Dallas Wants to Kill the Bike Helmet Law for Adults but Keep It for Kids. Is That Constitutional?

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Richard Masoner
A kids-only helmet ordinance would pose certain enforcement challenges, i.e. how to tell if this guy's under 17.
OK. So maybe the bike-helmet mandate the Dallas City Council passed 18 years ago wasn't really about protecting people's heads. Maybe it was really about giving cops in general an extra reason to interrogate suspicious-looking people in poor, minority neighborhoods, and for one cop in particular to express an apparent personal animus toward bareheaded bike riders.

All rhetoric aside, that's what the data show, according to Tom Benning's deep dive into the numbers in The Dallas Morning News this morning. There have been no helmet citations written at bike hot spots like White Rock Lake and the Katy Trail. There have been a bunch downtown, almost all written by a single officer, Ceaphus Gordon. The vast majority of the rest -- 96 percent -- were written in poor, minority neighborhoods. That's not counting the no-helmet stops that didn't result in tickets but did result in, say, a drug arrest.

(Side note: Benning's dive was much deeper than ours from two weeks ago, which we subsequently learned was incomplete, representing only half of the tickets that were issued in 2013 and 2014. More on that in the original post.)

That data provided the backdrop for the Dallas City Council's briefing this morning on a proposed repeal of the bike-helmet ordinance, which, aside from some extra hand-wringing over the curious enforcement strategy, mirrored in tone and substance the two previous committee hearings on the subject: Adults, the general consensus went, are old enough to make their own choices. (Jerry Allen went so far as to announce that doesn't wear a seat belt.) But the ordinance should be preserved for ages 16 and under.

Only two council members dissented from that approach: Vonciel Hill, because the helmet ordinance "help(s) people make decisions that are more safe, and because we are an automobile-centric city" and Philip Kingston, because he doesn't think the city's helmet ordinance (not to be confused with the helmets themselves) protects anyone, kids or adults.

Kingston also brought up the question of how the kids-only ordinance will be enforced, something the council, in its enthusiasm for protecting the children, hadn't really thought of before.

"Tell me," Kingston asked Dallas Police Chief David Brown, "how a patrol officer will identify a 16-year-old on a bicycle." Looking young is does not constitute reasonable suspicion for pulling someone over, Kingston said. "That's a constitutionally infirm stop. ... You guys can't write these tickets."

Brown's response: "You make a good point."

Basically, a kids-only ordinance would be unenforceable. But will that dull the City Council's passion for protecting kids when it votes on helmet-ordinance repeal next week? Don't bet on it.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.


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51 comments
colin106
colin106

Erke and Elvik stated: "There is evidence of increased accident risk per cycling-km for cyclists wearing a helmet. In Australia and New Zealand, the increase is estimated to be around 14 per cent."

http://www.cycle-helmets.com/norway.pdf page 28.

Details from New South Wales, Australia reported the number of injuries to children compared to the level of cycling activity, to provide estimates of the ‘equivalent number of injuries for pre law numbers of cyclists’, Table 2 in the report. The equivalent number of injuries for pre-law number of cyclists increased from 1310 (384 head + 926 other injuries) in 1991 to 2083 (488 head + 1595 other injuries) in 1993.

Robinson DL;Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws; Accid Anal Prev, 28, 4: p 463-475, 1996http://www.cycle-helmets.com/robinson-head-injuries.pdf

In 2012 the New Zealand Medical Journal published ‘Evaluation of New Zealand’s bicycle law’. The ‘Summary’ includes;

Cycling usage reduced by 51% (average hours cycled per person,% change from 89–90 to 06-09).

Cyclist’s injury risk per hour increased by 20–32%.

The report mentions the findings of Sandra Tin Tin et al;

'Of particular concern are children and adolescents who have experienced the greatest increase in the risk of cycling injuries despite a substantial decline in the amount of cycling over the past two decades'

Clarke, CF, Evaluation of New Zealand’s bicycle law, NZMJ 10 February 2012, Vol 125 No 1349

http://journal.nzma.org.nz/journal/125-1349/5046/

Data for Alberta, Canada reported;

‘Surveys in Edmonton in 2000 (pre-law) and 2004 (post-law) suggest that cycling by children and teenagers has been significantly reduced compared with adults (59% children, 41% teenagers) (Hagel et al, 2006). Later surveys across several Albertan cities showed that child cycling had gone down by 56% and teenage cycling by 27% (BHRF, 1250; Karkhaneh, 2011)’.

and

‘Surprising stats suggest bike-accident head injuries have increased since Alberta passed a mandatory helmet law.’

http://www.cyclehelmets.org/1055.html

“For Canada, Clarke provided information suggesting helmet use may have contributed to an increase in the accident rate.”http://www.cycle-helmets.com/canada-helmet-assessment.doc .

