Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Movies And Laws And Days In Court

I love people who stick up for what they believe in. It isn't always easy to stand up for what you think is right, especially when everything is stacked against you.

You may have seen these films on other sites, but if not, give them a look see. Both films, by Mike Rubbo of "And So To Bike", feature Sue Abbott. Sue is a woman who has never worn a bicycle helmet in her life and does not want to start now. This is problematic for her as she lives in Australia where helmets are required for all riders.

For myself, this is not a story about helmets. There is so much more to it than that. This is a story about a woman who does not want to be told how to live her life. She wants to make her own choices, and really, don't we all?

So now that you have seen these films, how do you feel about helmet laws? Note, I am not asking about helmets themselves. That is an endless discussion in frustration. Are people smart enough to make these decisions for themselves? Do you want helmet laws where you live? If you have a helmet law, do you want to keep it?


  1. Oh, we already have the laws here in the Pacific Northwest, and every now and then a bored officer will get the notion to use my personal headgear as an excuse to use his lights, siren, PA system and authoritarian attitude to make my morning interesting. I've had some interesting conversations with them (they always seem so upset - it can't be good for their blood pressure), but so far, they have never felt that it was worthwhile to do the paperwork needed to actually give me a citation. As far as I can see, the net result of these laws is a waste of police time and an increase of stress for all concerned. Oh, well. Val

  2. Here's a can of worms, and not just for the helmet thing, but for the "guv'ment caint tell me what to do" aspect, too. It's hard for people in our culture to understand that passing laws doesn't solve problems. This doesn't mean that laws are useless or that they shouldn't be a part of our governmental structure, but simply that they don't really do a good job when it comes to influencing what individuals do with their own bodies (did someone say "can of worms"?). That, after all, is what we're talking about. My helmet doesn't keep anyone else safer, just me, and people rightly bristle whenever they are told what they *must* do for "their own good." Helmet laws? Bad. Helmets themselves? Meh.

  3. Anon./Val: Where in the PNW are you? We had laws for children under 16 in Oregon, but never for adults.

  4. The proper function of law is to mediate social INTERaction to avoid people causing harm to others; NOT to mandate action to avoid placing ourselves at risk of harm.

    However imperfectly the former may work in practice (which is why we have courts), it is at least theoretically possible; whereas the latter is not. Therefore such mandates will always be oppressive and more often than not arbitrarily follow some fashionable social hysteria - thus violating any reasonable principles of social justice and bringing Law itself into disrepute.

    Or, to restate the matter in the more common and rather quaint colloquial language of the street:

    I'm agin 'em.

  5. Unfortunately, New Zealand followed big brother (Australia) into this stupid helmet law so we too now have negligible cycling in this country. I tend to decide for myself whether I where my helmet but have been verbally abused by pedestrians for doing so http://aucklandcyclechic.blogspot.com/2009/10/new-zealand-australia-upside-down.html - what has it got to do with them?

  6. smart people bike. they discover the freedom of cars. laws on them - you cant try, they will continue to bike. scary... ;)

  7. I live in Seattle and am a helmet wearer, and as long as I cycle in the US (or on my drop-bar bike in general), I'll continue to wear one.

    That said, I think that if you ar of an age to drive unrestricted, you should have the choice over whether or not to wear a helmet.

    It seems that helmets are viewed by some to be a magic bullet to preventing serious injury to cyclists. This is why we see in news articles about car-bike accidents a statement as to whether or not the cyclist was wearing a helmet.

    If you're an adult, your choice. If you're a child/adolescent, wear a helmet.

  8. Anon/Val - I'm curious to know, as well, where in the Pacific Northwest you live.

    Cities/counties in Washington with Helmet laws: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/bike/helmets.htm

    Oregon State bicycle guide (includes summary of helmet law): http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/HWY/BIKEPED/docs/bike_manual_06.pdf

    Finally, list of jurisdictions in the United States with bicycle helmet laws: http://www.bhsi.org/mandator.htm

  9. Thanks for the links, Mark. I have to laugh, because I am not a helmet wearer and I have been cycling through El Cerito for years! Cops see me all the time, one pulled up next to me to ask me if my name was Nancy, but no one has ever said word one about my lack of helmet. They have asked me about my bike, though : )

    When I ride in El Cerito, I enter and exit town on a completely segregated bike path, the Ohlone Green Way. You would think, that as EC is the only city in California with an all ages helmet rule, that they would post this at the beginning points of the path.

    Silly. I have never understood how municipalities are able to over write the Uniform Vehicle Code, which should be enough law for the rest of us to be getting on with.

  10. Mark: I am in the Puget Sound area, and regualrly traverse as many as five different municipalities in a day's ride, each with its own helmet law (or not; I actually haven't checked every one of them). I do find it interesting that I tend to get pulled over the most in the area within ten miles of my home. Seriously, some of these officers seem to take it personally when I chosse my own hat on my way out the door in the morning. Oh, as I say, well. Val

  11. this is interesting. It reminds me of the motorcycle helmet law that was passed many moons ago. My dad is an avid motorcycle rider, always wore his helmet, but was against the law. for the same reason people mention here. obviously an accident on a motorcycle is much, much different than on a bicycle, but the point is the same. i think most people are appalled at the idea of NOT wearing a motorcycle helmet these days... but really, what's the difference?

    Yer noggin, yer choice.

    that all being said, I don't wear my bike helmet (even in El Cerrito! Who knew?)

  12. Lynn- James and I are both motorcycle riders, and motorcycle helmet laws are how we met (loosely, speaking). At the time, I was very pro-law, but in hindsight, I think I held that view more as a devil's advocate than out of true conviction. I don't ride like I used to (something I hope to correct soon), but I have always worn a motorcycle helmet. Not because of potential head injury, but because I hate having things blow in my face at 70 MPH : )

    As to El Cerrito- I will not be putting a helmet on there. WOnder if I will ever get a ticket? Maybe I can do a little film of my own : )

  13. "I have never understood how municipalities are able to over write the Uniform Vehicle Code . . ."

    Because it is actually written into the UVC that they can. It doesn't make sense, but there it is. HOWEVER, the California legislature has seen fit to recognize the problems inherent in this and amended the law to make it explicitly clear that municipalities can only enforce the law against residents (it didn't occur to them "back in the day" that people might bicycle far enough to transit between and through municipalities other than their own. Go figure). This can't prevent you from getting hassled, or even ticketed, but it IS an affirmative defense.

    When I motorcycle I always wear a full face helmet, both because I don't like running my face into the ass end of a bee at 60 mph, and because I prefer helmet hair to motorbike hair.