NACTO Statement re: Mandatory Helmet Laws

NTSB is getting a lot of pushback from its recent statement about bicycle safety on our roads.

In the NTSB’s first examination of bicyclist safety on U.S. roadways since its last report on this topic in 1972, the agency said critical changes were needed to address the recent rise in fatal bicycle crashes involving motor vehicles, even as overall traffic deaths fell in 2018. 

[…] The investigators’ primary focus was on crash avoidance, but in those instances when crashes do occur, they said the use of a helmet was the single most effective way for riders to reduce their chances of receiving a serious head injury. Because research shows that less than half of bicyclists wear helmets and that head injuries were the leading cause of bicyclist fatalities, the NTSB recommended that all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, require that all persons wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

NTSB News Release 11/5/2019 NTSB Says Changes to Roadway Design, Collision Avoidance Systems, More Helmet Use Needed to Address Increase in Bicyclist Fatalities

Many people assume that bicycle helmets offer greater protection than they are actually designed to provide. Bicycle helmets are not currently designed for impacts as forceful as a vehicle crash. Bicycle helmets only offer minimal protection for a cyclist if falling say, off the bike and hitting the curb.  Bicycle helmets are not even designed nor tested for any kind of strength that would be necessary to withsand the impact from a vehicle. Even if bicycle helmets were designed as well as motorcycle helmets, dangerous drivers are still a huge problem, and cyclists as well as pedestrians are getting seriously injured and too often killed.

This is not Vision Zero.

Please read the NACTO statement in full where they discuss the Australian mandatory adult helmet law result data, which showed no safety improvement, and rather, the law discouraged bicycle riding.

For the first time since 1972, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) turned its attention to bicycle safety and released a series of recommendations to protect people on bikes on US streets. NACTO applauds the Board’s road design and bike infrastructure recommendations and renewed focus on this topic as cyclist fatalities in the US hit an 18-year high in 2018. However, a last-minute recommendation that states adopt mandatory helmet laws flies in the face of best practice on bicycle safety.

While requiring helmets may seem like an intuitive way to protect riders, the evidence doesn’t bear this out. Experience has shown that while bike helmets can be protective, bike helmet laws are not.

NACTO Statement ON NTSB Mandatory Helmet Laws

Drivers, Look For Cyclists And Help Them Not Get Doored

Getting Doored for a cyclist is a very serious, even potentially deadly accident.

Bike Lanes are often placed too near parked cars, or as cyclists say, in the door zone. Cyclists are often boxed in a very narrow line of safety next to a busy lane of traffic while riding on the far outside of a bike lane to stay out of door zones.

Drivers, you can help. Start the “Dutch Reach” and teach your passengers to do the same.

Teach your friends and kids that bicycle to be aware of the danger of door zones too.

The Dutch Reach is a simple change in behavior, but it automatically puts your body in a position to be looking before opening your car door.

Fatal bike crashes are on the rise in the United States; in 2016 the highest number of cyclist deaths since 1991 was recorded. The research doesn’t say how many of those deaths are from doorings specifically, or how effective the Dutch Reach method is in preventing crashes, but a study done in 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that the car-to-cyclist crash type with the most injuries was doorings, said Kay Teschke, professor emeritus at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

Door Zone Bike Lanes

Not all bike lanes are good bike lanes.

Many bike lanes are just squeezed in on roads and in the gutter or door zones of parked vehicles.

Often, this only makes it more challenging to ride a bike because car drivers get incensed that the ungrateful bicycle riders are riding in a lane and not using the space designated to them.

Like Sharrows, not all bike lanes are improvements to roads for bicycle rider safety.

The intersection pictured above is a road on the border between Del Mar and Solana Beach and it made a recent list of the 50 worst roads in San Diego County. It seems to be even worse than reported as accidents are reported at this intersection for both Del Mar and Solana Beach, but not combined. The intersection is Highway 101 and Via De La Valle – when going South from Solana Beach. If one is traveling North from Del Mar, the intersection is Camino Del Mar and Via De La Valle. It is no wonder that this made the list of most dangerous roads in San Diego County, and we wonder if this intersection is even more dangerous than the data suggests.

The road and intersection are the border of fDel Mar and Solana Beach in san Diego County
This intersection in Solana Beach made a list of the 50 most dangerous roads for bicyclists in San Diego County. It might even be worse if the exact location of accidents was better known as we identified the same intersection reported both from Del Mar and from Solana Beach.

405 Freeway signs honor retired police Chief Mitch Waller, killed 3 years ago by a distracted driver

405 Freeway signs honor retired police Chief Mitch Waller, killed 3 years ago by a distracted driver
LA Times
4/9/16

Riding his bicycle with a partner toward the end of a typical Friday morning 50-miler on Highway 133 toward Laguna Beach, Waller and his friend Kevin Beach were plowed from behind by a wayward Toyota sedan. […] The government statistics show that 10% of all fatal crashes, 18% of injury crashes and 16% of all police-reported motor vehicle crashes in 2013 were attributed to distracted driving.

Protesters call for safety improvements after cyclist seriously injured on SE Powell Boulevard

Protesters call for safety improvements after cyclist seriously injured on SE Powell Boulevard

The Oregonian
5/11/15

[…] The cyclist, 22-year-old Alistair Corkett, was headed southbound on the 26th on Sunday morning when driver Barry Scott Allen, 42, turned left in front of him onto westbound Powell, according to police and witness reports. […] The intersection has had 39 accidents between from 2009 to 2013, second most in the stretch of Powell between 24th and 33th avenues, with only 31st Avenue experiencing more, with 54. […]

‘Cyclist friendly’ trucks unveiled to cut deaths on capital’s roads

‘Cyclist friendly’ trucks unveiled to cut deaths on capital’s roads

The Evening Standard
2/26/15

[…] Radical “cyclist friendly” construction trucks were being unveiled today at a London conference into cycling deaths and injuries. […] The new trucks give drivers a much clearer view around their vehicle, enabling them to see cyclists who would otherwise have been in their blind spot. […]

State court’s ruling on bicyclists’ rights was the right one

State court’s ruling on bicyclists’ rights was the right one

One of two major rights affirmed allows bicyclists to sue if they are harmed by a negligent driver.
Central Main
2/14/15

[…] The coalition was concerned that if the bus company prevailed in its interpretation of the passing law, any time a bicycle was hit by a car while passing to the right of traffic – whether in a bike lane, in a shared lane or on a shoulder – the motorist would have been protected from any liability and the bicyclist barred from recovering damages. This would have had a chilling effect on encouraging people to ride bicycles, which are typically ridden to the right of motor vehicle traffic, because cyclists would basically be denied the right to bring an action against motorists, even in cases where the motorist was clearly negligent. […]

Revealed: London's most dangerous junctions for cyclists – as transport chiefs under-spend £50m road safety budget

Revealed: London’s most dangerous junctions for cyclists – as transport chiefs under-spend £50m road safety budget
Evening Standard
2/25/15

[…] The most dangerous junctions for cyclists in London were revealed today as transport chiefs came under attack for under-spending their road safety budget by more than £50 million this year.

Elephant and Castle was named as the location of 80 crashes involving cyclists and motorists between 2009 and 2013 that were serious enough to be reported to police. […]