Refer;A case for revising cycle helmet advice in the Highway Code’

http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/WrittenEvidence.svc/EvidenceHtml/7077

There are a wide range of helmets available with various designs. They are tested to standards that do not include rotational acceleration aspects. One main cause of severe brain injury is rotational accelerations and helmets incur more impacts than a bare head due to their increased size. An element of uncertainty exists about how safe or otherwise any particular helmet may be. Curnow provided a scientific evaluation explaining the importance of rotational acceleration and the background leading to its understanding. Refer Curnow B, BICYCLE HELMETS: A SCIENTIFIC EVALUATION, Transportation Accident Analysis and Prevention, 2008 http://cyclehelmets.org/papers/p787.pdf,

lecterman
lecterman

"They didn't buy their helmets.  They new what they were getting into....I say, LET EM CRASH"

d-may
d-may

Is this a non - issue anyway? What percentage of those ticket written in the past 18 years were written to kids under 16?

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

Last Thursday morn I flew in to SFO, took BART to Haight-Ashbury, rented a bike and rode across the Golden Gate to Sausalito by 9.  I pressed on yelling to all land-based Californians and ships at sea: LOOK AT MEEEE! NOOOO HELMET I’M FREE AT LAST THANK GOD ALMIGHTY (free at last). On to Tiburon I rode my midnight Specialized fury, taking the ferry back to Pier 41.  18 miles by land and 6 by sea. 

You see, only kids have to don skid-lids in California.  San Franciscans say it gets in the way of their very popular ride-share program.

But take heart – California state law does allow for towns and counties to impose mandatory brain buckets for all ages , if they so desire.  So we are in league with Birdwell Park, Chico and El Cerrito.  And I think that’s it for CA.

Pop quiz:  How many towns and metros in Texas have all ages mandatory bike helmet laws?

One.  Dallas.

We've been punked.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Back in the day, only special children needed to wear tard helmets.


... and they rode the short bus to school.


It figures that children of conservatard Texans would need this in order to survive into adulthood.


Dee Dee Dee!


TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

Regardless of whether or not this is a good idea, is there some clause in the constitution that prohibits an authority from asking somebody to prove their age? It's not like you are arresting the poor slob.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

Basically, a kids-only ordinance would be unenforceable

Bet you're in for a big surprise.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

I think this is another case where Eric has buried the lede.

What we really need is a follow-up on (Bo)Ceaphus Gordon, Staunch Defender of Skulls.

Tim.Covington
Tim.Covington

As has been pointed out, if other age based laws (like curfews) are constitutional, then a helmet law would be too. 

Now, the fact that it is almost unenforceable would bring to question the wisdom of having such an ordinance. Having unenforceable laws does nothing to increase respect for the law.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

If age-based curfews are legal, then so is an age-biased helmet law, it would seem.

Carding at the liquor store is an age-based judgement call. That's legal.

The way to do this, if it is thought to be unconstitutional, is to go ahead and do it. If no-one does anything about it other than complain, then it's legal.

doublecheese
doublecheese

Would looking young while driving a truck with a keg of beer in the back not give the police a reason to pull that young looking person over?  I'm pretty sure that kind of thing goes on all the time.

Steve
Steve

Are you hiring an editor? Or a proofreader, at least?


(Jerry Allen went so far as to announce that doesn't wear a seat belt.)


Looking young is does not constitute reasonable suspicion for pulling someone over

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@d-may ... and what actual penalty can a sane, rational society force upon a CHILD ؟؟

holmantx
holmantx topcommenter

But San Fran has its own grinding underbelly.  The streets of San Francisco are filled with not only the homeless but the 18 to 27 y.o. crowd with not a lot to do but express varying degrees of group-think caring and angst.  Lots of dudes and dudettes.  Heads down everywhere glued to their devices but then they looked up and stared at me as I past.  Might have been the cowboy bike boots however, the City suddenly knew I questioned the 4% Employer Mandate added onto every meal ticket.  Having said that, there may be something to the notion I Phones provide the neural pathway for the hive mind.  Children of the corn.

I hung out along the Embarcadero for another day then proceeded East into and across the Central Valley to attend a wedding.  A vast growing region 75 miles wide and 450 miles long, and the most productive farmland on the planet.  But there is trouble in that land.  Signs.  Like, billboards – “No Water No Jobs!” was a dominant one.  The children of the corn have cut them off.  This is the other California.  The working poor.  The unrepresented.  Such a bizarre place, California.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk ... what "clause" would that be?


