Greenfield to cyclists: Put a lid on it!

July 5, 2012 Denise Romano
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Councilmember David Greenfield introduced legislation in the City Council on May 31, requiring all cyclists in New York City to wear a helmet.

Greenfield aims to reduce cycling deaths and increase safety with the law, citing that more than 90 percent of all cyclists who died in an accident were not wearing a helmet. He said that head injuries account for about a third of all cyclist emergency room visits and three quarters of cyclist’s deaths. Helmets can reduce the risk of serious head injuries by more than 60 percent, Greenfield added.

“Helmets save lives, plain and simple. It is common sense, but we still have far too many people biking around the city without a helmet. This law will help protect cyclists and will prevent serious injuries and deaths,” Greenfield said.

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According to the legislation, all bicycle riders on streets that are open to traffic or on city park property would be required to wear a helmet. A first-time violator would pay a $25 fine and fines would increase to $50 for a second violation within one year and $100 for a third offense in two years. Riders under the age of 14 and professional delivery riders are already required to wear a helmet by law,

This legislation is not about punishing cyclists, it’s about encouraging them to ride safely. Helmets are cheap, light and literally save lives,” Greenfield said. “This law is long overdue and will help reduce the number of cyclists who visit local emergency rooms or are hospitalized as a result of injuries sustained while not wearing a helmet.”

Ryan Lynch, policy director for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, said that in many cases mandatory bike helmet laws have been detrimental to cycling.

“As a transportation policy expert, we see mandatory helmet laws for adults don’t seem to serve the purpose of promoting safety and encouraging cycling. A better way to encourage safe cycling is to build infrastructure that would make cycling safer for all…like bike lanes,” Lynch explained. “[Helmet laws] serve as an additional barrier to cycling.”

Bay Ridge resident and cyclist Bob HuDock agreed. “I personally don’t wear one, but I think it’s a wise thing to do,” he told this paper. “For cycling advocates, this is not something we are in favor of. It’s another barrier of entry.”

HuDock wondered if helmets would now be mandatory for those participating in NYC’s Bike Share program. “This is just another hurdle for people to get over,” he said. “It’s really smart and people should wear them [helmets] but they should be worn by choice, not by legislation.”

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