Should bicycle helmets be made mandatory for all cyclist? That is what two elementary students asked for from their city council, an ordinance enforcing the use of Bicycle Safety helmets for children under 12. So on April 25, 2002, in Richardson, Texas, the city council had decided against an ordinance requiring bicycle helmets for children under 12. Of course they had their reasons for not passing the request made by two young girls. If they would have taken a serious look at the issue, they may have viewed it differently.
Assistant City Manager Mike Wanchick said, “A helmet seems to give a false sense of security to the cyclist, who feel less vulnerable and may ride less cautiously,” He then went on to add. “As a result, riders wearing a helmet are more likely to have an accident.” (Post) Now, the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI) statistics show four states accounted for 40 percent of bicycle deaths in 2000, With Texas as one of them. Yet, Wanchick says that “our basic position is that bicycle safety is a parents’ primary obligation,” adding ” What hurts kids are cars and we need to be working the traffic citations out there* people who are licensed to drive cars, not kids learning to ride bicycles.” (Post) Even though 10 of the largest cities in Texas have bicycle-helmet ordinances including Dallas and Fort Worth. But, Richardson Texas choose to not act on this issue, but turn a blind eye to one of the silent injuries and the prevention of it by wearing a simple helmet. The BHSI says the statistics show about 800 bicyclists die in the US every year. Plus another one in eight of the cyclists injured has a brain injury.
The city also cited U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data reports that the number of head injuries to cyclists has increased by 10% percent since 1991, even with the rise in helmet use. Cyclist has declined at the same time, the data indicated, increasing the rate of head injuries per active cyclist though the decade by 51% percent. The commission’s data also shows a substantial reduction in cycling where helmet laws are in effect. “That represents a public and private loss because cycling is an efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly form of transportation,” Mr. Wanchick said.
Statistics from the Institute for Traffic Safety analysis supports helmet usage stating, “Wearing a bike helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85% percent and brain injury by 90% percent.” Considering the odds someone would think it common sense to use a bicycle safety helmet when bicycling on public or private property. Not to mention the fact that we have laws and mandatory training for driving cars. Why are bicycle operators granted so much more room for mistakes? They share the same road as cars yet they need no education on safety. I believe bicycles are about the only recreational vehicle that by law does not require some type of training.
Despite the facts the city of Richardson, Texas, did what they believed was the right thing. I would venture to say they where just playing politics and the fact the proposal was presented by two children may have played a factor in the end result. Should we agree with them? Well, that is up to everyone individually. I myself do not agree with how this case was handled. Since research shows a dramatic rise in usage of safety helmets after the legislation was enacted. Plus research also shows that head injuries were cut in half with the use of helmets. (CMAJ) But if the two children can handle the disappointment then I should too.