Westchester is a suburban county immediately north of New York City. My own abode lies less than two (2) American Freedom Miles from the Bronx/Westchester border, and owing to is proximity it is the county in which I churn out the bulk of my cycling leisure miles. So I was irritated to learn that some doofus lawmaker up there is apparently floating a bicycle helmet law:
Helmets have long been required in New York state for riders 13 years and younger, but the proposed law would extend the safety measure to cyclists 14 years and older.
I’m not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but since March things haven’t been going all that smoothly. And with all the shit that needs attending to out there, imagine being Damon Maher and thinking, “You know, adults are still riding bicycles without helmets, I think now’s the perfect time to address that.”
It’s especially timely when you consider that, thanks to the aforementioned shitshow that is 2020, unemployment has more than tripled in the Orange-Rockland-Westchester since last year. Of course, one of the few bright spots in all of this is that more people have been riding bikes. (Sadly it’s because they no longer have jobs to go to, but still.) So what better way to boost their morale and encourage them to keep riding than to hit them with a fine for not wearing a plastic hat while doing so?
Those who don’t comply could face civil fines up to $50, but a court may waive the fee for first-time violators who prove they bought or rented a helmet after getting a summons. The bill would also require sellers of bicycles and helmets to post a sign notifying buyers of the county law and fine, or the sellers themselves could face a fine up to $100.
Good thing the bill also includes a fine for the bike shop. Because anyone who works in a bike shop knows how much they hate selling helmets.
By the way, unsurprisingly, Damon Maher doesn’t seem to be particularly sympathetic towards cyclists:
For these reasons, Small’s wife accepted the smaller, but not unsubstantial settlement award from the county. Westchester County lawmakers overwhelmingly approved the legal settlement in a vote of 15-2. Damon Maher, one of the two dissenting votes, told LoHud.com that Westchester County should have taken its chances with the jury because of Small’s high speed and other factors.
And the victim in that case was wearing a helmet, go figure:
With one leg still attached to the bike clips, Small then landed head-first onto the ground. Though he was wearing a helmet, Small landed on his forehead.
But no legislator would ever burden constituents with yet another onerous law if it weren’t for their own good. Check out these chilling statistics:
No helmets were used in more than 3,360 of the state’s 5,759 bicycle crashes in 2018, according to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Safety Statistical Repository. Westchester had about 90 documented crashes in 2018, according to the repository, and at least 39 included riders with no helmets.
Egads! Here’s a closer look at that data:
So of 5,759 bicyclists who crashed in New York State, 3,360 of them were not wearing helmets. What does that even mean? If roughly half of bicyclists in New York State wear helmets, isn’t that about what you’d expect? (I’d imagine it’s far less than that, but I really have no idea. I’d wager helmet use is probably well over 90% for Freds, and well under 50% for “normies.” If anything the state should really do a deep dive into the percentage of bicycle crashes that involve Freds and go from there.) Regardless, while a helmet may or may not help mitigate injury in a crash, it certainly doesn’t determine whether or not you crash in the first place. So implying that these numbers somehow inherently validate a helmet law makes about as much sense as me saying, “1,943 helmetless riders only suffered minor injuries, so we should ban helmets.” (Though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the sound of it.)
But here’s the clincher:
State and national data show that adults are more often injured or die in bicycling accidents than children.
You know, because kids are delivering food, commuting to work, and cranking out big solo rides just like adults are. Why, just the other day I saw a group of 20 8 year-olds riding in a paceline on Route 9W. Clearly the only reason adults are injured or killed more often while cycling is that they’re not required to wear helmets. It’s just common sense.
Anyway, sounds like they’ll be dorking out over the bill next week:
The proposed law will be introduced into legislative committees next week. It could be modified or changed during discussions and would have to pass a vote of the 17-member legislature before it could be signed into law by County Executive George Latimer, a Democrat.
If Westchester passes a helmet law I look forward to flouting it.