the activity. We don’t have a huge number people dieing in bike crashes and the effort to pass a law is almost wasted. For teens, car crashes are a leading cause of death. Do lawmakers have any time for that?

The thing about enforcement is, police officers have many laws to enforce and only so much time. They have to choose. A law that is rarely enforced is suddenly convenient when the perpetrator is someone the officer doesn’t like. That’s where bias operates, in that zone of choice.

Orig JF
Orig JF
4 months ago
Reply to  David S.

This has nothing to do with the medical benefits of wearing a helmet. I don’t doubt that if you go around asking the average person if wearing a helmet or not is safer, the answer would be “yes, it should be.”

This is to prevent law enforcement from pulling over a person riding a bicycle and asking for ID, ask to search them (which the person has a right to say no, but when police ask, generally people adhere to the request), and issue a citation that goes on their record and can be used against them in any future potential enforcement of criminal sentencing.

qqq
qqq
4 months ago
Reply to  David S.

“Seems like all brains would benefit from a helmet in case of a crash.”

Yes, but many people ride bikes in ways that their chances of being in a crash must be infinitesimal. Even without the other problems people have mentioned (helmets discouraging cycling, police harassment, etc.) the fact that helmet laws treat all cycling the same no matter what level of danger exists is still a problem.

Caleb Lavan
Caleb Lavan
4 months ago

Mandatory Helmet Laws are bad policy because they discourage bicycle riding. One of my first economics papers, written for a cost benefit class as an undergraduate way back in 2002, was about this very topic. From memory, there was pretty good evidence from Israel and Australia in the late 1990s that mandatory helmet laws decreased bicycling and the costs of decreased bicycling (in health terms) outweighed the benefit of decreased head injuries. I am sure there is better and newer data in the last 20 years, but I doubt the basic conclusions have changed.

This is in addition to all the other problems with discriminatory enforcement and the other costs of enforcement. Helmet giveaways in schools is a far superiors policy if you want to actually help bicyclists instead of blaming them when they get injured.

TakeTheLane
TakeTheLane
4 months ago
Reply to  Caleb Lavan

Why not turn these stops into a means of providing access to free helmets to those who complain they cannot afford one? That’s what police are for, to keep people safe from harm, right?

Matt
Matt
4 months ago

I’m thinking there is more “white savior” complex going on here at BP than being actually concerned with people’s safety.