Helmet law for Salt Lake City – what a joke

I choose to wear a helmet when I ride, but I’m pro-choice on this one. All adult cyclists should be able to make their own decision about whether they want to wear a helmet. And my eyes generally glaze over when I read another debate about helmet laws for cyclists.

Now, I’m no extremist, and I don’t even own a soapbox, but as I was browsing through the local rag over lunch, I noticed a few disturbing items about this particular debate. The first was that the mayor has a committe – the Mayor‘s Bicycle Advisory Committee (MBAC), and their research suggests that helmet laws reduce injuries mostly by discouraging would-be cyclists. Perhaps a full ban on cycling would be a better way to curb cycling-related injuries? Seriously though, this provides a perfect example of manipulating numbers to suit your needs. It’s easy to show that injuries declined a certain percent, but if that decline is due to reduced participation, then it’s hardly a win for either side, is it?

Then it got worse. It was suggested that this was being done to help protect cyclists from motorists! I have driven all over the US, and even internationally, but the worst drivers I have ever seen are right here in Utah. This is the state with an open book test for license renewals. If the mayor really wants to make SLC safer for cyclists, why not educate motorists? Why not ban drivers from using their mobile phones without a handsfree device? Yes, phones are a distraction, but meet us half way, and keep both hands on the wheel.

The passing of this law would be nothing more than a tattered band-aid on an already infected wound that could have easily been prevented. Shame on Rocky Anderson for being so misguided. Cyclists don’t need helmets to protect us in the event we get struck by a car. We need for drivers to respect our right to the road, and we need them to be educated on the fact that they are legally bound to share it .

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Dan Kaufman

I had no issues with the passage of the seatbelt and motorcycle helmet laws in Oregon, because the roads are publicly funded infrastructure and the public often bears some the cost of injuries on this infrastructure. Bicycle and equestrian helmet  requirements are a bit different though. Those modes of transportation don’t require costly roads.

I suppose they could pass worse laws, though. Personally, I cringe every time I see someone riding on the street without a helmet. Even a 1 MPH crash headfirst into a curb can cause permanent/debilitating brain damage. I know someone it happened to.

Thanks for the interesting and thought provoking blog!


While free choice seems a good concept, when it comes to safety it can often take the threat of a fine to prompt younger drivers and cyclists to be sensible and buckle up or put a helmet on.

Seatbelt and motorcycle helmet use has been compulsory in New Zealand for as long as I’ve been driving (29 years) and in that time seatbelt usage has gone from not much more than 60% to the high 90s, and it’s drifting back down of late particularly amongst drivers under 20. It seems being safe is not cool.

Motorcycle helmet usage is pretty much 100%.

The same cool phenomenon seems to apply to bicycle helmets, although they’ve only been compulsory here for about 10 years. If you ride a BMX here you’ll generally only wear a helmet if you’re very young or racing – definitely not riding off to meet your mates.

What’s worse than no helmet is seeing people wearing ill fitting helmets and/or not having them buckled up securely. That just makes me cringe.

Some part of me says if you’re too stupid to take appropriate measures to ensure your own safety you get what you richly deserve. The problem with that theory is the conflicting side which has immense sympathy for the family and friends of idiots who end up dependant on their (and the tax payers’) care.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x