City in Texas Rejects Bike Helmet Law

      By SARAH POST / The Dallas Morning News

      Richardson rejects bike helmets
      Despite 4th-graders' efforts, city says use increases risks

      RICHARDSON * The City Council has decided against an ordinance requiring bicycle helmets, citing research indicating the number of bicycle accidents goes up with helmet use. In March, two fourth-grade girls proposed an ordinance requiring bicycle helmets for children under 12. They returned to the council chambers Monday night to hear the city staff recommendation and see what action the council would take.

      The city's research indicated a correlation between the use of safety equipment and increased risk-taking, Assistant City Manager Mike Wanchick said. "A helmet seems to give a false sense of security to the cyclist, who feels less vulnerable and may ride less cautiously," Mr. Wanchick said. "As a result, riders wearing a helmet are more likely to have an accident."

      The city cited U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission data reporting that the number of head injuries to cyclists has increased 10 percent since 1991, despite a sharp rise in helmet use. Ridership declined at the same time, the data indicated, increasing the rate of head injuries per active cyclist during the decade by 51 percent. The commission's data also points to a substantial reduction in cycling where helmet laws are in effect. "That represents a public and private loss because cycling is an efficient, healthy and environmentally friendly form of transportation," Mr. Wanchick said.

      Of the 10 largest cities in the area, Dallas, Arlington and Fort Worth have bicycle-helmet ordinances. Police Chief Ken Yarbrough said he did not like the idea of officers trying to stop children on bicycles and write tickets. "Our basic position is that bicycle safety is parents' primary obligation," he said. "What hurts kids is cars, and we need to be working the traffic citations out there * people who are licensed to drive vehicles, not kids that are learning to ride bicycles."

      Jenna Beron and Millie Van Horn, who proposed the ordinance as part of a school project, said they were disappointed, but they understood. "We feel OK about this because we got a long way," Jenna said.

November 2008
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