A woman working as a bicycle messenger was fatally struck by a delivery truck in San Francisco earlier this week. She was not wearing a helmet. This incident, according to the San Francisco Examiner, has opened up the bicycle helmet debate in that community on both mandatory and voluntary helmet use.
According to the story http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/07/san-francisco-cyclists-death-rekindles-helmet-policy-debate, the advantage of bicycle helmet use is widely known and straight forward: bicycle helmets significantly reduce the rate of serious injury or death for those who wear them and are involved in a bicycle accident. The story also listed four reasons not to wear a bicycle helmet, and I must confess, some of these reasons are new to me.
1. Bicycle helmets provide a false sense of security and thereby encourages reckless bicycle riding.
2. Bicycle helmet wearers are passed more closely by motorists than non-helmet wearers.
3. If people are forced by law or custom to wear bicycle helmets, some potential cyclists will rebel and refuse to ride at all thereby depriving all bicyclists of numbers that would make it safer for all bicyclists on the road.
4. Bicycle helmet wearers look “dorky.”
In my opinion, as one who has been thrown from a bike with his head hitting the street wearing a helmet, the helmet use side of the equation is significantly more favorable than the non-helmet use side. But, I would be interested if others could list additional reasons for not wearing a helmet.
Regarding mandatory bicycle helmet laws, given the libertarian streak that appears to prevail in contemporary American society, I doubt if a mandatory helmet bill could be passed and/or signed by a governor in this state. However, I could see in the not too distant future, health insurance plans extracting a substantial deductible for their policyholders involved in a bicycle accident that requires emergency room medical attention or hospitalization where the policyholder was not wearing a bicycle helmet. What do others think?
These opinions are mine alone and do not represent any position of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition.
Did you get shouted off the West River Road parkway trail by MPRB maintenance staff this morning, too?
Around 8:00 this morning, half an hour into an lovely early morning ride, I was feeling calmed by the river views. Without warning, around 24th St. East just south of Franklin Avenue, the trail was blocked by several MPRB trucks, a few cones, and some maintenance staff - one of whom was angrily yelling "Closed! Closed!" at commuters and other riders.
It looked like they were pruning trees.
It was rush hour. The trail was packed with commuters. As was the parkway. There was no warning at a point appropriate to detour off the trail. And did I mention the heavy traffic on the parkway? The MPRB trucks were parked making a blind spot on the trail - you couldn't see what was on the road or whether bikes were coming from the other direction.
Do you suppose MPRB would close down West River Road during rush hour to prune trees without marking a detour, or try to detour traffic by putting an angry dude in the middle of the street yelling, "Closed! Closed!" Does the Park Board really approve of its employees yelling angrily at park users? I'm guessing not on both accounts. (Hmmm... and would staff be willing to follow those orders?)
This is not the first time I've found a major commuting route inadequately marked/detoured for pruning during rush hour; last time it was in Loring Park.
This experience was especially ironic given the blog post I put up early this morning, "Questions for the Park Board." It led me to ruminate a bit more during the remainder of my ride, and I have a couple additional questions.
I love biking to Minneapolis beaches with kids - the one just south of the boathouse on Calhoun is perfect, with its playground. However, once there, it's tough to get home. I'm a fan of the one-way trails, but for my 7-year-old niece, biking all the way around the lake to get home is too far, hauling bikes up the steep stairs to ride on the busy parkway is beyond her, and I'm not a fan of biking on the pedestrian path or riding the wrong way on the bike path. Got any suggestions?
Lastly, can you get some Nice Ride kiosks similar to these rentals found in Minnehaha Park? I understand the Grand Rounds is on the National Historic Register, and there may be some concerns on that front, but I'm pretty sure the big parking lots aren't historic, and the razor wire around the lock and dam at the Stone Arch Bridge isn't historic, and the playgrounds aren't historic. Anyone willing to make odds that Wheel Fun Rentals is?
This morning, I felt relief when I got off the West River Road trail and back onto Hennepin County's Cedar Lake Trail. When I realized that, I felt very sad. MPRB, please go out of your way to welcome cyclists. Not just me, but also bicycle commuters, tourists and locals using Nice Ride, and my nieces who just want to swim.