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Easy and Cheap

July 2, 2012

Reflecting on the recent debate over mandatory helmet laws, blogger Elly Blue has this to say:

One thing that is certain is that all-ages mandatory helmet laws do more harm than good, reducing the amount of cycling and therefore its safety in any given place. [Bicycle advocate Koula] Redmond compared helmets with sharrows—an easy, cheap, way for advocates and politicians to act, even if the effect is more symbolic than useful or safe.

I think that’s being too polite, as if mandatory helmet laws and street markings such as sharrows are merely the result of sincere but misguided advocates and pro-bicycle politicians too timid to call for protected infrastructure.  In the case of sharrows, a determined group of Brooklynites vowed to continue fighting for full protection after settling for sharrows as a compromise with avid motorists on the community board.  And when it comes to mandatory helmet laws, no advocate or politician would seriously support them from a best-we-can-get-for-now point of view.

On the contrary, almost all of the pro-helmet-law rhetoric here in New York has come two men: David Greenfield, who never met a piece of pavement he didn’t want to turn into a parking space, and John Liu, a politician with zero prior history with pro-bicycle policies.  Neither of them proposed a helmet law because it’s the “easy, cheap way” to protect cyclists.  They did it because it’s an “easy, cheap way” to keep those darn bicycles off of city streets.

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