Posts Tagged ‘advocacy’
Come learn about the much-anticipated cycletrack on M Street NW at our “Walk the Tracks” event next Mon., May 6 at 6:30 p.m. WABA staff, members, and supporters will walk the length of project, starting at Thomas Circle, and discuss the proposed bike lane. Staff from DDOT and the Golden Triangle and Downtown BIDs will be present. This event is a chance to have your questions answered about the project, its design, and the timeline for its construction.
The proposed one-way westbound cycletrack will extend from Thomas Circle at 14th Street NW to 28th Street NW in Georgetown. The cycletrack will be 1.3 miles in length. Last fall, DDOT constructed a one-way eastbound cycletrack on L Street NW. When complete, the L Street and M Street cycletracks will be parallel routes that establish a major east-west crosstown corridor for bikes—and add to the growing network of physically separated Green Lane Projects in our city.
The event will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Capital Bikeshare station on the west side of Thomas Circle. We will walk 1.3 miles west along M Street NW, ending in Georgetown. After the walk, those interested in enjoying a cold drink can do so at a local Georgetown business. If you are planning on attending our “Walk the Tracks” event, please RSVP here.
In the Maryland General Assembly, our efforts to promote and defend the interests of bicyclists were reasonably successful this year—especially compared to how things might have turned out. There were no major advances specifically for cycling this year. But WABA and its members and supporters helped stop a bill that would have been very harmful to bicycling. We also helped a coalition of transportation groups to persuade the legislature to increase funding for transportation for the first time in 21 years.
Here is a rundown of the legislation that we followed this year in Maryland.
Bikes on sidewalks
The Maryland code prohibits bicycling on sidewalks, unless the locality enacts a law to legalize it. Delegate Aruna Miller (D-Montgomery) has introduced a bill the last two years to reverse the presumption, so that bicycling on sidewalks would be legal unless the locality prohibits it. Before the legislative session started, we notified Delegate Miller that WABA would not take a position on such a bill this year. Local legislation legalizing sidewalk riding has already been enacted by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, so it was unclear whether this bill would have much of an impact in the Washington area other than in a few municipalities. We doubted that we would be able to devote time and energy to this bill. HB 160 attracted little attention, and received an unfavorable report from the House Environmental Matters Committee.
Mandatory helmet law
Delegate Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), who chairs the Environmental Matters Committee, introduced HB 339, which would have required adults to wear helmets when bicycling on any highway, including trails. As soon as the bill was introduced, WABA immediately went into high-gear to do all we could to stop it. Hundreds of our members and supporters sent emails to delegates on the committee asking them to oppose the bill. But it appeared to be an uphill battle because about half the committee had sponsored it.
As Shane Farthing and Greg Billing explained, mandatory helmet laws could undermine the success of a bikesharing system in the Maryland suburbs. It would also force people to choose between breaking the law and not bicycling on occasion, when wearing a helmet is not feasible. Some advocates are also concerned that the effectiveness of helmets has often been overstated on government web sites.
WABA has long been one of the strongest advocates of helmet use in the mid-Atlantic region. We require helmets on all rides. We have long facilitated the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (although it raises its own finds). During the 1990s, we strongly advocated a mandatory helmet law for children under the age of 16, which was eventually enacted. But it is not always a good idea to pass a law that requires adults to do things for their own good. We did not support a law requiring all adults to ride a bike either.
We were fortunate that Delegate McIntosh is an avid cyclist and genuinely supports cycling, while disagreeing with us on the question of a mandatory helmet law. She heard the passion with which bicycle advocates from both Baltimore and the Washington area opposed her legislation (Bike Maryland took no position). Although our logic did not persuade her on the helmet issue, as a good politician she concluded that she would rather work with us on matters where we agree than against us on the helmet bill. In late February, McIntosh decided not to push the helmet bill further this year so that we could work to increase funding for the state’s cycling infrastructure.
Because Maryland has not raised the gas tax since 1992, the funds available for new transportation infrastructure have been dwindling. Last year, Governor Martin O’Malley proposed to extend the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline, but neither chamber passed the bill.
It was important to increase the funds for transportation this year, because otherwise, federal funding for the Purple Line would be unlikely. Yet prospects did not look good during the first two months of the legislative session. Then, Virginia increased its sales tax to fund transportation near the end of its 60-day session. Shortly thereafter, Maryland’s governor, speaker, and senate preesident announced a plan to increase the gas tax by an amount equal to roughly 1 percent of the retail price of gasoline for each of the next three years.
