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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mandatory helmets in Salt Lake City?

Image of naked female bicyclist, covering breasts with a pair of bike helmetsFrom the Salt Lake Tribune 01.21.07:

Rocky tells bikers: Get your helmet on

Hoping to make Salt Lake City streets safer for two-wheel commuters, Mayor Rocky Anderson is proposing a mandatory helmet law.

But bicyclists--even ones who faithfully snap on their headgear--are fighting the proposal. They say it would impinge on their personal freedom, give the impression that cycling is unsafe and could deter bikers from commuting. They would rather the city spend time preventing collisions instead of blaming the victim.

"Wouldn't it make more sense to reduce the rate of accidents than to mitigate their damage through helmets?" wonders Rob MacLeod, a member of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Board (MBAC) who wears a helmet as a regular cycle commuter. "Helmets are an easy fix."

"We'd rather see the environment change, rather than just a helmet law," (Lou) Melini (chair of MBAC) said. "In Europe, the environment is more pleasant. Bicycling is an accepted form of traffic. Here, the environment we consider a little more hostile. The attitude is we shouldn't be on the road." (Read more.)
If you have the opportunity to travel to Europe or Japan, you will observe a very different street environment. Motorists have far less sense of entitlement, and bicyclists don't wear helmets. That's not a coincidence.

Government policy in the U.S. for much of the past century heavily privileged motorists, while neglecting the needs of other road users such as transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Predictably, American motorists feel a great sense of entitlement regarding public streets; they resent any intrusion into their "exclusive" sphere by bicyclists and others.

Some cities, such as San Francisco, Chicago, or New York, have made great strides recently in enhancing the streetscape to encourage bicycling. These strides have included traffic calming, bike lanes, bike paths, bike route networks, signage, "sharrows", and other types of "Complete Streets" measures.

And other cities offer mere lip service for safer bicycling. In Salt Lake City, Mayor Rocky Anderson is proposing mandatory helmets for bicyclists, for their "own good" of course. Helmets don't prevent collisions; helmets don't overcome poor bicycling skills; helmets don't improve motorist behavior; helmets don't encourage greater tolerance between drivers and bicyclists.

Bicyclists are safer when streets are safer. Streets become safer through better design.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

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