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Phil Matier: Proposed California Law Requiring Adult Cyclists Wear Helmets Not Gaining Traction With Some Bicycle Advocates

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— A proposed California state law that would require adult cyclists to wear a helmet while riding or face a fine is not gaining much traction amongst bicycle advocates. SB192 would make California the first state that require helmets for those over the age of 18.

The bicycle lobbyists are very active up and down the state. Look at any community in the last few years and the addition of bike lanes and new laws about keeping a safe distance from cyclists. It's a very savvy group.

However, they feel that the requirement of helmets for adults would be another barrier to more people getting on bicycles and that it would be a disincentive. Safe or not, they seem to think it's more important to get more people to ride their bikes.

Bike share programs from Paris, to Amsterdam, to New York and here in the Bay Area do not require people to wear helmets. It's been controversial, but the stance of the bike shares has been if you're smart enough to ride a bike, you're smart enough to figure what the risk is involved in doing so.
The bike shares are part of the greater encouragement to get people out of their cars, off of Muni even and to alleviate traffic congestion while reducing carbon emissions and to promote health. The helmet is seen as a hindrance, because you might not necessarily want to carry it around with you everywhere you go.

San Francisco has already started to spend $3 million on bicycle awareness and will continue to do so for the next few years. This will include safety campaigns and improvements to bike lane infrastructure. The city has also called to increased citations to motorists by 50 percent in the next two years in an effort to cut down on injuries.

But when you turn it around on the bicycle groups, they don't want to adhere to things like mandatory helmet wearing or even chipping in money on the new bike lanes. This is making state lawmakers and politicians wonder if this is a one-way street.

Last week I called around to get reaction from Mayor Ed Lee and members from the Board of Supervisors. It's not necessarily a debate about safety; they just don't seem to want this to be debated at all.

One of the big questions is does the state want to be in the position of using, presumably, police resources to deal with people who have made decisions regarding their own personal safety and whether or not they ride a bicycle with a helmet or not?

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