With the helmet bill behind us, we strongly supported House Bill 1515. Hundreds of our members and supporters wrote their legislators to indicate their willingness to pay higher taxes to increase funding for transportation. The bill passed. As a result, the state will be able to proceed with its Capital Transportation Plan, which allocates about 7 percent of the funding to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Like the District of Columbia and many other states, Maryland generally requires drivers to leave at least three feet of clearance when overtaking a bicyclist. But the Maryland law has several confusing exceptions, including one for narrow highways. No one knows whether that exception includes standard highway lanes in no-passing zones, or only genuinely narrow highways such as one-lane bridges. Bike Maryland championed House Bill 445, which would have removed that exception. Although we endorsed the bill, our focus on the helmet bill made it impractical for us to do anything more than lend out name to their efforts, and the bill received an unfavorable report from the Environmental Matters Subcommittee.
The Maryland Court of Appeals is considering a case that could, if successful, repeal the doctrine of contributory negligence. Maryland is one of only five states that retains this legal doctrine, under which a plaintiff who is even minimally at fault cannot successfully sue to recover damages caused by someone else’s negligence. This doctrine is very unfair to cyclists, who may lose the ability to pay for significant medical bills or the loss of earnings after a severe accident.
Last fall, the Maryland Court of Appeals heard oral arguments on whether to replace the doctrine of contributory negligence with comparative fault in the case of Coleman v. Soccer Association of Columbia. The case involves a volunteer soccer coach who smoked pot before practice, tried to swing on a portable goal, and fell on his face. He sued for damages from the soccer league for failing to warn him about this hazard, but the jury found that he was contributorily negligent, so he could not recover damages.
If any such bill has a significant chance of passing, we will work to include an exception for bicyclists who collide with motor-vehicle drivers.
Jim Titus is a member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Prince George’s County.
On April 9, DDOT’s Transportation Plan Advisory Committee held its second meeting on the District’s Multimodal Long Range Transportation Plan, called Move DC, following the first round of workshops held earlier this spring. The April 9 meeting built on opinions gathered from those workshops and thanks to WABA members’ particpation, bikes and pedestrians were well represented. “Bikes and Peds Everywhere” was at the top of the list as the most in-demand form of transportation, followed by Metrorail, more local transit, car capacity, and fast transit.
In this meeting, TPAC introduced a building block exercise as a tool to encourage dialogue about planning for the city’s transportation future. It works like a sliding tile puzzle of four blocks, where one block is given for day to day management and commitments, and you fill in the three remaining squares as a “choose your own transportation planning adventure.” Options included different modes of transportation as well as allocation of funds for things like “smarter systems” or “low-cost transit.”
Members of the public and TPAC split into groups to collaboratively build a vision of D.C.’s transportation future. What emerged is informative about attitudes towards transportation in the city and where bikes will fit in. There was restrained but passionate debate of cars versus bikes, agreement on the importance of low-cost public transit, and a general consensus for more local transit. No one wanted to take bikes off the chart, and the most widely supported initiative connected to cars was parking management (how to manage parking management is its own issue). Metro had few defenders; attendees were indifferent to taking it off the board when forced to make fast changes.
For both the TPAC group and the public, the top three agreed-upon priorities were “bikes and pedestrians everywhere,” “more local transit,” and “parking management and expansion.”
What wasn’t chosen is also illustrative—”accelerated good repair,” “sustainability and beauty,” and “fast transit.” Either most people feel these could be incorporated into other systems, or have given up on expecting them all together. More abstract concepts like “smarter systems” and connecting the grid didn’t win fans, either.
The final Move DC plan must address regional transit issues, like the 420,454 vehicle commuters coming into the District each day and the 100,000 people expected to move to the area in the next five years. Necessarily, the plan has to focus on how to get commuters out of their cars and onto other forms of transportation.
DDOT is still soliciting feedback during this initial phase, including the building block exercise. I encourage you to give your feedback and support bicycling if you have not already done so. The public input will help shape the alternatives that are developed going forward. DDOT will continue to accept input on this phase until Mon., April 22nd.
The next round of public Move DC workshops will be in early June. Sign up on the official moveDC list to stay in the loop. Please also sign up for the WABA Advocacy Hub email list for notifications on upcoming Move DC actions and other advocacy alerts.
