California wants all bicyclists to wear helmets and reflective gear

© April Streeter

Ten years ago, the nephew of California Senator, Carol Liu, died in a bicycle collision. In the crash, a drunk driver killed her relative and left the nephew's fiancé paralyzed.

That is part of what led Liu to create California Senate Bill 192, which would order all cyclists to wear a bicycle helmet or pay a $25 fine. The bill, which likely won't pass according to this commentator, would also require the same cyclists to wear nighttime reflective gear to be better seen by car drivers.

Here's the main stipulation from the bill:

This bill would require every person, regardless of age, to wear a
bicycle helmet when operating a bicycle, riding on a bicycle as a
passenger, or riding in a trailer towed by a bicycle. The bill would
also require a person engaged in these activities in the darkness to
wear retroreflective high-visibility safety apparel, as specified.

Many say bicycle helmet laws are just common sense written into legislation. Yet making people wear helmets does nothing to fix the road designs that lead to dangerous conditions for cyclists (and pedestrians, and for that matter, drivers and car occupants).

California-wants-all-bicyclists-to-wear-helmets-and-reflective-gea© April Streeter

In addition, a mandatory helmet law could hinder people who most need access to the low-cost transportation that a bicycle provides.

A review of the scientific studies seems to show that wearing a helmet reduces the risk of head injuries when a person is involved in a collision.

But other studies also show that helmeted cyclists can make drivers more aggressive, which in turn can cause more collisions.

And overall, the British Journal of Medicine has concluded that helmet laws reduce the number of people biking. Which is a shame because we all know the many benefits of bicycling.

And then, there's the safety in numbers phenomenon, which has shown that more cyclists on the the road = fewer collisions.

For all of these reasons, the California Bicycle Coalition opposes the proposed legislation. If passed, the helmet law would be the first in the U.S. requiring mandatory helmets for adults on bicycles.

California wants all bicyclists to wear helmets and reflective gear
Ok, we'll wade into the helmet hullabaloo once more, but here's the truth: helmets are smart, but helmet laws, not so much.

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