Wearing a helmet can reduce injuries in bicycle accidents however street safety advocates argue that making bicycle helmet use mandatory lead to a reduction of the number of people using bicycles and as an unintended consequence the streets would become less safe for cyclists.
On Wednesday mayor de Blasio told media that by recommending making bike helmet use mandatory in all 50 states, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSFB) was “pushing us in the right direction”
However street safety advocates such as Transportation Alternatives as well as some of the NTSB staff members argue that mandatory helmets lead to a reduction in the number of people using bikes and lead to the “unintended consequences” of city officials doing less to make cycling safe because they have less pressure.
The idea of making bike helmets mandatory came out of a last minute proposal by a NTSB board member
On Tuesday, the NTSB board members had a meeting during which analysts from their staff presented a report and recommendations on how to reduce injuries and deaths related to bicycle accidents. While analysts agreed that helmets reduce the risk of traumatic and serious head injuries, they told the board that they were advising against making the use of a bike helmet mandatory because such a law would discourage people to use bicycles. Analysts mentioned the Netherlands as an example. The country which has one of the highest amount of cyclists in the world has also one of the lowest rates of bicycle accident fatalities. Bike helmet use is not mandatory in the Netherlands. The reason why the fatalities are so low is mostly because the government committed to build proper infrastructures to protect cyclists. Analysts also emphasized that reducing speed rather than worrying about cyclists behavior was the best way to reduce fatalities. After the presentation, one of the Board members, Jennifer Homedy, submitted a last minute additional recommendation to make bike helmets mandatory. Members of the board then unanimously approved the set of recommendations presented by their staff as well as the additional recommendation by Jennifer Homedy. (see more in Street blog)
This additional recommendation was backed yesterday by Mayor de Blasio upsetting street safety advocates. (See Transportation Alternatives statement)
Picture of a bike Helmet: courtesy of Wikipedia