This guest post is written by Christine Driscoll, an associate at Green Strategies and resident of Adams Morgan. She rides a blue Schwinn traveler and the T Street bike lane is her favorite.
In January, we reported that construction had stalled on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail bridge over the CSX tracks on the east side of the river. It appears construction activity has restarted at the bridge site with DDOT posting photos on their Facebook page of a large crane posting the bridge’s main span.
We took a field trip to the site and snapped the photo above to see the progress ourselves. The bridge’s main span is now in place. Final work will include the bridge decking and finishing the approach ramps. Take a minute and read the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative’s update on their project website explaining the progress, which says that a spring opening of the bridge is expected.
We want to thank DDOT for making the completion of this bridge a priority.
Maryland residents capable of getting to the University of Baltimore tomorrow evening should plan to attend a meeting about the state’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan update. The plan hasn’t been updated since 1992, and it’s critical that Maryland cyclists contribute their input on what can help make the state a better place to ride a bike.
Details on the meeting are below. For some background information, listen to this podcast from WYPR.
On Thursday, March 21 5:00 p.m. please join the Maryland Department of Transportation for a public meeting about the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan update. This meeting will provide information about recent progress, current conditions, and discussion of goals and key needs.
You may also join the meeting remotely via an online meeting and/or call-in phone number. Details, instructions and a link to the online meeting are available at: www.mdot.maryland.gov/
What: Public Meeting regarding the Maryland Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Update
Date: Thursday, March 21, 2012
Location: University of Baltimore, 11 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore; room 001 and 003 of the William H. Thumel Sr. Business Center (Building 9 on the campus map)
Time: 5-8 p.m., presentation to begin at 5:30 p.m.
Current conditions for biking and walking
Progress since 2002 Plan
Input on draft goals and objectives
Input on key priorities for supporting biking and walking
The meeting location is one block south of Penn Station. Street parking is available and a parking garage is located one block west at 131 W. Mount Royal Ave. Limited bike parking is available in front of the building and additional bike racks are located across Mount Royal Ave at Gordon Plaza.
Please visit www.mdot.maryland.gov/
Thank you for your participation!
Image via TBD via MUTCD
On Mon., March 25, the D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold a public hearing on pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and safety. The committee will also hear public testimony on the proposed Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 (read the full text of B20-0140). The proposed legislation would amend and update sections of the D.C. municipal regulations as they relate to bicycling in the District of Columbia.
If passed, the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013 would make the following updated or amendments:
- Bicyclists’ use of leading pedestrian intervals: Bicyclists could get the same head start as pedestrians at signalized intersections where pedestrians are given few extra seconds to start crossing a street. Allowing pedestrians and bicyclists the opportunity to get into the intersection before cars make them more visible to drivers.
- Bicycle and pedestrian detours: The mayor would be allowed to require permits obtained from the District Department of Transportation for projects that block sidewalks, bike lanes, or other pedestrian or bicycle paths to provide safe accommodatiosn for pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Aligns bicyclists crash infractions with similar pedestrian one: The bill adds penalties “failure to yield” and “colliding with a bicyclist” infractions, similar to current pedestrian infractions. The penalty for “failing to yield” to the bicyclist would be three points points and a fine of $250. “Colliding with a person riding a bicycle” would be six points and a fine of $500.
- Ability to make an audible noise: The bill modifies the law that requires all bicycles to be equipped with a bell, instead requiring all bicycle riders to “be capable of making a warning noise either with a bell or mechanical device, or with his or her voice, audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet.” It also removes a section prohibiting bicyclists from a making a noise within the established quiet zones (Title 18 Section 1204.7)
Please sign up to testify in support of the Bicycle Safety Amendment Act of 2013. The outlined changes represent a series of minor but important changes to make bicycling safer and easier in the District of Columbia. As this bill moves forward, you can track the status of it through the DC Council’s online legislation tool. Thanks to Councilmembers Mary Cheh and Tommy Wells for their leadership in making DC a world class bicycle city.
Date: Mon., March 25, 2013
Time: 11 a.m.
Room 500, John A. Wilson Building
1350 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W. Washington, D.C. 20004
Hearing announcement and details
- Sign up to testify.
- Show up at least 20 minutes before the hearing starts.
- You will be required to pass through security. Bring a state-issued ID.
- Bring at least 8 copies of your written testimony to submit for the record.
- You will be given three (and only three) minutes to testify. You don’t have to use all of the time! Make your point and be brief.
