Dallas' Bike-Helmet Mandate Is Basically Toast

Categories: Transportation

Thumbnail image for stormtrooperhelmetflickr.jpg
Vince Freitag
When Dallas City Council members first entertained the idea of doing away with the city's 18-year-old bike helmet requirement two weeks ago, they left promising to give the proposal "strong consideration."

At this morning's meeting of the Quality of Life committee, it became clear that they will do way more than that. The helmet mandate, for adults at least, is doomed.

All seven council members present said they were in favor of repealing the ordinance for ages 18 and up. They should have no trouble scrounging up the one additional vote they need for a council majority.

Lee Kleinman and Philip Kingston pushed for full repeal, and Sandy Greyson said she would consider it, but given repeated statements from others about the need to protect children suggested that will be a much tougher, probably impossible, sell.

See also: Dallas City Council Is Giving "Strong Consideration" to Repealing Bike Helmet Law

The most surprising takeaway from this morning was just how little support the helmet ordinance enjoys. It was originally passed back in 1996 at the urging of the public health community, who argued it was needed to prevent serious head injuries.

That role was filled at today's committee hearing by Shelli Stephens-Stidham, director of Parkland Hospital's Injury Prevention Center of Greater Dallas, but her testimony was tepid and noncommittal.

She cited statistics showing that traumatic brain injuries are the leading cause of death in cycling accidents, and that helmets are extremely effective at preventing traumatic brain injuries, especially in kids, but she had trouble crafting a convincing argument that helmet mandates work. She referenced a study that concluded that such mandates increased helmet usage and reduced traumatic brain injuries, but she acknowledged when pressed that the research is a couple of decades old and was extremely limited in scope, looking at a single municipality in a relatively brief period immediately following the adoption of a helmet requirement.

When Kingston pressed her to weigh in on the essential issue before the city council -- whether the public health benefit of the helmet ordinance outweighs the benefit of increased cycling that would come from repeal -- she demurred, offering statistics on the number of Dallas-ares kids who died in bike crashes in the Dallas area between 2006 and 2011 (10) but no firm opinion. Nor did Stephens-Stidham have a rebuttal when Kingston cited a year-old study -- "Helmet legislation and admissions to hospital for cycling related head injuries in Canadian provinces and territories" -- finding no appreciable public health benefit for bike helmet mandates.

See also: The Helmet Rule Isn't Dallas' Only Stupid Bike Law. It's Also Illegal to Do a Wheelie.

More forceful was Bike Texas Executive Director Robin Stallings, who came out strongly against helmet laws for both kids and adults.

"Education and role modeling is going to get more helmets on heads than mandatory helmet laws."

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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27 comments
DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Dallas City Council should be required to wear mandatory 'tard helmets.



Hulon_Pate
Hulon_Pate

Helmets will save your life and are a good thing.  Like a stomach pump after eating at another place the Observer endorses. Taco's any one? 

sleepyhead420
sleepyhead420

I can appreciate the argument that people would ride more if they didn't have to wear a helmet. While I have never met a single person that didn't ride because of the Dallas helmet law, I still understand that. I mean, its sounds like it could be true. 


Like I would drive a lot more if they didn't have that stupid open container law. Deep Ellum would be jammed if Dallas didn't enforce that silly Reagan era law. As it is, I will just ride my bicycle around to my friends bars and drink away. With the laws of physics and my helmet.


bin000
bin000

If they wanted to actually save lives they would ban mobile phone use in cars.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Pedestrians should wear body armor anywhere Jimmy John's delivers by bicycle.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

I've always been of the opinion that if adults want to ride bicycles (or motorcycles) without a helmet, they should be allowed to do so. But, they should also not get any taxpayer support for their medical bills if they get a head injury in an accident. It was their stupid decision to ride without a helmet.

P1Gunter
P1Gunter

Between this and Schutze it seems there will be a bounty of toast in Dallas.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

I like the part where the author discounts the medical evidence that smashing one's head into pavement would cause brain injury... on the grounds that the study was done several years ago.  That was funny.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Hulon_Pate  ... anyone too lame to ride a bike without falling off should take the bus.



RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bin000 They attempted something like that at one time.  The public outcry was instantaneous and overwhelming.  The politicians backed down rather than face certain defeat at the next election.

roo_ster
roo_ster

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz

I have come around to Myrna's way of thinking and now consider Jimmy Johns delivery folk to be a menace after one delivery driver, through inattention or malice, dang near collided with me.



bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@Tim.Covington

The problem with that is that sick and injured people who don't get treatment are not just a danger to themselves - they're a danger to the rest of us, as well.

It's like why we require businesses to take their trash to the dump, instead of just letting it pile up in their yards.  We don't do it to protect the trash, we do it to protect ourselves.

theslowpath
theslowpath

@Tim.Covington  Same thing should apply for other dangerous activities, like using or owning guns, drinking alcohol, eating fast food, driving a car, flying in airplanes, having sex, and talking to strangers. 

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

Texas has struck a compromise on this. Under Texas law you can rude without a helmet, as king as you have your insurance covers $10,000 worth of head injury. It should be much higher, plus this is Texas, so it's likely not enforced anyway.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@bvckvs The author doesn't discount the evidence.  If you bothered to read it, the 'expert' presenting the evidence discounted it herself.  This article is as close to actual reporting as Eric has ever come, as far as I can see.  Please try not to discourage him in this.

fred.garvin.mp.713
fred.garvin.mp.713

Exactly. It's not like in the last 20 years our heads have evolved to be more resistant to concrete.

I wasn't at the meeting, so it's hard to tell how tepidly the Parkland rep defended the ordinance, but it sounds like she fulfilled her role as expert witness--i.e., she presented the evidence clearly showing that helmets save lives, but if the council doesn't want to buy it, it's not her job to make them uphold the law.

I was in a motorcycle accident 10 years ago--but at the same impact and speed as I could expect on a bicycle; in the melee my head hit the asphalt, no injury to me, but a large chunk was taken from the helmet, making it unusable again. That would have been my head. It takes very little to cause significant brain injury or death.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@roo_ster  Thank you!  I've been saying it for two years and I always get a lot of guff for it.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@RTGolden1 @bvckvs

re:  "The author doesn't discount the evidence. the 'expert' presenting the evidence discounted it herself"

The hospital rep didn't discount the evidence.  On the contrary, she's the one who presented the evidence.

The author just chose to interpret her presentation as if she herself didn't believe what she was saying.

Apparently, he wasn't happy with what she said, so he pretended she meant something entirely different.

jchristieperc
jchristieperc

@RTGolden1 @bvckvs  Why would they bother repeating the research. It is a fact helmets work. it is a fact if you are in when you have a wreck, you are far less likely to sustain serious injury. Anyone (like Fred) who has seriously ridden for an extended period of time knows this. Why would medical researchers want to keep repeating a study in a quixotic attempt to disprove the obvious? What has happened is that researchers have continued to study why injuries happen. The first generation of helmets - across all sports - are far lighter than their predecessors and significantly reduced concussion risks. The next generation of helmets - MIPS - has reduced another significant risk of head impact. So the science is marching on and it is clearly on the side of the helmet. I apologize that no one is performing studies to be pleasing to your bicycle initiative....but at Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to tell us in a few days, science happens whether you believe it or not.

hentai.jeff
hentai.jeff

@fred.garvin.mp.713  Helmets are made to be one and done anyway. You should replace it after a wreck even if the helmet dosen't look damaged.

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@TheRuddSki Ironically, at a peak lunch rush, it is faster for me to walk down to JJ's order my sandwich and walk back with it than it is for them to deliver it.  I proved it once and got my next meal free.  That alone is worth tire tracks across Myrna's toes.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

I did a little googling, seems JJ riders are hit as opposed to hitting at a 15:1 ratio. But just to be sure, always carry The Hammer's business card.

I, like most JJ customers, prefer our food fresh and fast, we have priorities.

bvckvs
bvckvs topcommenter

@jchristieperc @RTGolden1@bvckvs

re:  "Why would they bother repeating the reasearch..."

That's a standard strategy by various Republican fringe groups.  If you tell them that 99 out of 100 experts say that a thing is so, they'll focus like a laser on the one expert who says it's not.

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