It's not like The Constitution is hundreds of pages long.

doublecheese
doublecheese

@Tim.Covington It seems completely enforceable to me, just like the other age based laws are.  I'm not getting the unenforceable argument.  There would obviously be some cases where someone could be of questionable age, but more often than not, you can tell if it's a kid riding a bike.  This really isn't that hard.

Dr_Chipotle
Dr_Chipotle

@Steve Looking young and holding a beer constitutes reasonable suspicion for checking ID doesn't it?

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

@Steve Well, suspicion over constitute not is does pulling looking someone young for.




Hee hee...

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

I'm sixty, I get carded for booze. Granted, I look forty, but still...

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@Myrna

I guess the sly dig at the moron in the White House and his disdain for law flew over your head.

But it's not beyond the grasp of most Americans, the poor bastard is getting slammed in the polls for just about everything but his morning shit. By this time next week, he'll be slammed again for his ploy with the deserter. He's really not all that smart, hon.

But you and bmarv will hang in there, like good little troupers. We may laugh, but really, it's a laugh of admiration. Really.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz immigration is not the subject here, its bike helmets!  (see I can play that game too)  Oh and are you supposed to go "like" all of DOnkeys rants on the immigration blog

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

@Myrna.Minkoff-Katz "@Steve Well, suspicion over constitute not is does pulling looking someone young for.




Hee hee..."


Hole Lee Fuc,  what drugs did you take at lunch


WHATTHEFUCDOESTHATEVENMEAN

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk "Specifically, a rhetorical question."


You forgot to designate it as such, and given the consistent depravity of intellect among many of the posters to the DO tends to force objective readers to take words posted at their more base, vulgar value.




scottindallas
scottindallas topcommenter

@TheRuddSki he's hard to differentiate from Bush.  IF you see some vast difference, or you think Obama is Liberal, you're the clown.  I don't like him a bit, but he's just carried the same ball forward a few more yards.  You forget about the Church Committee and the long record of bi partisan accord in action.  You're falling for PR over substance; CLOWN

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

yet it isn't THE GOVERNMENT carding you for booze, grandpa.

Yes it is, the sellers are acting on government mandate. They could defy the government and risk losing their license, but defying government is a bad thing now - at least until there's another republican president.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@scottindals

a few yards

The difference between a game winning touchdown and loss can be inches, so a "few yards" can be the difference between tyranny and democracy.

Case in point, this week's anti democratic move called "Common Core" as exposed in the Washington Post.

Your "everybody does it" argument is actually the argument of a clown, friend, and Obama is not a liberal, he's a leftist. A leftist on a mission that has everything to do with his vision, nothing to do with democracy or the will of the people.

But, George a Washington did it too, as did FDR and Nixon, so, big effing deal, right?

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheRuddSki


Like Father Like Daughter


AUSTIN, Texas — President Bush's 19-year-old twin daughters were charged with underage alcohol offenses after an incident in a popular restaurant known for its Tex-Mex food and ice-cold margaritas.


It was the second alcohol-related citation against Jenna Bush in less than five weeks. Police accused Jenna Bush of attempting to buy alcohol with false identification and Barbara Bush of being a minor in possession of alcohol.


Both charges are misdemeanors punishable by a fine of up to $500, attendance at an alcohol awareness course, community service and a 30-day suspension of a driver's license.


But Jenna Bush, who had just completed her freshman year at the University of Texas, could face a stiffer punishment because she is facing her second charge [ but she didn't, because she's the Shrub's alcoholic daughter ]


She was ordered  to perform eight hours of community service and to take an alcohol awareness course after she pleaded no contest to being a minor in possession of alcohol.

TheCredibleHulk
TheCredibleHulk topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay @TheCredibleHulk

The question stands as it is. A rhetorical question is posed to make a point without the expectation of a reply - it is not snark, there is a difference.

Next time, try using your intellect.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

Bush stopped drinking forty years ago.

But I can understand why the idea of hot chicks sneaking some 'ritas at the bar would upset you.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@TheCredibleHulk ... there is no differentiation between a STUPID question and a Rhetorical question on the DO blogs, especially since the former occurs more often than the latter.


Just because YOU meant it to be Rhetorical doesn't mean you conveyed it as such. Alas, second level language skills do require a bit of precision and finesse.





DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@Daniel @DonkeyHotay @doublecheese @TheRuddSki


The only "convenience" is that consumers don't need to waste time price shopping, as the cost of a fifth of Jack Daniels -- and all liquor -- is exactly the same at every store in the state, whether it be Philly, Pottstown, Pittsburgh or the Poconos.

TheRuddSki
TheRuddSki topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay

Ever read about the damage that weed and coke can do to a young Choomer's brain?

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