- Your written testimony and supporting documents can be longer than your testimony, so feel free to get into details in writing.
- The committee chair will bring up a panel of 3-4 people to testify in a row. You will all give your testimony and then stay at the table for questions.
- Be sure to thank the committee chair and any present councilmembers.
Photo by Flickr user thisisbossi
On Monday, Councilmember Mary Cheh and the Committee on Transportation and the Environment held an oversight hearing on DDOT’s performance. This is the agency’s “annual review,” at which the public can comment.
WABA commented, laying out hard truths about the state of D.C.’s trails and the need for improvements. Our testimony specifically addressed the completion of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the widening and repaving of the Rock Creek Trail, and the opening of the eastern railroad bridge on the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.
That said, we don’t want the good work DDOT has done in implementing bike infrastructure to go unnoticed. And as some residents testify or otherwise speak against the L Street cycletrack, we want our lawmakers to know that we appreciate protected cycletracks—so much so that we want the M Street cycletrack to be completed this spring, not delayed or postponed.
It is important to ensure that our elected officials know how much we, as bicyclists, appreciate separated facilities. Too often, the loudest voices can be opponents and complainers. Facilities can always be improved, but DDOT’s work to make the city safer for bicyclists should continue. Installation of the M Street cycletrack should remain a priority.
During the oversight hearing for the Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and the District Department of Transportation on Mon., March 4, WABA Executive Director Shane Farthing testified on the importance of installing the M Street cycletrack and identifying and prioritizing a cycletrack project to follow M Street, as well as the necessity of completing trail projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail.
Read Shane’s testimony below.
On Tuesday night—despite the incessant, chilly rain—about seventy WABA members filled up the Eaton Room of All Souls Church to hear about the state of our organization. The annual meeting allows us to summarize what we’ve been working on, provides a forum for members to ask questions, and also serves as the election for WABA’s board of directors.
If you weren’t able to follow along on Twitter last night, here are some of the things we highlighted; below the jump, you can view the slideshow we presented:
- Our outreach has expanded to four specific programs this year: the bike ambassador program, suburban outreach, east of the river (now in its third year), and Women & Bicycles.
- Membership in general has increased.
- We’ve launched a business membership program.
- D.C. has become the fourth best bike city in the country; your membership supports our advocacy, which contributes to D.C.’s high ranking.
- We’ll be shifting our advocacy focus from bike lanes and sharrows in general to protected, Green Lane Project-style dedicated infrastructure specifically.
- For the first time since WABA’s inception in 1972, we have a full-time advocacy staffer that’s not the executive director.
- We’ve had a success rate of 75 percent in our adult learn-to-ride classes. We also offer confident city cycling classes and have in-school clinics for kids.
There were no objections to the nominated board members, and all were elected unanimously. Mark Blackell, Eric Fingerhut, and Philip Lyon were re-elected, and Bo Pham, Scott Barash, and Keya Chatterjee were elected to fill three vacated seats. Bios of all six are below the jump.
Many thanks to our members for coming out in last night’s horrible weather. We were thrilled to share what we’re working on and even more thrilled to see you pack the room. WABA is a member-based organization, and we couldn’t do our work without you. You’re our eyes and ears in our community, so continue to keep us informed of the changes you’d like to see.
Below the jump, board member bios and the meeting’s slideshow:
On Tuesday morning, the Environmental Matters Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates will hold a hearing on House Bill 339 to require that every person operating a bicycle in Maryland wear a helmet. This bill is bad policy.
Mandatory helmet laws cause fewer people to bicycle, and when fewer people bicycle, cycling becomes less safe. So much less safe, in fact, that decreased ridership increases the individual cyclist’s risk of injury more than wearing a helmet decreases risk of injury.
This does not mean that bicyclists should not wear helmets. We encourage bicyclists to wear helmets. However, there are several reasons why people who are deeply committed to bicyclist safety oppose mandatory helmet laws.
Mandatory helmet laws decrease ridership
Numerous studies of places that have enacted helmet laws have shown this to be true. The most commonly-cited study—Dorothy Robinson’s “No Clear Evidence from Countries that have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets”—examined data from New Zealand, from Nova Scotia, Canada, and from several states in Australia. In each place, the mandatory helmet law significantly decreased ridership, from 20% to 44% with an average of 37.5%.
