Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

It’s the zombie idea that never dies. Once again a mandatory helmet bill is being considered that would apply to all adult cyclists. This time it is happening in New Jersey:

A new bill introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Atkins would make New Jersey the first state in the nation to require everyone, including adults, to wear a helmet while operating a bicycle, scooter, or motorized scooter, or face a $25 fine. Assemblyman Atkins, who spoke with ABC news framed the proposed legislation as a way of “protecting us from the what-ifs.”

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), of the nearly 9k bicycle deaths in the U.S. from 2010 to 2020 84% of those riders were not wearing a helmet.

And 99.9% of those bicycle fatalities were from car collisions (which helmets don’t protect against).

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BUSD is going ahead with plans to construct a $27.5 million parking garage at Berkeley High School. The school is one block from a BART station, and directly served by the Milvia cycletrack. The garage will replace an existing surface lot, with a net increase of around 120 spaces. That comes to around $230k per added parking space, making this one of the most expensive parking projects undertaken by a school district.

Biking is very popular at BHS, with many overflowing bike racks around the center courtyard. This ludicrously expensive parking garage will at least serve bikes, right?

Showing complete lack of self-awareness, the same Board which planned this garage also passed a Climate Action Plan in 2018. “VISION: BUSD shall be non-polluting whenever feasible” it states in big bold letters — with a directive to encourage and prioritize non-motorized transportation for both students and staff.

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Technically, the helmet law is still on the books — but the police will no longer enforce it:

Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz announced Friday that SPD will no longer stop people for four minor traffic infractions, including violations of the county’s mandatory bicycle helmet law.

In recent years, more than half of all cyclist citations were for helmet law violations, which typically involve a $100-$150 fine; according to Seattle Municipal Court data, 77 percent of those fines go unpaid. In addition to formal citations, a community stakeholder and bike advocate who contributed to the OIG’s discussions estimated that SPD officers may have stopped hundreds or thousands of bicyclists for not wearing helmets without issuing citations, sometimes as a justification to question the bicyclist about a different crime.

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The Senate in France has once again debated a bill to mandate bike helmets, with violators receiving a fine of 135 Euros and possible impoundment of their bikes:

While the practice of cycling is exploding, a group of centrist senators led by François Bonneau proposes to make the helmet compulsory for “any driver of a vehicle with one or more wheels, whether motor or electric assistance, as well as ‘to any cycle driver’, under penalty of a fine of 135 euros. “Nearly two-thirds of fatally injured cyclists were 55 years and over in 2019” and “head trauma is the main cause of death among cyclists,” said the senator in his proposal.

“It seems that this is a false good idea,” reacted Françoise Rossignol, president of the Club of cycling towns and territories, Tuesday at a press conference. “So that there are more bikes, we must not put the brakes on practice”. “Safety is linked to the speed of other vehicles, to visibility (of the bikes), and to a number of essential arrangements for safety on the course”, underlined Françoise Rossignol. “Foreign studies which have looked at behavioral changes following the obligation to wear a helmet all conclude that the number of cyclists has decreased”, underlines the FUB, citing the examples of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. On the other hand, the number of injured is not decreasing as much as we expected.

“The French are fed up with having obligations imposed on them,” said Elisabeth Borne, then Minister of Transport. “We recommend wearing a helmet and everyone takes their responsibilities.” “Let’s stop pissing off the French,” Bruno Millienne, MoDem co-rapporteur, argued, believing that with a helmet one could falsely feel “safer”.

Thankfully, the proposal was rejected by the Senate Law Commission. However there is still the possibility of a helmet mandate for riders of electric scooters.

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King County has delayed a vote on repealing its draconian helmet law. That law is often used by police as a pretext to harass homeless and people of color. It also hasn’t done anything to make cycling safer:

The King County Board of Health held a public hearing Thursday about repealing the law, which requires all bicyclists to wear a helmet. According to the proposed resolution in support of repealing the law, data shows that cyclists of color receive tickets more frequently than white cyclists under the current helmet regulation, and that it is a common reason for law enforcement to engage with unhoused people. Ultimately, the board decided to delay a vote on the repeal until at least late November in order to get more information and allow for further discussion from relevant stakeholders.

Dr. Rivara, father of the bike helmet hysteria, is of course pushing King County to retain the law. He wrote an editorial which again repeats his claim that helmets “reduce the risk of brain injury by 88%.”

As most readers know, this statistic has been widely debunked. In 2013, the Feds were forced to withdraw the long-standing claim from their websites as other studies failed to replicate this result. Dr. Rivara also predicted a spike in head injuries from public bike share programs, when in fact bike share had the opposite effect of making streets overall safer for cyclists.

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CA Governor Newsom vetoed AB-122, the bill which would have permitted cyclists to treat stop signs as yield. If that wasn’t infuriating enough, his veto message directly blames bicyclists for getting killed on the state’s roadways:

Veto message

Obviously, this is a gross misinterpretation of the SWITRS data. Here is what the CA Assembly legislative analyst reported:

Traffic collisions killed 455 cyclist in California between 2016 and 2018, the highest rate in any three-year period since the mid-1990s. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 27% of cyclist fatalities occur at intersections. Failing to stop at a stop sign makes up a very small portion of the number of cyclists killed every year in California. Between 2015 and 2020, 25 cyclists have died as a result of failing to stop at a stop sign. CHP data places the fault with the cyclist in 22 of the 25 cases.

So the official figures show less than 5% of bike fatalities involve a moving violation at a stop sign (which in any case would still be illegal under AB-122). And that presumes the CHP correctly assigned fault, which is often not the case.

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Texas (yes, Texas!) has passed a new pedestrian safety measure. It would actually penalize drivers who severely injure someone walking or biking:

A new safety law that is now in effect in Texas could see a driver go to jail if they hit someone walking or cycling. Senate Bill 1055 was signed into law by Governor Abbott in June, and drivers can now go to jail if they cause bodily harm to a pedestrian. The new law says drivers who cause bodily harm to pedestrians will face stiff consequences which include being charged with a class A misdemeanor and possible time behind bars.

Senate Bill 1055 was signed after a Houston mother was killed by a driver while crossing the street with her son; the driver in that accident walked away without any charges. 

“You can spend up to a year in jail. So now, we’re talking about jailtime, not a ticket where you go pay a fine. Although, there could be a fine up to $4,000,” said Sgt. Charlie Eipper of the Wichita Falls Police Department.

The real question is whether the new law will be enforced. Perhaps Texas can implement a bounty system…

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The “E-BIKE” Act would have provided a refundable tax credit up to $1,500 on the purchase of a new e-bike. Authored by Congressmen Panetta (D-Calif) and Blumenauer (D-Ore), it would have paid up to 30% of the cost of a new e-bike.

But now the bill has gone into the Legislative buzzsaw of the House Ways and “Means-Testing” Committee, and has been significantly watered down — to the point of being largely useless. The e-Bike refundable tax credit is now just 15% of the purchase price, capped at $1,500 total. And the credit phases out starting at $75,000 of adjusted gross income.

For comparison, the same bill would provide a $12,000 subsidy for the purchase of a $74,000 F150 electric pickup truck to a family with $800,000 annual income.

(For details, see Sec. 136401/136407 here)

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