State Senator Drops Mandatory Helmet Proposal for Bicyclists

Bicyclists ride in a green bike lane on San Francisco's Market Street. (San Francisco Bicycle Coalition)

In a victory for bicycle advocates, a state senator has dropped a proposal that would have made California the first state in the country to require every adult who rides a bicycle to wear a helmet.

Instead, state Sen. Carole Liu's legislation now calls for a "comprehensive study of bicycle helmet use in California" that would "evaluate the potential safety benefits of a mandatory helmet law."

"Carole believes in consensus-driven policy, and there were too many conflicting opinions about helmet use," said a spokesman, Robert Oakes. "A study will provide the data needed to guide us to the next step."

The amended bill also removes a requirement that would have required bicyclists to wear "retroreflective high-visibility safety apparel" at night.

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Liu has previously said that "any responsible bike rider should wear a helmet." The Sacramento Bee reported that Liu's nephew was killed by a drunken driver in 2004 while riding a bicycle, with helmet on, in Sonoma County.

But bicycle advocates argued that the law would actually discourage bicycling and said the focus should be on making the streets safer.

A petition from the California Bicycle Coalition laid out the case against a mandatory helmet law:

We’re not against helmets. They are mandated in many competitive races, and amateur racers should follow that example. But there are proven ways to make our streets safer while encouraging bicycling — reducing speed limits on key streets, building protected bike lanes and bike paths, and educating motorists and bicyclists on how to drive or ride safely, to name a few. A mandatory helmet law is not one of them.

California, along with 21 other states and the District of Columbia, already requires bike helmets for anyone under 18.

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