(One can debate whether Maryland can expect a decrease of this magnitude. There is no local data available, so this analysis uses the average of 37.5%. But even if the decrease is only 20%, the lowest Robinson observed, even half of that, the result is the same.)
Lower ridership makes bicycling less safe.
We are defining “safety” as the likelihood of a bike-auto crash. By saying that decreased ridership makes bicycling less safe, we mean that a decreased rate of bicycling within a population is correlated with increased crash rates, and vice versa.
The leading article on this topic—Peter Jacobsen’s “Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling“—reviews data on biking, walking, and injury rates in 68 California cities, 47 Danish towns, 14 European countries, and the United Kingdom.
Across the independent sets of data from these many jurisdictions, Jacobsen finds a consistent, inverse, curvilinear relationship between bicycling and injury rates, determining that “the total number of pedestrians or bicyclists struck by motorists varies with the 0.4 power of the amount of walking or bicycling respectively.” Expressed simply, more people biking leads to fewer per capita crashes while fewer people biking leads to more per capita crashes.
Jacobsen also derives a formula for how this affects the individual cyclist: “Taking into account the amount of walking and bicycling, the probability that a motorist will strike an individual person walking or bicycling declines with roughly -0.6 power of the number of persons walking or bicycling.” In other words, as more people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist of a crash decreases; if fewer people bicycle, the per capita risk to each bicyclist increases.
Helmets do not make cyclists as safer as commonly thought
For the individual, of course, the story is different. Wearing a helmet is likely safer than not wearing one. This is true for bicyclists; it is also true for people who are skydiving, rock climbing, sitting under an oak tree, or taking a bath. Individually, we make our decisions based on our own risk tolerances and values, and many of us choose to wear helmets and encourage our loved ones to do so.
But at the broader level, where we ought to analyze legislation and public policy, how much safer will a helmet make a person in a bike crash that leads to a head impact? This is a topic of debate and uncertainty, but as research methods improve we move further from some of the magical thinking that took hold due to early estimates—derived from emergency room data rather than population data—that suggested helmet effectiveness rates of 85% and above.
Generally, those estimates came from retrospective studies that looked at people with head injuries in emergency rooms and compared the numbers who lived and died, and whether they were wearing helmets when they were hit. When more recent studies have attempted to compile these data into meta-analyses with more informative sample sizes, their results do not approach the long-accepted 85% level. Some show a smaller effect; others, none at all. In fact, in population-level studies focusing on hospitalization rather than emergency room visits, helmets have no discernible, statistically significant effect on hospitalization rates. (Jacobsen 2012)
Recent studies that have focused on overall health, rather than simply crash mortality rates, have shown that the individual and public health benefits grossly outweigh the costs, by a factor of 20:1. (De Jong 2012)
The mandatory helmet law in Maryland will increase danger for Maryland cyclists
Assuming that the helmet law will decrease cycling by the 37.5% average in Maryland, the total Maryland cycling population, post helmet law, would shrink to only 62.5% of the current cycling population. Assuming also that Jacobsen’s safety-in-numbers effect holds true in Maryland—as it has consistently throughout California and across Europe—the number of motorists colliding with people bicycling will increase by roughly 17.1% per capita (1-0.6250.4=0.171)
For the individual, these assumptions mean that the likelihood of injury from a crash with a motor vehicle would increase by roughly 33% (0.625-0.6=1.326)—regardless of whether the individual wears a helmet. The increased risk comes solely because mandatory helmet laws take people off bicycles, and fewer people on bicycles makes the remaining bicyclists less safe. Substantially.
Maryland does not keep much data on bicycling, but one piece of data that we do have is that in 2010, there were 734 reported bicycle crashes in Maryland. Looking only at this data—and assuming ridership decreases by 37.5% from the helmet law in Maryland—we might expect only 459 crashes instead of 734.
However, this expectation is wrong. Due to the decreasing “safety in numbers,” we would instead expect to see 537 crashes, or 78 additional crashes directly attributable to the mandatory helmet law. So even though the total number of crashes might decrease, that is not because the law has made cyclists safer; it is because substantially fewer people are riding bikes, and those that still ride are measurably less safe, because of the law.
Discouraging cycling runs counter to Maryland’s other priorities
The state of Maryland has launched, or is poised to launch, two programs dedicated to encouraging cycling. The mandatory helmet law would undermine the success and safety of both.
