Mandatory Helmet Bill Is Gutted: Now Asks for Study

Now Damien doesn't have to burn this picture. Photo: Gary Kavanagh
Now Damien doesn’t have to burn this picture. Photo: Gary Kavanagh

The mandatory bicycle helmet bill, Senator Carol Liu’s Senate Bill 192, has been dropped—or rather amended. Instead of requiring bicyclists to wear helmets, it calls on the Office of Traffic Safety to conduct a study of bicycle helmet use.

Liu’s office released a statement, first reported by former Streetsblog San Francisco editor Bryan Goebel, explaining the decision.

The bill was amended to create a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California and evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law. Carol believes in consensus-driven policy, and there were too many conflicting opinions about helmet use. A study will provide the data needed to guide us to the next step.

This is good news, on many fronts. There is no more threat of a mandatory helmet bill, which would have had all kinds of unintended consequences for bicycling in California. The silly requirement for bicyclists to wear high-visibility gear after dusk is also gone. And a study of bicycle helmet use may actually get people to stop harping on the subject of helmetless bicyclists.

“CalBike asked her to pull the bill,” said Dave Snyder, of the California Bicycle Coalition. “I think [Senator Liu] expected more support from the bicycle community, but instead she got near unanimous opposition.”

Another possible benefit of a study of bicycle  helmet use: this could be the right time to revisit the unhelpful youth helmet law.

28 thoughts on Mandatory Helmet Bill Is Gutted: Now Asks for Study

  1. The bill was amended to create a comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California and evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law. Carol believes in consensus-driven policy, and there were too many conflicting opinions about helmet use. A study will provide the data needed to guide us to the next step. This is good news, on many fronts. There is no more threat of a mandatory helmet bill, which would have had all kinds of unintended consequences for bicycling in California. The silly requirement for bicyclists to wear high-visibility gear after dusk is also gone. And a study of bicycle helmet use may actually get people to stop harping on the subject of helmetless
    bicyclists.

  2. Adults can make up our own minds about whether we need to wear a helmet riding a bicycle. Americans value freedom of choice above absolute safety. Politicians need to find something better to do with their time than sit around trying to think of new ways to restrict our freedoms.

  3. If your going 70 km on a road bike I highly recommend a helmet but you cant force it on people.
    the Lines on the Road can be your friend, cars avoid them like the plague.

  4. No, no it didn’t. If your helmet saved your life, you would be incapable of typing a complete sentence. It is more than possible to ride a bicycle unhurt, even without a foam hat. I don’t know what the current tally is, but as of last summer not a single person had died on a bike-share bike (no helmets required) after 23 million rides. 0 deaths in 23 million.

    That seems like the opposite of what so many feared: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/12/us-usa-transportation-bikes-idUSKBN0GC10T20140812

  5. Or it could be that parents increasingly understand the risks riding a bike poses for their children, just like they’re beginning to understand the risks of playing football.

  6. Nothing wrong with helmets, for both kids and adults. It’s making it mandatory that’s the problem. The included link discusses data showing the number of kids riding bikes fell after the law went into effect–and thus the falling number of traumatic brain injuries could be due to fewer kids on bikes, rather than helmets saving noggins.

  7. Interesting to note that the writer did a rewrite on the original version, changing “silly youth helmet law” to “unhelpful youth helmet law.”

    In fact wearing a helmet while cycling is a good idea. What bike advocates hate is that this suggests accurately that riding a bike can be dangerous. Apparently even the well-being of their children must be sacrificed for the cause.

    The American Association of Neurological Surgeons has a different view:
    http://www.aans.org/Patient%20Information/Conditions%20and%20Treatments/Sports-Related%20Head%20Injury.aspx

  8. I hope that any study of bicycle helmet use takes into account different riding styles, mainly “normal” up right riding styles vs. that bent over the bars racing style that is actually more common these days. You wouldn’t compare normal motorists to race car drivers would you?

  9. “And a study of bicycle helmet use may actually get people to stop harping on the subject of helmetless bicyclists.”

    Only if it is done properly. So many studies don’t look at real world data, but rather use lab conditions. This is why we have the claim that helmets reduce the risk of injury by 63%-88%, yet real world data does not come anywhere near this. The real world numbers are an order of magnitude lower.

  10. The bill needs to be amended again, to “evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law”… for people in cars.

    Mandatory helmet use for car occupants will save lots of lives!!

  11. When I was a kid, I never used a helmet… never got hospitalized because of riding a bike. However, I’ve had my face saved by a helmet when I landed on my side on Santa Monica Blvd one night. I’ve decided to wear high-vis nylon jackets at night for my commute. I have worked out my lighting system, my type of bike, my use of streets to and from work… which has worked for me. I agree that cyclists should not be forced to protect their skulls (mandatory helmets would skyrocket in price), not be forced to wear hi-vis clothing (again skyrocketing prices) and not be forced to use lights at night (again… blah blah) …. it all keeps emergency workers, doctors and lawyers employed. You’re on the street… you’re not alone… other people on the street have at least 2,000 pounds of metal around them. Think… What steps should you take to get home safely? It’s up to you.

  12. I would love to see updated bicycle helmet safety standards, which haven’t changed since they were first established in the 1970s. Most bicycle helmets provide no protection against concussions. With all that we’ve learned in the past 40 years about head injuries, why can’t we design better and more effective bicycle helmets?

  13. Good news. Though it’s still really annoying this senator is fixated on the helmet thing. Why doesn’t she ask for a bill which mandates a study on how many driver’s drive while on their phone? Or how many break the 3-foot law and buzz cyclists? Or how many dangerous roads there are which are designated as bicycle routes?

    If this women really cared about making our streets safer for bicyclists, these are the studies in which she would be interested, not the damn helmet thing.

  14. Glad Senator Liu saw the light. This would have been a big set-back for bicycling in CA.

    PS: Can’t stand this new commenting system. What was wrong with the old one?

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