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Panel Recommends Federal Bike Helmet Law

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends that all 50 states require people on bikes of all ages to wear helmets.
November 6, 2019, 7am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Brooklyn Bridge Bike Lane

"A federal safety board issued a surprise recommendation for mandatory bike helmet laws in all 50 states — unanimously approving a last-minute resolution that had not been recommended by the board’s own staff," reports Gersh Kuntzman.

"The National Transportation Safety Board voted 3-0 to recommend helmet laws even as staff members reminded panelists that such laws may reduce overall cycling, and lead to the 'unintended consequence' of more road fatalities because fewer cyclists will mean less pressure on local officials to build the kind of protected infrastructure that is proven to improve cyclist safety."

The surprise element came from the fact that the recommendation was not included in the recommendations drafted by staff prior to the meeting. The recommendation came from a list minute addendum created by board member Jennifer Homendy.

There was some debate on the subject prior to the vote. On the side of board members seeking helmet laws is data that credits helmets with reducing the likelihood if injuries for people on bikes by 48 percent. Helmets are also credited with "[reducing] serious injuries by 60 percent and [reducing] traumatic injuries by 53 percent," according to Kuntzman.

On the other side is evidence from The Netherlands, where high levels of bike safety are found in a country with very low rates of helmet use. Staff analyst Dr. Ivan Cheung testified that "helmet use often discourages cycling, prompting him to refer to the 'unintended consequences' of mandating their use."

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Published on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 in StreetsBlog NYC
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