First, knowing the overall benefits of biking to public health and well-being, transportation, economic development, and other public priorities, the state of Maryland initiated a campaign to get more people riding bikes. Maryland’s Department of Transportation introduces the campaign on their website with:
Governor O’Malley’s Cycle Maryland initiative is an effort to encourage more Marylanders to get out and ride, and to make bicycling a true transportation alternative. Cycling is a great way to connect to your community, support a cleaner environment, encourage a healthier lifestyle, reduce household transportation costs and enjoy Maryland’s magnificent landscape.
With the mandatory helmet law reducing ridership, Maryland will be left with more people to figure out how to move, and will have to treat more people for health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles.
Second, Maryland has contributed funds to expand the popular and successful Capital Bikeshare program to Montgomery County. Due to the nature of bikesharing, users are less likely to wear helmets, more likely to be casual rather than experienced users, and more likely to be operating in urban environments with motor vehicles. So perhaps the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet bill mean to ensure the safety of those riders, before bikesharing arrives in the state?
However, again, consider the data: Capital Bikeshare users have logged over 3.4 million trips, with an approximately 38% lower helmet usage rate than the general population. (Kraemer 2012) There have been zero fatalities and only one head injury. That is roughly one crash for every 88,000 miles ridden! Yet by driving potential cyclists away, a mandatory helmet policy would undermine the likelihood of success of the program in Montgomery County, Baltimore, and other areas statewide.
That safety record speaks for itself and shows that biking is not an inherently dangerous activity. Mandatory bicycle helmet laws falsely portray it as such, and in doing so create a false sense of danger that limits ridership and undermines the many positive impacts of mass cycling for Maryland.
“Contributory negligence” makes the law especially harmful
And finally, some believe that this law is acceptable and benevolent and will not have these impacts because there is no fine for violation. But this law has other, even more dire consequences for violators.
Maryland, like the District and Virginia, is a “contributory negligence” jurisdiction. That means if the victim of a crash contributed in any way to her own injury, she can claim no civil recovery for her damages. In Maryland, violation of a law is negligence per se.
Thus, it is possible that a cyclist who rides the bus to work on a rainy morning but chooses to take a bikeshare bike home when the weather clears, and suffers permanent brain injury when a drunk driver veers into a bike lane and strikes her, could be denied any civil recovery as a result of not wearing a helmet.
Is this the transportation future we want in Maryland? Is this the sort of public policy we hope to encourage?
In Maryland, we can anticipate a mandatory helmet law to reduce bicycle ridership by 37.5% (along with its accompanying public health, environmental, and economic benefits), per capita crashes to increase by 17%, and the per capita risk of a crash to increase by 33% for every person riding a bike in the state of Maryland, regardless of whether he or she wears a helmet.
In a broader sense, these laws are a form of victim blaming—telling bicyclists that it is our responsibility to avoid the risk of injury by padding ourselves, rather than the state’s to design a transportation network capable of moving non-motorists with a decent level of safety and efficiency.
WABA opposes a mandatory helmet law in Maryland because it is bad policy based on accepted, tested, and peer-reviewed data—not just some libertarian philosophy or desire of cyclists to “feel the wind in our hair.”
Fundamentally, we do believe that the legislators proposing this mandatory helmet law hope to do what is best for bicyclist safety, but they have significantly erred in determining what will, in fact, be best. They have the power to impose new risks on each of us who rides a bike, even when we wear helmets. We hope they will consider this information seriously and decide that a mandatory helmet law is a bad policy for the state of Maryland.
If you’d like to voice your opposition to Maryland’s House Bill 399, you can do so here.
De Jong, Piet. 2012. The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws. Risk Analysis. 5 (32): 782-790.
Jacobsen, Peter L. 2003. Safety in Numbers: More Walkers and Bicyclists, Safer Walking and Bicycling. Injury Prevention 9 (3): 205-209.
Jacobsen, Peter L. and Harry Rutter. “Cycling Safety” City Cycling. Ed. John Pucher, Ed. Ralph Buehler. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2012. 141-156.
Kraemer, John D., Jason S. Roffenbender, and Laura Anderko. 2012. Helmet Wearing Among Users of a Public Bicycle-Sharing Program in the District of Columbia and Comparable Riders on Personal Bicycles. American Journal of Public Health 102 (8): e23-e25.
Robinson, Dorothy L. 1996. No Clear Evidence from Countries that Have Enforced the Wearing of Helmets. British Medical Journal 332 (7543): 722-725.
Photo by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious on Flickr