The battle between lawmakers and bicyclists about what is safe for adult bicyclists is one that has been ongoing and doesn’t seem to have an end in sight. The battle now has a footing in the California Senate thanks to a bill introduced by California State Senator Carol Liu. She has introduced a bill that would require adults on bicycles to wear a helmet or face a fine.
Opponents of Senate Bill 192 say that requirement makes bicycling seem unsafe. The executive director of California Bicycle Coalition says that the best way to increase the safety of bicycling is to give bicyclists a safe place to ride their bikes. He noted that adding bike lanes that are separated by bollards or curbs from the car lanes or reducing the speed of cars can help.
The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition policy director says that mandatory helmet laws effectively tell people that they should bike for health, but only if they wear a helmet because biking is actually dangerous. Other leaders in the cycling community say that helmets should be a personal choice for adults so they can wear them if it makes them feel safer.
Research doesn’t paint a clear picture about the effectiveness of bicycle helmet laws. A British study says that people wearing helmets are actually more likely to get hit by a car. A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics says that death and injury rates for children was lower in states with helmet laws. Another study, which was published in BMJ, says that a correlation between helmet laws and a reduction in head injuries wasn’t evident. That study also noted that helmet laws may discourage people from bicycling.
If Senate Bill 192 passes, adult bicyclists who aren’t wearing a helmet would be subject to a $25 fine. Of that, around 25 percent would go to the issuing city’s general fund and the rest would go to cycling education courses and programs to help low income families obtain helmets for bicycling children.
For bicyclists, having to ride alongside cars can be a dangerous event. If a bicyclist is struck by a car, serious injuries can occur. Those injuries can lead to lost wages and mounting medical bills, so the victims might opt to pursue compensation to reduce the effect of those financial difficulties.
Source: Los Angeles Times, “Legislator sees safety in adult helmet law; cyclists see mostly harm” Laura J. Nelson, Mar. 09, 2015